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How to Start Selling Merchandise for Your Small Business and Be Profitable

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    Looking to switch up your marketing and create new income for your established brand? Here's an idea — why not offer branded merchandise?

    Coasters, tote bags, coffee could even be a swimsuit or a household item.

    Adding branded merchandise is an excellent way to add a revenue stream to your business and activate your loyal customer base. It's a cost-effective marketing strategy that taps into the booming merchandise industry.

    According to IBISWorld, the promotional products sector is expected to grow by 1.9 percent and hit just slightly over $17.7 billion in market size.

    US market size in the promotional products sector


    Advantages of Branded Merchandise

    Question: Will selling merchandise distract me from my core business?

    Answer: It could if you aren't strategic about it. And, we aren't asking you to start a complete ecommerce store for your business; instead, we're talking about adding maybe one to two branded products (e.g., a flash drive or T-shirt) that can add a bit of uniqueness and spark conversations about your business.

    Adding branded merchandise can do the following:

    • Serve as free advertisement as your customers or followers discuss the merchandise
    • Raise brand awareness as people will think about your business every time they use the product
    • Build recognition among customers who already know your business
    • Enhance brand affinity and association — every time a customer uses the merchandise, they will think about your brand
    • Create differentiation between your brand and the competition
    • Improve customer engagement as branded merchandise is a tangible product that offers multiple engagement avenues. Imagine people posting a picture with a coffee mug from an exotic vacation that has your business logo — that would be great for new business, wouldn't it?
    • Promote exclusivity. Who doesn't love something that's rare or hard to get? You can tap into this opportunity of getting people to be part of a club or group by having exclusive merchandise.

    Sold on adding merchandise for your established venture? Here's how to get started.

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    How to Sell Branded Merchandise

    1. Identify Products to Sell

    To make the most of branded merchandise, you need a product that speaks to your customer. Take a good look at your target demographic's needs and wants.

    For example, if you're a fitness instructor for Gen Z, then maybe joggers, hoodies, leggings or even a stainless water bottle might be the thing. If you're primarily working with older customers, then coffee mugs, coasters or notepads/notebooks could bring in a good draw.

    Some of the classics in branded merchandise are

    • Mugs
    • Sweatshirts/hoodies
    • T-shirts
    • Backpacks
    • Tote bags
    • Phone cases

    2. Find a Suitable Vendor in Your Budget

    The easiest (and more affordable) way to start selling branded merchandise is to find vendors who can customize existing merchandise for you. We recommend searching for white and private label manufacturers via a Google search or on a directory like ThomasNet.

    If you seek to sell a product that's completely original and want professionals to design and manufacture it for you, try Maker's Row or MFG. While it would be excellent to have a unique product, manufacturing something from scratch typically has long lead times and higher costs.

    Also, ask your vendor if the merchandise design has to be in a specific format, pixels or colors for print purposes. It will help you create an appropriate design.

    3. Create an Attractive Design

    What do you want your merchandise to feature? Just a logo or a fun visual with a tagline? Take time to ideate the design and messaging for your merchandise because an attractive graphic will quickly bring in a lot of people. You can create a design on your own or work with a freelance graphic designer from a website like UpWork or Freelancer.

    Many times, the white and private label manufacturers will have ready templates you can customize or have a designer that you can work with.

    You can also create product mockups on Placeit and get feedback from your loyal customers to ensure that you're on the right track with your merch.

    4. Determine the Shipping Method

    One key thing to consider while starting branded merchandise is where will you store inventory and who will be responsible for shipping? Does your home office have enough place to stock inventory? Do you even want to handle the shipping and delivery yourself (you can always do it via USPS)?

    A popular way of adding merchandise is to work with print-on-demand providers like SpreadShopPrintful or CustomInkTeeSpring and Bonfire are quite popular with content creators and influencers for creating custom apparel.

    Most of these print-on-demand partners allow you to create your own merchandise store online and they'll handle all the production, shipping and inventory management for you for free or a small percentage of your profit.

    Print-On-Demand Suppliers











    Starts at $20-$21 for T-shirts, depending on the quantity

    4. Devise a Marketing Plan

    Your merchandise will only have a chance to turn into a lucrative revenue stream when you are as focused on spreading the word about it. Here are a few quick ways to tap into this opportunity:

    • Publicize it on all your social media handles. Consider running a fun giveaway.
    • Link your on-demand merchandise store to your existing website. If you don't have a site yet (which is a must), you can create a professional ecommerce site with our partner, Wix.
    • Place merchandise in eye-catching places (if you have a retail or office space).
    • Feature new merchandise via newsletter and email campaigns.

    Can You Make Money from Selling Merchandise?

    Yes, you certainly can make money selling merchandise. And, when merchandising is done right, it creates a closer connection between you and your customers/followers. Today, branded merchandise isn't just your caps and totes, it can be as versatile as you need it to be. One thing remains constant, though — these items have to serve a purpose and make an important brand statement. Offering branded merchandise to your customers shows that they are important — which is the truth, isn't it?

    And don't forget that adding branded merchandise can come with a variety of legalities. You may need a partnership agreement with vendors, NDAs for graphic designers and more. Bizee's Business Contract Library can take some of the load off and make this process easier. Our library has over 25 legal contract templates that can help your business stay protected in almost any scenario.

    Put Off by the Huge Costs of Professionally Written Business Contracts?

    Get Unlimited Access to 25+ Ready-to-Use Contracts.

    Order Today
    Swara Ahluwalia

    Swara Ahluwalia

    Swara Ahluwalia is a freelance content writer with experience in the technical, B2B and SaaS domain. She also has curated content for various lifestyle brands. In her downtime, you will most likely find Swara training for her next marathon or spending time with her two daughters.


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