If your handmade business has plateaued and you’re not sure what to do, read this post because I’m going to share with you what youcan work on so you can bust through the slow times and get back into making more sales than ever.
Hi! My name is Mei and I help makers, artists and designers create a consistent income selling their handmade products online.
Before we get into the meat and potatoes of this post, I just want you to know, it’s totally normal to have your business stop growing.
Every business goes through a phase like this, sometimes even multiple times in the life of that business. The fact that you’re reading this, is already making you 10 steps ahead.
You’re going to get out of this rut soon if you follow my advice.
The first thing you can do is to make sure that every element of your business is aligned with each other so that you’re giving potential customers a cohesive, seamless and comfortable experience.
What does this mean?
Every part of your business (from your logo, packaging, website layout, colors on your website, product descriptions, product photos, how you talk to your customers, even your prices) tells a story about what kind of brand you are.
If some of those things are not aligned, what happens is you give your potential customers an inconsistent experience.
This makes people feel cognitive dissonance, which is exactly that. People having inconsistent thoughts. That ultimately makes a person feel uncomfortable.
You don’t want your customers to feel uncomfortable. They’re not going to buy from you if they don’t feel good.
If you’ve been in business for a while, you’ve got customers and you’ve made sales, but a reason why you’ve stopped growing is there’s a really big chance, cognitive dissonance is happening.
For example, I sell scented food jewelry. A lot of people buy my products as gifts for little girls. In my market, I’m considered really pricey. I charge more than almost all the other food jewelry shops out there.
I was already making sales despite being the most expensive option out there, but I was stuck and I wasn’t growing.
I had lots of opportunities for selling wholesale and getting my products in magazines. People who saw my stuff at craft shows or on social media loved it, but it was really hard to get more people to buy.
Remember, I didn’t know anything about how to build a business when I started Tiny Hands. My branding, packaging, and website, I did all of this myself as I learned along the way.
My packaging wasn’t that great looking. In fact, it made my products look cheap. I was using a flat plastic sleeve with a piece of cardstock and because my products are pretty 3D, it would make the plastic bulge out in a way that didn’t look nice.
When people looked at this at the retail stores where I sold wholesale, they might have thought the product looked cute but when they saw the price tag and it said $28, somehow it didn’t make sense.
The packaging looked cheap but the price was so expensive. That's cognitive dissonance.
I took a few weeks to work on my wholesale packaging and I upgraded to a clear plastic box instead.
I even made a custom die-cut piece of cardstock that went inside to hold the jewelry. It looks so much better and so much more aligned with the prices.
Instantly, I saw sales go up.
What I want you to do is look through every part of your business as objectively as you can and figure out what’s out of alignment and make a list of what you need to do to get those things inalignment.
2. Spend Time on Outreach
I get so many emails from people asking me for advice because their business isn’t growing. I ask them to tell me everything they’ve done to promote their business. I want to see what they’ve tried, so I have a clear picture of what they spend their time doing when they’re working.
The first problem I usually see, and I have seen this across hundreds of people, is that they don’t spend as much time as they should with outreach.
Think about your business like a party that you want people to come to.
What do you do to set up your party? You plan for it, you buy decorations, you make a list of what you’ll feed your guests, what food you’re going to make. What activities you might do. But if you want people to actually show up and come to your party, you can’t do just those things.
You have to actually invite people to come over.
Whether that’s on Facebook, your phone, Whatsapp, or sending actual paper invitations in the mail. You can’t expect anyone to show up if you didn’t invite them.
Outreach, is the act of sending out those invites.
When you post on social media, that’s not sending out an invite, that’s more like talking about your party but not actually directly asking a person to come over.
Outreach is when you reach out to one person to say, “Hey, I have this thing going on, come over on this date at this time. Will you be there?”
In your business, you can do outreach by reaching out to magazine editors or bloggers or influencers asking them to feature your products. You can email your list to tell them about a new product you’ve made and that they can buy it at this link. You can reach out to other makers to collaborate with them.
Outreach will always grow your business 100 times more than all the other stuff, like posting on social media, blogging, or SEO.
The second common problem I see is that if people are already doing outreach, but they’re not growing, I ask how much outreach they’ve done.
For example, one person emailed me to say she pitched her products to influencers in her space and it didn’t work. When I asked her for more details about how many influencers she reached out to, she said, 2.
No. That’s a problem.
Outreach is a numbers game, as with 99% of all the other things in your business. You have to do it with quality and quantity.
You can’t reach out to just 2 people and expect to see results from that.
At my jewelry business, we reach out to 20 people every month and from that, we usually see 2 to 5 features come out of that.
Here’s another example. One of my very first few clients from when I started Creative Hive back in the day, reached out to me just a couple months ago, 4 years later after our private consultation, to tell me that she had reached $1,000,000 in sales that year. So we got on a call so I could learn what she did that made her so successful.
Guess what she did? Outreach.
She’s big with her wholesale game and she reached out to 25 retail stores every, single, day. She even had her mom help her.
If you want to grow your business, the answer is simple: focus and spend most of your working time on outreach anddo so at scale. Your success is directly correlated to how much outreach you can do.
3. Work On Your Systems
When your business has plateaued, it’s kind of a slow time for you. Now is a great time to work on your systems.
Look over your business and make a list of things about running your business that feels like it could be better. What can be improved? What do you feel like isn’t doing so well and you wish you had time to make it better?
Maybe it’s that it takes you a long time to make your products and you know that’s something that frustrates your customers sometimes. Or perhaps people are often complaining that they needed your products sooner.
Now is the time for you to figure out how you can make that production process faster. This kind of problem-solving doesn’t just take one night.
When I talked about upgrading my wholesale packaging, that took me a couple of months to figure out, from buying samples of different boxes to designing the packaging insert and researching printers that could make me a custom die-cut.
Take the time to fix problems like that in your business.
I know it doesn’t directly help your business grow, but when you follow my other 2 tips before this, you’ll be thankful you sorted out your other business problems before you actually started growing again.
When you’re in growth mode, you don’t have time to do this kind of work. You’re going to be too busy making products, shipping orders, talking to customers or managing your team.
Speaking of which, maybe you’ve always had the vision that you knew you need to hire production help to make your products because it’s only you making your products right now. You’re probably thinking, “I’m going to wait until I make more sales and grow the business a bit more first before I hire anyone.”
The best time to start the process of finding someone, interviewing them and training them, is actually now when you’re not busy in growth mode.
That process can take months before your production assistant can actually be productive. I’ve seen this happen too often. People grow so fast and they become so busy with fulfilling orders that they barely have time. They know they need to hire help but they can’t because they’ve put themselves in that position where they don’t have ANY time whatsoever.