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How to Make a Great T-Shirt: Metrics

This is the third post in my series on “How to Make a Great Tech T-Shirt“.

Define Success to Achieve Success

On the consumer web, product managers succeed and fail based on their ability to define, measure and understand their product metrics.  When new Product Managers start at LinkedIn, one of the first tasks that I give them is to thoroughly reassess the metrics in the area they are taking over, and prepare a new set of metrics that they will use to measure success with their area on an ongoing basis.

As a result, it’s not completely surprising that I believe that if you want to make great t-shirts for a technology organization, you have to first define a clean, objective measure of success.  You then have to experiment, measure, learn and iterate to produce truly great t-shirts.

Key Metrics: T-Shirt Success

The key to a good metric is simple.  Objectivity.  The problem with t-shirts is that *everyone* has an opinion about what they want in a t-shirt.  Unfortunately, almost no one has ever tested out their pet theories in an objective way.  Thus, T-Shirt choices get made based on the personal opinions of the people making them, rather than what will be most successful for the organization.

Over my years of making t-shirts at LinkedIn, I’ve narrowed my success metrics to a simple measure:

  • What percent of people who received a t-shirt wear it after a 1 month, 3 month, 6 month, and 12 month time periods

That’s a lot to absorb, but it’s really quite simple.  Let’s say you made 100 t-shirts in October 2009:

  • How many people wore your t-shirt to work in November 2009?
  • How many people wore your t-shirt to work in January/April/October 2010?

Clearly, if the more people wearing your shirt on an ongoing basis, the more successful your shirt was at achieving its objectives.

If You Make A T-Shirt and No One Wears It…

  • Q: If a tree falls in the woods and no one is there to hear it, did it make a sound?  (A: yes)
  • Q: If you make a t-shirt and no one wears it, was it worthwhile to make a shirt? (A: no)

In my blog post, Why T-Shirts Matter, I outlined over half a dozen reasons why t-shirts are important to technology organizations.  None of those justifications come true, however, if no one wears the t-shirt.  That’s why success is defined by how often people wear the t-shirt, and for how long.

If you’ve made t-shirts before, then you probably recognize the pattern of failure.  In the failure case, everyone takes a t-shirt, but somehow, you never see people wear them around the office.  Sure, maybe a couple people wore them the day after you handed them out.  But a few weeks later, it’s like they never existed.  When you ask about them, people tell you “Oh, I wear it on the weekend” or “I use it for the gym”.  Listen, let’s be honest.  A lot more people in technology talk about going to the gym than actually doing it.  These are the white lies people tell you to avoid telling you the truth: “I took a t-shirt because, for some uncontrollable reason, I have to take any t-shirt that is offered.  But I’m never going to wear it.”

Experiment With Your Shirts

You should be making at least one new t-shirt per quarter for your technology organization, so you have time to learn and experiment.  As we go through the upcoming blog posts on t-shirt quality and design, you’ll see that there are a variety of choices.  There is no one universal answer, but if you are attentive to what t-shirts “work” in your organization, you’re more likely to make new t-shirts that work.

For example:

  • Should you make women’s sizes?  The answer is simple – if it increases the number of people who will wear the shirts to the office and for longer, then yes, you should.  (At LinkedIn, this is absolutely true.)
  • Are certain colors more successful than others?  Absolutely.  (At LinkedIn, the best colors are black, navy, charcoal grey, and heather grey).
  • Should you spend more on higher quality t-shirt manufacturers and materials?  Absolutely.  T-Shirts that go bad quickly or shrink end up never getting worn.  Better to spend $12 for shirts you’ll see for the next two years than $5 on shirts you won’t see again.

I think the more you think about the simplicity of this metric, the more you’ll see that it will help you quickly spot at your workplace what are the shirts people love, and thus which shirts were worth the time & money.

 

6 Comments Post a comment
  1. great post Adam! thank you.

    July 16, 2011
  2. These posts regarding t shirts are incredibly incredible! I am reposting them on our Facebook page and blog, they will link in to your blog. I would LOVE LOVE LOVE to talk with you further about t shirts Adam! I own a growing screen printing company in Oakland and have experienced customers in the tech fields and other fields with no vision of what they need in a shirt, and those who know exactly what they want – and put out some incredible shirts time and time again. Thanks again for these blog posts, they’re wonderful!!!

    August 9, 2011
  3. Good thoughts on metrics; as a PPC Tech I think data is king.

    What’s interesting about visibility is that it could be worth more for you to have a B list celb or somebody with a popular blog wear your t shirt once than to try and get 100 people to wear your t shirt out in the world. Or, you could try making the shirt engaging enough that people actually feel compelled to wear it and show it off.

    September 19, 2011
  4. Maia Dobson #

    Your suggestions in making t-shirts have been very helpful for people who wants to start this kind of business. Most of the t shirt manufacturers do not spill these ideas because for them, it’s a trade secret.

    March 28, 2012

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. How to Make Your First Promotional Products Giveaway a Success | Promo Wall
  2. The Golden Rule for a Successful Screen Printed T-Shirt

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