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A Guide to Developing the Best Merch for Your Small Business

May 5, 2023  |  
Guides/Tutorials
A Guide to Developing the Best Merch for Your Small Business

Brand merchandising can be a game-changer if you're a small business looking to get your name out there. By creating cool business merchandise, you can get your brand in front of more people and add a new revenue stream to your biz. Plus, who doesn't love swag?

Now, you don't want to slap your logo on a pen and call it a day. You need a strategic approach to ensure your merch is worth the investment. 

Not only can it lead to more direct revenue, but it can also help build customer loyalty and even inspire new product ideas. And let's not forget about the power of networking - a killer piece of merch could even help you strengthen relationships with partners.

So whether you're thinking of creating stickers, custom printed magnets, or any other branded merch, do it purposefully. Because let's face it, your brand is worth showing off!

Consider Your Audience’s Interests

When you're developing merchandise, it's essential to keep your audience in mind. By catering to their interests, you'll create products that boost revenue, inspire brand collaborations, or serve as heartfelt gifts for your most loyal customers.

So what’s the key?

Understanding your audience's preferences comes down to gathering and analyzing data.

Break down your target audience, pinpoint the creative messages that resonate with them, and tailor your merchandise to their tastes. This approach will lead to increased sales and also help you build lasting connections with your customers. 

Let’s say your audience is all about going green; eco-friendly products would be a perfect match. Or maybe they're part of a unique subculture that can inspire fresh designs. 

Remember, the goal is to create products that speak to the people you want to reach. 

Eco-Safe stickers fanned out in a hand.

Reassess Your Logo

You might think your logo is set in stone, but that's not always true. New merch presents a great opportunity to flex your creativity and show the different sides of your brand.

If you've got a new target audience in mind, don't be afraid to tweak your logo to make it click with them – just make sure you keep things familiar for your existing customers.

Merchandise branding is like your company's identity and message all wrapped up in one. As you learn more about your audience, interact with customers, and fine-tune your understanding of your target market, your logo might evolve too.

Thinking about giving your logo a refresh? Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Go for a subtle logo change – no need for a total overhaul.
  • Play around with expanding your color palette.
  • Spice things up by incorporating a new design trend.
  • Consider investing in some fresh imagery.
  • Don't stray too far from your original logo and company identity.
  • When adding the updated logo to new merchandise, keep it consistent with how it's used on existing products.

Giving your logo a little love ensures it stays relevant and impactful when printed on your merchandise. After all, you want your brand to stay top-of-mind with your audience. 

Settle on a Color Scheme

Color impacts how your brand is perceived, so you should nail down the right color scheme for your merchandise, promotional materials, packaging, and more. By using a cohesive and meaningful color scheme, you'll make your brand stand out and create a unique visual identity.

So, how do you choose the perfect colors for your merch? Here are some pointers to keep in mind:

  • Consider your brand identity: Your color scheme should align with your brand's overall message and vibe. Think about the emotions you want to evoke and the impression you want to make on your audience.
  • Look at your target audience: Keep your audience's preferences and tastes in mind when selecting colors. Different demographics might prefer specific color palettes.
  • Research your competition: Analyze your competitors' color schemes and find ways to differentiate your brand. Standing out from the crowd can give you an edge in a competitive market.
  • Test different combinations: Play with various color combinations to see which ones work best for your merchandise. Don't be afraid to experiment, but also remember to stay true to your brand identity.
  • Keep it simple: Stick to a straightforward color scheme to make your merchandise more visually appealing and easily recognizable.

Branded packaging featuring roll labels.

Stick to Your Themes

It's also important to develop and understand the themes, values, and messaging that define your business. This will help you make design choices that are visually appealing and engage your audience.

Let's look at a couple of examples to see how this plays out in merch design:

Example 1: Suppose you own a tech-focused business specializing in cutting-edge gadgets and innovation. In this case, your merch designs could incorporate abstract patterns, modern typography, or technology-inspired icons to emphasize your company's focus on innovation and progress.

Example 2: If your business is a fitness brand encouraging healthy living and self-improvement, your merchandise designs should reflect these themes. You might choose bold, motivational graphics or slogans that inspire customers to push themselves and stay active.

Sticking to your brand themes and incorporating them into your merchandise designs lets you create a cohesive brand image that your audience can connect with. This not only strengthens your brand identity but also helps to establish an emotional connection with your customers, encouraging them to become advocates and share your message with others.

Choose High-Quality Materials

Everyone loves quality merch, so investing in premium materials is rarely a bad choice. You’ll make your products more durable and comfortable while proving your commitment to excellence. 

You should consider the following tips when choosing the best materials for your brand merch: 

Research different materials: Research which materials best suit your specific merchandise.

Prioritize durability and comfort: Choose materials that are both long-lasting and comfortable to wear or use so your customers get the most out of your merchandise.

Think about print compatibility: Some materials work better with certain printing techniques, so choose a material that will showcase your design effectively. For example, consider whether the material is compatible with digital printing or iron-on transfers for clothing before committing.

Factor in costs: While high-quality materials may come with a higher price tag, remember that investing in better materials can lead to increased customer satisfaction and brand loyalty. But make sure to balance quality and price to keep your merch accessible for your target audience.

High-quality materials can help you create merch that not only looks great but also stand the test of time. This will ultimately help you build a stronger connection with your customers and enhance your brand's image.

A variety of holographic and glitter stickers.

Carefully Choose Your Suppliers

Partnering with reliable and trustworthy suppliers can ensure the quality, consistency, and timely delivery of your products, ultimately reflecting positively on your brand. While some suppliers might try to get your business but offer low prices, you want to ensure that doesn’t come at the cost of your brand image. 

Here are some considerations to keep in mind when vetting suppliers:

Quality and consistency: Look for suppliers with a proven track record of delivering high-quality products consistently. Check their reviews, ask for references, and, if possible, inspect samples of their work to ensure they meet your standards.

Timeliness: Timely delivery is crucial for maintaining a smooth business operation and satisfying customers. Research the supplier's history and reputation for meeting deadlines and delivering products on time.

Communication: Effective communication with your supplier is key to a strong working relationship. Ensure they're responsive, open to feedback, and able to address any concerns promptly.

Ethical practices: Choosing suppliers with ethical practices and sustainable sourcing methods can enhance your brand's reputation and appeal to socially conscious customers. Look for suppliers prioritizing fair labor practices, environmental responsibility, and transparency.

Compatibility: Ensure the supplier is well-equipped to handle your specific merchandise requirements, such as print techniques, materials, and design customization.

Laying the groundwork for a successful partnership with a supplier can make or break your merch plans. So make sure to take your time when finding the right one. 

Request Merch Prototypes

A prototype is a preliminary, physical version of your desired merch which lets you evaluate its design, quality, and functionality before moving to full-scale production. 

Here's why requesting a prototype can be helpful and how you can go about it:

Evaluate design and quality: A prototype lets you see firsthand how your design translates to the final product. It allows you to assess the quality of the materials, colors, print techniques, and overall aesthetics of the merchandise.

Identify potential issues: Carefully inspect your prototypes to identify issues such as color mismatches or design flaws. Identifying these issues in advance enables you to make necessary adjustments before investing in a large production run.

Test functionality and usability: Evaluate the merchandise's usability, comfort, and functionality to make sure it meets the needs and expectations of your target audience.

Here are a few quick tips if you’ve never requested a prototype before: 

Contact your supplier: Discuss your interest in obtaining a prototype with your chosen supplier. They can provide a sample, sometimes for a small fee or even for free, depending on your relationship and the specific product.

Share detailed specifications: Provide any necessary information, including design files, materials, colors, and print techniques to get a prototype that accurately represents your vision.

Set a timeline: Establish a clear timeline for the prototype's delivery. Keep in mind that this process may take longer than standard production times.

While it may initially seem intimidating, requesting a prototype is an invaluable step in creating merchandise that aligns with your vision and meets your customers' expectations. Taking the time to evaluate and refine your product can save you time, money, and headaches in the long run.

Customized pages of white vinyl stickers.

Stickers, Swag, and Other Fun Options for Merchandise

When it comes to merch, it's easy to fall into the trap of thinking that clothing is the only way to go. But guess what? There's a whole world of exciting and unique products just waiting to be explored!

Here are a few fun and creative options to consider:

Custom Stickers: Custom stickers offer an affordable and versatile solution for promoting your brand or message. They're perfect for adding a personal touch to laptops, water bottles, and phone cases, making them a popular choice for small businesses looking to spread their reach.

Temporary Tattoos: Why not capitalize on the growing interest in temporary tattoos by creating some for your brand? These make for a unique and fun way to promote your brand or message and are perfect for events or giveaways

Patches: Elevate your merchandise while allowing customers to personalize their attire. Patches work great on jackets, hats, backpacks, and more, adding a distinctive touch they will love.

Car Magnets: You could also promote your brand while on the go with custom car magnets. They can be placed on cars, trucks, or vans and are an excellent way to reach a wider audience. 

Tote Bags: Custom tote bags are a practical and eco-friendly option for merchandise. They're a popular choice for trade shows, conferences, and events and can be used for grocery shopping or daily use. 

You might also consider thinking outside the box to build more buzz around your brand. Think about brands like Supreme, who’ve done everything from branding a crowbar to even a brick! It shows that if you get your branding right, customers will go out of their way to support even your craziest ideas. 

A variety of stickers beside a laptop.

Getting Your Branded Merch Out There

Once you've created your custom merchandise, it's time to get it out there and start promoting your brand! But where do you start? Here are some distribution options to consider:

Trade Shows: Trade shows are a fantastic way to get your merchandise in front of a large audience. Set up a booth or table at a trade show and give out your branded merchandise as a promotional item. 

Special Events: Special events, such as conferences or festivals, are another excellent opportunity to showcase your merchandise. Create custom merchandise specific to the event, and give it away to attendees or sell it at a booth to make a lasting impression on potential customers.

In Product Packaging: Including branded merchandise in your packaging is a great way to delight your customers with a freebie. Consider including smaller items like stickers, temporary tattoos, or custom pins to reduce waste and shipping costs. 

Online Store: Create an online store to sell your branded merchandise. Create a user-friendly website and promote your online store through social media and other channels. 

The key is to get your branded merchandise in front of your target audience regardless of how you distribute it. Be creative, think outside the box, and have fun with it!

Marketing Your Branded Merch

When it comes to promoting your branded merchandise, it's important to use any relevant channels to get your brand noticed. Here are some ideas:

Social Media: Use social media to showcase your merchandise in action, whether that’s featuring customer photos or creating shareable videos that highlight the benefits of your products. Experiment with trendy formats like Instagram Reels or TikTok to grab attention.

Email Marketing: Rather than just pushing your merchandise, consider how you can add value to your subscribers' lives. Use email campaigns to share tips, resources, and inspiration related to your brand, along with exclusive promotions or discounts on your merchandise.

Influencer Marketing: Look for influencers with a unique perspective that aligns with your brand values. Think beyond product reviews and explore creative collaborations that could involve everything from co-branded merchandise to social media takeovers.

Paid Advertising: Don't be afraid to take risks with your paid advertising campaigns. Consider using humor or unexpected imagery to grab attention and stand out and explore paid advertising on niche platforms or related communities. 

Content Marketing: Create valuable content that showcases your merchandise. This could mean creating editorial-style blog posts or partnering with creators to produce engaging videos that speak to your brand's mission and values.

Remember, when promoting your branded merchandise, the key is to think creatively and stay open to new possibilities. The most successful marketing campaigns are often the ones that take risks and break the mold. So don't be afraid to push the boundaries and find your own unique voice. 

A woman showcasing her custom stickers behind a ring light.

Conclusion

Let's face it: as a small business owner, it can be tough to compete with the big players in your industry. But one strategy that can help level the playing field and connect with your customers on a deeper level is through custom merchandise. 

By creating branded products that reflect your unique qualities, you can build brand awareness, foster customer loyalty, and even drive sales. There are many factors to consider along the way, but with a little patience, creativity, and a willingness to take risks, you can develop the best merchandise for your SMB and achieve your branding and sales goals.


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StickerYou blog posts are written and published by members of the  at our headquarters, located in the beautiful city of Toronto, Canada.