I'm just starting up too but we're doing things like printing leaflets and hading them out at music festivals, giving them free to friends to wear out and about to get our brand out there, giving them to barman in bars where when you think about it they got massive throughput of people who may ask where he got it from, i am prepared to give away t shirts to get the brand and designs out there, will cost but will hopefully pay for itself in the long run.
When developing your website, you should start to think of how you will market your site before the first HTML code is ever written.
You need to make sure your website will be search engine friendly and structured so it can be easily navigated (by both humans and search engine robots).
By "search engine friendly", I mean the URLs should be without special characters like ? ! &. While many search engines can spider URLs that have those characters, you will find that you will get much better search engine coverage by having "clean" urls.
Why is this even important? Because search engines are the #1 way people find things online. That can equal thousands of free targeted visitors for your t-shirt shop.
Getting established in the search engines can be a long process, so while you are promoting and waiting for that to happen, you'll want to think of other way to get traffic to your shop:
Advertising in websites/magazines/newsletters/newspapers/radiostations that reach your target market. That means, if you're selling "i like ice cream" t-shirts, you may not want to advertise in the "lactose intolerant digest". Narrow down who is "most likely" to buy your shirts and focus your marketing effort there.
Take advantage of the many t-shirt specific website directories that are out there. Many of them are free to get listed and you can get lots of good, free, targeted traffic by getting listed there.
Get a good, MEMORABLE domain name for your t-shirt line and talk about it all the time. To your friends, to your associates, while you're at your day job/or school.
Be creative. Think of something totally original to promote your unique designs. Sellings shirts about fishing? Go down to your local fishing supply store and see if they'll want to carry some of your designs to expand their existing product line.
We give our t shirts away. To bands, bartenders, etc. We even mail them to celebrities. And along with the shirts we load them up with stickers and 3X4 postcard flyers that they hand out or place on the bar. So when people say "where did you get that fricken' awesome shirt?" they can hand them a flyer with our web address. We print our shirts real innexpensively so it doesn't cost us that much to give them out. In the long run we think we'll make money off of it for getting our name out there. Just hard to track the results.
Also, like I posted on another thread...try Froogle.com....its free and we get a ton of hits and sales from it.
Consider being a vendor at a tradeshow/expo where clothing ISN'T the reason for the trade show.
For example, I attended a conference for my *real job* and they had a ballroom at the hotel dedicated as a tradeshow/expo. They had all the equipment you'd expect for my line of work...all the hard, technical, expensive gear my bosses will buy in the next fiscal year for the firm.
But, the ONE and ONLY booth that had t-shirts, beanies, stickers, etc. SOLD OUT his inventory. Why? Because he had a great product...AND he had NO competition.
Imagine a computer fair, where everyone is slinging hardware, software, or IT service...you might consider setting up a booth of your t-shirts that are "computer geek humor" oriented. (Don't take offense to the term...I am one too!) If you're the only one selling something fun in a very dry tradeshow...you'll draw them like crazy.
Try to be somewhere that makes you the most interesting thing there. And every time your t-shirt is worn, it's advertising for you!
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