Hey, can you help me run ads for my t-shirt business?
I get this question from friends and contacts at least once or twice a month, and I get it. It’s a fun business and creative outlet. It’s easy to start, and there are fashion companies making millions out there.
The truth is, the market for clothing is competitive, and the current players only survive because they have an edge. Overseas manufacturers benefit from economies of scale and can sell at a low per-unit cost because they’re producing in very high quantity. The big domestic brands are marketing machines, working with the best talent and the largest budgets in the industry. Finally, there’s the local creators who make truly amazing products, far beyond a graphic t-shirt with a creative print.
Behind the scenes, there is a LOT of work involved in properly setting up an online presence; countless small details that people take for granted. Beyond just setting up a Shopify store and running traffic to it, there are some basic, structural elements that a marketer needs in order to promote your brand.
At the very least, you’ll need your Facebook and Instagram accounts set up with a backlog of posts. For analytics and tracking, you’ll also want Google Analytics and Facebook Pixel set up and installed properly. From there, everything needs to be tested, configured, and connected so that the separate platforms can share data. Ideally, you also have SSL certificates, favicons, and Schema code installed too.
Oh, and you can’t actually run ads until you have a clear return policy and terms and conditions (you will actually get flagged and your ads will be stopped).
So, yes, we can set these things up for clients. but at an hourly rate plus expenses. Unless you’re drowning in so many orders that you simply don’t have the time to take these tasks on yourself, it’s not worth it to contract out an agency.
A Recent Correspondence with a Friend
We do run ads for clients on top of our web development work. We actually have quite a few marketing clients / projects going at the moment.
To be honest though, if you're just starting off, you're better off doing some of the initial leg work yourself. We generally work with clients that are already established and are looking to expand on their existing digital footprint. There's kind of a minimum bar in order for our work to make a meaningful impact and there is a lot of work involved (strategy, creatives, monitoring, tracking, reporting)
We charge $1k per month for our work and recommend at least $3k per month on ad spend. I'm happy to have my team jump in and give you a hand if this is within your budget, however, I would only recommend this once you're done setting everything up properly.
I took a quick look at your site and there are still some items that need to be addressed before I would recommend spending money driving traffic to it:
- Stronger call-to-action on homepage
- Fewer stock images on homepage
- Add missing favicon
- Create Facebook Page
- Populate Facebook with posts
- Connect Shopify inventory to Facebook Shop (extremely important)
- Create Facebook Ad Account and Pixel
- Connect Pixel to Shopify (important)
- Create Instagram Account
- Populate Instagram with images (mix of product and life-style shots)
- Create Google Analytics Account
- Connect GA to Shopify (important)
- Missing Return Policy (required for ads)
- Missing Terms of Service (required for ads)
- About page to explain who you are
Once you're done all of the above, I would work on audience building. Start by boosting posts on Facebook and Instagram and see what kind of traction you get. This doesn't need to cost a ton of money to start and you don't need our expertise this early on.
You can also sign up to Google Ads and start by connecting it up to your Analytics account. Once you have some traction on the site, you can start running some display ads there as well (again, you don't need a huge budget or expert help to start).
I would also caution that the t-shirt and fashion sector is extremely competitive. One of our clients is a small, well-known retailer in town, and they spend about $40k per month on ad spend alone.
If after everything above goes well, you see some traction and make some sales, at that point I would feel more comfortable jumping in (at that point it would make more sense).
Let me know what your thoughts are. I'm always happy to share ideas and knowledge.
While we’re always happy to take on new clients, we’re not in the habit of taking advantage of clients who don’t need our help yet.
Can you make money starting a t-shirt business? Sure. But your first step should not be to hire out an agency; not until you have everything in place and some traction behind your brand.