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Blog / Marketing tips / How to Scale Your Print-on-Demand Business

Marketing tips

How to Scale Your Print-on-Demand Business: 10 Steps to Success

How to Scale Your Print-on-Demand Business: 10 Steps to Success
Lilija Karpjaka

By Lilija Karpjaka

18 min read

So you’ve got your online store up and running. Nice work, that’s the spirit! The orders are trickling in but . . . things could be going better. You’re here because you’re not just content with good. You want to go for the gold, right?

You want to see more engagement, more orders, more happy customers, and, let’s be honest, more money in your pocket at the end of the day.

We’ll dive into the ins and outs of scaling—aka supercharging, leveling up, boosting capacity—whatever you want to call it. We’ll uncover how you can start scaling your print-on-demand business with tips about streamlining your processes, strengthening your brand, growing a community, and much more.

Get ready to take some notes. By the time you’re done reading this, your brain will be packed with tips and strategies to supercharge your print-on-demand business. Let’s roll!

What is this “scaling” thing, anyway?

In simple terms, scaling is like getting to the next level in a video game. It’s about growing your business, but smarter. Imagine having more orders than you can handle, but without pulling all-nighters or breaking the bank. Think of it as taking your success and making it bigger without losing your cool or your quality. That’s scaling.

Here’s a quick look at what scaling can involve:

  • Operations. Automating things, getting better at making and shipping stuff (is or could be taken care of by yours truly—Printful)

  • Marketing and sales. Reaching more people, getting creative with how you sell

  • Customer service. Keeping customers happy, even as you grow

  • Finances. Making sure your cash is flow healthy, and knowing when to invest more in things like new product designs, packaging, marketing campaigns, influencers, etc. 

The end game? Doing things better and more efficiently while getting more sales than ever with lower costs (that’s economies of scale, as the business nerds call it). And doing all this in a way that works for you.

Read more: How Much Does it Cost to Start a Print-on-Demand Business

Why scale with print-on-demand?

Many entrepreneurs are hesitant to invest in inventory and scaling operations due to uncertainty and crisis, and print-on-demand allows for avoiding overstock and inventory issues, making businesses more sustainable. 

First off, it’s all about automation—Printful’s seamless integration with various ecommerce platforms allows your orders to flow smoothly from your online store to their production floor. This saves precious time and energy, allowing you to focus on other aspects of growth. Then there’s the variety: with an expansive range of high-quality products for you to print your designs on, Printful lets you easily diversify your offerings. Plus, our global fulfillment network ensures fast and reliable delivery, helping maintain customer satisfaction as your business expands. 

Whether it’s expanding product lines, improving operational efficiency, or enhancing customer experience, Printful is designed to support your scaling journey.

preview play-button

We believe constant product drops and communication are key to retaining customers. 

You don’t have to have a physical product at your home, warehouse, or wherever. It’s just an idea on your online store. Whenever a customer likes the idea and buys it, that’s when we make that product, essentially avoiding any overstock, or inventory issues—it’s more sustainable. You can have millions of products on your store that don’t actually exist, until someone buys them. /Dans Rozentāls, Printful’s Customer Success Manager

Now, don’t worry if it sounds complicated or like a lot of work right now. Scaling doesn’t happen overnight, and it certainly isn’t the same for everyone. In the upcoming sections, we’ll help you navigate these waters and level up your print-on-demand brand step by step.

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10 Tips to scale your print-on-demand business

So you’ve set out on your print-on-demand journey with Printful, and now you’re ready to catch the trade winds in your sails and really take off. But how do you go from just cruising to full steam ahead? 

Below is a skeleton of your workflow that you can copy and expand on as you take notes and look for ways to improve.

Remember, the key to successfully scaling your business is regularly reviewing and optimizing your workflow. Always look for opportunities to automate tasks, improve efficiency, and enhance your customer’s shopping experience.

Tools

What are you using now?

What tools could your business benefit from?

Design creation

What are you doing now?

How can you improve?

Outsourcing

Which areas of work or what tasks could you outsource to others?

Tip: Consider outsourcing or delegating tasks that aren’t your strong suit. This can include things like bookkeeping, social media management, or customer service. It allows you to focus more on strategic decision-making and less on day-to-day operations.

Website

Will your website be able to handle increased traffic? Why or why not?

How can you improve?

Expanded product selection

What other products would your customers be interested in?

Efficient product listing

What are you doing now?

How can you improve?

Your online community

How can you strengthen customer loyalty?

Post-sale customer service

What are you doing now?

How can you improve?

Strategic marketing and promotion

What marketing tactics can aid your growth?

Tip: With growth, your marketing efforts should scale too. Use targeted ads, influencers, or affiliate marketing to reach a wider audience. Consider hiring a marketing expert or team to guide your strategy.

Data-driven decisions

What tools can you use?

1. Streamline all business processes

Streamlining isn’t just about doing things faster—it’s about doing them better. It’s all about cutting out the fat and keeping your operations lean and efficient. This means regularly reviewing and refining your processes to keep up with the changing dynamics of your business and the print-on-demand industry.

Remember, scaling your business isn’t just about growth—it’s about sustainable, efficient growth. And by streamlining your processes, you’re laying a solid foundation for your ecommerce store to thrive, no matter how big it gets.

The very first thing you need to do in your notes is to map out your workflow. That means identifying each step of your process, from design creation and product selection, to order fulfillment and post-sale customer service. Break down your current process so you can identify any roadblocks or bottlenecks that might be slowing you down. When you’re mapping out your workflow think about . . .

Automation

Let’s face it, some tasks just don’t need the human touch. Things like inventory management, order tracking, or even responding to common customer inquiries can be automated. For example, with Printful’s API or ecommerce platform integrations, once a customer places an order in your store, Printful automatically receives the order details and starts the printing and shipping process. That’s hours of manual labor you can save for more important things, like creating killer designs or plotting your next big marketing campaign.

You can also send us your own custom packaging and pack-ins if you want to maintain a certain level of brand experience for your customers. 

New tools

Time is your most valuable resource. Look at all your day-to-day tasks. Are there tools that can help you do them faster? From project management tools like Trello or ClickUp, to financial tracking apps like QuickBooks or others that can help with market research, orders, designs, or even finances, there are many great options out there.

Investing in tools might seem expensive at first, but in the long run, they’ll save you time, money, and a whole lot of stress.

There are also many tools designed specifically to help ecommerce businesses increase efficiency. These include project management software and inventory management systems to anticipate the demand and analyze the numbers. Also, customer service platforms to help you respond to customer inquiries more quickly and efficiently.

Choose tools that best suit your needs and integrate them into your workflow.

2. Collaborate with artists and freelancers

When scaling your print-on-demand business, two (or more) heads are often better than one. Collaboration is a powerful tool that can bring fresh perspectives, innovative ideas, and diverse styles to your brand. And who better to collaborate with than artists and freelancers?

Artists can bring an authentic and creative flair to your designs that will help your products stand out. They have a knack for capturing emotion, telling stories, and creating conversation-starting pieces that your customers will love. Whether local in your community or a digital artist from halfway around the globe, reach out to your favorite artists because collaborations can lead to beautiful and distinctive designs.

Artist painting a mural

Source: Pexels

Freelancers, on the other hand, offer a wide range of expertise. Need a kick-ass marketing strategy? Hire a freelance marketer. Want to improve your website’s SEO? A freelance SEO expert can help. Looking for engaging content for your blog? A freelance writer’s got you covered. Freelancers can fill in the gaps in your skill set, allowing you to focus on what you do best.

Working with artists and freelancers is like adding new members to your crew, each bringing their own set of skills and experiences to the table. This enhances your brand’s creative capacity and frees up your time to focus on steering your business toward success. Collaboration is more than just sharing the workload—it’s about merging visions, ideas, and talents to create something remarkable.

For inspiration, here’s an example of one of our customers, Sunshine, who collaborates with other artists and users their audience to expand their reach. 

3. Delegate and outsource

You can’t do everything yourself—nor should you. 

Outsourcing isn’t just for big businesses. In fact, for small business owners, it can be a real lifesaver. Freelancers can handle a myriad of tasks, from answering customer inquiries to managing your social media accounts. This takes a lot of day-to-day operational tasks off your plate, freeing up your time to focus on big-picture stuff—like strategizing growth plans or crafting the perfect marketing campaign.

For example, consider hiring a freelance designer if designing isn’t your forte, or you simply don’t have the time to constantly churn out fresh designs. They can bring a new perspective to your brand, diversify your design portfolio, and keep your product line fresh and appealing. Platforms like Fiverr or Upwork have many talented designers who can align with your vision and add a creative spark to your brand.

Remember, as a business owner, your role is to steer the ship, not to row the boat.

Allow yourself to focus more on other aspects of your business where your time and attention will bring the most value.

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4. Optimize your website

Your website is your digital storefront, and just like a physical store, it should be inviting, easy to navigate, and reliable. If your online store can’t handle increased traffic, or if it’s slow and unresponsive, customers may turn away and never return. So, as you plan to scale your business, your website needs to level up too.

Website performance and conversion illustration

Source: Cloudfare

Let’s dive deeper into a few key aspects of website optimization.

Site speed

Online shoppers are impatient creatures. A delay of just a few seconds in page load time can lead to higher bounce rates. So, make sure your site loads quickly, is easy to navigate, and is optimized for mobile users. You can achieve this by optimizing images, minifying code, and leveraging browser caching, among other things. Tools like Google PageSpeed Insights can help identify areas for improvement.

If you’re going to scale your business, your website needs to keep up with the traffic. Studies show that 79% of new customers are unlikely to return to a store that’s slow, or even worse, one that crashes. 

A slick, easy-to-use website isn’t just nice to look at. It can turn visitors into customers or it can wave them goodbye, never to be seen again. 

Navigation

Your site should be easy to navigate. Organize your products into clear, logical categories. Make sure essential information, like shipping and return policies, is easy to find. A well-organized, intuitive site makes for a smooth shopping experience.

Conversion optimization

Your site should look good and make it easy for visitors to become customers. Include clear calls to action, simplify the checkout process, and reassure customers with testimonials and reviews. Consider using A/B testing to find what works best for your audience.

5. Expand your product line

If you’ve mastered custom t-shirts and custom hoodies, why not try posters? Or mugs? Or phone cases? There are so many products waiting for your awesome designs. Plus, it gives your customers more to choose from. Or if you’re selling home & living products, why not think about starting a clothing line too? By diversifying your product offering, you’re giving your customers more choices and more ways to express their style and love for your brand. Plus, people are more likely to return to a store when they know they’ll see something new.

Printful's custom clothing and accessories

Source: Printful

Think about your store’s niche, or the market and customer segment you’ve chosen to specialize in. Which products do you think would complement your current selection? See what your competitors are selling, ask your customer on social media, or see if you can pair any apparel piece with a new accessory that you’re not selling. You can even consider adding sustainable options to your current product listing.

Read more:

6. Convey a strong brand identity across all channels

Picture your brand as a character in a story. Just like how every great character has consistent traits that make them memorable, your brand needs the same. This character, your brand, lives everywhere–your website, social media channels, email newsletters, product packaging, and even in customer service interactions.

Consistency is key. Keep your brand’s color scheme, typography, voice, and imagery the same across all channels. This doesn’t just mean slapping your logo everywhere. It’s about maintaining a similar tone in your blog posts, using the same filter on your Instagram photos, and ensuring your customer service team echoes your brand’s values in every step of your customer journey.

Your brand identity is your company’s personality. It’s what makes you, you! So make sure it tells your story, whether it’s the quirky humor in your tweets, the inspiring quotes on your Pinterest boards, or the vibrant color palette on your website.

And remember, consistency breeds familiarity, and familiarity builds trust. When customers recognize and relate to your brand, no matter where they encounter it, they’ll feel more connected to you. They’ll start to feel like they’re part of your brand’s community, and that’s when the magic happens.

7. Invest more in customer retention

Finding new customers is crucial for business growth, but retaining existing ones is equally, if not more, important. Think of your repeat customers as the sturdy anchors of your ship, providing stability and consistent support as you sail towards your business goals. They’re more likely to make repeat purchases and can become your brand advocates, spreading the word to their networks.

So, how do you keep these valuable customers on board?

Quality Products

It all starts with your products. Deliver top-notch quality consistently, and customers will be more likely to come back for more. Make sure that your designs follow our guidelines, order product samples before you sell them, and take time to study the specifics of your products and your design options. Remember, your products represent your brand, so you need to be sure they can stand up to scrutiny.

Learn more: Everything You Need to Know to Prepare the Perfect Print File

Learn more: Create the perfect all-over print design

Learn more: Creating the perfect embroidery file

Excellent customer service

Great service goes a long way in building customer loyalty. Be responsive, helpful, and empathetic in all customer interactions. Ensure every touchpoint, from initial inquiry to post-purchase follow-up, leaves a positive impression.

Rewards and discounts

Who doesn’t love a good deal? Reward your loyal customers with special discounts or an exclusive rewards program. This encourages repeat business and makes your customers feel truly appreciated.

Regular engagement

Stay top-of-mind with regular communication. This could be through email newsletters, social media posts, or personalized messages. Keep it interesting with updates, exclusive offers, or sneak peeks of new products.

Ask for feedback

Show your customers that you value their opinion. Regularly ask for feedback and take it into account to improve your products or service. This involvement can make customers feel more connected to your brand.

Remember, when your customers stick around, they’re likely to spend more and promote your brand within their circles. So, keeping your customers happy isn’t just good service—it’s good business. After all, a happy customer is a loyal customer, and a loyal customer is a business’s best friend.

8. Build a community

The most successful brands understand that they’re not just selling products—they’re building communities. This is especially true in the world of ecommerce, where customers may never interact with your brand in a physical space. A strong community can turn casual buyers into loyal fans and transform your brand into something more than just a store—it becomes a shared experience, a common identity.

Instagram feed

Source: Canva

 So, how can you go about creating such a community?

Engage on social media

This is where most of your customers hang out, so it’s a great place to start. Encourage conversations by asking questions and sharing engaging content. Respond to comments, like comments, share user-generated content, and create a space where your customers can connect with you and each other.

Hold virtual events

Just because your store is online doesn’t mean you can’t have events. Webinars, virtual meet-ups, or live Q&A sessions are great ways to engage with your community. They provide a chance for your customers to interact with you and each other in real-time.

Reward Engagement

Encourage community participation by rewarding it. This could be through contests, discounts, or recognition on your platforms. When customers feel their engagement is valued, they’ll be more likely to contribute.

Share your story

People connect with stories, not just products. Share your brand’s journey, your wins, and your challenges. This vulnerability can create a stronger emotional connection with your customers.

Remember, a strong community not only supports your brand but also promotes it. When your customers feel part of something special, they’re more likely to share it with others. So, don’t just build a customer base; build a tribe, a community excited to be part of your brand’s journey. Because when your brand feels like a friend, customers will want to stick around for the long haul.

Read more: How to Build a Brand Community that Actually Cares

Read more: How to Grow Your Online Community with Organic Marketing

9. Invest in online ads

Just having amazing products and a slick website isn’t enough—you’ve got to get the word out there too. Online advertising is a powerful way to drive traffic to your store and reach potential customers who may not find you otherwise. And here’s the scoop on why you should be leaning into it.

Online ads

Source: Canva

 

A world of potential customers

With online ads, you can reach people far and wide. They’re not limited by geography or time zone. Anyone browsing the internet could stumble upon your ad and bam, you’ve got a potential customer!

Super-targeted advertising

One of the coolest things about online advertising is how specific you can get. Want to target dog-owning, coffee-drinking, sci-fi fans in their 30s? You totally can. Platforms like Facebook and Google allow you to target your ads based on demographics, interests, behavior, and more. This means your ads are more likely to reach people who’ll love your products.

Trackable results

Online ads give you valuable insights into how well they’re working. You can see how many people saw your ad, clicked on it, made a purchase, and more. This data can help you tweak your ads to make them even more effective.

Budget-friendly options

You don’t need a huge budget to start advertising online. Even a small daily amount can yield results. Plus, you can adjust your spending based on how well your ads are performing.

Successful online advertising isn’t just about throwing money at ads. It’s about crafting compelling ads, targeting them effectively, and continually monitoring and adjusting your strategy. And most importantly, it’s about ensuring that once people click on your ad, they land on a website that’s ready to convert them into customers. So get out there, and let the world know about your amazing brand!

10. Expand your distribution channels

The phrase “don’t put all your eggs in one basket” also applies to ecommerce businesses. What if your website breaks down? What if your audience is waiting for you in another online marketplace? When you’re ready to grow, it’s time to expand where and how you sell your products.

Venture into new online platforms

If you’ve only been selling on one platform, why not branch out? There are tons of other online marketplaces out there like Etsy, Amazon, or eBay where your products could find a whole new audience. And, guess what? Printful integrates with most of these platforms, making it super simple to manage your products across different channels.

Go offline, too

And hey, you don’t have to limit yourself to online. Consider offline avenues like pop-up shops, local markets, or retail partnerships. These give your brand a tangible presence, allow customers to interact with your products in person, and can seriously boost brand awareness.

Social media as a sales channel

Social media platforms aren’t just for entertainment anymore. Sites like Instagram and Facebook now have features that allow you to sell directly on their platforms. It’s a great way to leverage your social media following for sales!

Expanding your distribution channels isn’t just about reaching more customers (though that’s a huge part of it). It’s also about spreading the risk if one sales channel underperforms or faces issues.

Learn more: Why Social Commerce is a Must-Have Marketing Strategy

Scale your ecommerce store with Printful
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  • Sell without inventory

Ready to take your brand to the next level?

Scaling your print-on-demand business isn’t about working harder, it’s about working smarter. It’s like navigating a mighty ship, adjusting the sails, and charting a course towards new horizons. And remember, every business is unique, so your journey will be too.

Most importantly, keep your eyes on the prize and stay flexible. It’s all about finding the right balance, whether that’s with your designs and products, or investing in ads and focusing on customer retention.

There’s a whole world of opportunities out there for your print-on-demand business. Embrace the journey, but remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day.

And don’t worry, we’re right here with you. If you need tips, tricks, or a little motivation, just swing by our blog, the Printful Academy, or reach out to our lovely Customer Support Team. Now, go show the world what you’ve got!

author

By Lilija Karpjaka on Jul 3, 2023

Lilija Karpjaka

SEO Content Writer

Lilija is an SEO content writer at Printful. She's passionate about ecommerce, and in her spare time, she's an avid reader of various book genres.

Lilija is an SEO content writer at Printful. She's passionate about ecommerce, and in her spare time, she's an avid reader of various book genres.