The first thing you need to know about marketing without a budget is that it can take a lot of time and effort. Admittedly some people get lucky and gain a lot of organic traction very quickly, but those cases are rare.
In those cases it’s because they found an audience who was passionate and their idea was shared organically within that niche. The point is, they went out and found their audience.
We know you’ve heard this before; “You need to find your niche audience” is a familiar point from us from us, but, this time we really do mean, FIND them.
This could mean physically going out into that big scary world, or, you could do a little cyber-sleuthing and find them on social media and forums. The choice is yours.
The method for marketing your custom products is pretty similar, no matter where you find your audience hiding. The key to free marketing is organic traction, and that’s gained by building trust and engaging with your niche audience.
Although each method is similar, there are still a few differences between each of them, so we’re going to go into them in a little more detail. Let’s start with the real world first.
We know, this is far from ideal - it’s cold and there’s bugs out there - but if you want free marketing that actually works, you’ll need to put the effort in. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it.
Finding a niche audience is the first step on every marketing strategy you’ll find (especially the ones you’ll see from us). So you can use that audience to find meetups on sites like Eventbrite, which will let you market your custom merchandise directly to the people in your niche.
Keep your eyes open and actively looking for opportunities to show off your custom t-shirts.
The one downside to getting up close and personal with people to market your custom products is that you’ll need to have one of your products on-hand to show them. This means spending a little money to get one of your own custom t-shirts.
Of course, this is only a problem if you don’t want to spend ANY money on marketing your custom merch. Don’t worry though, for these next points, you won’t need to spend a cent.
Social commerce is a big industry, in fact, it generated $30 billion in revenue last year. You might think about Facebook Ads or sponsored posts when you think “social media marketing”, but that’s not always the case.
When you’re marketing on social media, focus on:
The point you should be taking from this is that you’ll need to engage with your niche audience. People like it when you’re not just trying to sell them stuff (especially when you are).
Free marketing is all about organic engagement. In the end, you want people to come to you and share your custom products for you. The best way is to prove that you’re the kind of person they want to be around, whether that’s because you’re interesting, funny or you just show them that you care. Then they’ll want to buy your custom merchandise.
When we say ‘social commerce’ you probably think of the big ones; Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest etc. However, social channels like Reddit are great for getting stuck-in and talking to your niche audience.
With Reddit you can search for almost any niche audience you can possibly image (and a few you can’t image). All you have to do is find the right subreddit for your niche. Don’t just use /r/shirts, find subreddits specific to your niche audience like /r/Puppytraining101 (because we like puppies).
Before you march off to go join the world of reddit, you should know that redditors don’t really like it when you try to sell things directly to them. So you might have to take a less direct approach...
Using reddit for social commerce marketing can help you gain a lot of organic traction if you’re smart and careful about how you do it.
When you’re just starting out and you want to get a feel of how well your custom products will sell before you start spending money on advertising, just remember where to find your audience.
Trying to market your custom products for free will take a lot of time and effort, because you’ll need to can organic traction. So be patient and see what works for you. If you want to try something a little quicker, then you’ll have to set an ad budget. We have a guide for getting started with Facebook ads if you’re not sure where to begin.