Every year, generally between the days leading up to Mother’s Day and ending in the days that lead up to Father’s Day, the seasonal ebb and flow of print on demand favors the ebb.
Judging by the flurry of group posts and the steady stream of direct messages expressing concern about sluggish sales, there’s growing unease across the Merch By Amazon landscape today.
Times like these generally elicit from the woodwork a laundry list of uninspired “stay inspired” posts and/or “buy my new course to turn around your sales” marketing pushes.
This morning, I’m not here to sell you any unwarranted optimism. And I’m also not selling any courses. With everyone’s “to do” list growing longer as panic sets in for some sellers wanting to reverse the trend of declining sales, I’m going to avoid adding any more entries to your list.
What I am going to do is share with you a “to don’t” list — a list of hard-learned suggestions to steady your nerves, sharpen your focus, and set your mind right as we seek to turn the corner on this temporary downturn in MBA sales.
So… what should you NOT be doing today in order to do something positive for yourself and your Merch By Amazon business?
DON’T attribute this short-term decline to anything other that what it truly is — a normal part of the POD experience. With warm weather setting in, more people are spending time outside (and not shopping online), kids are getting out of school, summer vacations/travels are starting (a big expense for many families), kids are starting everything from dance classes to archery lessons (another expense for parents), and even home repairs are taking place (landscaping, painting, roofing, etc). This all adds up to less consumer money and time for Amazon. But as we see year after year, just as the first half of a year ends on a slow note, the second half of the year more than makes up for it. And we are now just about 4 weeks away from the start of Q3 and the most profitable 6-month stretch on MBA.
DON’T do anything drastic to your listings — especially those that have already sold in the past. Nothing productive happens in a panic. If you believe you can turn around your luck and ramp up your royalties by deleting/re-uploading listings or overhauling keywords at a time of general slow sales, you are likely going to be disappointed with the results and could, in fact, do damage to your search visibility moving forward. Sometimes the best thing to do with your listings is nothing at all. Generally speaking, this is one of those times.
DON’T try to spend or save your way out of this. Thinking about slashing expenses on keyword tools and graphics bundles? Thinking about buying more courses and books? I would never advise one against dumping tools that don’t deliver or to refrain from purchasing courses and resources that give value, but a downturn is not the right time to abruptly slash or spend. This is a good time for maintaining a holding pattern until the nose-dive ends. Clear headed assessments are harder to make right now. The last thing you want is to eliminate something you still need (even if it doesn’t feel like it) or add something to your plate you want (but may not need). In short, you can’t mitigate download momentum very much by spending or saving.
DON’T wait it out. Despite the temptation to walk away from your screen and ride out the Merch storm from afar, that is precisely the wrong thing to do. Downturns warrant an aggressive new push with concentrated energy on new niches, new designs, and better research to ensure that the inevitable comeback represents a swift climb back to the top of the Merch mountain for you. Walking away can only make the length and intensity of the downturn worse.
DON’T double down on your downers. Whatever niches you’re in that aren’t selling right now should be avoided until they either resume selling or the downturn is over and a broader range of evergreen designs begin selling again. Seasonal slowdowns are the optimal time for challenging oneself to make new designs in niches that you’ve never previously touched. MOST important, however, is to not focus exclusively on evergreen designs. Though evergreen is the gateway to consistent sales across the full 12-month MBA landscape, downturns can be turned around faster if a new slate of designs targeting viral/seasonal trends is released. Sales may be sluggish, but there are still more than enough buyers out there looking for tshirts, apparel, and novelty products based on what’s hot (in media, music, news, pop culture, politics, sports, etc.) to justify a temporary above-average design focus on trending/viral topics and niches.
DON’T fail to put your inventory to work elsewhere. Whether you’re maxed out at tier 10 or a few thousand designs into tier 6K, I can’t possibly stress this point enough: EXPAND YOUR REACH across the POD ecosystem. From KDP to Etsy, there are extremely opportune markets that can and will lead to more money in your pockets if you bring your designs to these platforms. There’s a good reason why in January 2018, I added a section to my weekly strategy guide focusing on the broader POD ecosystem. If you’re not pushing beyond the walls of MBA, the walls will feel much more painful when they close in on you during downturns like the one we’re in at the present moment.
DON’T assume that your sales entirely depend on research, niches, design and Amazon’s online traffic. Everyone talks about quality research and graphics like it’s the holy grail of MBA. To a large degree, they are right. And in moments of poor sales, they tend to focus more on these essential elements to succeeding on MBA. But there’s another element that’s arguably just as important — learning to write well. YEARS before I was on MBA, I was a writer. From tiny blogs to global publications, my depth of experience in writing will always exceed my experience in designing. But the practice of writing headlines, pithy phrases, and report summaries serves me better, arguably, than any other MBA-related skill set I currently possess. When you grow comfortable with puns, quotes, idioms, alliterations, and scaling back long phrases into short, snappy sentences, your ability to write tshirt messages AND listings becomes second nature. And the pace at which you can think of and produce quality tshirt messaging in a myriad of niches will enter warp speed. So if you’re burned out and bored of doing the same self-improvement techniques, take a break from design books/blogs and pick up a new resource to help you with creative writing, headline composition, and deploying numerous tactics used by journalists and bloggers at the top of their game. When you become a better writer, you become a better seller. Writers, without question, are the ultimate magicians of Merch, as their learned/practiced skills can help turn a mundane message into a viral hit in ways that designs alone never could.
And LAST but NOT LEAST…
DON’T get in your own head and languish in frustration. Sure, it’s easier said than done, but don’t obsess over your daily sales or the daily sales of your peers on Merch. Whatever is happening today on MBA is all but a fleeting moment in the grand scope of things and it will soon pass — as it always does. Allowing your worries and anxiety to roam free in your mind and on MBA-related Facebook pages only serves to distract your attention from what matters and distort your perception of the big picture. Those who stay focused, stay optimistic, and shake off sluggish sales as nothing more than that which it is — a short term experience — will bounce back and thrive faster than anyone else in our line of work.
Good luck and hang in there!