When several businesses are selling similar products, consumers feel no urgency or desire to choose one business over the other.
It often comes down to price.
As a handmade business, you do not want to attract customers who are after the lowest price. It’s a hard game to keep up with and doesn’t create loyal customers.
On the other hand, if you attract customers because you’re selling products with a style that’s different than your competitors, and consumers have to come to you to get it, you’re going to build a business with loyal, repeat customers.
A signature style is how consumers identify your products as yours, without having to see your logo or business name attached to them.
It’s also how you leave a lasting impression on consumers.
How do you develop a signature style?
A signature style starts with doing something different than your competitors. You have to be able to recognize the norms in your industry and be willing to move in a different direction than them.
It’s not easy, and it does require work, but the alternative is blending in and having mediocre sales.
A signature style is created and imprinted on consumers through repetition.
For example, a soap maker may infuse soaps with wine. If they simply had one collection of wine-themed soaps (while others were a fruit-themed collection and a floral-themed collection and a spice-themed collection), it wouldn’t be a signature style. But when every soap they create incorporates an element of wine, now they have a signature style. Wine-themed soaps are what they become known for.
When you find a winning element of your business or products, be sure to repeat that element across the board.
That’s how you communicate your signature style and ensure consumers get the message.
STEPS TO CREATE A SIGNATURE STYLE
When developing a signature style, exclusion is key.
If you’re trying to create products that appeal to a wide range of customers and their preferences, it’s impossible to have a signature style.
To create something that’s perfect for one type of person, by default, that product won’t work for many others.
Are your products, brand, or business currently excluding anyone?
Are they so perfect for some people but not even close to what others want?
If not, here’s how you can begin to develop your signature style.
1 – Look at your Numbers
It’s easy to develop a signature style, but that signature style is no good if it doesn’t help you make sales.
At the end of the day, you’re in business to serve a customer. So that customers’ needs must come first.
Look at your past sales to see if there are product features more people are willing to pay for.
For example, if I’m running a soap business, and the majority of the soaps I sell are fruit-scented, that gives me a clear indication that consumers like (and are willing to spend money on) fruit-scented soaps.
If you don’t have many sales to work with, you can look at bigger brands to get an indication of what’s popular with consumers.
For example, if Bath & Body Works heavily features spice-themed products (e.g. cinnamon & nutmeg) on their home page or as a shopping filter, it’s a good indication that spice-themed bath and body products are popular.
You can also use tools such as Google Trends or Ahrefs to conduct keyword research and get an indication of the specific types of products people are searching for online.
Another profitable angle is to look at existing target markets. If there are big companies targeting specific groups of people, chances are, it’s a profitable group to make products for.
Just think about people who drink wine. There are wine clubs, wine tours, wine stores, wine magazines, wine events, etc. created specifically and exclusively for people who like wine. “Wine-drinkers” is a profitable target market. Although people may not be searching for “wine-themed soap” online, I can easily find places to market and sell to wine-drinkers.
*If you want to find learn how to find these profitable groups of people, How To Find a Goldmine of Customers will help.
If you want to make money, it’s important to let the market guide you.
I may love to create candy-scented soap, but if no one buys my “candy corn scented soap”, no one is searching for “candy-scented soap”, and I can’t find another business attempting to sell a similar product, it’s likely because there isn’t demand for it. If I continue building a signature style around the candy theme, it’s likely my business will fail.
2 – Examine your style
Your signature style must incorporate you. That’s how you make it authentic and harder to copy.
If you’re trying to emulate someone else’s signature style, you’ll always be a step behind.
But if you pull inspiration from within you, anyone who tries to copy your designs will be the one falling behind.
What do you LOVE? How would you describe your personal signature style?
Better yet, how might friends and family describe your personal signature style?
Try to think of the labels people give you. They may be related to your style, your personality, your lifestyle, etc.
Can you incorporate these qualities into your products?
For example, my friends often refer to me as a “crazy cat lady” because I’m obsessed with my cats. I might examine how I could incorporate the “cat lady” label into my products and make them perfect for other cat owners (another profitable target market).
What comes naturally to you is a great element to work into your signature style.
3 – Repeat your signature style
Once you’ve defined a style that reflects what consumers want and who you are, it’s important to apply it to as many areas of your business as you can.
Make small changes and look for proof (in the way of sales) that you’re moving in the right direction.
For example, I wouldn’t re-brand my business and wipe out all my existing products to move in the direction of my signature style. Instead, I might start with a collection of products that incorporate my new signature style. If those sell well, I might work on updating the banner and About section in my Etsy shop. Then move onto changing my tagline, then maybe re-branding my business, etc.
When you find the right signature style, and your target market is telling you they love it (by spending money with you), start applying it to as many areas of your business you can.
To help apply your signature style to different areas of your business, and in different ways, start by summing up your signature style in one or two words.
You can use a label for who your business is for (e.g. wine drinkers), or a popular style it follows (e.g. bohemian), or a vibe/mood/feeling it evokes (e.g. whimsical and feminine), etc. Then think about how you can infuse that word into every area of your business, such as:
- Labels and packaging
- Product descriptions
- Craft show display
Don’t move too fast to incorporate your signature style across the board, but do be sure to give a new product or direction a fair chance.
You can’t make one new product and expect to see results after sharing it on social media a few times.
Remember, average conversion rates online are 1% – 2%. In most cases, your new product needs to reach at least 100 – 200 people for it to even have a chance of selling.
So keep an eye on numbers and give your new direction a chance.
You also need to build a story around your signature style.
For example, one wine-themed soap among a variety of fruit, herb, floral, and spice themed soap listings doesn’t tell the story of “soaps for wine drinkers”.
But if I create a collection of wine-themed soaps (e.g. Pinot Grigio soap, Merlot soap, Sangria soap, etc.) or a collection of wine-themed bath & body products (e.g. wine-themed soap, lotion, and bubble bath), and photograph them, describe them, package them, display them, etc. in a way that connects with wine-drinkers, they’re going to receive the “wine” message clearly.
Sales and profits should dictate every move you make.
As you put your new signature style out there, let your return on investment tell you how much more time and money you should invest into it.
Please share your signature style in the comments!
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!