It’s never too early in POD to start planning for Q4 – the holy grail of our industry.

The list of things I adore about Q4 for Merch By Amazon gets longer every year…

… and so does the list of things that I deplore.

Number one on the list? Bad examples.

Oh, boy, do I despise bad examples. And they’re everywhere by the time Q4 rolls around. I’m talking specifically about:

  • Merchers sharing thoughts that are excessively negative or critical of other Merchers or MBA itself
  • Merchers sharing advice and samples of their work that are ill-conceived and reckless, setting horrendous examples for newbies on the platform
  • Merchers who eat up sugar-coated words of encouragement rather than embrace the hard, ugly truths about what they need to do to succeed on MBA
  • Merchers setting unrealistic expectations and then blaming Amazon when those expectations aren’t met
  • Merchers failing to set goals or plans and then giving up when sales pale in comparison to previous years
  • Gurus or vendors peddling expensive “secrets to success” resources that offer little quality in return for the limited cash of novice sellers who are so desperate to learn that they blindly invest in these subpar resources
  • POD newbies and veterans alike who compare themselves to others, complain/brag about sales or stumbles, and obsess over how others are performing
  • Merchers who are stubborn, set in their unproductive ways, and continue to ignore the changing lay of the POD land
  • Merchers who gripe about perceived shortages of opportunities, ideas, and competition
  • POD sellers who are consumed by copycats and heavily distracted by situations beyond their means of control

I can go on, and on, and on… but I won’t. Because doing so would just result in me wanting to add my own name to the list of individuals who fixate too much and focus too little on what’s most important.

In response to the wave of woes that fill my inbox and MBA groups on a daily basis, I’ve put together a few thoughts that encompass some horrifically uncomfortable truths that many of you probably don’t want to hear but need to hear right now.

I’ve never been one to intentionally promote false hope or conceal my genuine thoughts about challenges or opportunities in the MBA space. As a result, I’ve learned that the things we DON’T do are sometimes even more important than the things we DO when trying to grow our Merch By Amazon businesses.

Consequently, I’ve prepared what I call “The Fifteen Merch By Amazon Q4 Commandments.”

For those prone to distraction, doubt, or destructive thoughts and actions, this list is for you. If you want to turn things around in time for Q4 and make the most of the enormous opportunities ahead…

1. THOU SHALT NOT get distracted or discouraged by the things you hear and read about MBA on social media. There will always be showboats and slackers, both of whom can grossly distort your perception and expectations of what’s possible in POD.

2. THOU SHALT NOT get complacent when selling or despondent when struggling. There is NO such thing as 24/7 smooth sailing in POD. Recognize and embrace the peaks and valleys but never let either influence your behavior or diffuse your focus. Regardless of what your dashboard displays, be consistent in mindset and actions.

3. THOU SHALT NOT fall into the expensive trap of thinking that there are exclusive “secrets to success” products that struggling Merchers can purchase to turn their businesses around. Expert advice and suggestions? Yes. But there are NO secrets when it comes to MBA. Those who work their faces off and creatively out-perform the competition will succeed. There’s nothing secret about that.

4. THOU SHALT NOT follow trends rather they get ahead of them. Don’t start making seasonal designs after you start seeing them pop up across Merch By Amazon. Be early to the party or don’t even bother attending.

5. THOU SHALT NOT continue to approach MBA or designs/listings the same way you’ve approached them for years. The types of designs that sell best and the optimal listing language / keyword strategies of today do not resemble the winning approaches of yesteryear. Adapt accordingly or accept a lack of advancement.

6. THOU SHALT NOT fixate on problems, platforms, or people that you can’t change. If it’s out of your control to change it, forget it fast or risk wasting the time and energy that should be directed toward making sellable tshirts.

7. THOU SHALT NOT limit research efforts to Amazon. If you are only or primarily searching for niche leads, keywords, or ideas based on tshirts that are currently selling or trending on MBA, you will always lag behind the emerging market trends that regularly appear first on places like Etsy, Pinterest, Twitter, leading bricks-and-mortar retailers, and other outlets. These platforms often unearth opportune leads long before they manifest on Amazon.

8. THOU SHALT NOT put all your eggs in one POD basket. It was true in previous years and it’s especially true in 2020. If you’re not uploading your work to every platform realistically or affordably in your orbit — from KDP to Etsy — you are not going to maximize your Q4 earnings potential.

9. THOU SHALT NOT make “similar but better” designs. There are more near-clones than actual clones on MBA today. Don’t add to the problem. To plainly piggyback on what’s prevalent is a one-way ticket to nowhere.

10. THOU SHALT NOT get sloppy or careless. The rush to make as much money as possible in Q4 results in many Merchers uploading with such speed that our self-governed adherence to best practices, trademark compliance, and quality control gets lax. If you let your guard down, it could very well be the most expensive mistake you’ll ever make on Merch By Amazon.

12. THOU SHALT NOT fail to create a Q4 plan of action and affix a sales goal to it. As you approach your goal, move the finish line further out and keep chasing it. Never do the opposite.

13. THOU SHALT NOT rest in December because “there’s no time left in Q4 to make designs for Q4.” Although you’re correct about dwindling time for Q4 opportunities, December should be ALL about preparing for Q1. Those who take December off generally have a miserable Q1. Start 2021 strong by finishing 2020 stronger.

14. THOU SHALT NOT panic if days, weeks, or even an entire month brings poor sales. Rash moves born out of fear or impatience are almost always disastrous for listing quality and long-term growth. In the financial word, we live by the saying that nobody can make money in a panic. The same is true in POD. Do everything in a calm, calculated way. Don’t confuse a normal seasonal lull (even for stretches of time in Q4) with something you may have done to impede sales.

15. THOU SHALT NOT stay in your lane. Leave your comfort zone early and often. Make designs in niches and with imagery and phrases that contradict your own preferences, tastes, and interests. Everyone’s portfolio should reflect the diversity of niches found in the vast apparel marketplace, not the limited range of niches found in the typical individual seller’s closet. I’ve said it before and I’ll say even more times in the future: Make the tshirts you need to make, not the ones you merely want to make.

Good luck in your Q4 POD planning and please feel free to add your own MBA commandments in the comments below.