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How One Company and a Bunch of T’s Made 500K

T Shirt Marketing

We recently came across an article written by Sujan Patel, of Single Grain, a Cali-based marketing company. Even though his company eats, sleeps, and dreams digital marketing, he confesses that the main way he grew his brand recognition and marketed his company was old-school. Handing out T’s with his logo on it.

In fact, he claims this act lead to $500K in revenue.

Seems too good to be true? Check out his story below.


As soon as I started making money with Single Grain, one of the first things I did was to go out and get t-shirts made.  Not because I thought it’d be some genius marketing move, but because I knew I’d wear them every day and never have to go clothes shopping again.  I started out with an order of 30 shirts. This was more than enough to fill my closet, so I decided to give the rest to friends and quickly ran out.

Since my supply was short, I put together an email list of people who were interested and started sending out the shirts with personalized notes.  Not only did this allow me to help capture people’s physical addresses for use in future t-shirt giveaways or other marketing ventures.

After re-ordering a few times I decided to go much larger.  I ordered multiple colors and enough that I could give 4-5 shirts to every person that wanted them.  I told these people – “I don’t care whether you wear them or wash your car with them, just take a few shirts.”  I even donated a bunch to the Salvation Army and later came across a homeless person wearing a Single Grain t-shirt.

By this point, our shirts were everywhere.  More than 500 people were supporting our brand by wearing the shirts around town – allowing our company to start gaining some serious brand recognition.

These days, our Single Grain shirts are our uniforms.  Everyone on our team wears them, so when we all go to lunch together, we roll deep.  Even our book keeper wears our shirts every single day.  In our SOMA neighborhood – where we’re surrounded by hundreds of other startups and entrepreneurs – this kind of publicity and name recognition is huge.

How did I make $500K from this? Here’s how:

It helped me strike up business conversations

Because I wore my shirts everywhere, the people would ask, “What is Single Grain?”  Then, I could give my 30-second elevator pitch and hand out business cards to people who were interested in our services.

No joke – this happened everywhere, and these conversations alone led to about 40% of the 500K I made through my t-shirts.

It helped me get into larger companies

Since I gave away shirts to my friends, they wore them to their jobs – some of which just happened to include positions at companies like Apple, HP, Google, Cisco, Yahoo and Wells Fargo.  Their coworkers and bosses would eventually ask what Single Grain was, which led to another 30% of my 500K returns.

It helped me to grow my brand recognition

In the beginning, Single Grain had almost zero marketing budget (and what we did have, we spent on t-shirts!).  Since we didn’t have the money for huge ad campaigns, nobody really knew who we were at first.  The t-shirts changed that.

These days, most of our business comes from referrals and word-of-mouth.  But what’s interesting is, because of our t-shirts, prospective clients are a lot more familiar with our brand.  Whenever I’d talk to a new customer, I’d find out that they were a lot more comfortable with us and a lot more trusting of our services – all because they knew our name from seeing our t-shirts around town.

The remaining 30% of my $500K can absolutely be put down to the new calls that we got from our shirts and the deals that we were able to close as a result of this brand recognition.

How can you launch your own t-shirt program?

Clearly, creating and distributing Single Grain t-shirts has made a huge difference for me.  If you’re growing a business and want to put your own similar program into place, the following are a few of the lessons I’ve learned:

Don’t cheap out

From the start, I ordered the best quality t-shirts I could find.

Could I have found cheaper options?  Absolutely.  But I chose to buy the best shirts I could because I knew that people wouldn’t wear them if they weren’t comfortable.  Buying great shirts meant more publicity because the people that received them recognized that they weren’t just “throwaway” shirts intended for publicity purposes (plus, I wear them every day too and I like to be comfortable!).

Keep your design simple

Our current batch of shirts features our logo on the front and a simple message on the back – that’s it.

Keeping the design simple means that anyone can wear them without feeling like a walking billboard.  Even my mom loves wearing them!

Wear it everywhere

If you’re going to buy shirts to promote your brand, it’s sort of a no-brainer to say that you have to actually wear them.  Don’t buy them, throw them in your closet and call it a day.

When you wear your shirts everywhere, people start to get curious.  And when they get curious, they go out of their way to learn more about you and your company.  In some cases, this might turn into more business.  But even if it doesn’t, people who are interested in your shirts might be willing to wear some of your extras around – leading to more business down the road.

And finally, make sure to thank the people who do wear your shirts.  Whenever we send out new batches of shirts, we add personalized notes thanking people for wearing them because we recognize how important this form of promotion is for our brand.  As a result, they feel good and we get more publicity – everybody wins!

Check out the full article here.