A piece of advice I often share is to refine your product line. Most handmade businesses I see are trying to offer too much selection.
But I understand a lot of people don’t want to scale back.
So if you insist on offering several different types of products, consider carrying a theme throughout them.
Benefits of a theme
A theme will simplify your business and give it a clear focus. Instead of going in a hundred different directions with your products (which lowers your profits), you have a clear path; create products that follow your chosen them.
A theme will also simplify your marketing. You’ll have a clear idea of where and how to market your themed products.
Aside from simplifying your business, a theme can also boost revenue in the following ways:
1 – Sets you apart
A theme will help your business be known for something.
For example, instead of a business that sells knitted hats, scarves, and mittens (which is one in a million), it’s the business that sells cat-themed hats, scarves, and mittens (e.g. cat ears stitched onto hats and paw patterns stitched into mittens).
Your business will become more memorable to consumers. And if they remember your business, they’re more likely to tell others about it and return to buy again.
2 – Creates cohesion
A theme ensures one common thread ties all your products together. This creates cohesion.
Cohesion creates a more professional business. And when consumers perceive your business to be more professional, they trust it enough to buy, and they are willing to spend more.
3 – Appeals to a specific consumer
Creating products that follow a theme will help you connect with a specific group of people (e.g. a cat theme connects with cat lovers/owners).
When your products connect with consumers, it’s much easier to make sales.
What’s considered a theme?
Based on my strategy for a handmade business, there aren’t many restrictions when it comes to themes.
A theme may be based on a person, place, or thing. For example:
- Style theme (e.g. modern, goth, or bohemian themed products)
- Occasion theme (e.g. wedding, birthday, or retirement themed products)
- Object/Symbol theme (e.g. unicorn, cacti, or fruit themed products)
- Career theme (e.g. dentist, teacher, or IT themed products)
- Hobby theme (e.g. yoga, bike riding, or knitting themed products)
- Interest or passion theme (e.g. environment, wine, or camping themed products)
- Era theme (e.g. 50’s themed products)
- Religion (e.g. Christianity products)
- Location/place theme (e.g. New York City, Greece, or the beach themed products)
- Person theme (e.g. grandpa, best friend, or mom themed products)
Rules for choosing a theme
As you can tell from the list above, there are many options when it comes to a theme. Try to follow these rules when choosing a theme for your products/business.
Rule #1 – The theme can be visually communicated
You should be able to visually communicate your theme through colors, symbols, icons, shapes, etc. that can be applied to product features.
For example, a cat theme can be represented through:
- triangle ears
- cat icons/illustrations
Those elements can be applied to different product features, depending on what a business owner creates. For example:
- triangle ears stitched onto knitted hats or headbands
- whiskers painted onto pottery mugs or bowls
- earrings and pendants in the shape of paws or stamped with a paw print
- baby clothes, bags, or other sewn goods made with cat-themed fabric
Your theme should be obvious when people look at your products and shouldn’t require an explanation.
Rule #2 – The theme is consistent
Applying a theme to one or two products will not have the same impact as applying a theme to every product you offer.
For example, one knitted cat-themed hat among dozens of regular hats will not create a business that’s known for its cat-themed products. Nor will it give cat lovers the selection they need to find a cat-themed product that works for them.
On the other hand, a craft show table or Etsy shop full of different “cat hat” designs will allow shoppers to find a color, shape, or style that’s a fit for them (e.g. owners of tabby cats will want an orange cat hat).
You should be able to apply the theme you choose to all of your products (or products within a collection) and even other parts of your business (e.g. logo, tagline, packaging, etc.).
Rule #3 – The theme is desirable to consumers
It’s important to start with a profitable target market and choose a theme that appeals to that market.
Your target market and theme may be based on the same thing.
For example, your target market may be cat owners and the theme that runs among all your products is a cat theme.
But a target market and theme aren’t always the same.
For example, a business may target cat owners but the theme that runs throughout the products may be based on a style. Such as modern farmhouse-style cat furniture for cat owners. The target market is cat owners while the theme is modern farmhouse.
When you start with a profitable target market, you ensure there is a market for your products.
You don’t want to choose a theme and find out no one is interested in buying products that follow that theme.
Research before you spend time and money creating your themed product line (here’s how: 5 Ways to Know if People will Buy your Handmade Product).
How to apply a theme
The more elements you apply a theme to, the stronger your message will be and the easier it will be to attract your ideal customer.
For example, a business selling one cat-themed product won’t attract as many cat lovers as a cat-themed business selling dozens of cat-themed products.
Step 1 – Define theme elements
Once you choose a theme, list all the ways it can be identified through visual elements and words.
For example, elements of a cat theme may be:
- Visual elements: cat ears, whiskers, paws, tails, color combinations (e.g. orange, black and white)
- Words: cat, feline, tabby, fur baby, etc.
Step 2 – Explore where to apply theme elements
Next, you can explore ways to communicate your theme through different parts of your products and business. For example, theme elements may be applied to:
- Product features: colors, shapes, materials, prints, etc.
- Text: business name, tagline, product names, product descriptions, etc.
- Business visuals: logo, website design, product photos, etc.
Step 3 – Apply your theme
A theme can be applied to a product collection, your entire line of products, or an entire business.
a) Product collection
Apply your theme to 3 – 5 products to create a collection.
For example, a jewelry business may test out a cat theme by introducing a small collection. They might offer 3 – 5 styles of necklaces, earrings, and/or rings that follow a cat theme.
The products within the collection would be displayed together at a craft show or grouped together in an online shop so shoppers are able to notice the theme.
If the products sell well, the jewelry maker would expand the collection.
b) Product line
Your theme may be applied to every product you offer.
For example, a jewelry business may only offer jewelry that follows a cat theme. Product collections may be based on types of cat (e.g. features that signify different breeds), or the colors of cats (e.g. a collection that incorporates orange gems to signify orange cats, another collection incorporates black gems to signify black cats), or different cat features (e.g. a collection with cat ears stamped on the jewelry, another collection with cat nose and whiskers stamped on pieces, etc.).
Your theme may be applied to every product you offer and across business elements such as your tagline, logo, packaging, your craft show display, etc.
For example, a jewelry business selling cat-themed jewelry may have a cat-themed name, cat-themed tagline, a logo that incorporates a cat, cat-themed product collection names, they may donate a portion of each sale to local cat shelters, etc.
If the theme is a new direction for your business and you don’t have proof of concept, start small.
You may start with a small product collection and when you have proof of sales, expand the theme to more products, and perhaps eventually revolve your entire business around the theme.
I hope this article sparked some inspiration! Please comment below if you have any questions 🙂
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!