What Starbucks Can Teach You About Selling Merch

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Selling high end merchandiseDid you know you can walk into Starbucks and buy a $3 cup of coffee or a $2700 espresso machine? Who in their right mind would buy a $2700 piece of equipment from Starbucks? I sure wouldn’t.

But here’s the point…someone will.

That’s why it’s there. Taking up valuable shelf space at your local Starbucks. Because once a month or so, someone will walk out with a very expensive cup of coffee and an espresso machine. And more often someone will purchase the $275 espresso machine they also stock.

Starbucks knows how to sell and market

Starbucks understands there are always customers willing to spend more. Thousands of people each month buy the coffee, hundreds buy the Christmas CD, hundreds by the coffee mugs, but there are some people that so trust Starbucks they will buy those espresso machines. So there they sit on Starbucks’ valuable shelf space.

I learned about Starbucks and their espresso machines recently while listening to an interview with marketer Perry Marshall. I actually took this Starbucks example from his new book 80/20 Sales and Marketing: The Definitive Guide to Working Less and Making More. I haven’t had the chance to read it yet, but it’s on my short list of new books to read. (Fair warning, the link is an affiliate link so we’ll get a small commission if you buy one. But we’d love you for it!)

Give your fans more

But the interview got me thinking, what products do independent musicians have to sell that are more than a $20 CD or $25 t-shirt? Someone in your fan base is willing and able to spend more. They want to spend more on you!

If you only have two $15 CDs, the most even your biggest fanatical fan can spend on you is $30! You’ll need to find a bunch of fanatical fans at $30 each to make a living.

I bet you can name at least a dozen fans who own every piece of merchandise you’ve ever offered for sale. Pause a moment…. Got ’em? What else would they buy from you if you offered them the opportunity?

Recently I wrote about Keith Urban getting into the guitar business. This is exactly why he did it. To give his fans an opportunity to buy more. Currently the most expensive item in his online store is a framed print for $200. The guitars give Keith the ability to offer a higher priced item. And if you remember, he sold over $2 million worth the first day! Obviously, his fans wanted to spend some money.

High end merchandise ideas

So what can you offer? Here are some ideas you could incorporate into your merchandise program:

  • Wall art – seems to be a very popular option and it’s a very high-profit item
  • Vinyl record – making a major comeback
  • Leather jacket or other valuable wearables
  • A hobby related item you’re passionate about –  fishing poles or a cookbook
  • Your time – fans want to spend time with you. How can you creatively offer up a piece of you?
  • Instruments – maybe you’re not Keith Urban, but can you personalize a guitar?
  • DVDs – a collection of all your YouTube videos in one place or a live concert
  • Arcade Game – Andrew Apanov over at Dotted Music recently shared a Zombie video game based on a band
  • MP3 player – Mr Billy told me about an MP3 player he sold with all his music pre-loaded on it
  • House Concert – a great way to find new fans and get paid for gigs

Ask your fans

Once you have some ideas don’t run out and buy $5,000 worth of items to sell. Start by asking your fans what they like.

Jennine and I are currently working on a survey for one of our clients. We sent out a one question survey (use Survey Monkey – it’s free!) to his top 300 fans asking them what items they were excited about. The results are just starting to come in, but they’re interesting. Of course t-shirts are popular, but autographed pictures and smartphone covers are also topping the list. And people are showing interest in the highest priced items like a signed ukelele and a walking tour of Nashville.

When you do it, leave your survey open-ended. In our survey we created an “other ideas” option and asked fans to give us their best idea. License plate frames and bobbleheads? I don’t know that we’ll use the ideas, but they certainly make me think.

Bottom line – whatever you have available, someone will always want more! Give your fans options.

What is the most creative piece of merch you’ve ever sold to a fan? Leave a comment…

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Niklas J. Blixt
Niklas J. Blixt

Great ideas! More artists and musicians should pay more attention to this kind of things. Because whether you want or not you have to realize that it is a business and of you want to survive in it you have to find ways to make money. Selling things is one of the thing you can do.

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