I believe everyone has a special talent they’re meant to share with the world. I’ve had an idea of what mine are from a fairly young age since I’ve always loved art and being creative. But it wasn’t until recently that I realized my calling was being creative through writing. It’s easy for me to see what a perfect fit it is for me now, and have developed a signature style of writing, but it wasn’t always that obvious.
I can’t just write on any subject. If you told me to write a fictional short story, I’d be lost. I don’t really have an interest in reading fictional books and have stocked my library with business books.
So naturally, that’s where I’ve found my niche in writing. I love sharing business advice, specifically with handmade business owners, because that’s also where my knowledge is.
Translating business advice into stories, analogies and easy to follow steps for handmade business owners is my signature. It’s what Made Urban has become known for and what I’ve built my success on.
It’s easy for me to explain my signature style now that I’ve found it but I understand it’s not that easy when sales aren’t giving you a clear indication of your path to success.
Everyone has a calling.
But if it were easy to discover that calling, no one would be working in suck-the-life-out-of-you jobs or struggling with their businesses.
I’ve experienced, more than once, how much easier running a business is once you find your personalized path to success.
I want this article to help get you a little closer to that path by uncovering your signature style.
If you’re unsure of what your signature style is, can’t define your USP (unique selling position) or describe your brand, I think this article and analogy will help. Let me know in the comments if it does once you’re done reading!
EXCLUSION IS KEY TO YOUR SIGNATURE STYLE
To create something that’s perfect for one person, by default, that product won’t work for many others. But that’s a good thing!
Let me use an analogy to explain why making something that’s so right for one person and so wrong for many others is the best path for your business.
Imagine I’m hosting a dinner party.
I create a Facebook event and invite all my friends, because I don’t want to exclude anyone.
I ask everyone who accepts the invitation to tell me their dietary restrictions and what they would love to eat that evening.
I have lots of people interested in coming to my event and everything from lactose intolerant and celiac eaters to vegetarians and meatatarians suggesting dishes.
I’ve never made a dish without cheese or creams and am somewhere in between a vegetarian and meatatarian. So I have to research what types of meals I can make for all the dietary restrictions and preferences I’ve received.
I spend a ton of time and money testing recipes and buying ingredients I’ll never use again.
When people arrive at my party and are ready to eat, there’s mass confusion. People are asking me what’s what and to list ingredients to be sure a dish safe for them to eat.
Plates are half empty because I didn’t have the time to make multiple dishes for each person. The vegetarian can only find a couple things they’ll eat while the lactose intolerant eaters only have one dish to choose from.
By the end of the night, no one is overly satisfied, paying me compliments or giving me the credit I deserve for all the food I’ve prepped. The dishes were so-so because I spread myself too thin. I have way too many leftovers and can’t convince anyone to take them home.
I wasted a ton of money and will have a hard time getting anyone to come to a future dinner party.
That’s what’s happening with handmade businesses trying to offer something for everyone.
And I’m not just talking about a business selling art, jewelry and soap. This is also an issue for those focusing on just art, just jewelry or just soap but who are lacking a signature style.
Let’s take a look at another analogy and how much easier it is when there’s a set signature style…
After the dinner party from hell, I learned my lesson and decided to try it again but by doing it my way.
I love macaroni and cheese. I’ve never met a bowl I didn’t enjoy and have chosen it in the game of: if you could eat one type of food for the rest of your life and not gain weight or harm your body, what would it be? Is it just me who fantasizes about such opportunities? 😉
I’ve tried making and eating every kind of mac and cheese from wheat-free and even dairy-free to super indulgent, mega creamy, Million Dollar Macaroni & Cheese Casserole. If it’s on the menu in a restaurant, I don’t even have to look at the other items, I know what I’m getting. I’m a self-professed mac and cheese expert and know it inside and out…..now I’m craving macaroni and cheese at 6 am.
So I decide to throw a Mac & Cheese dinner party. I select three amazing macaroni and cheese dishes to make, a few sides and the perfect drinks to compliment the meal. I invite all the same people to the party but have much less people RSVP-ing “yes”.
Lactose intolerant Larry and Celiac Sally politely decline but that’s okay with me. Making a dairy-free and wheat-free option isn’t really what I want to spend my time doing and I know not many people would dish up those options.
The dinner party is a smashing success.
I didn’t spend a ton of money buying ingredients for a wide variety of dishes. I didn’t stress or wonder if people were going to like what I made because I knew, if someone likes mac and cheese, they’ll love what I make. People raved about how good the food was, went back from seconds and asked to take leftovers home.
Not only that, guests left and talked about how amazing the party was and described their favorite mac and cheese dish to friends. People were begging to be on the guest list for my next Mac & Cheese party.
That’s the type of passion you must have for the products you make. You must love every detail of them so you have a deep understanding of what other people with the same interests love.
I couldn’t have had the same success putting on a liver & onions party or making a little bit of everything to suit more preferences.
For me to create a dinner party that was so amazing people cleared their plates, asked for seconds and thirds, and raved about it once it was over, I had to exclude some people from the guest list.
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 they are, you’re on the right path. If not, keep reading.
START WITH YOU
I get why many people feel stuck when it comes to narrowing down their ideal customer and aren’t sure how it helps them sell more. When you’re looking at a sea of people and trying to figure out who you should make products, create a brand or build a business for, it becomes overwhelming. The options are limitless.
But let’s try this. Let’s make YOU your ideal customer.
I was the ideal customer in the dinner party example and was all about mac & cheese. If I opened a mac & cheese food truck or restaurant, I would know exactly what to put on the menu and what other mac & cheese lovers would look for in their search for the best bowl of mac & cheese.
Just because someone loves mac & cheese it doesn’t mean it’s all they eat or wouldn’t enjoy a nice salad, steak or pizza once and a while. But we’re not trying to serve someone in every area of his or her life, every day of the week; that’s unrealistic.
We could bring in a few more sales by offering salad and pizza as well as mac & cheese but then we’d water down our message and have a hard time creating the best salads, pizza AND mac & cheese. And who goes back again and again for mediocre food?
We must focus our businesses on one thing and doing it so well, we become the best at it.
There are some businesses, such as Walmart that are able to offer a wide variety of products and serve almost all of their customers’ needs. But Walmart is a multi-billion dollar company.
You’re running a small handmade business, likely on your own or with one or two other people and without a ton of startup capital.
You must start small and grow slowly.
You want to serve someone in one area of their life and serve them so well, they only come to you for that specific item.
Once you’ve perfected that item, built a brand and name on it and have consistent sales coming in, then you can work on adding new types of products to your lineup.
CREATE A LOVE LIST
What do you LOVE?
Think about the product you make; art, accessories, soap, stationery, or maybe you’re a mom buying accessories, clothing or toys for your child.
If you could only hang one piece of art in your home, wear one type of accessory, use one type of soap, etc. what would it be?
Describe your item as though you’re asking Santa to bring you the perfect ___________________ (pair of earrings, bar of soap, hat/scarf/mitten set, piece of art, toy for your kid, etc.)
Take a sheet of paper or open a Word document and create a Love List describing all the details of your perfect product. Think about:
- The colors you want
- The style you love
- Ingredients or materials you couldn’t live without
- The goal you want to achieve (e.g. when I wear earrings I want them to stand out, add color or I want to look classic)
- Special requirements (e.g. I can only wear surgical steel or lightweight earrings)
Don’t worry about what you currently sell, especially if it’s a wide variety.
We want to find your signature style and the easiest way to do that is to start with one item and create a signature product that embodies your signature style.
Once you find success, you can repeat elements from that top-selling product, in other products.
Mac & cheese would my food truck’s signature. But I’d need to find proof of success by creating one amazing mac & cheese dish people were willing to pay for before adding bacon & jalapeno, broccoli & brussel sprouts or buffalo chicken mac & cheese.
Once you’ve created your Love List, create a second list that describes what you automatically exclude by creating that perfect product.
If your love list is too inclusive, you won’t be able to describe the styles you’re excluding and you’ll know you have to be more specific about what you love.
For example, if within the pasta category I said I loved creamy pasta, cheesy pasta, tomato pasta, meat pasta, veggie pasta, etc. my list of what I love would be much longer than what I’m excluding. I do love every type of pasta, but if I want to find a signature dish, I’ve gotta get more specific than that.
Your exclusion list should be much longer than your love list.
If I were making art I may answer the questions in the following way:
- I love soft colors, specifically blues and greens.
- I love modern, detailed art; paintings that are so realistic, they almost look like a photograph.
- I love the details that come out when using acrylic paints and I also love the interest it adds when a picture is painted on a piece of wood full of knots and flaws.
- I love to add a serene mood to a room and hang landscape pictures you can get lost in and wonder what the story is behind the picture. Like a barn on the prairies that’s about to fall over or an abandoned car in the woods.
- I love medium sized pieces of art; I don’t have a lot of big empty walls but they’re not small walls either. I feel like small pieces of art can make a space feel cluttered so something around 24” wide/tall up to 72” would be a good size for my home.
That’s a pretty specific look at the type of art I love. And if I were a painter, that would be the type of art I would create because I love it and have a deep understanding of why someone else might too.
I don’t understand abstract art. I think it’s cool, but I just don’t get it. So how could I create abstract art for someone who loves it and has a deep understanding of it?
From that list, I can also clearly define what’s excluded:
- No bright colors, neons, black & white, or deep rich colors
- No abstract, Renaissance, pop art, art deco, etc.
- No watercolors, pencil, pen, markers, charcoal, etc. and no canvas or paper
- No portraits, animal, food, flowers, etc.
- No overly small or oversized pieces of art
This exercise wouldn’t work if I listed all the types of art I don’t mind. Instead I choose the specific type of art I would love.
Now that you’ve defined your signature style, think about how you can apply it to your business and attract people who share a similar style.
Before you make any major changes to your business, you do want to be sure you test, crunch numbers and research to be sure the idea is profitable. Make one change, give it time so you get accurate results, analyze the results and move forward or revert back accordingly.
Here are few areas you can apply your signature style once you find it:
Remember how much time and money I spent perfecting a wide variety of dishes in the dinner party for different diets example? A handmade business owner is doing the same if they try to create a product for everyone or even for the tastes of several different people.
Narrow down your product offering if you’re currently trying to cater to too many types of customers.
Start with one product you love, apply your specific tastes and create something that encompasses your signature style.
Don’t play it safe. If you’re not excluding people when it comes to who would buy your product, you’re playing it too safe.
Put that item out there and see what the response is. Ask for feedback. Send out a survey and allow people to answer questions about your product anonymously.
Keep tweaking until you find an item several other people also love and are willing to spend money on. Once you do, repeat the features of it in other products.
For example, if a jewelry maker found a pair of brightly colored tassel earrings were their moneymakers, they could create necklaces and bracelets that also use brightly colored tassels.
If you can’t currently describe your signature style, there’s likely nothing consumers feel the have to come to you to buy.
What do shoppers need to come to you for if they want the best?
A unique selling position (USP) is something a lot of handmade businesses struggle to define. Here are the three biggest mistakes made with USP’s.
Once you find your signature style, it becomes much easier to narrow down your USP.
Your USP is basically answering: what do you do better than anyone else?
What sets your art apart from other artists’ work? What makes your handmade soap better or more unique than another soap maker’s? How are your handmade earrings different from the earrings someone can buy in the mall for half the price?
You should be able to provide an answer that describes ALL your products, not just one.
If a soap maker sells one bar of soap that looks like a beautiful flower and makes for a great wedding favor, that would create a compelling USP/reason for people to buy from them. But if the rest of their products are regular: bars of soap, bath bombs, lotions, etc., that USP doesn’t apply because they haven’t incorporated their signature style to every product.
If you can’t answer why someone should buy from you over a competitor, shoppers won’t know why either and then they don’t have a compelling reason to buy from you.
Finding your signature style will help you define your USP.
If you’d like a bit more direction on defining your USP, please join the free 5-day email course BEAT LAST YEAR’S SALES. It covers finding a strong USP on Day 3. Read more about the free course and join here.
A brand is built on a great USP and since a USP is influenced by your signature style, that style should also be built into your brand.
Everything your shoppers and customers encounter with your business should be touched by your brand. If your brand is fun and whimsical, your emails, website text, invoices, signage at a craft show, product labels, sales pitches, etc. should all have a fun and whimsical vibe…and that only covers the sound (text, language, etc.) of your brand, there are many other areas.
Think about how you would sum up your signature style and USP in one or two words.
For a Mac & Cheese restaurant, it might be: GOURMET
For the artist, the soft blues and greens and get-lost-in-the-painting landscape theme might evoke: SERENE
“Gourmet” would come through in every aspect of a Mac & Cheese restaurant’s business from the menus, signage, tables, chairs, tablecloths, cutlery and dishes, server attire, language used to describe dishes, etc.
“Serene” might come through in the artist’s business in the way they name each painting, display them in photos or at a craft fair, the feel of their craft fair booth, the design of their website, colors used in their logo, etc.
“Gourmet” and “Serene” are their brands and every tiny detail of their business is how they communicate it.
Once you find your signature style there are so many ways you can implement it. Have fun playing around to find your signature style and remember to make smart decisions.
If I loved ketchup and steak sandwiches, instead of mac and cheese, I’d be aware that it’s probably not loved by many others and wouldn’t make the most profitable restaurant.
Make sure you can easily find others who share an interest in your signature style. Being unable to find competition for your product is usually not a good thing in business; it may be proof there isn’t a market for it.
Please share your signature style in the comments! What would you choose if you could only own one of your products?