It’s hard to believe that Merch Momentum has been around for five years.
Few things last that long these days, but here we are. Why? Because of YOU.
The Merch Momentum community has remained intact because you’ve proven that a Facebook group can exist, grow, and thrive even in the absence of all the usual hype and theatrics that tend to underpin most entrepreneurial social media groups.
There’s not much flash or hyperbole around Merch Momentum. Never have I — or our dear Rhonda (oh, how we miss her) — ever promised silver bullets, secret formulas, or magic solutions for print-on-demand riches.
We’ve been honest about the opportunities as well as the risks and challenges associated with POD. And because honesty is at the core of Merch Momentum, from time to time we have to have really honest conversations that, while uncomfortable, may ultimately be essential to directing some of our peers away from futile distractions and guiding them back to a long-term path toward success.
Today is one of those times where I think a tough conversation has to happen. Why? Because the complaints are too high, the morale is too low, and the attitude, effort, and creativity of too many Merchers are stagnant.
Not a single day has passed in the last month where I haven’t received a message about:
- “My new designs aren’t selling”
- “I can’t make sales without ads”
- “Amazon is hiding my listings”
- “Merch By Amazon is dead”
It’s reached a point where there’s an undeniable crisis of confidence among many sellers. Their confidence in themselves and in Amazon has been diminished to an unreasonable and unhealthy degree. And I want to make a few points today about why this loss of confidence is totally unwarranted.
Let’s get to it.
I will be the first to criticize Amazon when it’s justified. But most complaints about Amazon among Merchers today just don’t cut it.
Amazon does a LOT for Merchers. They give you a free portal to access their ecommerce juggernaut. They give each of your designs precious digital real estate on their site. They take your customer orders. They print your designs on products. They process payment. They ship your products and accept customers’ returns. They pay you every month.
When my designs don’t sell, Amazon isn’t who I blame first. After all, Amazon wants me to make sales. It benefits them and their customers. What Amazon doesn’t want is more garbage on their site. Their algorithms and review processes are getting better and smarter. Less and less native visibility will be given to designs that are lackluster or offer listings that are subpar, repetitious or too similar to whatever is already abundantly available. It falls on us as creators to step up our game. We can’t expect Amazon to somehow make bad designs appeal to more consumers.
Most Merchers are STILL making designs that are unoriginal derivatives of what’s already for sale in massive quantities. Do NOT expect Amazon to reward low quality work with equal footing on their field. It’s not going to happen, nor should it.
Indexing and Ad Drama
There’s no denying that Amazon has a lot of indexing issues. It’s always been an occasional problem and these days it’s a big issue for some. Does this deliver a fatal blow to our Merch businesses? No. At least it shouldn’t.
If the indexing problem isn’t resolved organically (with time) or in response to an email to the Merch team, you still have a live product on Amazon. If you’ve developed a niche-focused brand under which multiple products are available, there is no reason why this “brand” shouldn’t have an Instagram, Pinterest, or Facebook page driving traffic to your listing(s). A few sales and a few reviews (this is now more important than ever) can kick start sales and solve your design’s visibility problem.
I wholeheartedly reject the notion that you have to run ads to be successful on Merch By Amazon. Can they help? Yes! Can they speed up your sales and ranking? Yes! But can you succeed without them? Yes!
What it took to be successful on MBA at its launch does not resemble what it takes today. You can’t bring 2015 strategies to the table in 2022. This is NOT as much of a passive income business as some gurus may have led you to believe. It’s a business. And businesses take creativity and hustle that extend beyond finding new niches and uploading unique designs. The sooner you accept and get on board with these extra steps, the sooner you will get back to making money.
Strategy Vs. Spaghetti
Five years ago, I believed that designing for Merch By Amazon required the old spaghetti tossing trick. In other words, throw a lot of designs at the wall to see what sticks. This advice is less desirable today.
Here’s a message you probably don’t hear much or may have never heard before — you’re uploading too much! The most successful people I work and collaborate with on MBA generally make fewer designs today than they did a year or two ago. They are being more thoughtful, strategic and methodical in their research, design, and marketing efforts.
The fact that I still see so many complaints about tiers and upload limits tells me that tons of Merchers still don’t “get” the fact that success on Merch is about quality not quantity.
Filling slots just to have a bigger reach on Amazon is not only pointless and usually unprofitable, it’s also counterproductive. It takes MORE time to crank out and list 100 horrible designs than it does to make 10 high quality designs that can sell and are worthy of having traffic driven to them by Amazon or through our own social media or advertising efforts.
Copycats and Thieves
This is a problem on Amazon and everywhere else in the digital world.
Thieves and copycats are a plague. But most of the time, we approach this plague with frustration, not clarity and purpose in our efforts to mitigate their negative impact.
Finding and reporting infringing designs are a part of the print-on-demand business building process. We simply can’t tolerate it and must report copycats when they are found. But we can’t allow the threat of copycats to be such a distraction. We can’t control which of our designs are stolen, but we know what to do when they are discovered. So we have to focus on that which we can control.
Recently, I discovered that a number of very successful sellers with whom I collaborate have diverted funds in their budget away from virtual assistants (who research niches or write listings) and toward virtual assistants who look for thieves or P4P clones. Numerous copycats were caught before damage could be done.
Whether you set aside an hour a week to look for clones or outsource this responsibility, there are always some steps you can take, but you can’t let the plague of P4P copycats be a thorn that distracts you too much. Ultimately, that distraction will hurt the growth of your business more than the thieves will.
The Bottom Line
This is a very unpopular opinion among struggling sellers today but I stand by it and will continue to emphasize it. There has never been a better time to build and grow a Merch By Amazon business than today.
Here’s what works in 2022
- Uploading fewer designs (quality over quantity)
- Building social media pages for your top 5 – 10 MBA niche brands
- Allocating some time and resources to targeting and taking down copycats
- Driving traffic to listings and brands (via social or ads) to get initial sales, score reviews, and clear up any indexing problems
- Lowering expectations for Amazon and raising them for yourself
- Learning how Amazon advertising works and can be optimized
- Experimenting with listing strategies to evaluate if / how certain approaches and techniques prevent indexing issues or boost visibility on Amazon
- Expanding your POD reach to Etsy, KDP, and other platforms (you’ll learn more about what works and what doesn’t)
- Reinventing your catalog one niche at a time. Nothing created in 2022 should resemble what was created in 2021. From fonts to aesthetics, portfolios need to be refreshed with great regularity.
Here’s what doesn’t work in 2022
- Believing Amazon is largely responsible for your lack of sales
- Believing that copycats alone can bring down your POD business
- Believing that POD is still a numbers game and that having the biggest portfolio of designs is what separates the winners from the losers on MBA
- Believing that Merch By Amazon’s best days and your best days are behind you
By no means is Amazon perfect. And we all know there’s no foolproof strategy for success on MBA. But there is nothing — nothing at all — worse for our businesses and our future sales potential than the attitudes and approaches I’m seeing in large numbers across social communities like ours. Until we turn that around individually and collectively, those caught in a downward sales spiral won’t achieve the comeback I know is possible.
Merch Momentum Weekly Strategy Guide Preview
In this week’s new strategy guide, we’ll cover one of the biggest social media trends / memes today that Merchers have totally overlooked. The babysitting niche has bounced back to life and we’ll talk about ways to leverage the opportunity. In our niche research roadmap, we’ll cover the political niche and give you dozens of potential audience, visual, and messaging targeting opportunities for unique and compelling political tees ahead of 2022 spring and autumn elections. All this plus 100 keyword / niche leads and a new original graphics bundle (editable raw files included, as always). Get it here!