How to Launch a print on demand brand

In today’s digital landscape, budding entrepreneurs and individuals seeking to supplement their income alongside full-time employment are presented with promising opportunities. The print-on-demand model has emerged as a popular option for those looking to establish a brand with minimal initial investment. While social media serves as a platform for observing the growing trend of POD, the complete picture often remains concealed. To address this issue, we have developed this launch guide for how to launch a print-on-demand brand that details what print-on-demand is, some pitfalls to avoid and how to get started. To jump to a specific area of this post, click the links below to automatically scroll.

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    What is Print-On-Demand?

    Print on Demand is a wholesale format that enables businesses to print customized products in small quantities on demand.

    This method of printing offers businesses the ability to produce products quickly and cost-effectively. With POD, businesses can upload the artwork to a provider such as Printful, select their desired product, and have it shipped directly to their customers. 

    This eliminates the need for large-scale production runs, allowing businesses to produce only what they need when they need it, saving on cost immediately.  

    POD also provides a wide range of customization options for businesses, such as color, size, tag customization, and logo placement. 

    The biggest part of print-on-demand is being aware of the costs per product, pricing not only for your profit but your customers, and ensuring the quality of your products.

    How does print-on-demand work?

    1. Add products to your store

    Once you complete your design,  you choose the products that you would like the design to be printed on. Depending on the POD provider, you will have a wide range to use.

    Then once your products are created, “push” them to your store and they are ready for your customers

    2. Customer purchases from your store

    Congratulations! You got your first sale, now what? Now the order needs to be added to your POD provider, if you have a direct integration then the order was automatically sent. Your card on file will be charged and the printing process will begin.

    3. The Print-on-demand provider receives your order

    Once the order is complete on your website provider, all the details needed for the order are sent to your POD provider

    4. Products are created and shipped

    Now is the process where you are completely hands-off! Your print-on-demand provider will now begin creating, packing, and shipping your product. They then relay the tracking information to your website platform and notify your customer

    5. Customer receives the order

    Once the order ships, you can see the progress from both your POD provider and your website provider. Once your customer receives, the product the process is completed.

    POD Providers

    Each print-on-demand provider provides a different variety of products and services. When choosing one, you want to make sure it works with the platforms you want to sell on, has the products you want to sell, and gives the most room for profit. 

    Here are some of the most popular providers:

    Printful

    • Multiple direct integrations
    • 300+ Products to use
    • All over print / Embroidery/Direct to Garment
    • Multi-area printing

    Printify

    • Multiple direct integrations
    • 800+ Products
    • Multiple print types

    Gelato

    • Multiple direct integrations
    • Wide variety of products
    • Direct to Garment
    • Multi-area printing

    Lulu

    • Direct integration with Woocommerce & Shopify
    • Multiple book types are available
    • 16 Book Sizes

    Getting Started With POD​

    Here is a quick and easy step by step guide to getting started with print-on-demand:

    Step 1: Pre-Work

    When starting a POD brand, there is a little bit of pre-work that needs to be completed before getting started this will shape your entire store so it’s best to complete it now.

    You need to identify who you are selling to and find out what they actually want from a brand like yours. 

    • What medium do they like buying in (t-shirts/decals/magnets)
    • What are they interested in with your product?
    • What do they look like? What are they interested in?

    For example, Tim wants to create a dachshund apparel and accessories brand for his target audience:

    • They are dog lovers
    • They specifically love or own a dachshund 
    • They typically add fun accessories to their dog including apparel 
    • The specific type of dog likes toys
    • The owners typically like to show their love on their cars, keys, backpacks and such

    Some products Tim may create for his new store are:

    • Throw pillows
    • Car Decals
    • T-shirts
    • Dog T-shirts
    • Dog toys
    • Water bottles 
    • Hats
    • Keychains
    • Canvas

    Shaping who you are selling to in the beginning helps to shape your marketing strategy easier while in the launch phrase.

    Step 2: Choosing a provider

    When choosing a provider ensure that they have a good reputation and verifiable reviews, they will also need to have the type of products available that you are looking to sell. Starting with an established POD provider allows you to have additional services available for you to expand your product collections in the future.

    Step 3: Choosing a website provider

    Once you have a POD provider, you can review their direct integrations to see which website platforms they “communicate” with. For some POD providers, you are able to choose a direct integration where all sales made on your website will be automatically sent to your POD provider creating that passive income stream.

    If you choose a platform that does not directly integrate with your POD provider then you will likely need to manually set every order in your POD provider. 

    This is why it is important to choose a POD provider that has many integration options to give you the most options for your website provider especially with each platform having its own set of fees in addition to your POD fees which will eat into your profit.

    When you complete the setup of your website provider then you will need to go through the steps of branding your website before adding your products.

    Step 4: Prep your Designs

    When creating designs for your POD products, review your POD provider requirements to get your png/svg in the right dimensions for the right print. You can find requirements primarily on the product creation page of any POD provider blank. Once you have it set for the right dimensions, ensure you are uploading a high quality per the requirements listed for the platform.

    Step 5: Setup your first product

    Now that you have your designs downloaded, you can start making your first product in your selected POD provider. All designs are created in your POD provider not your website provider, once it is “published” on your POD provider side you can “Sync” it to your website platform with all edits and pricing. You can change your pricing directly on the website platform since it does not affect your product cost in your provider.

    Step 6: Connect your POD provider to your website

    Your product is created and now you can add your integration from your POD to your website provider. This is as simple as pressing “sync” or as difficult as adding a snippet of code to your website, this is determined by your POD provider and they typically have documentation to help walk you through.

    Step 7: Optimize your listings

    Now that you have your products in your shop, you need to optimize them for search engines. Using your target audience research, update your product information to search engines and human-friendly text. 

    This includes:

    • Product title
    • Product Description
    • Product Permalink or URL
    • Product Collection
    • Product Tags
    • Images

    Use keywords and keyword phrases that your audience is familiar with to help with optimizing your products for search engines. 

    Step 8: Launch and Market

     The hard part is over, you finally have everything ready to launch your new store, and it’s time to move to the marketing phase of your business to gain eyes. 

    Common Pitfalls Of Print-On-Demand​

    Pitfall #1: Poor Product Quality

    When starting a print-on-demand shop, it is important to ensure the quality of the products your selling are high quality. This can quickly de-value your shop if you are selling low-quality products to your customers, and you could end up with 1-star reviews.

    To avoid this, review your selected print provider and see the ratings other shop owners are adding to products they have ordered for use. 

    To take it a step further, you can order samples of your products from the provider to see the quality and provide feedback for your orders.

    With ordering samples, typically you can purchase for cost or a discount and use the product for your marketing photos or even giveaways.

    Pitfall #2: Inadequate Market Research

    For print-on-demand shops, another pitfall is failing to complete adequate market research. Without understanding who you are talking to and what moves them to convert into paying and returning customers, it will result in little to no sales.

    It also makes it difficult to reach those intended people through the noise of social media and email. 

    To prevent this, ensure you dive into your target audience including:

    • What medium do they like buying in (t-shirts/decals/magnets)
    • What are they interested in with your product?
    • What do they look like? What are they interested in?

    For example, Tim wants to create a dachshund apparel and accessories brand for his target audience:

    • They are dog lovers
    • They specifically love or own a dachshund 
    • They typically add fun accessories to their dog including apparel 
    • The specific type of dog likes toys
    • The owners typically like to show their love on their cars, keys, backpacks and such

    Some products Tim may create for his new store are:

    • Throw pillows
    • Car Decals
    • T-shirts
    • Dog T-shirts
    • Dog toys
    • Water bottles 
    • Hats
    • Keychains
    • Canvas

    Pitfall #3: Ignoring Customer Needs and Preferences

    Without customers, you have a hobby – not a business. You want to keep your customers in mind in the development of your products and additional offerings. Completely forgetting about your customers leaves room for negative feedback and broken customer relationships, leading to closing the shop.

    When thinking of new designs and services, first ask your customers, and if you are in the starting phrases allow for the multiple options to be available. Be sure to gather feedback from your customers in various stages of the buying process, and spend time regularly testing your products with your audience. 

    This keeps them engaged with your brand, helping build the customer relationships needed for long-term success.

    Pitfall #4: Poor Marketing Strategy

    Neglecting the marketing portion of your business is a common pitfall that new store owners fall victim to, they have a “build it and they will come” mentality which leads to no traffic. 

    Gone are the days for that type of thinking, there are millions of products being marketed each day in the US alone with no additional marketing or optimization your product will be hidden.

    If you want to have a successful POD business then marketing is non-negotiable, be sure to diversify your marketing efforts into different channels such as:

    Using any mix of these channels helps your brand reach the people who want it, where they already hang out.

    FAQs about POD

    The difference between dropshipping and print on demand is with dropshipping its not your product, you are a third party in the sale of the product from your supplier. With POD, it is your product begin made for your customer. 

    Amazon print-on-demand allows you to sell custom-printed products, such as cups, shot glasses, mugs, stationery, t-shirts, pillows, gowns, and much more, with your unique designs. Upload your designs, choose the products you want to sell, and let eBay, Amazon, or Etsy handle the rest.

    POD is a very profitable business when you correctly price your products to sell covering the cost of your blank product from the supplier. 

    It is a very low-risk business model due to not having to purchase any inventory ahead of selling, typically you only pay when a product is sold.

    The print-on-demand business model offers significant benefits, particularly in terms of start-up costs. In contrast to wholesale or other types of e-commerce businesses, print-on-demand businesses do not require a minimum order with a supplier or the need to maintain inventory in a warehouse. This allows for greater flexibility and cost savings, as businesses only pay for what they sell. As a result, print-on-demand businesses can be an excellent option for entrepreneurs or 9-to-5ers looking to start a business with minimal financial risk.

    Having a card on file for print-on-demand is an essential part of the process of ordering printed materials. This ensures that your orders can be processed quickly and efficiently with minimal delays. 

    If you were to wait until the balance of the sale was added to your bank account then you could potentially add up to 7 days to your fulfillment of your products impacting your customer relationship. 

    Nope! You can integrate multiple POD providers into your shop. The products are identified by the SKU number given by the POD provider which happens automatically once you import the product into your website provider.

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