A lot of the time, entrepreneurship and influence bleed into each other — many influencers are entrepreneurs in some capacity, and entrepreneurs often become influencers. And as that reach grows, it’s often a natural next step to start branding that clout with merchandise.
Merchandising your personal brand with T-shirts, cups, stickers, or just about anything you can put your logo on is a great way to spread your name and what you’re all about, helping to create a larger community around what your brand represents.
But influencers and entrepreneurs who want to do this sometimes hit a roadblock: Obviously, they know their brand, what they stand for, and what message they want to send (as well as who they want to reach with that message), but unless they’ve had experience in merchandising before, they may not know how to make merchandising happen and get those goods in front of their followers effectively. Until they figure that out, merchandising won’t truly happen.
Making Something Out of Nothing
To the unfamiliar, what makes merchandising such a puzzle is usually fulfillment. Figuring out how to manage inventory, process orders, package the goods, and ship them is challenging at best and nearly impossible at worst.
One route some influencers take in solving those puzzles is partnering with another brand that makes the type of merchandise they’re wanting to sell — ideally, a brand they use regularly so they can cross-promote each other. One example is the partnership between Ingrid Nilsen and bareMinerals. Nilsen, a makeup artist and popular YouTuber, partnered with the cosmetics company to create a foundation kit.
Using the product they’d created, Nilsen was able to put her name on merchandise that wasn’t hers but was a good representation of what her brand stands for. And because she partnered with an established brand, a team that already knew how to get products in front of customers took on the fulfillment portion.
Not everyone is able to partner with brands, and that’s fine — influencers don’t have to do so to find success with merchandising. Still, that means they have to figure out fulfillment on their own.
The best way to do that is by finding a two-in-one print shop that can both make and ship your merchandise. There are loads of print shops out there that can make any kind of merchandise you want your followers to show off, but very few will ship directly to your customers. Make sure you find one that offers this service as well. Otherwise, you’ll be stuck with stacks of boxes of goods you can’t get to the people who want them.
If you have an audience and a group of followers, monetizing that relationship by developing merchandise or products to sell is the next natural evolution of your efforts. Even if you don’t have any knowledge of merchandising or fulfillment, don’t be scared to start — you just need to have a plan and find partners who know what they’re doing.