8 Mistakes Handmade Businesses Make with their USP
A USP is a unique selling position and should be considered an important aspect of your handmade business. Starbucks vs. Dunkin’ Donuts, Pepsi vs. Coke, Lululemon vs. Nike; each company is selling something very similar to the other so they must have a product feature that stands out or market their products in a way that lets consumers know they’re offering something different.
Having a compelling USP is an important piece of the consistent-sales-puzzle.
Can you sell products without a USP? Sure. But will you sell more with a powerful USP? Absolutely!
It’s one more component that makes the difference between shoppers stumbling upon your products at a craft show, on Etsy, your website, etc. and making a sale here and there vs. driving shoppers to your products and having them purchase again and again.
Failing to communicate to consumers what you do differently is a mistake you don’t want to make.
I cover coming up with a USP fully in HOW TO SELL HANDMADE BEYOND FRIENDS & FAMILY and get you started on finding yours in the free 5-day challenge BEAT LAST YEAR’S SALES.
If you’re making any of the mistakes mentioned in the article, the free challenge and ebook will be good tools for you.
It’s been over 3 years since I posted this article, and it continues to get comments from business owners wondering if they’ve got their USP right.
Based on the comments and the thought I’ve put into answering questions and exploring what makes a great USP, I have a few more common mistakes I’d like to highlight.
This article started as 3 mistakes has now turned into 8. I hope you find the added content helpful!
USP MISTAKE #1 – THINKING “UNIQUE” MEANS NO ONE ELSE SELLS IT
I hear/read a lot of crafters saying:
“I know what I sell is unique, but I’m just not making sales”
Here’s the truth:
The number of truly unique products on the market is very low. Unless you’re inventing a product no one has ever heard of, your product probably isn’t that unique.
And if it really is unique and you can’t find a single business out there selling something similar, it may mean there isn’t enough demand.
You DO NOT have to come up with something that has never been done before in order to make sales. In fact, I’d encourage you NOT to.
“Never been done” or “can’t find it anywhere” means you’re blazing your own trail. That’s very challenging, time-consuming, and expensive.
Marketing a product that no one else is selling means you must build a new bandwagon, get it moving, and encourage enough people to jump on it that they keep the momentum going and tell others about it.
Piggybacking on the popularity of a product that has been done makes for a much easier ride.
Don’t go so far outside of the box, in an attempt to be unique, that consumers don’t understand your product.
You can take an ordinary product (e.g. a bar of soap) and put a unique spin on it by making it for a specific group of people.
For example, I could take a bar of soap and make it for gardeners. The scents, shapes, names, packaging, etc. would follow a garden theme.
Most bars of soap appeal to a very big target market (if any at all; many soaps aren’t made with anyone particular in mind). By simply appealing to a smaller target market (gardeners), it puts a unique spin on my product.
It also gives me unique places to market and sell my products that my competitors aren’t using.
For example, I can reach my target market in garden & flower shops, in gardening magazines and gardening blogs, at Home & Garden events, etc.
Finding a good target market is often the key to putting a unique spin on an “ordinary” product.
* How to Find a Goldmine of Customers will help you find a profitable target market.
Sometimes, your unique factor won’t actually be all that unique. Simply pointing out something your competitors aren’t, can give your business a unique angle.
Just look at Smartfood Popcorn. They market their bagged popcorn as a smart/healthy snack choice (presumably, when compared to the bags of chips they sit next to on the grocery shelf). But all air-popped popcorn is (typically) healthier than chips. Because Smartpop Popcorn pointed it out first, consumers saw their product as unique and were drawn to it.
USP MISTAKE #2 – THINKING “HANDMADE” MAKES THEIR PRODUCTS UNIQUE
“Handmade” or “one of a kind” is NOT a USP. Every handmade vendor’s product is “handmade” or has an element of being one of a kind because of the inconsistencies created when a product is made by hand.
“Handmade” is also not the main reason a consumer buys a product.
If you put an item in front of someone and they don’t need it, they’re not going to say: “Oh it’s handmade? Now I want it.”
Handmade products often require consumers to spend more money than they need to. So your unique factor should be something that makes them want to spend more money.
Being handmade may have perks, such as supporting a local community, being better quality than mass-produced products, or having less impact on the environment than products made in a factory, which can encourage a consumer to buy.
But “handmade” doesn’t clearly spell those perks out.
If you’re going to focus on one of the benefits of being handmade for your unique factor, be sure it’s something your target market cares about.
For example, someone buying a handmade necklace because it follows a trend Miley Cyrus was seen wearing, probably doesn’t care as much about that necklace being the best quality or how buying it helps support a local economy. They just want to look stylish and trendy.
USP MISTAKE #3 – NOT HAVING ONE
Not taking the time to craft a powerful USP is a mistake many small businesses make.
But a mistake that’s even more common is not taking the time to create products that have a unique angle.
When you simply offer something hundreds of other vendors offer, you’re more likely to hear:
“I could make that”
“I’ll just ask so-and-so to make one….she knits/sews/crafts/etc.”
“I can find it cheaper at the mall”
If you want to run a successful craft business that stands the test of time, you should be constantly brushing up on your skills to move beyond the basic crafter and offer something not every crafty person can make.
Or create something that’s specialized/niche enough that not every big box store carries it.
Handmade businesses are gaining popularity because they’re simple and cheap to start (as outlined in LAWS FOR SELLING HANDMADE), and don’t require a lot of startup capital or years and years of training.
That means more competition for you.
LOTS of people know how to sew, knit, put beads on a string, etc. so there’s no urgency for consumers to buy from you if they can easily find a similar item at any craft show, on Etsy, etc.
But if you really dedicate yourself to your business and invest in training to learn new skills, research new trends, become a branding expert, etc. it becomes easier to find that unique angle that’s not already covered by every knitter, sewer, jewelry maker, etc.
Once you find that angle, stick with it.
Offering one vegan bar of soap for animal lovers among 20 regular bars of soap doesn’t build a strong brand, mass followers, or a loyal audience.
When you determine your unique selling position, don’t forget to communicate it!
Your USP should strongly influence your branding and come through in almost every aspect of your business.
Not sure how to come up with a sale-provoking USP or how to apply it. It’s all covered in HOW TO SELL HANDMADE BEYOND FRIENDS & FAMILY.
Not sure if HOW TO SELL HANDMADE BEYOND FRIENDS & FAMILY is for you? Join the free challenge BEAT LAST YEAR’S SALES for a sample and a few key lessons from it.
USP MISTAKE #4 – NOT BEING EXCLUSIVE ENOUGH
Your USP, and all the ways it’s communicated, should not only tell people who your business and products are for, but it should also indicate who it’s not for.
You could actually take your USP in that direction and use who your business is NOT for as a way to stand out.
Imagine an ice cream company deciding their products are NOT for the health nut.
That would be a unique marketing angle and help them highlight a feature of their products.
WARNING: Not for the Health Nut.
Rich and indulgent ice cream for when you really want to cheat on your diet.
That’s a product label or marketing text that would really stand out.
Who your products aren’t for doesn’t have to be a part of your USP. But it can help you narrow down who they are for and discover a unique angle.
Here are some more examples:
- Jewelry – a sophisticated line of bridal jewelry may not be for younger generations. Highlighting that it’s for women getting married later in life could create a unique angle.
- Bags – bags with lots of pockets for organization and a spot for everything may not be for the casual traveler, but rather for someone who’s on the road more than they are at home. Or maybe…not just for any student, but for the extremely organized student.
- Art prints – sets of art prints that are thoughtfully curated may not be for the fine art lover, but rather for someone who doesn’t have an eye for art and needs help making it look like they do.
- Bath & body products – a line of unscented skincare products may not be for people who just prefer light scents, but rather, for people who absolutely, positively can’t stand any scent.
- Pet products – a line of cat toys may not be for someone who simply has a cat as a pet, it’s for people who are obsessed with their cat and consider them a member of the family.
Businesses and products that are for everyone, or even everyone within a target market (e.g. everyone who’s a cat owner), will have a hard time being unique.
You must first narrow down your target market (this will teach you a unique way to find a profitable target market).
Then, in most cases, you must find a segment within that target market.
Who those people are will be a defining aspect of your USP.
USP MISTAKE #5 – THINKING IT’S A SLOGAN OR TAGLINE
You should be able to summarize your USP into a short tagline, and your USP will influence your tagline, but a USP is not a tagline.
Your USP should be the heart and soul of your business.
It’s what influences your business’s:
- Sales channels
When brainstorming a USP, forget trying to fit it into one short and clever sentence.
Start by being wording and clearly communicating what’s different about your products; so you have a clear picture.
Once you’ve decided on the main point you want to communicate, then you can start refining to create a tagline.
USP MISTAKE #6 – THINKING IT’S ABOUT YOU
Another common mistake I see when business owners are summarizing their USP is that they make it all about them.
“I make….”, “I do….”, “I am…”, etc.
You’re in business to serve a customer.
That customer cares about themselves, how your products fit into their lives, and how your products will make their life better in some way.
Some personal stories can build a connection with your target market, but even so, it’s best to lead with the customer.
For example, I wouldn’t need to tell my personal story of how every face wash I tried left my skin feeling tight, dry, and itchy, so I came up with my own formula. Simply stating that my Face wash won’t leave your skin tight, dry, and itchy, will tell my target market I know exactly what they’re dealing with.
Always put your customer first.
>> What do they care about?
>> What will encourage them to buy?
>> How are they hoping your products can improve their lives?
Help your customers reach their goals; that’s how you’ll reach yours.
USP MISTAKE #7 – TRYING TO FIT A SQUARE PEG INTO A ROUND HOLE
It’s okay if your current business and/or products don’t quite have a unique angle that’s marketable (i.e. a unique angle that consumers care about).
But it’s important to be open to adjusting.
Don’t try to fit a square peg into a round hole.
Meaning, if the products you’re currently selling don’t have a unique angle, don’t make up a USP to fit those products.
You won’t end up with an effective USP.
For example, let’s say I currently make bars of soap. They use basic ingredients, follow basic recipes/techniques, and have basic packaging.
I may force a USP such as: “I carefully craft small batches of soap in my studio. Each bar is unique, just like you.”
That USP may be true to my current business.
However, it’s not a USP that’s going to attract shoppers and encourage sales.
Instead, I may focus on my soap’s ingredients and infuse each soap I make with tea. I would make the colors, scents, ingredients, names, labels, etc., tea-focused.
It’s just one small change, but now I have a unique angle for my entire business.
My products are different from (almost) every other bar of soap on the market, they’re a great gift for tea-lovers, I could approach local tea shops and cafes about stocking my products, etc.
For a business to constantly grow, it must constantly change.
Making adjustments to craft a powerful USP is just part of the change.
And it’s an important one.
Don’t force a USP out of your existing business/products.
USP MISTAKE #8 – GETTING A BIT TOO COMPLICATED
The way you summarize your USP should be simple, clear, and most importantly, customer-focused.
Sometimes we make our USP’s a bit too complicated in an attempt to make them sound unique.
When you think you’ve landed on a USP, ask yourself this:
>> Would your customers type something similar into Google when searching for your products?
>> Would they tell a friend, “I’m really looking for….(your USP here)”.
Using my soap example, would someone shop for “bars of soap that are as unique as I am”?
If by some chance they did, would they buy when they get to my shop and realize there’s nothing different about my bars of soap?
If someone wants a basic bar of handmade soap, they’re likely going to buy from the vendor with the lowest price.
If your USP doesn’t actually apply to your target market’s life, it won’t be of much use.
What’s your USP? Share what you sell and your unique selling position in the comment section. If you can’t put it into words or clearly communicate it in a sentence or two, your USP may need some work.
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!
I create hand carved, blockprinted 100% linen tea towels. I also custom design blocks on commission for printing on the tea towels, or small throw pillows. I’d like to expand to include tablecloths and napkins and runners to have a broader price range. But all on 100% linen and all my own blocks. My designs are a direct reflection of my personality; quirky, whimsical, maybe a little odd! How’s that sound??
My usp needs work, but I’m getting there. I’m closer now than I was 6 months ago!
That’s great to hear Beth!
Hi Kathi! Your tea towels sound awesome 🙂 A quick suggestion that might help with your USP is focusing more on your ideal customer and what’s in it for them. They may not understand the benefit of “all my own blocks” or maybe even why 100% linen should matter to them.
Who are you making your tea towels for and what’s the best reason they should buy your them instead of another business’? A bit of a tougher question to answer;) but it’s key to uncover what your consumers truly care about and communicate it.
Hi Erin! At 5 Elements Jewellery I hand-pick semi-precious stones, sea glass and shells, and wrap them in strands of precious metal to create highly distinctive jewellery, inspired by the elements and hand-crafted with heart.
Does that sound ok? It has taken me a while just to get to this point!
Thanks, Erin! I guess “my own blocks” isn’t really a selling point! I’ll do some research on why I choose linen over cotton. I can see that being a pretty good point. I personally just love the feel of the linen, but that’s not going to sell it. Some of my designs are focused mostly on our locale, Maine, so that’s a selling point, as we are a high tourist community. The ‘who’ would mostly include women in the kitchen, plus, when I add the table cloths and other table linens, it would expand to folks who entertain and want to have a unique, Maine inspired table setting. Is that closer?
(Thank you so much for your feedback!!!)
I’m Suzi in Vancouver Washington. Men like to cook too especially seafood on the grill; linen is high quality so lasts a long time and will help your customers keep hands clean while cooking with seafood, grease, butter. The block prints are to make the customers feel like they are always in Maine; even if in NYC in winter but they’re cooking lobster for friends. It sets the mood and fits in the decor for the theme of the meal.
Your ebook has helped me so much! Especially right before a big show when I get frantic trying to make too many pieces. (I dye, paint and felt silk then make clothing from the fabric)
Your book and timely articles help keep me from losing my mind!
Thanks, great info. Now to go and refine my collection…
That’s so great to hear Nancy! Thanks for your support and good luck at your upcoming events!
Hi Lorraine! That’s a good start; I would try to work more of your ideal customer in. Who is going to wear your jewelry? What type of style do they have? What’s the benefit of buying your semi-precious stone jewelry over another vendor’s?
That’s great Kathi, I think you’re getting closer! I would challenge you to think about your ideal customer more and really narrow in on who your products are perfect for. Because “women in the kitchen” applies to everyone (we all go in the kitchen right?;) as does “people who entertain” (most of us entertain once and a while).
How would you describe “Maine inspired”? But more importantly, how would your customers describe their home décor style? That’s how most people shop for tea towels or table linens. Maybe “Maine inspired” translates into Cape Cod style or nautical style?
Someone wants to update their table linens or purchase new tea towels; what do they type into a search bar that brings them to your products? What specifically are they looking for? You don’t have to spell out who your towels are for (e.g. tea towels for middle aged women who like to cook) but rather include an aspect that they’re most likely to identify with when purchasing your product, which might be loving nautical decor.
Making artisan dog treats in the Italian tradition with simple natural ingredients, love, and, compassion.
Hi Erin! My sister and I both used to have creative businesses and then took about a 10 year break to have lots of babies lol. Now we’ve decided to collaborate by making and selling under the name “Blythe House 1860” (named after my historic home). We have a clear idea of what we want to create but have had a hard time expressing it in clear, concise words. We make a variety of heirloom, timeless pieces, from children’s toys to home décor, with emphasis being on the fact that anything we create is reusable, heirloom quality that can be passed down through generations. Although we make a lot of different items, we’re hoping to brand a “lifestyle” rather than a product…does that make sense? We’re hoping to inspire a creative, simple, and hospitable way of life and our ideal customer is someone that values quality, simplicity, and beauty over “fads” and just more “stuff”. Lol, see? It’s hard to put down in words! We’ve really made use of all of your extremely helpful articles! Thoughts?
I feel the answer is in the explanations. Your USP: Heirloom quality toys, gifts and home decor to pass down generations.
I like the way you’ve phrased that; a lifestyle brand. It may help if you can communicate the benefit consumers will care about most when it comes to your pieces. What will tug at their heartstrings (or purse strings;) the most?
For example, if you take “quality”, do they care most about being able to see their children and then one day, grandchildren, play with classic toys that spark their creativity? Saving money? That it means high quality materials that are safe to play with? Whichever product feature your products all have and you believe are most important to your customers, find a way to translate that feature into “how does this make my life better/easier?”
Hope that helps!
I am refining my product and have worked on designing an apron for the “Urban Gardener,” it’s a harvest/gathering apron that is pulled up to hold one’s flowers, herbs and veggies. I’ve only posted photos on my Instagram & FB page and people are commenting “I need one!”
I did not recreate the “wheel” but instead used a 1944 farmers’ bulletin and made it in my own brand/style. It did take a bit of time to figure out how I wanted it to gather and be my style instead of just copying the exact apron. So, my USP is a “Gathering Apron for the Urban Gardener”.
Erin!! I did some research on linen vs. cotton. This is what I came up with, in my own words:
“Linen is made from the flax plant. The very long fibers within the woody stalk are harvested and spun into thread that is so durable, it’s even used in making paper money for strength! This means linen will last 10 times longer if cared for properly. As a natural fiber, it is wonderfully absorbent and excellent at wicking away moisture. You may think that cotton is the better absorber, and you might be right (but just barely), but cotton is also riddled with pesticides and requires more water waste, making linen the more eco-friendly of the two.”
I’m still working on the “who” that I’m working for. But I really appreciate all of your input. You’ve really made me think, and that’s a good thing!!
Hi Kathi, just reading over the page and comments, and learning a lot from it all. I think your text sounds fabulous!! I wouldn’t change a thing in it (maybe part of the mission statement?), apart from adding the “who” (maybe in a separate paragraph?)
That makes me actually wonder, @Erin: would you use the USP text as a mission statement as such? And if so, would you include the “who” definition?
Thanks so much for your feedback! That helps!
Rich – those dog treats sound great! One angle you may consider for your USP is the benefit that “simple natural ingredients” mean to the dog. For example “so your dog can eat like a member of the family”, “caring for what you put in your dogs body, just as you do your own”, “for a healthier dog digestive system”, etc.
Jo – thanks for reading! Sounds like you’ve got a great product if there’s already demand before it’s even hit the market. What type of gardener do you plan to market to? Admittedly, I do not have a green thumb 😉 So I’m not familiar with what a “gathering apron” is or the benefits of it over a regular garden apron. But if your target market has a much greener thumb than I do and knows right away what a “gathering apron” is and the benefit, that may be a great USP. Otherwise you could explore why a gathering apron is better than a regular apron or why your gathering apron is better than those already on the market:)
Kathi – Glad I’m making you think;) Your comments have made me think too so I appreciate you taking the time to write. I’m working on a mini ebook to help explain the exact steps to creating a powerful USP and am having to challenge my thinking to uncover what makes a USP great and sale provoking. Keep me posted as you uncover your “who”.
Lindi – So glad it was helpful! Feel free to pop back and comment as you refine your USP:)
Great post by the way! So informative! I sell original hand printed abstract greeting cards, graphic design cards, writing paper, and intuitive art pieces. Maybe to get an idea, as it’s hard to picture and for me to get myself a USP… look at my Facebook page. (Which is my email above) If you could do that. Explaining it is a hard one!! Sorry to be vague. Your feedback would be so much appreciated Erin. This is also why I’ve kept my brand to my name also. Ally Brighton Art
I repurpose clothing into useful items for all ages and sexes such as burp cloths, adult clothing protectors, quilts, bandanas and more to encourage recycling, use less natural resources and decrease waste to landfills. Please provide any assistance! Thank you!
My very first tradeshow will be this month and your worksheet has helped get the ideas flowing and give me some direction for what I want. Thank you so much.
My usp is some thing like:
My photography is a reflection on the simple beauty of the world and the small moments that make a big difference. I create tiny books of photographs that focus on the little things in life.
What if one make ‘one of a kind’ Fashion Jewelry where They don’t make any 2 items the same? (Also making custom items as well. I don’t make the same style unless its in another color which would still cover the ‘one of a kind’
Thanks for reading! “one of a kind” doesn’t make for a strong USP because it doesn’t share the benefit. Most consumers aren’t that concerned about being the only one in the world to own an item. It may help to think about the target market your products are for or the specific style your jewelry falls under.
Hope that helps!
I make liquid Showergel bath bar soap , and laundry liquid. I just can’t get the words into paper. I can customise the soap to suit different people and I use high quality and certified organic ingredients too. I only use sustainable vegetable oils, no synthetics, high quality or organic essential oils. Ensuring that my soaps do not add to the burden of the dep lotion of our environment by not using palm oil. Holistic health and Conservation is a passion of mine and I may be one person but any small changes are better than none.
Please help me pick out my unique selling points
It may help to think about who your customer is and what they care about most. Are they an environmentalist? Share the benefit of your soaps being good for the environment.
Are they strict about what they put on their skin because of the impact it has to their health or on their sensitive skin; point out that benefit.
Hope that helps!
For craft shows I make several crocheted items – goldfish in a jar (“No Fuss, No Flush Fishies”) crochet and macrame earrings and necklaces and keychains. I also sew zipper pouches. Sounds kind of random but I will be suggesting Christmas giving, think stocking stuffers, for most of my items. The USP however, is that for the most part I use materials that no one wanted (gathered from estate sales, second hand stores, etc.) into unique gifts no one else has.
To state that clearer – almost everything I make uses leftover, discarded or unwanted yarns, threads and fabric. Think the stash your Granny had that no one knew what to do with when she didn’t need them anymore.
I have learned so much from your blog/e-books. Thank you for sharing them .
Thank you so much for the article.
I am making jewelry for professional women in early 30s that work in the corporate markets, trendy and chic, mid level income, single, focused on career, loves to travel, and gin and tonic with cucumber and has girl friends that live similar lifestyle.
We propose them silver and semi precious stone jewelry, I would say Scandinavian minimalist designs, and we’re produced in Bali…
At the moment, I don’t have an USP yet, I am not sure if Scandinavian design is really a thing or producing in Bali? I have an amiable personality I believe, and people love to hang out with me because I bring people’s confidence, make them feel important, always smiling, I can make memorable events out of simple shared moment…I am pretty lost, I feel like people only buy my jewelry because they’re friends of my friends and cheap…
Great job defining your ideal customer! I think that “Scandinavian style” or “Produced in Bali” may be a part of your USP, but not all of it. It tells the consumer what makes your products different but not why they should care about them. How does buying jewelry from you, benefit them more than buying from another vendor? It’s not easy to find these answers but that’s why they deserve your attention. Once you find a valid USP, it impacts your entire business and creates clarity.
Hi Erin, Your articles are amazing. I can always learn a thing or two from you. My jewelry is aimed at the working woman, ones desiring to procure a higher position. I am a firm believer in dressing to fit the position you desire. My USP says: Take your look a step up. Add Sparkles accessories to show quality and uniqueness. Get noticed! What do you think?
Thanks so much for your support! What I thought as I read your USP is: I wonder what her jewelry looks like. That may be another helpful tip as you refine your USP. How would you describe the style or look of your jewelry?
As it reads right now, I’m not sure if your jewelry is a fit for me. Most people do wear jewelry to refine their look and even to be noticed. So if you can get more specific about how your jewelry specifically does that and who it does it for, that may also help.
You don’t necessarily need to use “workingwoman” but the fact that your jewelry is for a working professional doesn’t quite come through yet. And what type of working professional? Do they wear a suit? Colorful dresses? A uniform and can only personalize it through accessories?
I hope that helps…USP is a tough one to nail down but it’s worth it!
I have yet to even do one craft sale or trade show and am hoping to do my homework before I even get started. There’s many things I love to create so narrowing it down to something that’s not too broad of an assortment while still giving myself some options for a bit of change is going to be my issue… How does this sound??
In a world where we constantly strive to earn more, buy more, have more, why not step back from the frenzy and create a space in your home that is less busy, less cluttered and more relaxing? We aim to do just that by creating simply styled functional products to help bring a sense of “natural” order and minimalist charm to your home.
I think that’s sounding great! A couple suggestions:
I’m not sure what you sell. “simply styled functional products” could mean a lot of things. Are you selling home decor? Kitchen accessories?
Also, who are your products for? You don’t have to come right out and say “for men aged 30 – 40” but are you targeting a bachelor, parents, working woman? There may be a way to work that in, such as “…minimalist charm to your family home” or “bachelor pad” or “small space” (signifying it’s likely a single person). Describing products as “masculine” or “feminine” can also help communicate if men or women tend to purchase your products.
Hi Erin…your website is fantastic & giving me lots of great tips. My friend & I have our first market stall next month. We both make candles, mine in mason jars & hers in vintage tea cups. I also make vintage inspired cards which will also be for sale. We are going with a vintage theme, funnily enough 😉 I had to write a description for the organiser today, does this have some of the right elements for our USP…”Hand poured vintage tea cup & mason jar candles, made from natural soy wax and premium fragrance oils. Complimented by a beautiful collection of unique handmade cards for every occasion”.
I love your articles. They inspire me a lot with my bag making business.
I make bags out of cork as well as fabric. I also make scarves, jewelry and other homegoods (made out of fabric).
Is this too much to display in one booth or should I just stick to cork products (my USP…have made a banner of it following your suggestion!)?
If I should stick to cork products (since my banner screams cork), what do I do with the rest of my inventory?
Eagerly waiting for your reply.
Thanks for reading! Your cork products sound great!
Only you can determine how much is too much to display (use sales numbers to determine what works best), however, I generally like to think about the shopping purpose your craft show booth is serving and not try to serve too many.
The reason being, shoppers tend to go shopping with one purpose in mind (unless they’re heading to a mall when they can shop from a wide range of businesses). They may go shopping for a new outfit, or to decorate a room in their house, or to buy jewelry, but not typically to do all three.
You want your booth to clearly tell shoppers what you sell and fulfill one shopping purpose.
When testing what sells better, try filling the majority of your display with your best selling products. Your other products can either be left out of the display or have a small space at the end of your table (e.g. displaying just a couple items with overstock stored behind or under the table).
Track your sales numbers (and how many people stop in your booth), so you can determine if the products you displayed helped you convert more or fewer shoppers into customers. For example, a display with a lot of variety may attract more shoppers but have fewer buyers. If you track shoppers that stop at your table and sales, you can calculate the conversion rate of your craft show booth, which is the number that really matters.
I hope that helps!
Hey Erin, Farmhouse&Main is a small boutique furniture manufacturing co. specializing in customizable, modern and urban farmhouse style furniture. Our furniture is handcrafted using responsibly sourced solid hardwoods and VOC free non-toxic finishes that will not leave rings and is completely repairable without re-finishing the whole piece of furniture. Thank you!
I love your USP! Not only does it align with what consumers are searching/shopping for (e.g. people decorate their homes in a modern farmhouse style and will search for “modern farmhouse” decor, furniture, etc.), you’re also appealing to a growing interest of eco-friendly products, which helps set your business apart from other companies offering modern farmhouse furniture.
It also creates great marketing opportunities for your business. E.g., you could send a press release to Modern Farmhouse Magazine or pitch an article idea to a Green Living magazine covering ways to make a home more eco-friendly or the environmental benefits of consumers choosing your eco-friendly furniture over mass-produced items stores like Ikea sell. There are popular hashtags, groups, boards, and influencers in the “modern farmhouse” and “green living/eco-friendly/etc.” categories on social media. And those topics give you lots of content ideas for your social media pages, newsletters, blog, etc. because people are interested in seeing inspirational photos of a room decorated in modern farmhouse style, learning tips for decorating a home in modern farmhouse style, being kept up-to-date on the latest modern farmhouse trends, etc.
Great example, thanks for sharing!
Thanks for the reply, Erin! Gosh! You are so full of ideas and tips! 🙂
Hi, Erin. This is all so new to me, and your articles (I currently have 31 tabs open in my browser) have already opened my eyes! I have done nothing except try different crafts at home. What I have discovered is that there are loads of things I love to do and can do relatively well, but very little at which I excel.
I am a school teacher who is about to retire. However, retirement, for me, doesn’t mean to stop learning or stop growing or stop working. I would like to continue being productive creatively. One of the things I “landed” upon was to create “toddler toys”. You see, I am also a grandmother to five. I know the draw of purchasing toys that will be used again and again. I understand the importance of learning.
Sorry for the “not-so-Reader’s Digest” introduction. As I ramble, I suppose I’m showing my complete lack of direction. Anyway, my idea is to create (because I LOVE Christmas) a felt Christmas tree with felt decorations in various shapes and colors. In this way, toddlers could decorate their own tree. This idea is not unique to me. What is unique is that I am marketing it as a learning opportunity also…colors, shapes, organization (the box for the ornaments will have pictures of the shapes for each section), spatial awareness, shape recognition, color recognition, creativity and counting. I also plan to offer a customizable version of the ornaments. I will use the fact that I’ve taught forever. I will point out the different learning styles that the product will cover. I will proclaim the importance of making learning fun. My long-term goal would be to also expand to create similar items for other holidays and seasons, games and learning opportunities.
Clearly, my target audience is grandmothers, aunts, uncles, and younger parents…perhaps even teachers.
Any suggestions to this complete newbie would be greatly appreciated! And thanks for the loads of information I’ve gleaned from your articles already!
It sounds like a great idea! I think you’re headed in the right direction by focusing on what parents/grandparents will want to hear, as opposed to focusing on you/what you do.
It’s great that you’re a school teacher and that will help you create an amazing product. But your target market will be more interested in what their children get out of the products, rather than what your background is. Your explanation shows that you already get that, so you’re on the right path!
I’m not familiar with how much competition you’ll have in the interactive/learning Christmas tree department, so that might be your next step. Are there other businesses offering this product? Are they doing well? And how can you differentiate your business/products from them, to target a different segment of your target market (e.g. a specific age, a specific learning style, a specific decorating/home decor style, etc.).
And also figuring out how you will reach your target market, or which keywords your target market is searching to find an interactive Christmas tree for toddlers.
I hope that helps!
I use vintage doilies to cover naked lampshade frames. Each one is as different as the individual doilies used. Most of the doilies I use came from my great-grandmother and I can remember her crocheting them when I was a child. The lampshades I create cast beautiful shadows from the light that comes through.
Thanks for reading and commenting! Your lampshades sound beautiful! One thing I would suggest, is to consider your target market and the product feature they will care about. All doilies are typically each a different pattern and although you have fond memories of your great-grandmother crocheting the doilies, your target market won’t have that same connection.
People typically shop for lamps/lampshades based on the style of their home or the decor style they want the lampshade to follow. Perhaps that’s where you can start when it comes to finding your target market and pointing out a feature that’s most important to them.
I hope that helps!
Hi Erin! Hope I’m not too late to the party. After reading your blog and the comments and tour responses to these other great businesses, I believe I have created a couple good USPs and would love your feedback. At Smart Me Educational Products we created and designed Math/Reading workbooks for Pre-K thru 5th Grade, Interactive Puzzles, Backpacks, T-Shirts, and our hot selling Learning Buddies. All these products are inspired by my youngest sister Melia who was born with Down Syndrome. The USP/slogan I came up with for the company is “Learning made fun for EVERY child…from the challenged to the gifted” I also made a product specific USP for the Learning Buddies which is “A friend to learn with, a friend to play with, a friend to love” please let me know how these sound I am excited to hear your feedback. Thanks
Thanks for reading! Your business and products sound great! One thing that stood out to me when reading your USP, and that triggered another important point about USP’s, is that they should exclude a group of people. Or in other words, your business shouldn’t be for everyone.
Right now, your products are for “every” child. That makes your products compete with a lot of other businesses, and probably some big corporations. So you may find it beneficial to target a specific group of parents.
You’ll want to base the segment of parents you target on stats so you can be sure there is a big enough market. (This article may help: https://www.madeurban.com/blog/how-to-determine-if-your-target-market-is-big-enough/).
But for example, perhaps there’s a market that’s not tapped into when it comes to learning workbooks and tools that are targeted towards parents with children who have learning disabilities. Or parents of children with a specific learning style (e.g. visual learning style). Or perhaps you can be the “anti” version of your competitors (e.g. Leapfrog is electronic learning and maybe your tools get children off computers and using their imaginations).
For the dolls, you may again want to get more specific and explain why your dolls are different than a regular doll. How do they help your child learn? Or how do they work together with your workbooks/puzzles?
I hope that helps!
I’m just sending you❤️ and a big for sharing your insightful marketing perceptions so freely. I’m learning so much. May you have many blessings for your generosity
Thank you so much Caroline! That means a lot 🙂
I’m so glad you’re finding my advice helpful!
Tired of having to cut your salt intake and food flavor? Try my organic Finishing Salt or my Smoked Apple wood salt for flavors that don’t require volume..just a sprinkle yet put the BAM back where it belongs…on your tongue. Foodies love it!!
I have had a lifelong love of dachshunds and they are a very popular breed so I’m not alone! I love to buy products featuring dachshunds (wiener dogs) but they are hard to find among a sea of items in pet shops and home decor stores. This led me to start Wiener Dog Wares, a business dedicated solely to dachshund themed products. WDW carries clothing and accessories, home decor, kitchenware, jewelry, and products for the wiener dogs themselves.
My tagine is “Hail to the Dachshund ” because anyone who has owned one knows that they expect it! 🙂
I have been selling at craft shows for several years but needed more direction on setting up a better display. I read your articles on that topic and have been purchasing the items I need to make that happen. I plan on sending you before and after photos. My first show is is less than a month. Thanks so much for the highly useful advice on being a handmade seller. I’ll keep you posted!
Help! Your article is amazing and I understand what you are saying. I probably have to fix a different problem first. I am a leather artist and have products in different categories and probably need to narrow down to one, but any one doesn’t seem to attract enough sales at any art show. I make 3D leather flowers, 2d and 3D leather wall art, leather embossed re-usable covers for sketchbooks/journals, and then key fobs and ornaments (my lower price point items.
If I only do the flowers, then “flowers that stay looking beautiful without fading or dying”.
The wall art is interesting because it has more texture and dimensions than a photograph or paint on canvas…. But many people only think it is cool once they know it is leather.
Sketchbooks and journals…. No ideas
Thanks for reading! You don’t necessarily need to narrow your product selection down to one category, especially if each type of product sells well. It would be beneficial to have on theme that ties all your products together (aside from them all being leather). That will create more cohesion, encourage multi-item sales, and help attract customers who are interested in ALL your products and will come back to buy more.
I would base your decision/direction on numbers. Highest sales, profits, search volume, etc. Before you focus on, for example, leather sketchbooks and journals, make sure there’s a market for it first.
I build wood things like Noodle Boards and bath tub trays, lazy Susan’s and welcome sign planters. Every wood item is Intricately hand painted with stain. I also sell crochet stuffed animals that are all made with either blanket yarn or velvet yarn. All my products are very high quality but I’m still unsure how to phrase it. Mostly what I say is “all wood items are hand painted with stain, a feature that is hard to find else-wear”
Hey Erin! Thanks for sharing all this valuable knowledge! I make jewelry and have had a hard time defining my USP.
My jewellery is colorful, eccentric and has a bold, graphic and cartoonish look. I think this comes from my experience in illustration, but I don’t know if that is relevant to my customers or not. I would say my target audience are people with a youthful spirit, that are interested in art, indie music and cinema, nostalgic about their childhood, have a relaxed, fun and playful style, and look for ways to dress creatively and express their individuality through what they wear.
The jewelry is entirely handmade with polymer clay, which not only makes it really durable, but it fits into this playful, nostalgic and childlike narrative I’m trying to express with my brand. The quality is really good, even if the material is not a luxury or expensive one (also not sure if that’s important to my clients).
I also sell my illustration work as art prints, which fit into the same aesthetic, but I’m not sure if I should be selling both things in the same place/under the same name.
Even after this explanation, I’m not sure what my USP might be, I hope you can guide me in the right direction please!
Your jewelry sounds great! I don’t see a clear path to your USP based on your description, but may be able to offer some direction to help you carve a new path.
It sounds like you’ve defined your ideal customer, but have you determined your target market?
To clarify, I view a target market as an existing group of people that businesses are currently marketing to. There are defined markets already, it’s important to tap into them. Once you determine a target market, then you can find a niche within it based on ideal customer details.
For example, brides, yogis, teachers, artists, etc. are target markets, whereas “a youthful spirit” is a characteristic of the people within a target market. You can easily find and market to brides, or yogis, or teachers. It’s very hard to find people with a youthful spirit when marketing your products.
Unless you can focus your products around a characteristic you’ve described (e.g. how do your products relate to indie music?), those characteristics won’t be helpful in defining your USP, or ultimately, help you sell more products.
A USP should focus on your target market, so in my opinion, that’s always the best place to start.
I think this article may help: https://www.madeurban.com/blog/every-craft-business-needs-one-of-these/
Once you define your target market, you can make a few tweaks to your products and business, which will help you create a unique angle.
For example, if you decide on teachers as your target market, you may find a niche within that such as elementary school teachers. Your jewelry may keep the bright colors, clay medium, nostalgia, and child-like features, but become more school focused than “fashion focused”. Your jewelry might follow school subject themes (e.g. math; earrings are in the shape of numbers or plus and minus signs).
Sometimes there isn’t a clear path to a USP and it involves some tweaking. If you’re happy with your sales, defining your USP may not be as important. But if you’re looking for more sales, simply defining a USP to fit your existing business won’t work; you’ll need to change more than just your tagline.
I hope that helps!
“The quotes on my artwork can be personalised to add names and dates or write your own verse entirely… Create the ultimate sentimental gift offering”
My competition sometimes offer personalisation too but not to the degree I do and not with every product, so this, I believe, is truly a USP.
Although, ironically I think it detracts from the design of the art! BUT nobody else has it and it sells, so I may as well shout about it. Sales are virtually non existant, however, lately, which landed me on your website and I’ve been engrossed for hours. Really useful stuff 🙂
Thanks for reading D! I agree and think that consumers value sentimental gifts and would see it as a benefit. And exactly. You don’t have to be the only one offering something for it to be unique. Sometimes it’s just a matter of being the only one communicating a USP (or communicating it the clearest).
I have a fashion jewelry business. Many jewelry designs I wanted were very high priced and I couldnt afford them as a student. So I wanted to make similiar designs (Contemporary & with lab grown zirconia stones, high quality and water resistant) affordable for all women. I design dem by myself and despite the fact that the plannet and sustainability and matters a lot to me I can´t affort a manufacturer who produces 100% recicled silver and gold. I struggle with finding my USP and communicate it clearly. Only aesthetics and a cute environmental friendly packaging seems not enough and specific for defining my USP.
I make pottery (and teach pottery) in a beach resort area where everyone slaps seashells on everything. I’m trying to rebrand myself as being eco conscious as I find ways to make my studio, process and product more sustainable and earth friendly. Of course clay is organic, but the glazes are not-can I call my product organic? I’ve begun gearing my product to people who enjoy the outside(bird houses, feeders, baths, hanging garden items, bee/pollinator cups) being on the go (travel mugs, to-go tumblers, reusable utensils) and living simply (rockfish platters-that come with a native rockfish recipe, crocks for fresh bread, casserole dishes, lidded canisters & of course “regular pottery” for the home)I am trying to find a way to convey this to my patrons. So how does this sound as a USP:
Liquid Earth Studios (my dba kinda eludes to a hint at our mission)
We make heirloom quality, sustainable, lifetime, lifestyle products for people who not only live a simplistic life on planet Earth, but also LOVE where they live!
All your advice has been excellent guidance for my fledgling business, thank you so much for sharing it! My business is called The Stitching Hour, and I make cross-stitched necklaces, earrings, and small wall art in spooky designs- mushrooms, potions, moons, skulls, zodiac symbols, classic movie monsters, and other witchy/gothy things. I’ve been playing around with my tagline and think it outlines my USP pretty well: Cross-stitched curios for the magical and morbid.
I’d love to know what you think!
Your products sound really cool! One thing I would challenge you to think about when it comes to your USP and your target market is what they consider to be a benefit. Try to imagine your ideal customer and them saying “What do I get out of this product?”. What’s the perk for them? You’ve got the “what” and the “who” in your tagline. Explore the “why” or the benefit of your products. You know your target market the best but perhaps your products allow them to “express” their kooky or morbid side.
I hope that helps!