If you’re currently lacking sales or want to increase sales, you need to find your path to more customers. Sometimes I find it easier to work backward. Determine the end goal (find more customers) and then determine the step that must happen right before you gain a new customer, and then the step before that, so on and so forth, until you have a step-by-step plan.
It’s a technique I teach in HOW TO SELL HANDMADE BEYOND FRIENDS & FAMILY to figure out:
- WHO you’re going to sell to and define your target market, niche market, and ideal customer.
- WHAT you’re going to sell to them based on how it will be categorized, how it will cater to your niche market and reduce competition.
- WHY consumers buy from you rather than your competitors.
- HOW you attract shoppers.
- WHERE your shoppers come from and the steps they take on their path to purchasing.
- WHEN the best time is to market and sell to them (because there are peaks and valleys to every business).
Each step works backward to build a powerful business.
We’re going to follow a similar process to take a look at one section of the big picture; how you’ll find more customers.
COMMON MISTAKE MADE BY HANDMADE BUSINESS OWNERS
If you’re using traditional sales channels (e.g. craft shows, Etsy, website) and simply setting up/listing products and hoping they sell, you’re running into one major problem when it comes to attracting more customers:
You’re waiting for customers to come to you.
You need to go out and find new potential customers and bring them back to your sales channel.
Marketing is the bridge that brings people over to your sales channel.
When you set up at a craft show or on Etsy, the craft show organizer or Etsy has done the majority of marketing for you.
The issue with relying on their marketing is that they’re marketing their platforms as a whole, and not your specific business or products.
So if you’ve listed a bunch of items on Etsy and are wondering why they’re not selling; that’s why.
You cannot rely on the platform’s marketing to drive traffic to your shop. You must take the wheel and drive your own, specific traffic.
You must be proactive and go out and find your customers.
That is the act of marketing.
You’re putting your products in front of people when they’re not actively seeking them.
If someone is looking for a dark green, chunky knit evergreen scarf on Etsy, and you happen to have a listing titled “Dark Green Chunky Knit Infinity Scarf”, great! That customer is likely to come straight to you.
You do want to be easily found when people are shopping for your type of product. However, you probably know by now, you can’t build a successful and reliable business by waiting for customers to come to you.
People spend less time shopping than they do consuming information on social media, checking email, reading blogs, being entertained, socializing, etc.
So if you’re waiting to reach them when they’re shopping, you may be waiting a long time.
Instead, let’s find a way to reach your potential customers any time; not just when they’re shopping.
1 – HOW DO PEOPLE GET TO YOUR SHOP?
Working backward, imagine someone has landed in your online shop or at your craft show table.
Where did they come from? How did they discover your shop or craft show table?
Keep in mind, we’re not relying on the marketing Etsy or craft show organizers do for you.
We want you to generate your own traffic so it’s more specific and more interested in what you have to sell.
Sure, Etsy and craft shows attract shoppers interested in buying handmade, but you want shoppers interested in buying handmade __________ (the specific item you sell).
Shoppers don’t simply enter the URL of your website, Etsy shop, or product listing out of the blue. They’re likely following a link. Where did they discover that link?
Shoppers also don’t tend to randomly show up at a venue, only to discover a craft show (it does happen, but those people aren’t as prepared to buy). They hear about a craft show before they show up to it; where did they hear about it?
Consumers discover new businesses and products through marketing channels, which is what we want to define now.
Consider the sales channels you use (e.g. Etsy, website, craft shows, etc.) and then think about the marketing channels you can use, online and offline, to drive people to your sales channel.
WHAT IS A MARKETING CHANNEL?
I like to think of a marketing channel as an activity a consumer partakes in when they’re not shopping. This activity has the possibility of leading to shopping.
For example, your ideal customer may log onto Pinterest each day to get ideas for recipes, fashion, and home décor. They’re not going on Pinterest to shop, but it certainly could lead to shopping if they see something they like. (*If you want to learn how to harness the power of Pinterest and use it to drive more people to your shop, check out this article)
You may also be interested in how to make your social media posts go viral.
Or, your ideal customer may pick up a newspaper. They’re not doing so to shop, but if they see an ad or read an article on a local business, they may decide to check them out.
>> Social media is an example of an online marketing channel.
>> Newspapers are an example of an offline marketing channel.
Brainstorm more channels, both online and off you can use to get people to notice your business when they’re not shopping.
If you need help, there are more examples in HOW TO SELL HANDMADE BEYOND FRIENDS & FAMILY.
2 – WHAT ARE THE DETAILS OF THAT MARKETING CHANNEL?
Now that you have a list of potential marketing channels, you need to get more specific.
You don’t want to use any and all marketing channels you can think of; you want to focus on the ones your potential customers use.
As discussed in HOW TO SELL HANDMADE BEYOND FRIENDS & FAMILY, one of the first steps in business should be defining your target market and niche market, as well as your ideal customer.
*A quick overview:
Target market – narrows down who you serve based on demographics, psychographics, physical attributes, and/or personal preferences; defining characteristics a consumer must have to be a fit for your products (e.g. eco-conscious moms).
Niche market – takes a segment of your target market and caters to their specific needs (e.g. “moms of newborns” would be a segment of the target market “eco-conscious moms” and offering “safe and natural newborn toy options” caters to their needs).
Ideal Customer – defining a single person who is perfect for your products. The point of this is not to sell to that exact person or find hundreds of people who are just like them. Defining an ideal customer creates an avatar you can imagine creating products for, writing marketing text for, selling to, etc.
*How to define your target market, niche market, and ideal customer is explained in more detail in HOW TO SELL HANDMADE BEYOND FRIENDS & FAMILY
Defining your target market, niche market, and ideal customer (these are 5 common mistakes made when defining an ideal customer) is important for determining the specifics of your marketing channels and which ones to focus on.
As a small business owner, who may or may not be running your business in your spare time, you do not have time to use ALL of the marketing channels and to do so effectively.
You simply cannot be an expert at marketing on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, and LinkedIn, as well as conquer email marketing, media relations, etc.
You absolutely need to use more than one marketing channel, however, you must choose the ones you use wisely and based on your target/niche market.
Based on the demographics, psychographics, physical attributes and/or personal preferences you’ve defined for your market; where, specifically, are they likely to be hanging out when not shopping?
Let’s say I’ve listed “newspapers” as an offline marketing channel. Placing an ad in any newspaper or sending press releases to a bunch of newspapers in hopes of getting featured, won’t do me much good.
I need to get into the right newspapers and in the right section, based on the paper and sections my target/niche market reads; otherwise I’m wasting time and money.
Does my target market even read the newspaper? If so, which specific newspaper do they read? The Journal? The Sun? The Examiner? Is there a section a story on my business/products would fit into? The Style section? Cooking? Gardening? Sports? Will my market read that section?
The same is true for social media. If my ideal customer is male and in his 30’s, I wouldn’t waste my time joining every social media platform; I’d choose platforms with a higher percentage of male users in their 30’s.
If you’re unsure if you’ll reach your audience through a specific marketing channel, try researching the demographics of it.
For example, if I’m considering focusing on Instagram for my social media marketing, I may Google “Demographics of Instagram users”.
If I’m considering placing an ad in my local Journal newspaper, I would Google “Demographics of The Edmonton Journal”, or “Edmonton Journal media kit”, or I may contact the Journal to ask for a media kit and more information about the demographics of their readers.
HOW CAN YOU GET MORE SPECIFIC?
Once you’ve narrowed down the specifics of the marketing channels that will be the most beneficial to you, think about the best times to use them, based on your target/niche market.
>> At what points throughout the year is your target/niche market looking to buy?
>> Is there a certain time of the month they’re ready to shop? Is it at the beginning of the month when they’re getting organized? The end of the month once they’ve been paid? Right before an important date, such as Thanksgiving?
>> What time of day do they tend to use the marketing channel you’re focusing on? For example, according to this source, 1pm is one of the best times to post to Instagram.
However, you’d want to think about your target/niche market’s time zone as midday in North America may be the middle of the night for your potential customers.
You also want to think about your target/niche market’s habits.
For example, if I was marketing to an audience of moms with toddlers, I would consider that they may be more likely to go online and have time to shop at the end of the day after the kids are in bed.
Keep in mind, you don’t want to put out a constant stream of marketing messages to your audience.
You must find the right times to strike with a powerful message.
Imagine a friend messaging you every day asking for money. Wouldn’t you start to ignore their messages?
But if they held off and only asked after they had helped you with something (e.g. moving) and when they knew you had some extra money floating around (e.g. after payday or after getting a raise), you might be more receptive to the idea of lending them money.
Don’t constantly ask for money (give back to them once and a while, such as providing helpful content on social media most of the time and asking for a sale once and a while). Sort of like how you would send a mix of promotional and non-promotional emails to your subscriber list, as explained here.
Or, you may use the Trojan Horse Technique to deliver a promotional message in a non-promotional way.
That way, your audience doesn’t feel like you’re always marketing to them. And when you do ask for the sale (here’s how to do that) they’re more receptive to you.
You must know when your ideal customer is likely ready to buy and why.
Narrow down the specific marketing channels you’ll use and when you’ll use them, based on your target/niche market.
3 – WHAT CAUGHT THEIR EYE?
Now we need to determine what caught your target/niche market’s attention and why they took action (e.g. clicked a link or decided to stop by the craft show you’re at to find you).
What is the message your target/niche will care about?
They’re getting a lot of marketing messages shoved in their faces throughout the day and are tuning most of them out.
Your message must cut through the noise and speak directly to them.
When you’re trying to talk to a wide range of people, it becomes hard to get anyone’s attention.
Let me explain the difference through an example…
If I’m on Facebook and I see a promoted post for “pets”, I’m going to skim right past it because it’s too vague. I do have a pet but images and words relating to cats, dogs, bunnies, birds, and fish, is too much noise for me. I’d immediately feel like their website is going to have too many products to sort through in order to find what I need.
I’m not a pet owner; I’m a cat owner.
So instead, if I see a post for “cat owners” with images of cats only and keywords relating to cats, it will catch my attention.
But if it’s still pretty vague, I probably won’t take the time to click through to the website. For example, “We have food and toys for your cat” is too generic. I can simply go to PetSmart, a store I’m familiar with to find food and toys for my cat.
If their post is appealing to owners of senior cats who have gotten picky with their eating, that speaks to my exact situation and I’m clicking on that post to find a solution to my problem.
Knowing exactly who you’re serving and what they need makes all the difference when it comes to marketing.
Create a marketing message that is specific to your target/niche market.
Your message may change depending on the time of year or product you’re promoting.
For example, someone who loves gardening may not pay attention to a message relating to outdoor gardening when it’s the middle of winter, but you may catch their attention by suggesting gardening tools to put on their Christmas wish list, or by marketing indoor gardening materials and tools they can use over the winter.
Put yourself in the consumer’s shoes to help you determine how specific you must get with your message.
If you wear jewelry, does every jewelry ad catch your attention? Or are you drawn to ads promoting a specific style of jewelry? Do you buy jewelry on a regular basis or when you have a special occasion coming up? What type of imagery and copy would make you take notice?
If you buy soap, do you buy any type of soap? It’s most convenient to buy soap when you’re at the grocery or drug store, so what would make you take more time and spend more money to purchase a bar of soap online or visit a craft show?
Remember, you’re trying to attract people to you; not wait for them to come to you.
You need something extra to get someone who’s browsing social media or reading the paper to stop what they’re doing, visit your online shop, and purchase your product.
What is that little extra nudge you can give someone? That’s your message.
HOW WILL YOU DELIVER YOUR MESSAGE?
How you deliver a marketing message on a marketing channel is your marketing method.
For example, the different marketing methods that can be used on Pinterest are:
- Creating a board specifically for your market (e.g. if my target/niche market is looking for temporary wall decals for a nursery, I may create a board titled “Temporary Wall Decals for a Girl’s Nursery”.
- Creating pins (e.g. doing so using imagery I know my market will be drawn to and using keywords I know they’re searching)
- Video pins
- Product pins (includes the price of product, availability, and where to buy)
- Article pins (e.g. if you wrote a piece about how to apply temporary wall decals to avoid bubbling and peeling)
- Promoting pins (paying to have my pins show up in the feeds of Pinterest users who don’t follow me)
Marketing methods that can be used when using newspapers as marketing platforms might be:
- Getting a feature article
- Placing an ad in the classifieds
- Paying for an image ad
- Guest writing (e.g. write an article for the newspaper with a bio/business mention at the end)
Consider how your target/niche market prefers to absorb content.
If they scroll Instagram while taking the bus to work, a video that requires audio may not be the best option. A beautiful photo with a short, easy to read caption may be the better method. Then consider the specific type of photo that will catch their eye (e.g. dark and moody, or bright and modern, or feminine, etc.) as well as the keywords.
It’s all about your specific customer and what catches their attention.
>> Someone has visited your sales channel; where did they come from?
>> Get specific (which social media channel do they use each day? What time of day did they check their email and see your message?)
>> What is the marketing message and method that caught their attention and drew them to your sales channel?
Answer those questions and you’ll find your path to more customers.
You may now be interested in ensuring you convert more customers once you get them to your sales channel. Please check out:
- PRODUCT DESCRIPTIONS THAT SELL; TEMPLATE, SAMPLE & EXAMPLES
- THE MOST EFFECTIVE SALES TECHNIQUE FOR YOUR HANDMADE BUSINESS
- HOW TO SET UP A SALES FUNNEL FOR YOUR HANDMADE BUSINESS (to capture shoppers who aren’t ready to buy today, but may do so in the future)
- HOW TO ASK FOR THE SALE AT A CRAFT SHOW
- HOW TO IMPLEMENT THE “BATHING SUIT TECHNIQUE”
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!