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.
- 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.