So you want to be a player in the morale patch game? Well...we've been around for a spell and have picked up a couple tricks along the way that we're happy to share to help you make the best morale patches. The more people involved with this patch game, the better it is for all of us. Over the years we've seen the morale patch game evolve a great deal. Overnight it seemed like it went from a simple font and a single catchphrase to masterpieces of art and symbolism as well as only the weirdest, most obscure, expert-level nuances. Credit goes to the "Godfather" of the patch game, the Milspec Monkey. At the very essence of this game: One makes a patch and sells it. Sounds easy, right? Well...it is and it isn't. Here's our top 10 list of tips to help you increase your chances that your morale patches will be awesome.
Its a standing rule for those that have worked at Violent Little: "Be a pro, write shit down." Keep a running list on your iPhone or a pad of paper of possible patch ideas as they come to you. Don't wait...we promise you'll forget. Take notice of interesting moments and things in your day-to-day, at work, on the range, or anything else you find funny/disturbing and write them down. We have a list of well over 200 patches that we're continuously prioritizing, executing, and refining. If you want to make good patches over the long-haul you have to consistently be thinking about them. You'll never know when inspiration will strike -during a movie, when you're drunk, banging your girl, hanging with convicts, reading the news...even in the shower. I've even got a waterproof pad of paper suction-cupped to the wall in my shower -I was tired of forgetting ideas when I got out. Be a pro, write shit down.
Few of us have the artistic skills to execute the visions we have in our head. That's ok. That means you're going to need an artist to create a vector file for you to send to whichever patch manufacturer you choose to go with. There are a number of resources where you can post your job and get cost effective designs, such as 99 Designs, Elance, and Odesk. There are also a lot of Facebook groups and Instagram pages dedicated to morale patches and military/tactical art, such as Morale Patch Black Market, The Patch Cartel, The Patch Game and others -all pretty easy to find. This is a great place to ask for recommendations for artists, get ideas, and generally just feel out who the key players are in the patch game and what they're doing that's making them successful. Keep in mind though, making nice patches costs money, so be prepared to pay a seasoned artist in this space anywhere from $250 - $1000 for a solid patch design in addition to the cost of manufacturing.
There's very little upside to preorders...and a whole lot of downside. You'll save yourself a lot of time and make your customers happier by NOT making your patches available for preorder. There are too many moving parts. There can be production delays, bad manufacturing, the wrong colors, quantity errors, lost/delayed shipments, spelling errors, etc. We once received a shipment of patches that had no hook velcro on the back. Had we offered preorders we would have been screwed. Unless you're manufacturing the patches in-house and have total control over every single step of the process, don't even think about it until you have those patches IN YOUR HANDS. You can either heed this advice now, pain free, or quickly learn this lesson the first time it happens and you've got to deal with all the emails to update anxious customers who don't know whether you stole their money or not...not to mention the lost confidence in your ability to handle your business in a reliable way. Its a kiss of death. If one thing goes wrong during the preorder process, it gets magnified down the whole line. The most important thing is giving your customers a great product at a great value with great and RELIABLE service. Preorders significantly jeopardize your ability to "fire on all cylinders", so don't do them.
Many sell their patches through forums on Facebook and Instagram using nothing else but a photo of the patch and a Paypal account. This can be good for selling the one-off patch that you're trying to get rid of, but if you're trying to sell tens or hundreds of patches, this is a nightmare in terms of the amount of admin and time it takes to process all of these orders and keep track of everything. If you're serious, invest in yourself and do it right and create a platform to offer your goods. Thankfully, its never been easier or more affordable. Plans on Shopify, the platform that we use and recommend here at Violent Little (also used by all-stars such as Forged Clothing, Thirty Seconds Out, and Rolling Death Maui) can cost as little as $14 per month. Who can't afford $14 a month? If you can't, maybe you shouldn't be participating in this game. We've evaluated almost all of the Ecommerce platforms out there and we have yet to find a platform as good as Shopify. It not only looks amazing and is easy to use on the front-end, but there are so many integrations and apps that make sure your backend runs seamlessly and can grow with you depending on your needs. We've had it since day one and its still the perfect solution 2 years later and thousands of customers later. It is the gold standard as far as we're concerned. Some other big-name popular e-commerce platforms that are used by some of our friends are Volusion, Square Space (anti 2A though), Woo Commerce, and Big Cartel. And God help you if you have ".bigcartel.com" in your domain name.
*Full Discolsure, the Shopify link above is a referral link that gives us a small commission if you signup for Shopify using this link. If you find any of the information in this article of value, we hope you consider using it. It doesn't cost you anything. You'll also have a friend in us for life...just as long as you're cool.
A big part of our marketing "strategy", if you can call it that, is reliant upon our Facebook and Instagram presence. But as we've seen with Facebook, they can change the amount of exposure you get with the flick of their wrist. You're always subject to their will. Who knows how much longer this free run is going to last with Instagram too, but it looks like they're already starting to throttle back organic exposure to ease the shock of them moving to the pay model. Hey, they've got to make that $715 million back somehow, right? So, per #4 above, its even more important for you to own your own platform. Nobody can touch www.violentlittle.com or our email list unless we say so...and that feels damn good. That's the hub, and that's the strength of this business for us. Social media platforms are the spokes and they can "break" at any time...Myspace anybody? Focus on building a strategy that builds out your hub and ride the social media sites as long as it makes sense, but be prepared for it to all blow up at any point so that when it does, its just business as usual for you.
The people that are in this business just for themselves get found out pretty quickly. The game is small. Patch people talk amongst themselves and they've got a really good finger on the pulse of who's doing cool stuff and are on the level, and who's shady and not to be trusted. Violent Little's biggest competitors, such as Tactical Outfitters, AONO, Mojo Tactical, and MoeGuns are ALSO our best customers, suppliers, and friends. Weird, right? Reputation and integrity are everything. If you're new to the game, start getting involved in the various places that "patch people" hang out, like Instagram, Facebook groups, and Shot Show. Being successful in this game is not all about what you put out, but the amount of excitement and appreciation you give other people's art as well. Ultimately, you need to have a general love and interest for the patch game, for cutting edge ideas, and for the members that make this community so ballin! If you're only interested in yourself, nobody's going to be interested in you.
Yes, there are successful patch makers out there who don't sell their patches under any specific brand. "Send a friends and family paypal payment to Johnny Hopkins at email@example.com." This can work, and there are people who do make this work, but for the most part customers like to get behind brands, not people (unless you're into that sort of thing). And since this article is about increasing your chances at success, this is one of those moves that gives your patches a greater voice. Come up with a cool name that for your brand that's original, that says a little about you, and most importantly, that is available as a ".com".
Be on your own program. You are a unique and special snowflake. People need to know what you're all about and what your brand stands for. From Violent Little, for example, our customers have come to expect us to be offensive and basically the worst...but deep down we're good dudes that never take ourselves too seriously. We support our friends and causes in need. We're here for the party. You can expect us to talk some smack whenever the President messes up, or when Chris Costa wants to participate in a fashion show. They can expect that we move at a relentless pace. Our customers know all this about us, but it took some time. Figure out what you like, what you feel like your voice is, and where you want your patches/art to go...but make sure it's yours and that it's unique. The companies that succeed in this game tell a compelling narrative. The guys churning out boring shit that don't have anything interesting to add to the conversation simply fade away.
We see a lot of people just starting out that ask for ridiculous prices for their patches right off the bat, like $12 to $20 each...and then they look around all confused when nobody buys their shit. WTF? The patch game is not a license to rip people off -we all know how much patches cost to make. Sometimes a premium price makes sense if its an outstanding patch/idea and there's a lot of demand and/or little supply. But most of the time when we see this its just a mediocre patch and a short-sighted, get-rich-quick attempt by the seller because they didn't have the balls to order a large enough quantity to get a good price break. The more you order from your supplier, the lower the per piece cost will usually be. If you order a run of 500 patches you'll usually be able to sell them for $5-$8 and still make some decent pocket change. Our recommendation would be to not worry about making too much money/margin when you're just starting off. Your whole goal should be building your client base, one customer at a time, one order at a time. The hardest part to this game is convincing somebody to become a customer for the first time. Once they've given you their money and you've made good on that promise with a kickass product on time and at a fair price, you're going to build up trust and a reputation with your customers. Just like the military, its all about trust and reputation...don't break'em for anybody. Make your customers feel good about spending their hard-earned money on your goods and you'll not only find yourself with a lot of customers, but a hell of a lot of new friends too. The photos and comments we get from our customers on Instagram and Facebook is easily our favorite part of this business...its hilarious...so keep'em coming.
This is true in any industry...not just the patch realm. If you compare successful companies and their less successful competition, you'll notice that the successful company has pushed things ever so slightly more than their competition. What we mean by this is that you need to be very detail oriented. Take your time with things and really pay attention to the nuances that make up not only your product, but also your brand image as a whole. A really good example of a company that does the extra 10% well is Modern Arms. Have you seen one of their patch launches? People are so into MA's quality that the internet breaks from all the traffic. We went through a ton of different versions of our Not A Survival Patch because it just wasn't sitting right. Sure, we could have gone with the first version and it would have probably sold out. Instead, we slowed down and spent the extra 10% of effort to get all the nuances dialed in (the way we packed the inside, subtle changes with the fonts, photography, product description, etc.). Taking the extra time and being honest with ourselves about every part of the process allowed our customers (and potential customers) to further build a relationship with our brand. It's amazing how lazy people can be...which is great news to those willing to put forth the extra effort. The meat of success lies in that extra 10% of research, preparation, critical thinking. Its true in all aspects of life, we've found. Go 10% further, harder, longer than the next guy and you usually win
We hope you've enjoyed this article and that it helps you succeed. If not, f-you then...we don't care.
-The Violent Little Crew