It seems these days everyone who’s anyone has a podcast. From Gwyneth Paltrow to RuPaul to your least favorite next-door neighbor, you can power up your smartphone around the clock and hear just about anyone’s brilliant thoughts and ideas. With more than 112 million Americans listening to podcasts, it’s no wonder everyone wants in on this growing trend.
But just because anyone can start a podcast, doesn’t mean everyone can make money with one. Good marketing starts from the time you come up with a concept for your new podcast. A unique, useful take on an in-demand topic will only need a small push to find its audience. But whether your podcast has one listener or 100,000, there’s always a need for merchandise. When even one fan wears a T-shirt emblazoned with your podcast logo, that logo is seen by everyone the listener passes throughout the day. If even one person Googles your podcast name and tries it out as a result, that’s a small investment that pays off.
It takes money to purchase the equipment and invest in the marketing necessary to grow a successful podcast. If you can eventually make your way to the top of the iTunes charts for your category, you’ll build a large enough audience that you may be able to generate a good income for your efforts. Advertisements are one way to monetize the episodes themselves, but with the right merch, you can give your fans a way to support you while also spreading the word about your podcast. Here are some tips to help you promote your podcast through marketing materials that you can sell, hand out at events and distribute as gifts.
Creating strong marketing materials
Great marketing starts long before you create the first T-shirt or mug. You’ll need to start out with a catchy title, topic and logo. When you look at the top podcast charts on iTunes, some jump out at you, depending on your interests. Titles like Stuff You Should Know, Revisionist History and Criminal are catchy. Keep that in mind when you’re naming your podcast. Also be aware that your logo will be reduced to a fairly small size in smartphone-based podcast searches, so it needs to be eye-catching but simple.
However, things get a little more complicated when you factor in the fact that the same logo will need to be blown up to display on items like T-shirts and hoodies. But those aren’t the only weapons you should stock in your merch arsenal. Savvy “podtrepreneurs” include popular items like coffee cups, tote bags, smartphone cases, and even Yetis. Stickers are among the most popular promotional products since they’re lightweight enough to mail with a regular postal stamp and they can be printed relatively inexpensively.
Logos that work
Long before you can create your first piece of merch, you’ll need a winning logo. This is probably the most important investment you’ll make, aside from your equipment. Review professionally-designed podcast logos, and take note of the logos of other podcasts in your category. Also pay close attention to the various types of merchandise your favorite podcasts offer. Most moderately popular podcasts have stores on their websites where you can buy items, usually with the same logo.
Popular mystery podcast LORE, for instance, offers a small selection of items that includes T-shirts and tote bags, but one of the most affordable selections in its webshop is a four-pack sticker collection. If you choose stickers, make sure you design so that you’ll have a variety of sizes and shapes to choose from. Once created, you’ll have a handy stack of materials ready to hand out at a moment’s notice.
LORE isn’t the only podcast providing multiple branding options. My Favorite Murder illustrates the popular practice of having their own catchphrases printed on items like T-shirts and tote bags.
They also incorporate a catchphrase in a way that lets their fans, who call themselves “murderinos,” proudly show off their passion for their favorite show. In addition to spreading brand awareness, they charge $35 per shirt, which is also a great way to generate extra income.
In addition to the usual T-shirts and coffee mugs, My Favorite Murder also sells wristbands for its fans, one reading “Murderino” and the other reading “My Favorite Murder.”
With a Twitter following of more than 170,000 and a Facebook group with that has more than 220,000 members, My Favorite Murder has built a sizable fanbase over the past two years. The show’s fandom illustrates how social media can help a podcast’s listener base create a community that then takes on a life of its own. A podcast that can capitalize on that by creating fan merch, as My Favorite Murder has done, can create a generous income stream.
But to truly be effective, you must think beyond the T-shirt. Stuff You Missed in History Class recognizes the demand for thermal mugs, and is one of the few podcasts that sells one with its logo on it. Bonus: you can slurp your coffee in traffic while listening to your favorite podcast. By monitoring current trends, as well as the various merchandising options available for printing your logo, you may be able to sell such a unique item, fans of your type of podcast purchase it for that reason alone.
Across its wide array of merchandising options, Stuff You Missed in History Class keeps a consistent design, which is vital to any good marketing strategy. However, it’s also a bonus for any podcast, since one logo can easily be printed on a wide variety of items. Because you don’t pay for the items until they’re purchased, it’s important to offer as many options as you think your fans might be interested in buying. Many of the most popular shops use a print-on-demand pricing model, which means that they handle printing and shipping each item after it is ordered, rather than printing a large number of items and holding them in a warehouse until they sell.
Setting up a store
Now that you know what you can do with your podcast’s logo, it’s time to get started. Once you’ve added your podcast to the various podcast apps, you’ll need to start thinking about getting your merch out there for order. Print-on-demand services like Redbubble and Printful will let you upload your logo and add it to a wide range of products. With those services, you can even order a few freebies to hand out at the next podcast conference or when friends and family ask about your podcast. There are also Zazzle, CafePress and Teespring. Shop around and find the marketplace for your merchandise that has the items you want to offer at the most affordable rates.
If you are more of a do-it-yourselfer, you don’t have to rely on a third-party site to manage your orders. You can save money and speed things up by ordering your items in bulk and shipping them yourself. However, this takes time and effort on your part, so it’s important to know what you’re getting into before you take on that obligation. You also have the option of working with a local printer and perhaps saving money, but you’ll likely have to handle shipping yourself in that instance, so decide whether it’s worth the lower price point.
If you’ve kicked off a new podcast, you likely aren’t aware of the income you can generate through merchandise. You can not only sell the items in a store on your website, but you can also sell them at podcast conferences, give them out as thank-you gifts and do merchandise swaps with other podcasters. Since setting up a store on a third-party site requires no up-front commitment, the only investment you’ll make is in your logo. If you put money into a professional-quality design that will work for all of your merchandising and promotional needs, you’ll be able to turn that small investment into an income-generation machine.