Regardless of whether business ramps up for
you in the summer or the winter, every business goes through a slow period and
these tips are here to help, whenever that strikes.
The holidays are usually a great time for
sales with all the gift giving and dressing up for parties that goes on. So
you’re not alone if you feel your sales drop as the days get warmer and longer.
Who doesn’t want to be outside, enjoying the sun and
eating ice cream? But we do have a business to run right?
It can be a little comforting to know that
it’s not just you and the situation is slightly out of your control but don’t
use that as an excuse to ignore your business for three to four months. Working harder and trying to stay busy isn’t the solution. Working
smarter and being strategic to the right ways to keep those sales going all
year round is the way to go. Here’s how to do just that:
1) Break into new locations
Although it’s summer here in North America, on the other
side of the hemisphere, it’s winter. I know…mind blown! If your products are seasonal and can travel,
make some connections in Australia. Contact boutiques, email bloggers, cross
promote with other handmade businesses and gain some new fans on the opposite
side of the globe. If connections are hard to come by, try some paid
advertising towards your new target market. Update your website and text to let
any new visitors know that you do ship to them. Also be sure your new customers
can select their country as a shipping option and that the price reflects that.
2) Try a different type of event
The amount of craft fairs that happen
during the holidays are increasing every year and you can easily stay busy with
an event each week. In the summer, you need to think a little more
strategically. There are some great indoor craft fairs that go on in the hotter
months but generally people are taking full advantage of the nice weather and
the outdoor markets and festivals.
There are lots of outdoor markets, pop-ups and festivals to choose from but as I explain in more detail in my e-book, choose wisely. The craziest outdoor
festival may attract every person in your city, but what are those people there
for? It’s important to choose events that have a target market your products
will be a fit for and the potential to sell well. Just because there’s one
targeted towards kid’s activities, doesn’t mean you’re going to sell out of
your children’s products. Kids are going to be running around checking out the
clowns, getting their faces painted and jumping in the bouncy castle. And
guess where the moms will be? Right behind them, not leisurely shopping the
selection of handmade products.
Each event is different so be sure you take
your time and do your research. For a little guidance, check out 10 RED FLAGS TO WATCH FOR WHEN APPLYING TO A CRAFT SHOW.
3) Adjust your existing products
That being said, the people who shop at
outdoor farmers’ markets and festivals usually have a slightly different
mindset than people shopping a holiday craft fair. They’re typically not ready to
drop hundreds of dollars or carry around a big or heavy item for the rest of
the day.They’re out to enjoy the weather, get some
good eats, pick up a few fresh groceries for the week and see what their
community is producing.
Don’t get stuck in the “take it or leave it”
mentality. If you want to keep the sales going, adjust to your market. You
don’t have to revamp your entire offering but as mentioned in the free chapter
MAKING PRODUCTS THAT PROFIT, get some lower price points going to give your
shoppers options. (Seriously.....go download MAKING PRODUCTS THAT PROFIT. I've been told how helpful it is by many handmade businesses...and it's free so you can't go wrong:)
Tweak your existing products to appeal more
to the outdoor shopper. Can you make smaller, lighter, easier to carry versions
of your products? Can you introduce lines that go with the theme of the market?
For example: fruit & veggie themed soaps at a farmers’ market or bright
colorful accessories at a Caribbean festival. Try to stay within your brand and
style by adding your spin to a theme. Otherwise you risk attracting one-time
customers who will struggle to find items to purchase from you in the future.
4) Expand your product offering
You will always need to be adjusting in
business so don't be afraid to step outside your comfort zone. Even if you've found your rhythm within your business, outside factors are always changing, which means
you need to adapt. So be comfortable with changes and see them
as a good thing. Just because you knit wool toques doesn’t mean you need to
throw in the towel and wait for the weather to cool down to start producing,
marketing and selling again. If winter sales are high enough that you need the
summer to stock up, that’s amazing. But if you’re looking to keep some sort of
income going in the warmer months, consider expanding.
Think of a new product to introduce, pick
up a new skill or find a way to reinvent your existing products to be more
appropriate for the summer. You may introduce crocheted swimsuits or blankets
for cabins and beach houses. Learning to sew could allow you to keep within the
accessory category and make fabric hats or scarves to tie around your head. Or
simply switch up the material and colors you use and make lightweight knit hats
for summer. There are tons of people who make a slouchy beanie look cool in the
summer. Swap your website photos of models in parkas for those in a slouchy
hat, white tee and cut-offs.
Don't go too far outside your niche or force a new product. Explore some ideas to see if you can offer anything that will blend with your brand.
This is one of my favorite articles, packed with ideas for when you're looking to expand or improve your current line: DO SHOPPERS REMEMBER YOU AFTER A CRAFT FAIR? HERE'S HOW TO MAKE THEM. This is another good one that will get your wheels turning: 1 TRICK RETAILERS USE TO GET YOU TO BUY & HOW YOU CAN USE IT IN YOUR HANDMADE BUSINESS.
5) Share your expertise
You’ve undoubtedly built up some amazing
skills perfecting your craft. When it comes to art or online marketing, you
don’t need a certificate proving you’re an expert. Experience and growth are
proof enough that you know what you’re doing. If you’re doing something other
people want to do, and you’re doing it successfully, they can learn from you.
Write an e-book, create a video course,
teach classes or run workshops to share your knowledge and get paid for it.
Take some time to brainstorm what you would be considered an “expert” at by
others and the content you could share that people would be willing to pay for.
give you a piece of advice from writing my e-book; take the time to plan.
Outline the subjects you’d like to cover and the points you’d like to expand
upon under them before you start creating content. You’ll do a ton of
re-writing and backtracking if you just dive right in and start writing. I know
from experience ;)
6) Attract new fans when you’re not selling
Is it better to go silent over summer
because you sell winter toques or stay in people’s feeds and minds by sharing non-promotional
content your ideal customer is interested in? The idea is to stay top of mind and in your shopper's feeds. Otherwise, how can you make sales? That content may not result in immediate
sales but you may gain new fans, followers or subscribers because of it. That
will come in handy when you are ready to start selling again. Plus, you will
have built up some trust with new fans because your posts aren’t all about
selling your products. They’ll see that you provide quality content and that
you really get them.
If you sell winter toques and your brand
markets towards the outdoorsman/woman, use the summer to speak to what they’re
into now. Your ideal customer may be going out for hikes, looking for great
places to visit or planning camping trips. So instead of trying to show them
your warm winter hats, pivot your social media, blog or newsletter content and
share things that are going to pique their interest while staying relevant. And you never know...they may need a toque to keep them warm for late night and early morning camping.
Camping hacks that are lifesavers, the best
hiking trails in your area or recipes for granola bars they can pack for hikes
will all be really helpful to your existing followers and attract some new
ones. It’s a lot easier to market to someone who’s on your list than to those
who aren’t so don’t look at posts that don’t sell as wasted effort.
7) Run a promotion
Don’t get the wrong idea here. I’m not
suggesting you drop your prices to make some extra sales. I am suggesting you
consider running a promotion or sale to either clear out old stock or create
some interest in your new stock.
Keep them short and sweet. A sale that goes
on all summer doesn’t urge anyone to buy. A “New fall line discounted for one
week only” will encourage people to get it while the gettin’s good.
Also, don’t half-ass it. Just because an
item is on sale, don’t treat it as any less valuable than your full priced items. Take amazing photos,
write descriptions that paint a picture and show people what an amazing deal
they’re getting. You want the products to look as though they’re worth double
the amount you’re charging so shoppers really feel like they should “START THE
If you're barely making a profit on your products, you need to first make sure you're pricing them properly and ensuring you're covering your overhead costs. Then look at ways to lower your costs. WHAT TO DO WHEN YOUR PRICES ARE TOO HIGH covers the different ways to lower your costs and increase your profits which will come in handy if you want to offer discounts.
8) Take custom orders or offer "Limited Time" products
You could also use this time to offer
custom orders. Many businesses get too busy to fill custom orders around
the holidays. Everyone wants that something special for that special someone and they usually want it last minute.
Educate your customers on the policies of your business and make it clear that
you’re only open to custom orders from the start of June to the end of August
(for example) so now is the time to get them in. Sometimes they just need a little nudge or reminder to think ahead and avoid the last minute rush.
If you don’t take custom orders or
typically have a bunch of requests for them, consider if there’s another limited
time offer you could run. These are what make Starbuck’s Pumpkin Spice Lattes
off the hizzy. Everyone knows they only come around once a year and so they get
their fill of them while they can.
Create a tradition your fans, followers and
customers know to watch for each year and create some hype around it. What can
you offer for a limited time that will make people feel like they need to buy,
even if they can’t use it for the next few months?
9) Create a teaser
The element of surprise can pique people’s
interest and get them to take notice. A cropped shot of some materials on
your work table with the caption “guess what I’m making…” or “new items
coming soon…” won’t be as effective as a statement or question that gets their
wheels turning. “How is this new ingredient going to completely improve your complexion?
Sign up for my newsletter to find out!” You could also combine a teaser with a
promotion. “Want to know how you can get my new line for 30% off? Like my page
and stay tuned!”
Consider asking a question people will be
genuinely interested in knowing the answer to. What is this new product going
to do to improve their lives and what can you ask that will make them start racking their brains? It may not be a groundbreaking improvement but remember, people are
always wondering what’s in it for them.
10) Seek out consignment partnerships
Sales may slow down for you in the summer
but they ramp up for many stores. Most cities have an area that’s great for
shopping freestanding stores. Clusters of boutiques, coffee shops and
restaurants create a spot for people to get out and do some shopping, without
being cooped up in a mall.
That being said, for several years I was a
Regional Visual Merchandiser for a major retailer, which had me working in malls year round and I
can tell you; summer was busy! As soon as school was out, malls across the
country filled up and got increasingly busy as “back to school” approached. It
was the second busiest time of the year. So don’t ignore retailers in the mall
for your consignment or wholesale accounts.
If you haven't thought about selling through retailers before, THE PROS & CONS OF SELLING HANDMADE THROUGH RETAILERS will give you a good overview and 10 STEPS TO GET YOUR HANDMADE PRODUCTS INTO BOUTIQUES will help you get there if you decide it's a fit for you.
- If sales are slow and there aint nothin’
you can do about it, use this downtime to catch up all those things you’ve been
meaning to do. Send thank you notes, update your website, start your blog and
build up content, reach out to other businesses or organize your craft room.
- Use your efforts wisely. You can’t force
people to buy or pay attention to your business. Spending hundreds of hours or dollars on
marketing and advertising is going to be a waste of time,
money and effort if people don’t want what you’re selling right now.
- When the busy season comes back around,
make the most of it by getting people on your lists. Newsletter subscribers are
your best bet since they remain in your hands and not at the mercy of algorithm
updates that cut your reach in half. But you can still make the most of your social media pages too. Do your best to get each
person you encounter to put one foot in the door (liking your page, following
your boards, signing up for your newsletter, etc.) in hopes that you can turn them into a full on customer down
Know your customers and your business.
Recognize your ebbs and flows so you don’t get discouraged the same time each
year. And don’t be afraid to switch things up and try something new. Slow times
are the best times to test out new ideas.