One of the more popular ways to make money blogging is to offer something for sale on your site. Typically, bloggers look towards digital products like eBooks and coaching programs as their first jump into the sell your own products realm, but physical products are not outside the list of options when you are looking to grow your business.

One of the biggest hurdles bloggers run into when they are looking to expand into physical products is high upfront cost of development, minimum orders and carrying inventory for fast shipping. This is a real fear as you can watch your income causally sit in your home office just stagnant…and that is never a good thing. When you are looking to jump into the world of soft goods (t-shirts, hats, etc.) or niche products, there are ways to get rid of your fears and tackle the obstacles in front of  you in a way that promotes growth and provides another resource to your readers.

As with most things on Blogging Labs, I am going to show you how I launched a new t-shirt line on Bike198 without using a single bit of operating capital (my cash) and was able to stock all inventory in the process.

Gauging Product Interest

As with any product you are going to release on your blog, you are going to want to gauge the interest of your readers to see if what you are about to release has any actual value to them. If they are not going to buy it, there is no reason to move forward and you need to find something your audience is actually willing to spend money on. This goes for any product including digital ones.

For the t-shirt line, I already knew that my audience likes to buy shirts related to the sport of mountain biking. There are companies that are completely dedicated to it so I had to find my niche in the sea of shirts to set myself apart. I decided to attack the sub-niches of mountain biking as riders are pretty passionate about their gear and trails. The first on the chopping block was “29ers Size Does Matter” and for those of you that don’t already know…29ers have a larger wheel size than typical 26″ bikes that we are all used to.

29er Size Does Matter T-Shirt

It had been a good review product week, so I sold a part on eBay and paid my product designer Adam Allen (adam-allen.com) to draw up the concept. He provided me with the initial comps and I went to my email list, Facebook page and Twitter account to start gauging interest on the shirt. While I did have to front the money for the design, I still didn’t want to go to the market with something that people didn’t want to buy. Luckily, interest in the shirt was great so we needed to move forward to the pre-sale process after I got the pricing nailed down with a friend of mine that owns a t-shirt printing company (scrappymusic.com).

The Art Of The Pre-Sale

A pre-sale can serve multiple purposes for bloggers. For example, you are releasing a coaching program and you want the forum to look active to new members, you can have a pre-sale to get your program populated before the launch. In my case, I needed to raise the funds necessary to complete the first order that would fulfill the orders for the pre-sale, give me stock to sell from and to get me the best price possible by being able to order in large quantities. Since I already knew the shirts were going to sell based off the interest I received from my readers and other riders, it was time to move forward and make the jump.

The Hook: How To Get Early Adopters

When you are asking a reader/customer to buy on a pre-sale, you are asking them to deal with longer lead times and uncertainty as they have zero testimonials or proof from others before they buy. Because of this, you need to have some added value for your customer for participating in the pre-sale process to encourage sales. In my case, I offered the shirt at $5 dollars less than the regular price during the week of the pre-sale. This gave a discount to my readers for buying early and helping me get together the necessary funds to make the order.

You can also throw in bonuses, free items and other hooks to get your readers to jump on the bandwagon early.

Time Is Running Out

With any pre-sale, there needs to be a sense of urgency. You are on a time-line to get the project or product live in its final form, so allowing a pre-sale to go on for too long can have a negative affect on earnings and overall perception from other readers or customers. For my t-shirt release, I set the pre-sale for one working week (starting Monday and ending on that Saturday). This also allowed me to add in the lead time for the actual order to let my customers know exactly when they could expect the shirts to ship. The sense of urgency and the definite shipping date calms any wonder on whether or not they are really going to get their shirt in the mail.

Leveraging Your Blogging Assets

At the beginning of the pre-sale process, I emailed my newsletter subscriber list through Aweber, I hit up my Facebook page, I tweeted and I sent out press releases to the major sites and forums in my niche. I even contacted manufacturers of 29ers and asked them to post about their shirt in their social media outlets announcing the pre-sale and the discount for ordering early. As you could probably guess already, my newsletter subscribers were my highest converting into sales (another reason you should start a newsletter with Aweber today if you haven’t already).

By leveraging my assets that my blog has built over time, I was able to draw readers and potential customers to my sales page and have them complete an order during the pre-order process. At the end of the week, I had enough sales to cover all of my costs including stock…so the order was placed and we are off to the races.

The Pre-Sale Timeline

What you have just read is my step by step process of the pre-sale, but there is also a defined time line that you need to be aware of when you are going to release a product in this manner. A pre-sale has an interesting component to it that affects how you react with your readers. Your “pre-sale week” or however long you choose it to be is going to see the following order process…

  • Day One: First initial order swarm
  • Day Two – Day Before The Last Day: The trickling in effect (lower quantity per day than day 1)
  • Last Day: Ending process order swarm

Your readers that order on day one are looking to get their order in fast so they don’t forget. They know they are going to order it anyway so they might as well get it off their mind and do it now. The readers that trickle in during the middle part of your launch process are typically ones that saw the email at work and had to wait until they got home or just saw the email at that point in time. Your readers that order on the last day at the last minute probably saw and read your first email, but they wanted to wait until the last day to place their order because they are lazy or they didn’t want their money tied up for an extended period of time without anything to show for it.

Because there are a large quantity of people in the “last day” part of the process, it is vital that you send out a second email to your subscribers, followers, etc. 24 hours before the pre-sale ends. That gives your email enough time to hit their inbox and allows your reader adequate time to order it online. You have no idea how many responses I get from readers thanking me for sending that last email because they had forgotten about the pre-sale end date. Your product is not the most important thing going on in the lives of your readers, so a casual reminder at the end of the week is a very effective closing tool.

Selling Physical Products On Your Blog

As you can see by this process, I was able to release a t-shirt that is the start of a complete line without having to put it on a credit card, pull funds from the bank or use personal income to fund the process. By simply selling a piece of review product and launching an effective pre-sale process, I was able to get everything accomplished and cover all initial costs. Now, my blog has another asset to sell that also promotes my brand. When you are looking at what your readers want to buy, do not rule out physical products as they can provide you with additional income, but…more importantly…they can jump start your credibility within your niche with a huge promotional tool.

You can buy the t-shirts here.