Last week we learned that Senator Mitch McConnell’s campaign sold more than 2,000 T-shirts embracing his “Cocaine Mitch” alter-ego. As the Center for Public Integrity reported
“The $70,000-plus brought in by the ‘Cocaine Mitch’ swag has helped propel record online fundraising for McConnell — and is attracting new, small-dollar donors at a time when Republicans in general are seeking to boost such contributions. So far, four in five T-shirt buyers are donors who haven’t previously given to a McConnell campaign.”
Selling merchandise can be a great way to raise money for your campaign or organization but before you get started, there are some important considerations to address.
Don’t Drive Away Donors
Even though merchandise is technically a gift for a donation, don’t risk conditioning donors to receiving something for their contribution. It will damage your overall conversion rates. Make sure campaign merchandise is always transactional.
You should also target merchandise advertising and emails to supporters who aren’t otherwise donors.
Keep your merchandise efforts narrowly focused to avoid having too much inventory and overwhelming supporters. If they have too many choices, they may not buy. T-shirts and stickers are always good options.
You Still Need an Email List
You still need a marketing plan in place to sell merchandise. After all, how will supporters know you have a store? Selling campaign gear isn’t an excuse to avoid building an email list.
Consider Giving Items Away
Merchandise can be a great lead magnet to get a supporters email, phone number, and physical address. It also establishes a desire for reciprocity in the supporter. We are hard-wired to return favors and by initiating the gift, you’ll plant the seeds for a future return gift.
Focus on Customer Service
Remember that you’re competing with Amazon and Zappos when it comes to a user’s expectations of online customer service. Provide tracking information, get their merchandise to them quickly, and make it easy to ask questions or call a real person.
Look to Your Community for Ideas
If you give your supporters input into the design of merchandise, they’ll feel a sense of ownership and will not only be more likely to purchase the product but will also be more engaged in your campaign.
Build Distribution Into Your Product
Just like with any other content, you’ve got to think distribution first. Is your product going to be popular with your community so they’ll share it? Will it be controversial so it gets media coverage?
Grow Your Conversion Funnel
Your campaign merchandise is going out into the wild, so take advantage of the opportunity to get more supporters on board by including a call to action or information about how they can join.
As Mitch McConnell’s campaign shows, selling merchandise is an effective way to convert supporter who might need a little additional motivation to become donors, but don’t launch a campaign store before you think through all the components of adding an ecommerce operation to your campaign.