One of the biggest mistakes I see is people making too many different products with lots of different styles.
If you're hardly making any sales with your handmade products and you're struggling to stand out because there's so much competition, keep reading this post. I'm going to have some answers for you.
Mei here. I help makers, artists and designers make a consistent income selling their handmade products online.
This post is going to have two parts.
- In the first part, I'll talk about some strategies you can help you stand out if you're still new and in that product creation or design stage. Perfect if you're a new shop and you're still figuring out what products to make and sell.
- In the second part, I'll talk about what to do if you're a more established shop and you've already got some products. I'll give you some ideas for how to stand out without changing or redoing too much of your business.
If You Are Just Starting Your Business…
I completely understand what it's like to want to sell a bunch of different products. I used to be this way.
I used to sell handbound journals, beaded jewelry, polymer clay jewelry in the shape of flowers and animals. I was all over the place.
This is what I call a garage sale shop. Let me explain to you why this is a problem.
How Online Shopping Works
First, we have to understand how online shopping works these days.
There are more and more people shopping online every year. This is great, but they have so many choices now. TOO many choices.
Customers aren’t just going to buy the first pair of earrings they see. They’re going to shop around first.
That’s why most people who visit your online shop aren’t going to buy the first time they land there. They want to do research, or get distracted, or maybe they're just not ready to buy yet.
These days when it comes to online shopping, you need to make multiple points of contact between your customer and your brand.
It’s just like dating, don’t expect anyone to get married on the first date. Don’t expect the sale to happen the first time a potential customer comes to your website.
It works like this: someone sees your product for the first time, but they aren't ready to buy yet. Then a few days go by and they see one of your Instagram posts. A few more days go by and they see your Facebook post. A week later they get an email from you. A month later, they get a second email from you and now, they finally decide it's time to buy.
The time it takes for people to buy from you is now more drawn out which means it takes longer for that sale to happen.
It is very important now more than ever to be memorable to your potential customer.
Make it easy for them to remember you. I mean, that's partly why you want to show up everywhere for them and why you need to have so many points of contact with them.
So let me ask you this: is it easier to remember one thing or ten things?
If you make jewelry, art, bags, phone cases, dresses, clocks and they’re all in different styles, do you think that’s going to be easy or hard for your potential customer to remember?
Keep it Simple
Too many options are overwhelming so keep your product line simple.
Keep it cohesive and focused, at least in the beginning.
I teach how to use an MVP, a Minimum Viable Product line which is a collection of around twelve to twenty different products that all have at least one common theme that ties them all together.
The exact number of how many products you should make is totally up to you. The point is, you don’t have to have that many products to start making good sales.
Contrary to popular belief, the way to stand out in a saturated market is by focusing in on being known for one thing and one thing only.
Think about brands like Oreo, Spandex, and Apple. They're not trying to sell fifty totally different products. They're all known for one thing.
That common theme that ties your products together can be anything, from style, color, material, or type of product.
As long as they all have at least one thing in common with each other, you will automatically create that sense of cohesiveness and your brand and products will be very clear to your customer, which in turn, makes you easier for them to remember.
So this is my first tip for you if you're a new business owner. Keep your product line simple and really focus on being known for that one thing.
Consider Layering Markets
When you're creating your products and thinking about who you're going to sell to, consider layering markets.
Here's an example: say you make candles. I know there's a lot of competition for candles and it's so easy to blend in.
So you're in the market of candles and your customers are people who like spending money on home decor and spend time thinking about their home and making their home look pretty.
What if you narrowed down a little bit more, and layered on a new market or niche on top of that.
Let's say you make candles for goths. Now, not only are you super clear and specific and memorable, but you instantly stand out.
You can get really creative and have a lot of fun creating products for candles for goths.
I know it feels counterintuitive, but the way to stand out is to narrow down your market even further than what you've already got.
Think about how you might be able to make improvements on the type of product you make.
I'll give you a few examples. I carry a shoulder handbag with me everywhere I go. My issue is, it's hard for me to find handbags that don't fall off my shoulder.
I usually have the strap on just one shoulder, because if I put it across my chest, it's going to feel a little bit heavier.
If I were a handbag maker, I might think of some ways to get the strap to never fall off and that would be my “thing”. That's what I'll focus on being known for.
This stuff takes time to do, so don't rush it.
If you're having trouble thinking about solving specific problems with your type of product, then just think about how you can make it different.
Do some market research, see what's out there and make yours just slightly different.
Say you make personalized family portraits, but you see that most people are selling them on a white plain background and it just doesn't look very fun.
So maybe you'll make family portraits different by giving all your portraits a really fun pop of color in the background.
You're not reinventing the wheel here, you're just thinking a little bit outside the box and offering a slightly different product to what's already out there.
If You Have an Established Product Line…
Now, let's move on to if you've already got an established product line and shop.
Maybe you've already got a product line and it's just too much work to redo all of that with my previous tips.
If you’re worried about how to stand out from the competition, we're going to move into a different category of your business that I like to call Positioning.
What is Positioning?
Before this, we talked a lot about your product. Positioning is how you position your products.
You can think of it as branding, but I like to think that branding actually exists under the bigger umbrella or category of Position.
So positioning is how you’ll attract your ideal customers to your shop. People who are happy to pay your higher prices, who love your work and tell all their friends about you.
This is how you make sales with ease, versus feeling like you’re swimming against the current all the time.
Your product positioning determines the types of customers you attract and it can help you blend in or stand out, depending on what you decide your positioning is.
Positioning with Price
One way to position your products is with the price.
If you charge a very low price, you’re going to attract people who don’t have a lot of money. If you raise your prices, those people will say they can’t afford it.
Your low prices will also turn off potential buyers who can pay more because they’re going to automatically assume a low price means a lower quality product.
Logically, that’s not necessarily true, but this is human psychology and a lifetime of years of learning where low price equals low quality.
Even with my jewelry, I stand out in this way because I'm the most expensive scented food jewelry shop out there. Most other shops like mine are going to be in the $10 up to a maximum of $20 price point.
I'm selling my jewelry for $20 to $30.
For any of my customers who've done research, when they see my stuff, they're going to feel a little bit of that pinch, where they're thinking, “Whoa this is a little bit more expensive than what I've seen.”
You want people to have those thoughts and feelings.
Part of why most makers don't stand out is because when people look at your stuff, they don't think or feel ANYTHING!
You want to be polarizing.
My jewelry isn't meant for people who only want to spend $5 buying their kid a necklace that will break in two days.
I know it's scary to be the most expensive option out there and for people to think you're expensive, but I still have people buy from me and they buy from me because (and they've said this themselves) they know I have the best designs, the most realistic charms, and the best service.
People know that you get what you pay for and when you pay a higher price, you're generally going to get a better experience overall.
Positioning with Your Visual Brand
Visual brand is stuff like your logo, website colors, photos, packaging, anything that’s visual.
You can brand that to give people one type of experience or another.
For example, with my brand Tiny Hands, I’m going the route of cute and whimsical but in an upscale way. I’m not using super bright colors on my website, I use fonts that are classic and easy to read without being too cutesy.
In my earlier days of Tiny Hands, I had so many people complain my prices were too high. Back in the day, my brand was bright colors and my logo was a hand-drawn cupcake illustration that looked super cute, but in a homemade way.
It was endearing but didn’t exactly make you feel like I was a professional.
Not to mention, my packaging was pretty cheap looking.
So then I rebranded and upgraded my packaging and immediately all those people who were complaining about the price, went away.
You can instantly make yourself stand out from your competition, by giving your shop a totally different visual brand from the rest of them.
Carry this to your:
- customer service
- product descriptions
- written words you use in your business
- the way you interact with your customers or audience on social media or over email
With Tiny Hands, I use a lot of emojis and exclamation points, while another brand might be totally against that.
This might be more subtle and harder to notice from the get-go, but over time people will get it.
Think about brands like Cards Against Humanity. They're a card game, and you know how many games there are out there. How do they make it that people are choosing to buy and play their game over all the other games?
Their branding and voice is so wildly opposite and different from everything else that's out there.
You could sell a totally similar product as the next shop out there, but you can make yourself different and stand out by making your brand different and position your shop at a totally different level.
Competition is a Good Thing
I see a lot of makers worry their products aren’t unique enough. Or that they’re making a product that has a lot of competition like jewelry.
First and foremost, competition is amazing. That means there are people who want to buy what you have to sell.
It’s harder if you don’t even know if there’s a market for your work.
This is what I had to struggle with when I started selling scented food jewelry at Tiny Hands.
No one knew this concept existed, so they weren’t even searching for it. All of the people who are successful from learning my system sell products that are super competitive.
You don’t need to have a unique product and competition is a good thing.