Thursday, December 17, 2009

How to market your brand - 9 marketing tips and ideas

Marketing, branding, raising brand awareness - its not easy but it is essential to any new brand in any business, t-shirts or otherwise. I apologise for not posting anything in a while (I've been extra ordinarily busy with LadyUmbrella t-shirts and haven't been able to blog here). A few weeks ago John from J. Benjamin Clothing asked me about marketing and branding and the likes so here are my 9 marketing/branding tips - hope they are of some use.

1) Believe In Your Brand
Not so much as a tip I guess but if you don't believe in it then no one else will. As a result of this all subsequent marketing or branding efforts won't be given 100% commitment as you don't believe in them - or, that's how I roll anyway..100% belief will yield 100% conviction, determination and application - all vital traits for brand marketing. It will take time and effort to build your brand, be ready to sweat.

In everything you do try have a common trend or a link between designs. In slogans, colour choice, logos and images try make it easy for people to recognize them as coming from one source, one brand. Further to using the above consistently use them constantly...anything that you "put out there" ensure that it has something that links it back to you, be it web address, logo, slogan, image, whatever - make sure that if people see it they recognize it and importantly associate it with your brand.

3) Suspense and Intrigue
Build up a bit of mystique or intrigue about your brand. Don't just show your cards from day one but gradually give nuggets of enticing info that arouses curiosity in whoever may view it. We, humans, are curious creatures and are generally drawn to things that we don't know about, that intrigue us, that leave us wondering a bit. For example, Smirnoff Vodka (oh, how we love it) ran a campaign for Smirnoff Mule which just featured a plush looking velvet stage curtain on billboards. WiMax also ran a suspense rousing campaign that honed it on their target market perfectly.

4) Catchy and Memorable
You want to make it easy for the viewer/reader to remember your brand. Use alliteration when writing slogans etc as this rattles around in our inner ear for a bit. Think of all successful brand names/slogans, they rattle around a bit. Prime example would be Coca Cola (um, with some Smirnoff = win). Another way to make things memorable is to make them shocking, get a response from whoever views it, motivate them into looking twice, taking a gasp or ideally, compel them to view your t-shirt designs. Also, the brain has 3 main sections which and a combination of food, sex and danger seem to spark a response from each region. I strongly suggest reading this blog which talks about the 3 regions of the brain and how to influence them - 11 Ways to Influence People Online and Make them Take Action.

5) Stickability
You want your brand to stick around don't you? to be able to persist? Try think big in every aspect of your branding or marketing and invest time in creating things that won't be instantly dated due to surroundings or other. Think of other avenues you can venture down in a bid to expand your brand - hats, scarves, boxer shorts?

6) Be Remarkable
As Seth Godin says be the purple cow, be a bit different, be something remarkable. Its not to dissimilar to being catchy but instead of going for the majority within a society be remarkable to a few who truly relate to your brand, get your brand and you could quite possibly be good buddies with. These people will help you find niches or possibly even create niches for you by getting all of their friends to like your brand. Brand zealots are a rare commodity and should be appreciated and thanked. Ultimately, you want to the purple cow to a few - watch this video.

7) Word of Mouth Marketing (WOMM)
Word of mouth marketing is getting people talking about you. Think of what you pass on to your friends? "oh, there is a deal here" or "I got this for free from..." or "you should see this brand, so cool" and 9 times out of 10 you'll act on it, or at least consider it more because it was told to you by a friend. Some stat I heard stated that there is an 89% conversion rate on word of mouth market versus 12% on standard marketing. So, use competitions and freebies to stimulate some chit chat amongst friends. Another key element of WOMM is managing customer expectations. Customers inherently have an expectation of what they are going to get based on price, what you've said and what they've heard from friends. If you meet their expectations you get a pass grade and nothing really happy. If you fall below what they expect then you will have more than likely lost a customer. If however you exceed their expectations they will talk about you, they'll be happy with the product they have received from you and will be compelled to talk about you. How do you try to exceed your customers expectations?

8) Persistence
Marketing and forming your brands identity and persona will take time. There is no overnight solution (not that I have discovered anyway although I'd love to find one) for building your brands reputation so be persistent. Never miss an opportunity to market your brand but don't overkill it. It goes back to my very first point really, you have to keep applying yourself and promoting and pushing your brand - if you don't do it no one else will..

9) Responsive
Ideally what you want is to get the WOMM machine revved up and in high gear. You then have to be responsive to what gets said. How can you use what is said to further your marketing campaign or branding efforts? What opportunities are to be had by getting in touch with people who mention your brand? What if someone says a negative thing about your brand? Be responsive and thank those who like your brand and give them something to talk about. When receiving negative comments deal with them quickly and in a nice manner - turn the negative into a positive.

And so, there it is, 9 marketing tips and ideas. I'm not a guru by any stretch of the imagination but the above are just some of the things I am aware of and try practice myself. Your thoughts on the above, what your marketing efforts consist of, or any tips/ideas/suggestions are warmly welcomed - knowledge is no burden.

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Friday, December 11, 2009

GritFX Interview - A one on one with Amanda Vare

I'm way down under, putting a shrimp on the Bar-b, shouting at the flaming mongrels, drinking Fosters and thinking like an Australian for the GritFX T-Shirts interview with the awesome Amanda a.k.a Manz. Despite the mind boggling time difference (and weather difference) the power of the web has enabled me to delve deeper into the t-shirt and artistic world of GritFX, a truly great company based in Australia. Lets get it on...

Rob - So, Manz, good'ay mate (and that'll be the last of the Oz cliches I hope),many thanks for the interview. How is all in Oz today? - you're almost in the middle of summer now ye? Surfing, ice creams and t-shirts? what is your favorite ice cream?

Manz - Summer is upon us now (came a little early this year with some stinking hot days already). I can tell you that I don’t surf (believe it or not, not all Aussies do – I tried once but didn’t get past the breakers), but I do eat ice-cream. In summer, nothing beats a “Splice”. I’m not sure if they are only found here in Australia. It has lemon/lime flavoured ice
around a sweet, coconutty ice-cream centre. It’s been my fave since I was
a kid. At other times, it’s just vanilla with chocolate topping. [Ed. - Never heard of them but Google has, anyone else hear of them?]

Rob - Alrightly, lets get down to it. GritFX seems to be an extremely passionate ensemble of characters with a love for Lego who really want to give something to the "independent" community at large. What is your company mission or goal? Whilst you do sell lots of cool t-shirts (and we'll get to them later) you seem to have many facets to GritFX - care to discuss?

Manz - Well, honestly, like any business, the goal is to make money. We will hopefully get to the stage where we can print our own t-shirts, but for now, POD suppliers are brilliant. As far as the other facets to GritFX – we are basically a group of friends and extended friends (some of us have known each other since high school) who work in artistic fields (graphic design, copywriting etc) but didn’t have an outlet for certain things we wished to pursue. We thought it would be more beneficial and stronger to combine everything we do into one entity. GritFX, whilst being a business, is also an avenue to share the things we all are interested in, which obviously also influences our t-shirt designs.

There is a lot of competition in the t-shirt industry, and also in artistic fields. So many wonderful artists, musicians, writers, etcetera, never gain the recognition they deserve. All of us at GritFX have a deep respect for artists, and that’s one of the reasons I have decided to show support to other t-shirt designers & online shopkeepers. The Support Shopkeepers page is completely unbiased and boils down to supporting groups or individual designers/artists rather than the “man” and the “machine”. [Ed. - I strongly suggest contacting them, they are supporting my efforts with LadyUmbrella t-shirts, much appreciated guys] As far as the Lego goes, that’s Will’s domain. He created the little character pics we use on the website – when he sent them to us, we all thought they were far too cute to discard.

Rob - One of the GritFX team, a certain Will Thame, has some serious Lego and video long has he had a love affair with Lego to be able to able to create the movies that he does? How long does it take him to make one like below and have you ever seen him in action?

Manz - Will (also known as Wadrick Jones) has been watching movies incessantly since he was ten years old. That’s twenty-odd years of celluloid infusion. He reckons that if he didn’t know how to make a movie by now, after watching so many, that would be pretty sad. But I think he is just being modest when he says that. I can say that he’s his own worst critic. To call him pedantic would be an understatement.

He dropped out of film school years ago after about a month because of “all the damn pretentious twats!” He works on the animations in his spare time – the two parts of The Rookie took him about six months, but by his own admission, there were stretches of time where he didn’t work on the film at all. He loaded the first part of The Rookie and told us the second part would be ready within two weeks. It wasn’t until a few months later did we finally see it.

I have never seen him in action (Dave has), but I do know he uses an old Video8 tape video camera to film. And he edits on iMovie, which is rather impressive considering the programs’ limitations [Ed. - from my limited experience with iMovie I concur, extremely impressive]. Will is always bemoaning the fact that iMovie will only allow him 10 frames per second. He says that Lego is the easiest toy to animate, but his love affair with Lego goes back to childhood. Apparently, the new film he is working on now (“Kingdom of Scum”) features some of the Castle Lego he had when he was a kid. We never get any sneak previews of his work though. [Ed. - Check out part 1 of the Rookie below and find out more about Will Thame at The GritHouse]

Rob - So lets get onto t-shirts. I was perusing your impressive catalog and particularly liked the "I'll work for peanuts" tee (maybe its because I can relate to it) - that design happen to be done by you as I know there are a few designers at GritFX? who is the most prolific designer you have and which is your favorite design? Any clear top seller?

Manz - Thanks for the kind words. The “Peanuts” design is one of mine. Basically, Dave and myself are the main designers – most of the black and white graphic works (famous faces etc) are the work of Max. The ideas however, come from everyone. Will has a background in graphics too, and has worked on a few designs (but he, as he’d tell you himself, is rather lazy). So I guess Dave and I are the most prolific. That’s really our area I suppose (as well as, in my case, marketing).

My favourite design from all our stores constantly changes! Right now, it would definitely be World Water Fight Champion [Ed. - That is a pretty cool tee, no doubt about that]. That’s one of Dave’s. With summer upon us in Australia, that design makes me nostalgic for my teenage days. As far as best sellers go, the clear winner at the moment is “We’re Going To The Winchester” from our Popcorn Classics range.

Rob - One thing I really like about your store is that most of the t-shirts have cool, amusing, anecdotal type stories about them so, what comes first - the design or the story or do they both evolve together? And what do you think is the benefit of writing stories about tees?

Manz - The designs always come first. The stories are secondary and are just a fun thing for our writers to do. Honestly, there is probably no benefit that we can see, other than the fact that visitors to our store may be amused by the story that goes with the design. And if a smile is put on a face, that can’t be a bad thing. Sometimes it is just a case of “this design needs some kind of explanation”. And I suppose that because GritFX includes other areas of interest aside from our commercial enterprise, it is just an extension of those other elements (or, in other words, just another biased way of displaying the work of our writers). [Ed. - for the benefit of my beloved readers out there, here is the tale from the tee for "I'll Work for Peanuts" - That’s correct. I will work for peanuts. I’ll also take other food as payment for any services rendered. But I do prefer the peanuts. You don’t even have to remove the shell for me. I like the shell. I’ll eat the shell too. Scoop up any crumbs. I won’t leave a mess. Please. I need peanuts. Give me something to do and all I’ll ask in return is for some peanuts….and somebody to love me.]

Rob - You also do custom work and orders at GritFX. How is that side of the business working out? One might imagine the customer service side of things might be a bit tougher as customers have more scope to be "unhappy" - any hair raising customer situations to tell us about? or, any top tips in how to deal with customers complaints with aplomb?

Manz - Dave and I have run a small graphic design business for a number of years and have plenty experience in dealing with “unhappy” clients and those who seem to be difficult for the hell of it. But it is always important, when dealing with clients who have asked you to create a design, to not be too precious with your artwork. Sometimes a client will request something that doesn’t fit into your own artistic aesthetic. But if it is what the client wants, that’s what they have to get, and you have to live with it. Alternatively, there is always the old-fashioned method of just telling clients to go f#@k themselves. [Ed. - ole, throw some fingers in there for good measure too I say..]

Rob - Since you've been in the "tee game" for a while any top tips for new companies? What are your views on the social media, facebook, twitter revolution - a fan? Noticed any impact on your business since using social media?

Manz - Persistence is key and a tip would be to allow for change and growth and to not be frightened of re-evaluating designs. As your brand evolves, your work may also. Keeping quality standards high is important. There are graphic design projects that I was once proud of, yet would never consider for inclusion in a portfolio today. Apply that reasoning to your online store. Even if you have a distinct brand look, some concepts may become stale and introducing new work keeps your online store fresh.

As for social media, as a group of gen-Xers who grew up on stable diets of cinema visits, playing cricket in the streets, and wasting days away at the beach while we waited for our photos to be developed – taking the plunge into social media wasn’t all that natural. Around 6 months after launching our t-shirt brand, we instinctively set up a Facebook page. It’s there for fans to join, ask questions and comment should they feel like it. It’s important to us to have this option for fans to interact with us - which social media such as Facebook provides - but we don’t actively promote it and ask people to join. Twitter on the other hand has become a big contributor to the referred traffic to our website. It took a lot of convincing for me to create an account, and it was only recently that I changed the username to GritFX. I think women can be too self-conscious at times, and dwell on what others may think - which may hamper the optimum use of social media. Being perceived as a “spammer” was and continues to be an issue for me. Therefore, I’ve been working on getting in touch with my “inner male” and I’m now working at convincing Max to help tweet. If you can use 150 characters to entice someone to click on a link, then Twitter is an amazing FREE marketing tool.[Ed. - I agree, Twitter is incredibly powerful and every member of every t-shirt company should be on it and active.]

Rob - From a previous competition you guys ran I think it could be fair to say that you like Bill Hicks - or, maybe just a little..Who would your favorite comedian be? And, what about your competitions - how are they working out for you? Any tips on running successful ones?

Manz - Bill was a legend – ahead of his time. [Ed. - I agree, Bill is a legend, any other Hicks fans out there?] Decoy summed it up beautifully in his article for our Magazine. Personally, I’m not really a huge fan of comedians. There are a few that I do like – Richard Pryor comes to mind, recently Jon Lajois and I do enjoy Saturday Night Live from time to time. The guys (Decoy, Max, Will etc) tend to be more interested in comics with something of import to say – Lenny Bruce, George Carlin and the like. Here in Australia, in my opinion, our comic talent is pretty thin (regardless of what some may say) and perhaps that’s the reason I don’t get into more comedians.

Our competition questions will always relate to something that we are either interested in (music, movies, pop culture etc) or something that has been included on our site. In the case of our last comp and the question about Bill Hicks, it was on the back of Decoy’s review of Hicks’ Rant In E Minor, which was very well received by readers. That competition was pretty successful. We plan to make them a regular thing (we have another comp running at the moment) and the idea is always to make it as easy as possible for people to enter. We found in previous comps that people were less likely to enter if the entry process itself was complicated. That’s why we have set up an online form that makes it all the more easy. It’s obviously a great promotional tool, and I do recommend running competitions simply because of that.

Rob - Music is also a part of the GritFX DNA - any awesome bands from Oz that you've worked with that we should know about? And what about the music that motivates Manz? what melodies make you muse these days?

Manz - I once worked with the SBS Television Youth Orchestra who were great and up for a fresh, young design. But we haven’t worked with any bands of note. Music, however, is essential to any productive day in the ‘office’. There are a number of great bands in this country (along with a fair serving of shite bands) – Dirty Three, Magic Dirt, The Necks, Spiderbait (now defunct, I think), 78 Saab, Crow (also defunct), to name a small few. [Ed. - My music knowledge does not stretch that far, best get a google on] At the moment, high on my album rotation is Two Suns by Bat For Lashes, Cold Fact by Rodriguez, My Maudlin Career by Camera Obscura, It’s Blitz by Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Kick Inside by Kate Bush, Fun House by The Stooges and Who’s Next by The Who.

Rob - Finally, what does the future hold for GritFX? A little birdy told me that 27th of July 2010 should be a day for the calendar? We mentioned it earlier, but 27th of July will be a day of social media incarnation for you - care to tell us?

Manz - Well, continue to do what we do and hopefully take over the t-shirt industry (wink, wink). The 27th of July 2010 is definitely a day to watch, as that is when GritFX will be featured on Jason has enlisted another guy (Evan) for the 2010 calendar year, meaning double promotion of the GritFX brand for the full day! We’re cooking up some ideas on what we can have the guys do on our calendar day, and therefore make the most of their social media skills (whilst also delivering some entertainment to fans!). With any luck it’ll coincide with Jason’s appearance on Oprah or Ellen and give us some serious exposure (fingers crossed). [Ed. - now that would be pretty incredible, Jason is doing some good things].

And, so thats a wrap...immense thanks to Manz and the GritFX crew for taking the time to get back to me with some really great answers..For those of you who made it this far I commend you and hope you enjoyed the read..let me know what you think - comments make me smile...and, stay tuned for another interview coming soon..guess who it will feature?

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Saturday, November 28, 2009

Facebook Terms of Service Changed for Competitions

Hi all, well, as I'm sure you are aware from my previous blog postings I'm a big advocate of Facebook for t-shirt companies and competitions as I have been able to run one successfully for LadyUmbrella t-shirts in the not too distant past. Sadly though it looks like Facebook has "moved the goalposts".

I was first alerted to the change by Tim at Sogeshirts and he himself said he had been notified by Bulentm at Ragtees (credit where credit is due). So, lets get down to it..

1) - Facebook now has to approve any competition you are going to run. With all the companies now joining Facebook and running competitions this will result in, one would imagine huge waiting times - the days of ad hoc give aways could be gone. T-shirt competitions will now have to be planned well in advance and strategically so to tie in with new launches of t-shirts, upcoming holidays etc - I guess it would depend on how rigorously and vigorously Facebook are going to clamp down on competitions and how rapidly they can "approve" competitions.

2) - Competitions can't be run on the wall which really, to a degree, negates the benefit of running a competition. Competitions are run to raise brand awareness or attract new customers and having people enter t-shirt competitions by posting comments, pictures etc was an ideal way to harness the viral and social nature of Facebook. So, now other strategies will have to evolve, perhaps using blogs in conjunction with facebook - a tactic of "get 10 friends to join my fanpage and win a badge" kind of idea with "contestants" notifying you via twitter or blogs..any other suggestions on how to keep the competitions rolling?

3 - It is important to note that Facebook has not crushed competitions entirely. You can still run them via tabs and FBML - just not on the wall (where its easy and really useful). Presumably Facebook is doing this to try reduce spam or clutter on peoples streams and so allowing competitions in tabs would do that. Unfortunately, FBML is not the easiest of things to play around with which may result in the need for a costly "coder". Are Facebook looking to get more big name brands with big pockets to use their platform?

Whatever the reasoning behind it it seems somewhat illogical to me. Facebook have been one of the pioneers of social media and networking and tried to make it easy to interact be it with events and useful apps but creating these new rules flies in the face of that.

For further reading and some direct quotes from the Facebook crew I suggest you check out what I read - but not before you leave a comment and let me (and the t-shirt population at large) about any ideas you have to keep competitions running or any other information you may have heard about Facebook changing the competition rules.

Also, it would be in the spirit of things to alert our fellow tee peoples of these changes - I'm sure no one wants to unwittingly run the risk of getting their fanpage closed down.

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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Tweedle Dum Tweedle Dee Twitter and Tees - 10 Advantages of Twitter

Get a Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum T-Shirt Now

The humdrum debate about the value of Twitter to business seems to carry on and I would suggest mainly by those that don't use it either often enough or properly. Twitter gives an ideal free to platform to quickly engage your customers and to prospect for new ones.

In this post I'll outline what I deem to be 10 advantages of Twitter from my own usage of the LadyUmbrella t-shirts Twitter account.

1 - Twitter is free so that's one excuse not to use it ruled out.

2 - Twitter has millions upon millions of people using it - surely you want to talk to at least some of them?

3 - You can find people who may be interested in your product by finding similar brands on twitter and following those who follow them - targeting your market doesn't get any easier than that

4 - Twitter is another weapon in your online marketing arsenal, a quick and easy way to stay in touch with your customers, to be available and is key for your online presence. In fact, I find it odd if a company or brand doesn't have a twitter now..

5 - It's often said that Twitter is like "word of mouth on steroids", this is true. If a few people RT (re-tweet) your post which may contain a link to your site you can get a lot of traffic quickly and somewhat easily - how cool is that?

6 - You can build your brand image easily on Twitter. Get in touch with people who follow you, be real, talk about what you care about or what you're doing so that people can relate to you and start to build up trust in you.

7 - Google loves Twitter so if your user name or URL is then even though your own homepage may not rank in google results (due to keyword competitiveness or other) there is a chance that your Twitter page might which may result in more traffic to your page that you would not not have gotten. Anything that helps the SERP effort is always a bonus.

8 - Twitter is fun, really...once you get "into it" and start to connect with people you'll find that you will make friends and business it suppliers, customers, bloggers, web designers - whatever, they are all on twitter waiting to be spoken to..if you don't speak to them someone else will!

9 - Twitter provides a useful and easy way to build relationships with potential customers and keep existing customers happy..

10 - Twitter can be a very quick way to get the word out about product offers, competitions or deals you have going..
From my own experience there are a heap of great t-shirt people on Twitter and it seems like there is a real community spirit evolving, connections being made and help and advice being freely distributed. I could go into a long list of great t-shirt peeps I've met on Twitter but I'll save that for a rainy day..I do encourage you to leave your Twitter name as a comment though and feel free to follow me follow me - why not like?

What are your views on twitter anyway? Think it is an unproductive waste of time or a gift from a 140 character deity? What are your twitter tips and don't do's?

Ultimately, you will get out of it what you put into can't expect an instant result but as you create your online image, just by being yourself, you will slowly but surely see the rewards and (possibly/probably) have a good time doing so...

P.S. - I've added "Tweet this" links to all posts in this blog, I give you permission to go nuts tweeting :-)

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Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Dawn of Adquarius - Google AdSense Ads

The Dawn of Adquarius, the arrival of a new era for the T-Shirt Strategy blog. I have just started to run Google AdSense ads on this blog, not as means to make money (but that would be nice) but more as a bit of an experiment.

I'm considering utilizing Google ads and/or google AdSense ads for LadyUmbrella but before digging deep into my pocket I want to try ascertain click through rates one might expect - by having ads on this page I might be able to see what sort of click rates ads get and hopefully learn a thing or two about them. I will post updates on what I learn about Google Ads and AdSense as and when there I discover something.

From my own browsing experience I very rarely click on an ad however the PPC (pay per click) nature of them means that if no one clicks on your ad then you don't get charged so surely its win win? Even if they don't click on the ad they might still notice the ad and who knows what the subconscious might store - your company name or logo perhaps? This exposure, although limited, to the potential customer may "butter them up" and make them more receptive to any future marketing efforts embarked on by your company?

Any one currently using Google Ads or AdSense? What sort of click through rates do you get? and, more importantly, do Google Ads lead to a higher conversion rate for your business?

And one other thought that has been on my mind - do AdSense Ads or Google Ads on a blog (or website) have an impact on a potential customers "opinion" of the shop owner/blogger? Does it in someway devalue the content that is on a blog? Or, does having ads on your web shop "lose" you any potential customers?

I would love to hear your thoughts on it so please leave a comment with your musings. And, hehe, and if you happen to see an ad that interests you your click will get me a fraction of a slice of bread closer to a loaf.

Personally, I think the whole google ads/adsense topic is quite interesting, they are playing a big part in the shift in advertising (and dare I say it society) from old school TV/Radio/printed media etc to the online world of social media, on demand video/everything and (ultimately hehe) Gary Vaynerchuk - the Dawn of Adquarius is upon us. Let me know what you think..

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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Soge Shirts Interview - A one on one with David Cree

Sometimes when cruising around the t-shirt web world with my LadyUmbrella work I come across things that make me "lol" proper - that happened to me when I found Soge Shirts. I got in touch with the guys behind the scenes asked if they'd like to be interviewed. David Cree, half of Soge Shirts, was kind enough to take time out and give some intriguing, real raconteur answers to my questions so get comfy and enjoy BBQ tales, naughty bananas and a handful of melons...

Rob - Hey David, thanks a million for letting me interview, lets get down to it, you kicked off Soge Shirts in 2007, what was the catalyst for the company to start up? And where does the name come from or whatdoes it mean?

David - We had about 20 different ideas of making websites, and somehow earn a living over the internet. That working on a laptop from the beach idea seemed great. One of our ideas was dumb funny t shirts. I could draw, and Tim is just awesome. We had no idea how to build a website, or where to print t shirts and clothing, or just find money to start a company. We found a third party company that would print our stuff with little effort on our part, and a whole bunch of web design info on the web, and from friends. After a few design flops and printing errors, we found a system that worked and stuck with it.
Where the name comes from is a long, but short story. The name is actually an acronym for our first company we started to be a Graphic Design, Marketing, SEO, and Enterprise for our bigger dreams in life. That company is called Son Of Grace Enterprises. (SOGE) The name Son Of Grace Enterprises came from a website domain name I bought years ago, to try my attempt at web development. My last name is Cree, and in Scottish, it derives back to Mac Rae, which when translated means, "Son Of Grace." I've fallen from grace many times in my life, and learned to pick myself up. Both Tim and I were in such a happy mood to start a company, we didn't think to hard about a clever name for a t-shirt company, and just rolled with an acronym of our first company, hence the Soge. Pronounce it any way you like. With a french accent and a oui oui, after it sounds funny. [Rob - Oooh la la]

Rob - And are they high quality cheap t-shirts? I was reading on your blog and saw that you have some views regarding pricing of t-shirts. You guys seem to be price conscious so you add value to your customers - from a business point of view does this not really hurt your margins? or you have any cost reduction strategies that you guys employ?

David - First off, we love our customers because they have decided our shirts were for them, even with a few high prices of some of our items. Our third party vendor, has it's positives and negatives, like any other company, one of the negatives being higher margins of production for our shirts. Our cheapest tee shirt is $11.99, and it is comfortable cotton. It's breathable, and a tough shirt. Of course our higher quality tees like our dark t shirts are much heavier, thicker, stronger, more comfortable, but they are over $20. We are growing larger and larger by the minute, and we are about to produce many t-shirts of your favorite designs, in bulk because we really want to bring the public cheaper t-shirts. We are working very diligently to make our t-shirts around $6 - $7 cheaper. Other shirt companies are much larger, and can bring cheaper good to consumers. We will be there shortly.

Rob - So, what is your all time best selling t-shirt and why do you think it is your most successful one? Might you have gotten lucky/planned with the timing of the t-shirts release or did you ratchet up the marketing effort to aid the sales? Any top tips?

David - One of our older designs, Cheapest Gasoline, came out during the gas crisis. It was planned, but we got some well appreciated bumps from our third party vendor on their front page. The sales just came. It was a timing of the market place, and season, but what took it higher in sales, was the promotions of it. Distributing the product, to those who would relate somehow to the shirt, brought about good positive feedback from our fans. Even when they didn't purchase a shirt, we took that feedback, and promoted our shirts along with that feedback, giving the shirt product more value to a consumer reading about another person liking the same shirt. More often than not, this translates into more positive feedback, and then progressively, more sales.

Rob - You have a huge catalog of t-shirts, really, a staggering amount have you counted them all? which is your favorite design? One design I like is the When life hands you Melons.

David - Yes, I have counted them many times.. for my hand still aches from drawing so many of them. We have over 200 designs, some get deleted because of personal preference, or they're just too offensive, or just wrong, from a design stand point. I'm kinda anal about details. If I don't feel right about a shirt, I talk to Tim, and I'll pull it down. I do love the When life hands you melons, you might be dyslexic one as well. My favorite one right now, that's taking off and selling well right out of the gate, is bananas gone wild, with a banana stripping off it's banana peel. It's a bad fruit joke. [Rob - hehe, what a ridiculous grin on that banana, quality]

Rob - Every time you eat meat a hippie drops a hacky sack - I laughed when I saw this. You happen to be at a bbq and witness said event or are you the hapless hacky sack hippie?

David - I used to live out of my car for a few months, and carried multiple hacky sacks around to all the people's places I crashed at. Met many different people, and a few were hippies. Great, wonderful, amazing people, not because they associated with the hippie group, but of who they are. We talked long and hard about the circle of life, and how you have to keep the hacky sack going to everyone to complete the circle. When it dropped we joked about people dying, or trees falling every time someone drops the hacky sack. One drunk night, my friend Mike and his brother and I went to a local Mexican food shop and ordered super chips with lots of meat. We joked about meat and how it will kill a hippie if you eat it, cause Mike's blue Volkswagen van, was the mystery machine, and he looked like Shaggy from Scooby Doo. Years later, I heard something about hippies and eating meat. I laughed thinking back to that night. I felt the circle of life is torn apart if hippies everywhere can feel each time a cow dies. I took it a step further remembering the circle of hacky sack. I am a hacky sack hippie in spirit, with a shaved head, lol. I love nature, animals, spiritually feel connected to everything, explore alternative states of consciousness whether I want to or not, and feel passivism, and non violent political action is a must, but I can't classify myself as a hippie completely, cause they'd never let me in. I've got one foot in hippie land, and one foot in the "I love juicy burgers" world. [Rob - now, thats quite an answer]

Rob - And from BBQ food to feed burner you've got a whopping 1110 on your feed burner mailing list how long did it take to acquire that amount? Are you in regular contact with those on your mailing list? any direct results from e-mails sent? Any tips on how to operate a successful mailing list for tee sales?

David - Our blog is credited to Tim. He writes the vast majority of humor articles, randomness and fun stuff that comes through that avenue. We decided to match our sense of humor, with our tee shirts, and bring about ways our fans, and potential consumers of our products, can really relate to who is behind the product. People started getting interested in us as people, and not just a tee shirt company, who's trying to force t-shirts down their throats. I think people just liked good positive detours from life, and our blog was built to attempt that.
From a marketing standpoint, any newsletters a t shirt company sends, should have value. Know your market, if at all possible. Understand the attention span of yourself, and others around you. My point on this is some people can only read something for 5-6 seconds, before they make up their mind if they'll continue or not. A great introduction, or anecdote provides value to stay interested. Using language and writing content that evokes feelings of emotion, and value, keep readers interested, and relating to the vibe and energy you put into your emails. As a reader, I want to relate to a product, I want it to enhance my life in some way, and I was to know more about it if I decide to find out more. Thinking from a reader's standpoint, definitely helps with marketing to your consumers. Foreshadowing how your readers might react to content in your emails, and thinking about potential questions that could be asked, can help you develop a well balance mailing or email, with enough information, enough value, and enough customer relations, so that a majority of the people on your list, can get what they're looking for.

Rob - Are you a tee-totaller? that is to say that your sole job is with Soge Shirts or are you multitaskers?

David - I have to be doing more than one thing. I am multi-tasked by nature. A jack of all trades, master of none. Drawing tee shirts, developing the websites we run, graphic designs for our advertisements, writing content, setting up our shops for sales, handling modeling contracts, finances, accounting, and all that legal jargon, is a weekly routine for me. Tim and I constantly are talking throwing ideas around for new shirts, new blog posts, new ventures online, and new ideas for the SOGE empire. (unlike Rome, we wont force people into a coliseum to fight lions and knife wielding midgets.) Tim does many multitasking ventures. Everything I can't do, or wont do, Tim does. He helps me out on everything listed above except the drawing. He has designed a few shirts, but he might tell you he can't draw. He makes up for it with everything else he can do. [Rob - a regular Batman and Robin team]

Rob - So, you've been in business since 07, that's a few years of experience. What would you say is one of the highlights of being in business so far and with is the worst thing that has happened in that period?

David - The highlights are many.. but I think the one that sticks out was the first shirt we sold. We both were in a daze and couldn't really believe someone actually wanted something we created. It took on a whole new life for us, bringing what we can, to the public, and people liking it. Maybe the scariest thing, was when we almost got scammed out of a large bulk tee shirt order, with someone attempting to use a stolen credit card. [Rob - umm, this seems to be a recurring trend] Luckily, it never happened [Rob - as Mr. Burns would say, "Excellent"], but it was scary. Some bad things turned good, one was losing money on some ventures that didn't work, and even having to learn to work together, as a business entity, and not as two people with different opinions. We have had our tough times, when we first started out, cause we didn't know what we were doing. Keeping our heads on straight, was hard, but it allowed both Tim and I to grow together as friends, and business partners. Being able to change and adapt, is a constant highlight of our work. Seeing more and more how our designs, change and grow, makes all those harsh times worth it.
I'd say to all companies starting out, find those things that work, and duplicate them. Don't be afraid to change directions, if you can handle it, and remember, you can handle a lot more than you think. Hard work, never fails, the mistakes only shows you what you didn't know before. [Rob - some sound advice there]

Rob - Ok so, time to wrap it up, but what about the plans for the future for Soge Shirts? Anything in the pipe line you'd like to divulge?

David -Totally! Always new shirts, and new website ventures. Right now we're working on two stores in California, Pangea in Pacific Beach, and Leaping Lotus in Solona Beach, selling our products. Hopefully, by next year. Once we get into stores, we are thinking about opening up a Soge Shirts Rack, where our top selling shirts, will be sold for much cheaper than on We love our fans, and want to bring them fun clothing, without breaking the bank.

The End

Well, nothing left to say but thanks once more to Soge Shirts for a pretty darn interesting interview if I do say so myself..Find the guys on facebook and on twitter. So what do you guys out there think? which is your favorite Soge t-shirt design? Few more interviews lined up for the T-Shirt Strategy but if you would like me to interview you just get in touch...stay happy...

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

I AM THE TREND Interview - A one on one with Adam Hendle

When I first started to explore online t-shirt sites as part of my work with LadyUmbrella one of the first ones I came across was I AM THE TREND and found it to be a very useful and informative site..I've managed to track down the man behind the site, Mr Adam Hendle, to ask him a few questions..get comfy and enjoy..

Rob - Hi, firstly, Adam, thanks a million for agreeing to be interviewed by me. And secondly, apologies for titling this "I Am The Trend Interview - One on one with Adam Hendle" because clearly that isn't doing you have your hands in many other pies such as and, like to mention a bit about them and any other sites you're involved with?

Adam - Not a problem! Thanks for asking to interview me, this is the first time that the tables have been turned and someone else is asking the questions! The main site I run is but I do spend some time running which I'm basically trying to build into the youtube of t-shirt videos. IATT.TV really ties in pretty close to, basically just the domain where we host IAMTHETREND TV our weekly webshow.

Rob - So, I AM THE TREND, you recently updated your website and it does look pretty darn swanky but so did the old version (or I think so anyway). What were the motivations behind the redesign did you get better website hosting? Add any cool new features or functionality to the site? make it super SEO friendly (if so, any top tips)?

Adam - Thanks a ton! The main goal with the new site was keep it simple! This is actually the third version of iamthetrend. [Rob - the 3rd version, my bad] When I started the main goal was to create a directory of indie clothing lines, bands, artists and indie products. I thought it would be great to have a place where people could easily go find what was new and cool in those categories. I quickly became pretty bored with that site. It was very stagnant, basically people would submit there company, we would put up a yellow pages type listing and that was that.

So when it came to IATT 2.0, I wanted to become a bit more interactive, thus we started doing weekly interviews and a few articles, which really got us on the path to where we are today. Unfortunately with the 2.0 site the layout was a bit confusing and the more and more I got involved with some of these companies, artists and bands the more I wanted to write daily about them.

Long story short I really wanted the site to be as simple as possible and I really think with the new redesign we accomplished that!

Rob - You're famous man!!...I've seen you on TV before, well, internet TV but in this day and age the lines are blurring...we mentioned it earlier, but IATT.TV, nice little site you have going there. You've had some jam packed shows - which were the most enjoyable for you? were you nervous when you first kicked off the show and sitting in front of the camera? And in general how are the shows going for you, what do you want to achieve with Any juicy shows in the pipeline?

Adam - Hahaha, maybe one day we will be famous for doing the show, but for now we really do it as a compliment to the website. The push for online video is just growing enormously and constantly, so we figured it would be a fun way to make the site a bit more transparent and basically give a face to the brand. On top of that we really wanted to create a place to show off some amazing tees, bands, artists and products! [Rob - check out the most recent show]

The most enjoyable show was probably our Halloween show. We had ten or so companies send in their Halloween/Horror Inspired t shirts and had a blast reviewing them! We even dressed up as zombies for the show!

I still get a bit nervous doing the show just because there is a ton of pressure getting everything together and ready before we go live and it always seems like we are racing against the clock to get the show up on time! But once the show is live and going its pretty much a breeze from there.

As far as where I see the show going, I really hope that it gets to the level of a Winelibrary TV. Gary Vaynerchuk does an incredible job running his show and is someone I definitely look up to for inspiration. [Rob - another Gary Vee mention, he is 2 for 2 now for mentions in interviews - maybe I should interview him?]

Rob - I know you from "t-shirt circles", that is to say I first came across you on the likes of and (I think..pretty sure) but I AM THE TREND is about more than tees, you clearly love music - in a band yourself? what sorta music you have on your i-Pod (or you an anti i-podder?)? and I guess, what gave you the kick to start and whats your current role in it - or is every role yours?

Adam - When I started I really thought to myself how well clothing, music and art tie into each other and I really felt that there weren’t many sites that tried to take on the task of discovering and talking about the emerging players in those fields. So that’s when I decided to take on the task of starting a website that would tackle all of those categories. My first true passion was always music. I have actually been playing guitar in and out of bands for over ten years, which is actually how I met Beau ( cohost and iatt contributor). Shameless plug you can check out my current project A Hero Named Hope at [Rob - check it out everyone, videos, music, off the good good]. As far as my ipodding goes, I use my iphone for everything! I have currently been jamming on the new Everytime I Die, The Almost, and Dance Gavin Dance.

Rob - You've checked out and reviewed many tees in your time, do you design tees yourself? Any cool t-shirts spotted recently to report? and do you have like a favorite tee?

Adam - I have definitely seen a lot of tees, but as far as designing tees go my skills are pretty limited. Over the years I have designed a few of my bands t shirts, but at this point there are just so many talented artists that are readily available there I found no reason to design my own. As far as cool tees go I try and put my latest findings daily on so your going to have to check there for that info ; ) I really don’t have a “favorite tee” there are just way to many amazing designs on there, but I do have a favorite color tee, which would be American Apparel Heather Grey. I love that color and usually love any design printed on it!

Rob - When you relaunched the site after the redesign did you do any hardcore marketing or promo to mark the event? if so, any things that worked well for you guys? And is i am the trend your full time job now or have you cloned yourself successfully so that you can work and maintain cool sites?

Adam - As far as marketing the site goes, we really just tried to hammer hard the social sites such as twitter and Facebook. I also made it a point to try and get some interviews with some bigger names, such as Aaron from Underoath whom also runs Pig Cloth Clothing, and Jordan from Everytime I Die whom is an incredible illustrator.

Unfortunately IAMTHETREND is not my full time job, but I am striving and working hard for it to one day become my full-time job. My long term goal would be to open up a IAMTHETREND store, in which I could sell all the amazing upcoming lines I come across daily. [Rob - sounds like a cool idea to try get a store going]

Rob - Ok so, I think I've delved deep enough...but any random personal fact you'd like to throw out or any anything you want to get off your chest or mention...the mic is yours now and you're the MC...

Adam - Here might be a few interesting bulletins:
-My original idea for the site came while reading Alternative Press.
-The original website was going to be called, which looking back now is just a terrible name! [Rob - I concur]
-The name IAMTHETREND came to me while mowing the grass [Rob - man, I used to hate having to cut the grass, used to take 6 hours]

We are always looking for guest authors to write for IAMTHETREND so if anyone is interested please email us at Also if you would like to see yourself, your company, band, etc on IAMTHETREND also email us at Lastly tune in every Monday night at 8PM Central to to watch IAMTHETREND TV! Just wanted to say thanks for the interview! It was interesting being on the other side of the questions! Good luck with LadyUmbrella! [Rob - hehe, cheers]

And so thats that...interview two in the can and thanks once more to Adam for taking the time to get back to me...So, who likes I am the trend? Any regular viewers? And if you have some t-shirts to submit or want to get the word out about your band you now know the place to go...also, if you'd like me to interview you just get in touch...

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Monday, November 16, 2009

Running an Online Competition to Increase Fanbase

Ok so, in this blog post I'm going to talk about running a competition to increase your fanbase and how I ran one for LadyUmbrella on our facebook fanpage. For a new brand trying to get up and running I found it to be useful as we had: 144 entries, 119 votes and gained over 500 fans in the month period that we ran our compe-tee-tion. Here comes the info, brace yourselves...

Firstly, I think its important to make sure your competition is easy to enter, not just the actual entering part itself but also the question or want to include as many people as possible and make it simple for them to enter..KISS - keep it short and simple..

Secondly, you should set targets for what you want to achieve out of a competition..Do you want to swell your mailing list numbers, get more facebook/twitter/myspace fans or do you want to try get sales as a direct result of the competition? For us, we want to get more fans and spread the word of LadyUmbrella..this is primarily because we are a new t-shirt brand and company..more bedded in brands may want to get sales directly from the competition..

Once you have decided upon your competition and how it will be entered with some realistic targets set now the games begin..You have to promote the life out of the competition..Get on twitter, facebook, myspace and shout about your competition (obviously don't shout aggressively though, be friendly like)..this will get you some traffic and entries..Get down and dirty with Google and see what it returns for searches like "sweepstakes submit", "online sweepstakes", "sweepstakes forums"...If you get lucky you'll find some incredible forums with thousands of active members who just live to "comp" (as they call it)..there are also lots of directory type sites for competitions that also have huge numbers using them to "comp"..Here are a few that we have used and that have been effective for us:

- - very active forum in NZ, quite a few entries and a nice friendly forum
- - not sure how much entries this one has given me but we do get page views from it
- - has got a lot of traffic for me, not sure about entries/new fans
- - got a few entries from here
- - wow, got a lot of traffic from here and nice friendly forum
- - also got a lot of traffic from here but be careful in the forums, you're not allowed mention your own competitions..
- - not that successful but they all help
- - not a lot of traffic from here but again all helps
- - not a whole lot of success here but....

Ok so, the last three listed weren't dynamite fan making entry yielding machines for me this day and age of King Google it is important to get backlinks to your page to appease the SEO(verlord) and the even if sites don't give you a lot of traffic they will give you that all important backlink..hopefully some of you will find some use for the above?

Alright, I'm going to call time on this soiree...another hopefully useful post in the can..let me know how you get on with your competitions ye? and any tips that you have leave them in a comment..rock on all...

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Saturday, November 14, 2009

Keywords and SEO - make it more effective

Keywords and SEO - vital to t-shirt companies I think - especially if you are hoping to sell online, you need to get people to your top tip is to check out and do what Tim at Assault Blog says - I learned a heap from reading is blogs...I'll try outline some things I have done and found useful...

One way to give you keywords more weight for targeted customers is to add you ad to the google locals directory/google maps, then when people search for "keyword in Location X" you'll be up near the top in the map listings..this also helps pull your site to the top of the listings in the top 10..

With keywords you should have them in your:
- title [title] [/title] *change the ['s to <'s
- header [h1][/h1] tags on each page
- in the text you write start it with the keyword if possible
- in the text you write use [strong][/strong] tags around your keyword
- when linking to your page externally have your keywords in the [a href = "" alt = "lovely keywords" title = "lovely keywords"]lovely keywords[/a] *change the ['s to <'s
- the effectiveness of keywords is dependent to a degree on the number of "votes" (links) it gets from other sites to your site..the higher PR (google page rank) of the page linking to your site using your keywords in the a href the stronger the vote for those keywords to your page the more effective or higher ranking your page will be...

When using keywords there are two sides to it, onsite and offsite..the onsite is what you have in the text of your page and the html you use (w3c verified pages, with clean, spider friendly html help your onsite keywords no end)..the offsite is links back to your page using your can get these from directories, blogs about you, blogs you write yourself..the top tip here would be to write a blog with links to your site and then submit this blog to social bookmarking sites,,, stumbleupon etc which would then multiply the number of links using your chosen keywords back to your site strengthening them...

........or at least thats a synopsis of what I have read..I don't know if it is fool proof, I doubt it but for some of my keywords it has worked...for my google anyway..actually, if anyone can try google "quirky ladies t-shirts" or "ladies t-shirts" from the entire world, not locally, I'd be curious to see if I feature..would really appreciate it..

Anyway, good luck with keywords and SEO - its an endless pit of research and work but interesting none the less..any other top tips you have please leave a comment and let me know - would love to hear from you...knowledge is no burden..
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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Rizzo Tees Interview - A one on one with Chris Reimer

In the t-shirt strategy blog I hope to interview lots of people from within the t-shirty industry, find out more about them and their business and any top tips they have..In the following interview Chris Reimer, the man behind Rizzo Tees talks frankly and honestly about his business, his hopes, social media and more...just read it...

Rob - Hey Chris, firstly, thanks very much for being the first person from the t-shirt world that I'm going to interview...and also, congrats on your one year anniversary of Rizzo Tees...Did you do anything special to mark the occasion?

Chris - It's funny you ask that, because I didn't do nearly enough to mark the occasion, business-wise or personally. On the business side, I tweeted and Facebooked about the big day (9:45am on 30/10/2008), but I didn't have a big blowout sale or anything. I didn't email my email list. I was so busy with regular life things as the day approached... and all of a sudden it was the morning of the 30th, I had to go to work... and my celebration was boiled down to a tweet and a Facebook update. I should probably do a little more next year! On a personal level, my wife wanted to take me out to dinner to celebrate, and this might sound grumpy, but I told her no. I said, "I don't feel I have anything to celebrate yet." Businesswise, I'm rather impatient and unsatisfied by nature. There will come a time for big celebrations, but at this point I'm a million miles away from there.

Rob -...lets get down to it, are you as funny as your t-shirts suggest you are in real life? how do you get your ideas for your tees or your "inspiration"? I think its fair to say that your designs and ideas are a bit of the beaten track "Props to my tweeps" for example or "Do it for the Halibut" or "Kama Supra"...

Chris -I am scary funny. In all seriousness, if you ever meet me in person (can my wife and I come crash on your floor in Dublin. I am serious [Rob - the floor is yours or the spare bed, your call]), I'm a pretty fun, easygoing guy. I've never done stand-up comedy or anything like that, but I have a wit that was probably shaped by watching shows like the Simpsons, Family Guy, etc.
And sometimes I'm just a nerdy weird guy... and nerdy weird guys have lots of thoughts that occur to them, and I found that many of those could translate to t-shirts. At that point, I realized I had found a great business to start. As far as the tee ideas, I keep track of all of my ideas in an Excel spreadsheet, and I have hundreds of them. My wife and I literally scored them in the beginning, weeding out some of the terrible ideas. Do it for the Halibut - some joker in college used to say that (he'd also say, "No, I did it on Porpoise.") Kama Supra... I just thought it would be hilarious to have a Supra getting another Supra from behind. After debuting with 32 designs, I feel like some of my latest designs are actually my best.

Rob - So, now, you're one year into your t-shirt career...have you been able to make it your full time job or do you have any other job? or, in a past life, what job did you have and any skills from that job which are helping you in your t-shirt career?

Chris - I continue to have a full-time job by day. I am very far away from being able to make this my full-time job. I need to sell about 50 shirts a day, on average, in order to make it my full-time job, and I feel that's really a bare minimum. I have a long way to go. I am a CPA by trade, which in the United States means I'm a professional accountant. I have been a Chief Financial Officer of various organizations around my hometown of St. Louis, Missouri, so I actually have alot of business experience. And I found that business experience helps when you're starting a business! : - )

Rob - seem to be the t-shirt champ on twitter (well, maybe threadless have a few more followers, just about though) and are growing you think your success on twitter helps your sales? any direct link between the two that you can establish? And how long were you "working" with twitter before it became really useful for Rizzotees?

Chris - Twitter is currently my number one sales channel - it has been a literal Godsend. Google Analytics proves that it's my #1 sales channel, besides the interaction I have with customers (where they tweet "Hey, I just bought a shirt from you!") My goal is to have Google organic traffic be my number one channel, but this is another goal that's still out on the horizon. I am approaching the first page of Google for various important keywords, but it is HIGHLY competitive - it's a dogfight! The cool thing about Twitter is that I love it. Like I said, I have so many random thoughts that occur to me - what better way to dump them on an unsuspecting community but a microblogging service? 140 characters = low committment - this versus having to maintain a blog, constantly pump out new content. I do have a blog and have made some pretty decent posts on it, but I prefer the quick-hit nature of Twitter. I joined up last November I think, so it's been about a year. It started helping me immediately.

Rob - Besides from Twitter your "social media game" is really on point...your facebook fanpage has over 2,500 fans which is pretty staggering..any top tips on how to get there?

Chris - The fan page is growing pretty well at this point - my goal is to get up to 50,000 fans. A few keys: 1. Link to it from your main website, 2. Tweet about it - ask for fans, 3. Promise fans they're gonna get something special for being a fan, 4. Pump out content on it - make posts, post pictures, do anything you can to attract fan photos, and 5. Get other fans to suggest your page to their friends.

Rob - Would you say you are Crushing It? And how did you manage to be able to do a book review for Gary Vaynerchuk? (check it out here if you haven't seen). I'd love to be able to review that book as for me I'm converted to what Gary is preaching...alas, I can't get the book here in Ireland yet...but, I digress..have you found the book helpful? meet Gary Vee himself?

Chris - I would love to tell you that I'm crushing it - I have to be honest and be sorta hard on myself at this point. I'm very proud of what I've accomplished so far, but completely unsatisfied and a little cranky about it. My wife keeps telling me it's all so amazing what I've been able to do so far, almost all on my own, and I just keep telling her "we're not even close." I am always lecturing her about "stopping to smell the roses," but when it comes to my own business, I can't even do that. Perhaps that's a healthy thing for business, but I can't help myself - we're eons away from meeting with true success. The question was "Am I crushing it?" There are TOO MANY times when I go to bed instead of working until the A.M. hours. Part of my life credo is balance - Gary Vaynerchuk has NO balance in his life. And that is working for him - he is raking in five figures per keynote, selling tons of books, they just started and MY DAD is already addicted to the site.... he's working 20 hours a day. I am not doing that. I am working a full-time job, trying to do the best job I can there. I am driving my kids to school, picking them up. The past month or so, I've been sleeping alot more than I used to (6-8 hours a night, versus 4). I can't lie to you - there are times of self-doubt when I realize that I am NOT crushing it. It can be hard to motivate yourself when you're just mentally and physically drained. In direct reference to Garyvee, I am a huge skeptic of the "internet gurus," the stars that give these keynotes, ask you to buy their systems, have an answer for everything..... Gary is the sole guru-type guy that I actually listen to. I was on one of his Ustream chats, and as I am apt to do, I started making tons of comments. His book was being discussed, he was asking for help, and I commented that I would tweet the F**k out of it when it came out. Gary took note and said, on the live Ustream, "Rizzo, I need more from you." He said it several times. So I emailed him and told him to send me a prerelease copy (this was like a month and a half before it came out). He wrote back, cc'ing his publisher, and said let's do it. A week later I was holding a prerelease copy of his book. I hate reading books - I have no patience or attention span for such things. But his book actually was a very easy and compelling read - I can honestly recommend it. I think you can get a version for Kindle and for iPhone too - I don't know if that's an option for folks in Ireland or not. I have never met Gary himself, but he's coming to St. Louis for a booksigning, and I'm going to go to it and say hi. I actually sent Gary a "Props to my Tweeps" shirt as a thank-you for inspiring me to work hard (that sounds cheesy and corny but it's true). However, I have yet to see any photographic evidence that he's worn it. : - ( [Rob - Gary Vee, if you happen to read this, snap a pic of you rockin' the "Props to my Tweeps" and send it to Chris - make his day]

Rob - Throughout your debut year I'm sure there must have been some ups and downs...what moment gave you the most elation in the last year? and then, the other side of the coin, what made you question why you're selling t-shirts and how did you get over it? - or has it been all plain sailing..

Chris - During this year, I have not once questioned whether all of this is a good idea, whether I should have taken the plunge... I am having a great time, and I am convinced I am in a great business. I think I have a nice website and a good product, and for not having any paid advertising, I feel I'm taking pretty good advantage of all of my free options (social media, blog commentary, etc). I'd say the worst thing that's happened this year would be attempts to defraud me - people with stolen credit cards pounding my site. It's just silly - I'm not shipping out anything that's even remotely suspicious - and it's rather unfortunate - I just feel bad for the people that have had their card numbers stolen. It's the seedy underbelly of business - not the fun part of selling stuff, interacting with customers. It's the bullshit of running a business. It's hard to pick one event that caused me the most elation. I would say seeing my tees on people. Any time someone posts a picture of themselves in my tee, I get HELLA excited! I have not yet personally ran into anyone randomly on the street wearing one of my designs (that will be mindblowing), but I came close. My brother in Milwaukee said he was out in his backyard, and he saw his neighbor's brother wearing my Barack That Ass Up shirt. His brother had bought one of my designs, happened to be wearing it that day, my brother happened to see.... what are the chances? I emailed the customer and we had a good laugh about it.

Rob - Alright, we're getting there..just a few more questions...what is your top selling t-shirt? and any idea why you think it is your top selling tee? And, can you spill the beans and put a number on how many of them you have sold?

Chris - Props to my Tweeps is number one. I don't know how many I've sold - I don't pay alot of attention to the numbers (which is funny because of my trained profession). I have had to print the tee three times, while I have designs that have never gone to a second printing. And the tee debuted in May 2009, so all the other tees had a head start on it, and yet it's #1. I think it's a good looking shirt - good color choices, good knockoff on the Twitter font, and it obviously speaks directly to the millions of people that are rapt by the phenomenon that is Twitter.

Rob - And for all the Rizzo Tees fans out there what does the future hold? Do you have any ideas in the pipeline you'd like to tell us about? Some new designs on the horizon? or just a special someone you'd like to say hi to hehe...the stage is yours....

Chris - The future holds moving some more cotton! I have hundreds of ideas in the pipeline - it's a matter of money. My basement (what do you call a basement in Ireland?) has plenty more room for tees, so space is not an issue. I just have to sell more of my existing designs in order for my new designs to see the light of day. On my "About Us" page, I say that I never want to have to hire anyone, that I like being on my own. Philosophically, this is true. However, if I can truly "break thru," take my tee ideas into the mainstream, and sell hundreds a day, I can assure you there is NO WAY in hell I will be able to handle this on my own. During the next year, I am going to try to put out at least 12 new designs, continue to market the F out of the company, and hopefully get closer to that day when I can make it my full-time job. At that time, I will feel like I truly TCB'ed. (TCB = takin' care of business). Hey man, thank you very much for the opportunity to speak with you! Cheers! *tips back a Guinness* [Rob - Great minds think a like, might get a refreshing beverage myself]

And that concludes the first interview. Super sized thanks to Chris for taking the time out of his clearly hectic schedule and getting back to, what you guys think? Any Rizzo Tees fans out there? ...any one like me to interview them? - get in touch with me and we'll get something sorted...until next time...ciao...

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