There’s an image on Pinterest that catches my eye every time I see it. I’ve probably seen it close to a hundred times.
It’s a picture of a craft show table displaying greeting cards. The photo only captures a corner of the table, but you can tell it’s a clean, cohesive display.
Today I stopped and looked at it a little closer and read the table sign that’s partially visible.
When you look closer at the greeting cards, you can see that they all have food illustrations on them.
This card business is doing many things exceptionally well.
But I wanted to explain the one important element this business has, but that many don’t:
Meaning, you can put a label on who their products are for.
Every craft show shopper would label their cards as being for “foodies”.
That label is what makes their greeting card business stand out from the many others, and what makes for easy sales.
Do you buy products that you’re not sure are a fit for you or someone you know?
But when you can quickly and easily identify who a product is for, you’re more likely to buy.
This is why labels are important. But let’s take a closer look.
Why A Label Is Important
Creating something that is beautiful/amazing/creative/etc. is the first step to grabbing attention.
But people don’t buy until they know how they’re going to use your products.
They have to be able to picture/determine:
- The exact outfit they’ll wear a pair of earrings with
- The look they’re going to create with a handbag
- Where they’ll hang a piece of art or if it fits their decor style
- The person they’ll give a greeting card to
- If a skincare product is right for their skin type
And the more work it requires to get people to imagine your products in their lives, the harder it is to make a sale.
- I know what I’ll use this for
- I know who I’ll give this to
- I know what I’ll wear this with
Makes for a much easier sale than:
- Where would I use it?
- I’m not sure if they’d like it
- I’m not sure what I’d wear it with
When shoppers hem and haw over a purchase it’s because they’re not entirely sure if they’ll use the item, how they’ll use it, if it’s worth it, etc.
A label is what separates knowing how a product fits into a shopper’s life vs. not knowing.
One-of-a-kind Vs. Fitting In
As creative people, we want to create new items that aren’t similar to what’s already out there.
When I started sewing handbags, no two bags were alike, and I chose materials you wouldn’t typically see a bag made with.
Yes, that created unique bags, but it made it hard for consumers to picture how my bags would fit into their existing wardrobe, with their existing style, and what exactly they would wear them with.
It takes so much more work to get consumers to buy into a new vision than to go along with one they’re already comfortable with.
For example, trying to convince someone who loves romantic comedies to see a new movie labelled as a romantic comedy is easy. They know what to expect and that they’ll likely enjoy it.
Trying to convince them to see a new movie that’s unlike anything they’ve seen before (it’s a mix of a rom-com meets musical meets sci-fi, etc.) is much harder. They don’t know what to expect or if they’ll like it.
Products that fit under exiting labels are easier to sell.
That doesn’t mean you have to create cookie-cutter products. But rather, find an existing label and then get creative within it.
For example, following a style label for my handbags (e.g. bohemian, sporty, punk, vintage, etc.) still allows me to get creative with material combinations, accents, or features.
In the movie example, that might mean a movie that fits under the romantic comedy label but gets creative with the setting of the movie (e.g. a rom-com that unfolds in space) or the characters.
Those labels help an audience identify with the product being sold.
And when they can identify with it, they’re more likely to buy.
What Label Do Your Customers Have?
Instead of looking at your products and determining what label they fall under, look at your customers.
Who do you want to serve and what type of label do they have?
Let’s use my handbag business as an example. In the start, I didn’t know who I was targeting or who my handbags were for.
They were for women. That’s about as far as I got with defining my target market.
That’s a start, but it’s not a label people base buying decisions on. Most purses are designed for women, but that doesn’t mean every purse a woman sees she wants to buy. The purse must fit a more specific label a woman identifies with.
- Labels based on style
- Labels based on Occasion/Life stage
- New Mom / dog parent
- Labels based on Lifestyle
- Labels based on Occupation
- Labels based on Activities
- Soccer player
I could take just one of those labels, create bags that fit within it, and immediately have a group of people identify with them.
BEFORE ADDING A LABEL
Craft show shoppers saw my hodgepodge of bags and perhaps thought they were nice, but were unsure if they’d work with their existing attire.
AFTER ADDING A LABEL
I could go with the “dog owner/parent” label. A craft show shopper seeing a table full of dog bags (e.g. purses to carry small dogs in, dog carriers, doggie bag dispensers, etc.) makes an immediate connection. My bags are for dog owners and they’re used when travelling with a dog, going to the vet clinic, taking a dog for a walk, etc.
Or, perhaps I’d target consumers who identify with the label “environmentalist”. I might make bags with recycled materials, or add environmentally friendly phrases to my bags (e.g. “My favorite color is green”, or “keep the sea plastic free”), or use a zero waste business model (e.g. product packaging/labels are biodegradable) or one that gives back (e.g. for every bag sold a tree is planted).
Or, I could go with the “bride” label and have a table full of bridal bags; purses for brides and their bridal party. I could get creative within that label (bride) and focus on a specific style, perhaps bohemian. Now I can play with fringes, feathers, pom-poms, vintage lace, etc.
Choosing a label doesn’t limit your creativity and what you can make. It simply helps ensure you’ll have an easier time selling what you make.
To come up with a label, think about how your customers might describe themselves, or how others might describe them.
Won’t A Label Limit My Sales?
This is the main reason business owners don’t want to limit who they sell to; they think they’ll make fewer sales.
You do have a smaller group of people you can sell to. For example, when I switch from making handbags for all women to women who are brides, there are fewer people with the label “bride” than there are with the label “woman”.
But the key is, it becomes easier to sell. It’s also easier for customers to find you.
Type “women’s purse” into Google.
The top results are for:
- Michael Kors
- Kate Spade
It’s next to impossible to get my small business’s website to rank above those huge brands and businesses.
But if you type something more specific into Google, such as “bohemian bridal purse”, the top results (after the ads) are for Etsy and Pinterest.
I could easily use proper Etsy SEO tactics so my bags appear when a user clicks on the Etsy link for “bohemian bridal purse” in Google’s search results.
I could also create a Pinterest board or pin titled “Bohemian Bridal Purse(s)”, which makes it more likely that the board or pin will show in Google’s search results.
This example also applies to Etsy.
Type “women’s purse” into Etsy’s search bar and there are over 300,000 listings for shoppers to search through to hopefully find mine. But type “bridal purse” and there are just over 30,000 results. Enter “bohemian bridal purse” and there are only 550 results.
Online, customers wouldn’t even find me if I was simply selling “women’s purses”. But targeting the label “brides” and better yet, “Bohemian Bridal Purses”, shoppers have found me; the first step to making a sale.
But now it’s easier to sell to them too.
Let’s say a shopper did happen to find my “women’s purses”. They still have SO many retailers and options to choose from. They’re not saying: “Finally! I’ve found someone who sells women’s purses”.
Because they have unlimited options, they’re going to explore more before buying a woman’s purse. It’s less likely they’ll choose my business over the thousands of others out there.
On the other hand, when someone finds my shop full of bohemian style bridal purses, they don’t have hundreds of other shops to check out. My shop would be the only one (or one of very few) focused specifically on bohemian bridal purses.
They would see my site as the authority in the bohemian bridal purses category and have a variety of options to choose from. They’re more likely to buy without me having to do a lot of “selling” (because who likes selling;).
Can Shoppers Easily Fill In The Blank?
Here’s a test to determine if your business and products make it easy for shoppers to quickly decide if your products are for them and how they’ll use them in their lives.
When a shopper walks up to your craft table or visits your Etsy shop, how would they fill in the blank:
These are perfect for me, I’m a _______.
These are perfect for X person, they’re a ________.
It’s important to be realistic and use a label someone would actually use to describe themselves, an aspect about themselves, or describe someone they know.
No one is going to say: “These are perfect for me, I’m a woman.” or “These are perfect for Susan, she’s a woman.”
But they might say: I’m a / They’re a:
- Cat lady
- Clean freak
- Health nut
- Sports fanatic
Making Your Business Match Your Label
Your business may need some changes to work with a new label.
My business definitely went through a big change from what it started out as. But I made those changes slowly.
I first tested my new direction with a new product. When it did well, I built a collection for it. Then eventually, I only sold handbags that targeted the one label and created multiple collections under it.
When we look at that Pinterest photo again, the Fun Foodie is an example of a business (not just products) with a strong connection to a label (foodie). Their business name, products, craft show props, etc. are all related to food.
If they only had a few food-themed cards and the rest were a mix of flowers, birds, landscapes, etc. or their craft show display didn’t have a food theme, they wouldn’t have a strong connection to the foodie label.
As you test products that appeal to a new label and they prove to sell well, then you can start applying that label to more areas of your business. You may use new props and signage at your next craft show, then re-design your logo and your website, phase out old products that don’t fit with the new label, etc.
You can also take a label that doesn’t seem to have a connection to a product, and make a connection.
For example, let’s take the “foodie” label and explore how a variety of businesses can use it:
- Art – kitchen art focused on gourmet foods.
- Baby products – (for parents who are foodies) toys, newborn photography props, onesies, blankets, teething rings, etc. that have a food theme.
- Bags – purses made with food-theme printed materials, totes with food illustrations and/or food phrases (e.g. “I’m just here for the food”).
- Bath & Body – bath and body products infused with popular foodie ingredients/items or scented to smell like them. E.g. bacon scented soap or bacon infused lotions.
- Candles – candles that smell like gourmet foods and/or have foodie labels.
- Clothing – t-shirts with food-themed prints or illustrations or clothing made from fabric with food items printed on them.
- Jewelry – food shaped earrings, pendants, charms, etc. or jewelry with phrases (e.g. “life’s short, eat cake”) or food icons stamped in.
The important thing to remember when finding a label is to base it on your customers, not your products.
If you’re having a hard time finding a label, I share another easy method in HOW TO FIND A GOLDMINE OF CUSTOMERS.
Here are a few mistakes to watch out for when choosing a label for your products/business and who they’re for.
Mistake #1 – Using a Product As A Label
It’s important not to use a product when it comes to identifying people by what they love. When asked to describe oneself, no one would use their love of a product to do so (e.g. “Tell me about yourself”. “Well…I love jewelry”).
And no one would walk up to a craft show table full of a variety of handbags and say: “These are perfect for me, I love bags.”
Base your label on your customers, not your products.
Mistake #2 – Using Labels That Are Too General
There are successful businesses and best-selling products that are suited for more general labels (e.g. for women or for parents). But when you’re running a small handmade business, you must find a smaller niche.
You don’t want to be too broad, but you also don’t want to go so niche that there isn’t a big enough market.
- Cards for women is too broad
- Cards for people who love carrots is too narrow
- Cards for foodies is just right
Mistake #3 – Creating Your Own Label
There are many existing labels that people use to identify or describe themselves. Use those to your advantage.
If you come up with your own label, fewer people will identify with it or even understand what the label is.
What I find happens most commonly when business owners attempt to label their target market is they mold the market around their existing products. That simply doesn’t work.
Let’s say I sell greeting cards and paint everything from flowers and birds to skylines and fruit on my cards. When asked who my target market is, I may say: “People who find beauty in everyday objects.”
But that’s not a common label.
If people haven’t already created a one or two-word label to describe themselves (or something about them), it’s likely not a popular enough label to base your business around.
Creating food-themed greeting cards works because the label “foodie” already exists to describe people who love food. And people commonly use that label to describe themselves or people they know.
On the other hand, creating watercolor greeting cards doesn’t work as well because there isn’t a label to describe people who love watercolor paintings.
Not only does choosing a pre-existing label make it easier for you to narrow your target market, it also ensures the market you choose to target actually exists.
I hope this article was helpful! HOW TO FIND A GOLDMINE OF CUSTOMERS dives deeper into this subject and how to find a profitable target market/label 🙂
Hey, I’m Erin 🙂 I write about small business and craft show techniques I’ve learned from being a small business owner for almost 2 decades, selling at dozens of craft shows, and earning a diploma in Visual Communication Design. I hope you find my advice helpful!