Marketing a Shirt Online: My Experience with Cotton Bureau

Having a shirt for sale on Cotton Bureau was a 14 day trial by fire of online marketing.

I recently had a St. Louis Cardinals inspired design picked up to be printed on a shirt1 on the site Cotton Bureau. Setting me up for 14 days of the ups and downs in the wonderful world of marketing a shirt online.

For those that don’t know how Cotton Bureau works, users submit a design, and if deemed up to snuff Cotton Bureau will offer it on their site. But there’s a catch. The shirt has to sell at least 12 to get printed and at least 25 for the designer to get paid.

My shirt is in the final 36 hours of it’s life. So far I’ve had some ups and a lot of downs trying to get my shirt in front of potential buyers. Here’s what I’ve learned.

Update: The shirt sale is over. Below you’ll see my thoughts on marketing a shirt online to the tune of 30 sales.

Put It Everywhere. A lot.

Any social media service you use. Put your shirt on it. Try to use relevant hash tags. My primary outlet was Twitter. My personal Twitter audience isn’t all sports fans, but there’s a mix of design in there too. Luckily I’ve run a Cardinals podcast with friends for awhile so I had another sports based account with 400-ish followers.

I was also worried people would get annoyed by me pushing it out too much, but I never had any complaints and most posts got a few interactions. With how fast people’s Twitter feeds fill up, I’m sure only a fraction of my followers saw any of my posts.

Twitter

Twitter was my go to. With how fast it refreshes I didn’t feel like I was bugging people by posting frequently on Twitter. It also allowed me to catch on to some hashtags in the moment. I purposely had Cotton Bureau delay my shirt until Opening Day so I could piggy back on some Cardinals games when I knew people would be tweeting a lot.

What didn’t work was the retweet to win offer. Sure I got 20+ retweets which got a good amount of eyes on it. But it generated 0 sales. Althought I did gain quite a few followers from it, so that was a plus.

Instagram

I under utilized Instagram. Once I started posting to Instagram it seemed that I got quite a few more sales within the hours after I posted. Hashtags were a big help here. My Instagram following is not large.

Facebook

Facebook was great for the initial boost. When I first posted I got a few shares. Only to realize I had screwed up the privacy setting and wasn’t posting it as public. Which apparently means only mutual friends of those that share it could see. That one cost me, and I’m not sure retroactively changing it made a difference.

As far as publishing to my personal Facebook, I tried to do it sparingly. I didn’t want my friends and family to feel bombarded. Instead I tried to post from a page I run and post to several groups.

I also reached out to several other pages about the Cardinals with almost no responses from the administrators. One person sent me back a thumbs up emoji. That was it. I think this will be highly depending on the Page administrators though.

Facebook conveniently sent me a $10 coupon for ad buys right around the launch of the shirt. So I was able to use it to boost a couple posts and try a Facebook ad. Overall I don’t think the results were worth the price tag. At close to $1.50-2 a click, I’d have to convert 1 of 3 interactions into a sale in order for it to make a profit2.

If you’re a much better Facebook marketing than I, it may very well be worth it if you can get enough clicks cheap enough. But there’s also no way to track Facebook clicks to sales on Cotton Bureau. At least for us user’s to see.

Reddit

Reddit was awesome! From a feedback standpoint. I racked up a lot of upvotes and comments on /r/cardinals, but not a lot of sales in the first 24 hours of it being posted to reddit. We’ll see if some of those users signed up for last chance reminders.

I was careful to not come across as promotional on Reddit. No one wants to be the guy that comes in and tries to throw an ad up as a Reddit post so I asked for feedback instead. It also helps to have a history of posting and commenting on the subreddit.

Minimal Cardinals design I did is going to be a shirt. Would love to know what fellow fans think. from Cardinals

Friends and Family

Cotton Bureau also provides you with a coupon to share with friends and family. This is very useful to get those you know an extra incentive to help you out. It also helps when you have a baby due in 2 months and can hang that over their heads.

Fight Through the Slow Down

I got to 12 in about 3 days. Then I hit a lull. I was posting and getting integrations, but no one was biting. That initial Cotton Bureau boost definitely seemed to help. Even if they did kind of throw some shade at the Cardinals.

More to Come

Cotton Bureau let’s you sign up for last chance email reminders. I’m looking forward to seeing if the final 36 hours result in increased sales and I’ll update the post with my findings.

Any questions or experiences selling your own shirt? I’d love to hear them in the comments.

As of posting there’s 36 hours left to get my shirt. If you’d like one it’s your last chance.

Update

Quick update. The shirt got up to just under 30 sales3. I didn’t see a lot of sales immediately after the 36 hours left reminder email went out. But a post to facebook got me from 23 to the 25 sale payout pretty quick. Then I collected a few more throughout the final day.

It’d be great if there was a way to track where the sales came from, but from what I’ve seen so far, Cotton Bureau doesn’t share that info.

  1. And hoody
  2. With Cotton Bureau’s suggestion I made $6 a shirt if it sold at least 25
  3. 29 to be exact.
  • Cool shirt. If you sell above 25 shirts are you paid on the number of shirts sold above 25, above 12, or all shirts sold?

    • jasonyingling

      You get paid based on all shirts sold. But only those where the charge goes through since they don’t charge people until the 2 weeks is up. For example, I think my final number was 29 sold, but I was only paid out for 25 as 4 charges failed.