Most handmade businesses are going to see sales slow down as the world deals with this health pandemic.

 

Many people have either lost their main source of income or it’s been significantly reduced, which obviously has an impact on their spending.

 

Everyone is also concerned about what’s coming into their homes.

 

I, for one, am not ordering anything online unless it’s essential. I don’t know when I’m going to be able to go out in public again so I’m certainly not planning my spring outfits, shopping for gifts, or decorating my home for the next get together.

 

However, shopping hasn’t completely halted.

 

So it’s important to let shoppers know if your shop is still open and shipping orders.

 

Entire cities are practically shut down right now so don’t assume that online shoppers know what’s going on with your business and its operations just because your shop or website is still up.

 

It’s very rare for a customer to complain about a business offering “too much communication”. Use your shop announcement section, add a banner to the top of your website, post to social media, or send a newsletter to keep shoppers up to date. Let them know:

>> if stock is limited

>> which countries you’re able to ship to

>> how long it takes you to ship items

>> how long it’s taking orders to arrive

>> Etc.

 

On the other hand, if you’re unable to ship orders, let shoppers know that your shop is temporarily closed, how they can get in touch with you, or even how they can support your business during this time.

 

That’s where you should start, but there’s more a handmade business owner can do during this time.

 

Whether you’re still seeing sales come in, aren’t seeing any sales, or just aren’t sure if you should be marketing your products right now, you’ll find some tips to keep you and your business healthy during this time.

 

This post may contain affiliate links, which means I’ll receive a commission if you purchase through my link, at no extra cost to you. Please read the full disclosure here. 

 

 

IF YOU’RE STILL GETTING SALES

Many eCommerce businesses are still operating and I’ve received several “update” emails typically covering:

1 – what they’re doing as a business to keep consumers safe

2 – delays and changes customers can expect

 

If your business is still seeing sales come in, it’s important to put health first.

 

  • To create and package products in a safe environment
  • To keep social interaction to a minimum

 

Your handmade business may be your main source of income, in which case, shipping orders is essential. However, running to the post office every day is putting your health and the health of those you come in contact with, at risk.

 

Major eCommerce retailers have slower turnaround times, so it’s completely acceptable for you to ship orders once per week or once every two weeks in order to limit the number of trips you must make to the post office.

 

Be sure you clearly communicate your turnaround and shipping timelines to customers.

 

 

IS IT APPROPRIATE TO PROMOTE YOUR PRODUCTS?

Only you can determine the answer to that because it depends on the products you sell, who you sell them to, and your situation (e.g. if you’re willing to go to the post office or if your local post office is even open).

 

If you’re on the fence about whether or not you should be promoting your products through social media, your newsletter, etc. consider this…

 

How would you feel about seeing a promotional post from a business selling similar products?

 

There’s no wrong answer.

 

Like attracts like. So it’s likely you’ve attracted people to your business who are similar to you.

 

Let’s say you sell bath & body products. Put yourself in the consumers’ shoes to answer the following questions:

>> If you received a promotional email from Bath & Body Works right now, would you open it?

>> Would you be interested in purchasing their products and having them shipped to you?

>> Is bath-time your favorite way to unwind and distress from what’s going on?

 

If your answers are “yes”, then it may be appropriate for you to continue promoting your products during this time because your customers are also likely to cherish their baths in stressful times like these and may be running low on bath salts/bubble bath/etc.

 

On the other hand, if you’ve been scrolling right past Instagram posts promoting non-essential items such as bath or beauty products, it may be likely your target market will do the same. In which case, spending time or money promoting your products during this time may run the risk of:

>> Not getting a return on your time/money investment

>> People viewing your business as inappropriate or insensitive

>> Harming your brand’s reputation

 

The other tactic you can use to determine if now is the right time to promote your products is to look at influencers or businesses reaching a similar target market as you.

 

For example, if I sell bath & body products, I might look at Bath & Body Works’ Instagram feed.

 

Although major retailers may not be your direct competition, you’ll get a better feel for the market if you look at bigger companies. There are more stats to work with (e.g. number of likes, comments, etc.) and people tend to feel more comfortable voicing their honest opinions to them.

 

Based on Bath & Body Works’ Instagram posts, I can see what type of content they’re posting, which posts get the most comments, and what those comments are.

 

If I saw a lot of comments along the lines of: “How insensitive to be posting about your new coconut scent when people are dealing with a health crisis”, I may decide to forgo Instagram posts for the moment.

 

However, I don’t see many negative comments on Bath & Body Works’ posts aside from “Why aren’t you offering free shipping at a time we can’t shop in stores?” (*A great point to note for what consumers expect).

 

It also seems that consumers are very interested in their new spring scents and are commenting about having just purchased. This tells me, with everything going on, people are still interested in and buying bath & body products.

 

Their feed is a mix of promotional content (e.g. a product shot of their new scent), as well as self-care tips that don’t involve their products, and even games. Which would be good ideas for my business’s Instagram feed.

 

 

HOW TO PROMOTE PRODUCTS THE RIGHT WAY DURING THIS TIME

You’ll know what feels right or wrong for your business, products, and customers. But overall, it’s important to be considerate of the bigger issues everyone is dealing with.

 

In my opinion, going in with the hard sell is the wrong way.

 

My suggestion would be to use a softer approach in more of a: “If you’re interested, my products are here for you, but it’s all good if now’s not the right time” type of way.

 

The Trojan Horse Strategy is the perfect way to promote your products during this difficult time. More on that here: HOW TO USE THE TROJAN HORSE STRATEGY TO SELL HANDMADE PRODUCTS

 

Focus on offering value rather than making a sale.

 

If a sale happens, great, but if not, people will still appreciate the advice, tips, story, etc. you’ve shared and it will keep your business top of mind.

 

For example, let’s say I sell bath & body products and I feel it’s appropriate to promote my products to my target market at this time.

 

I may do so using the Trojan Horse method.

 

I may send the following email to my subscribers or write a blog post on the topic and share a link to it on my social media.

“3 (surprising) household ingredients to add to your bath”

In that email or blog post I would list 3 ingredients (e.g. wine, tea, and baking soda), include instructions for how much to add, and explain the benefits of each.

I would also mention my products so if they prefer, they can purchase my bath salts that are infused with those ingredients or that offer similar benefits.

 

I’d be offering value in terms of how they can beautify their skin at bath time without spending any extra money, and promoting my products in a subtle way so they can spend money if they’re able to.

 

 

SWEETEN THE POT

You may also want to offer a small incentive for people to purchase.

 

Again, this should be done in a tactful way (no using “get it now before this deal goes away” urgency/scarcity/fear tactics).

 

For example, you may reduce your profits margins (NOT forego profits, more on that below) in order to offer savings to your customers. You may reduce your profits by $10 and offer free shipping, a discount on regular prices, or include a free gift with purchase.

 

 

 

HOW TO SURVIVE THIS TIME WITH NO SALES OR LOW SALES

You’re not alone if sales have completely fallen off the map.

 

You’re also not alone if you don’t want to risk your health by making a trip to the post office to ship a non-essential item.

 

Or, if you just can’t bring yourself to promote your business or make products during this time. If your mind and heart aren’t in your business right now, it’s okay to take a break. However…

 

DON’T DISAPPEAR

Whether you decide to continue promoting your products or not, it’s important not to completely disappear from your customers’ and followers’ lives.

 

It’s okay to take a step back and reduce your communication but don’t wait until this crisis is over to begin posting to social media or sending newsletters again.

 

If it’s not an appropriate time to post about your products or business (e.g. you sell travel-related products), you might instead:

  • Share updates about you and your business (e.g. what you’re doing to keep busy)
  • Funny videos or memes that might lift your audience’s spirit
  • Pose questions to interact with your audience (e.g. a business that sells travel-related products may ask their followers which hobbies they’re going to fill their time with since they can’t travel. Their replies may spark new product ideas; travel bags may not be in demand for a while but if people are mentioning their plans to visit local trails and do more hiking once they’re allowed, hiking bags may be a good product to transition to.)
  • Link to articles your audience may be interested in
  • Etc.

 

Try to stay semi on-topic. For example, if my business targets travelers I wouldn’t start linking to articles about cats and sharing cat videos…unless cats were a part of my brand; cat-themed travel bags.

 

However, you can go a little outside of the box.

 

For example, if I typically touch on topics such as: “the perfect travel bag for a weekend getaway”, “what to pack for X type of vacation” or “10 places to travel to this summer”, I wouldn’t continue to share travel tips. However, I could work the topic of travel into the content I do share. For example:

  • “What I’m doing at home since I can’t travel”
  • “Decorating tips to make your home feel like a travel destination during quarantine”
  • “DIY projects for your travel photos”
  • Etc.

 

Focus more on connecting with your audience and being a source of comfort for them during this time (if you can’t promote your products).

 

Here are other steps to take to help you and your business get through this time.

 

1 – LOOK INTO SUPPORT THAT’S AVAILABLE

Many governments are offering tax breaks, postponing mortgage payments, offering subsidies, etc. to help people who have a loss of income during this time. Look into these options if it’s appropriate for your situation and business.

 

If you have insurance for your business, look into any policies or coverage you may have for business disruption.

 

There are also tools and resources communities are sharing to help their small businesses.

 

For example, in my city, a website has been set up that lists local restaurants that are still open and offering free delivery or allowing orders to be picked up (curbside). A popular shopping district full of local boutiques has created online shopping events for small local businesses. A business resource for my province has set up a website page with links to business and financial support resources.

 

 

2 – REDUCE COSTS

Look at everything you spend time and money on for your business and determine if it’s essential at this time.

 

For example, you may:

  • Stop buying new materials
  • Stop creating new products
  • Stop creating new Etsy listings
  • Stop promoting Etsy listings
  • Pause any memberships (e.g. Photo editing)
  • Make 1 trip to the post office every two weeks (instead of 2 trips per week)

 

No amount of promotion is going to encourage people to buy travel products when they have no intention of traveling for the foreseeable future. So it would be unwise for a business selling travel-related products to continue pouring money into paid ads or products.

 

Consider your products and customers to determine where time and money are best spent (or not spent).

 

You can still work on your business in an effort to get ahead, but it’s important to work on tasks that are more certain to pay off in the long run.

 

 

3 – PREPARE FOR THE FUTURE

Until the future is a little more certain, you can create a loose plan based on a few predictions.

 

You may have your own predictions for your category of product, target market, location, etc. These are my predictions and ones I’ll be keeping in mind as I move forward with my businesses:

 

 

PREDICTION #1 – PEOPLE WILL BE MORE CONSCIOUS OF THEIR SPENDING

Even when the situation goes back to “normal” (which it will), we can’t expect consumers to spend in the same way they were prior to this big change.

 

Many people have already been dealing with a complete loss of income or a reduced income. What they spend their money on and how much they spend is likely to change in the coming months.

 

Keep the following points in mind as you plan for when sales start to pick back up:

 

Profit Margins

Never undervalue your work to the point you don’t profit; that’s first and foremost. However, your profit margins may allow you to reduce your prices and pass savings on to your customers, encouraging them to buy.

If reducing the price of a product by $10 means you’re profiting $30 instead of $40, in my opinion, it’s better to pass those savings on to the consumer and make a sale, rather than not make a sale and have $0 to cover costs or make a profit.

 

Product Options

With most consumers being in a position of having to watch their spending, it’s even more important to frame your main product with higher and (more importantly) lower-priced options. To do so, please check out:

HOW TO CREATE AN ENTRY-LEVEL PRODUCT FOR YOUR HANDMADE BUSINESS

There are also lots of tips on how to properly frame your main product in HOW TO KNOW IF YOU’RE OFFERING TOO MANY PRODUCTS

 

Product

You may even take this time to adjust the products you sell. It’s a drastic measure but you must consider your industry and the impact on it.

For example, the travel industry is likely to take longer to pick up than many other industries. If I sell handmade leather luggage tags and passport cases, I would consider shifting gears and introducing new products.

I may begin working on designs for card wallets, coin purses, and key fobs. This allows me to continue working with leather as well as stay within a similar accessory niche. Existing customers who have purchased my luggage tags are likely to be interested in leather key fobs, wallets, and coin purses.

 

PREDICTION #2 – SUPPORTING THE LOCAL ECONOMY

People are likely to support local businesses when health issues are under control and it’s time to start focusing on the health of the economy.

 

Supporting local has so many benefits when compared to shopping with big chain retailers.

 

When a company has several chains across the country/world, they have a head office somewhere (most likely not in your hometown, unless you live in a big metropolitan city). In general, this head office houses a huge team that takes care of things like production, marketing, accounting, legal issues, human resources, business development, buying, supplies, etc. Wages are paid to them, instead of someone in your community. This is all good for the city the head office is located in, as those employees will spend the majority of their wages there, stimulating their local economy. But your town will most likely never see that money again.

 

Local, independent businesses are often more conscious about where they spend their dollars. They will hire local architects, designers, signage companies and contractors to build their store, local service providers to care for things like their accounting and legal issues. They’ll advertise in local publications and pick up office supplies locally as opposed to having them shipped in by a head office. Those dollars then follow a similar cycle of being reinvested back into local businesses. For example, the local accounting firm will spend their money on local suppliers and service providers.

 

Local business owners usually have more of an interest in their community and will, in turn, contribute to local organizations, events, and charities. They have ties to their city and aren’t going to just pick up and move to another city in hard economic times.

 

For these reasons, it’s likely consumer efforts are going to go towards stimulating the local economy and supporting smaller businesses that were hit the hardest.

 

Here are a few things for a handmade business owner to think about when it comes to selling locally:

 

Craft Shows

Do keep in mind, although craft shows and farmers’ markets are a great way for consumers to support local merchants, it’s unclear when these types of larger events will be permitted.

 

Local Retailers

Boutiques are another way consumers support local businesses, so if your products are priced right, selling them wholesale to consumers once things start moving towards “normal”, may be a good route for your business.

 

Online

The other step to take now is to work on your website’s SEO (search engine optimization) and incorporate your city/town’s name into your website copy.

Google will use a user’s location to produce search results (unless a user turns location sharing off), so if your website mentions your city and someone in your city conducts a search, your website is more likely to appear in their search results.

For example, when I search “handmade jewelry”, 10 out of 12 organic results (i.e. not paid ads) are specifically for handmade jewelry businesses in my city (and a couple within my country), even though I didn’t enter my city’s name in my search.

 

Ensure your business is prepared to promote and serve local customers.

 

 

PREDICTION #3 – ONLINE SHOPPING LONG TERM (HOLIDAYS)

November/December are the busiest shopping months of the year with everyone purchasing gifts. It’s likely that people are still going to be cautious of crowds in November/December 2020, which means, they may skip the big shopping malls and maybe even some of the bigger craft shows.

 

Of course, this is just a prediction, but it’s a good idea to be prepared for more online sales during for the upcoming holidays.

 

Improve your website’s SEO (search option optimization) so it appears in search results, improve your website’s mobile functionality (most online shoppers are mobile users so your website must look good and function smoothly when people are on mobile or desktop), improve your website’s design, streamline the shopping experience (e.g. make online checkouts quick and easy, set up abandoned shopping cart triggers, set up “add on” product suggestions), etc.

 

If you don’t have an online shop, consider getting started on Etsy, or another online marketplace of your choice (here are more than 40 ways to sell your handmade products online).

 

There are pros and cons to every online marketplace but Etsy is without a doubt, the most well-known handmade marketplace (Amazon is one of the most popular website in the world but I’m not sure that their handmade marketplace is as well-known).

 

I think every business should start their own website, so they’re not 100% reliant on a platform like Etsy, but Etsy is a great place to start. It’s user-friendly, quick and easy to get a shop set up, and it’s affordable.

 

Of course, with anything, there is a learning curve and it’s not as simple as listing a few items and making sales.

 

CreativeLive offers online classes to help you get started on Etsy and hit the ground running:

 

 

 

 

10 TASKS YOU CAN WORK ON NOW

As mentioned, you should be cutting back on costs and the work you do put in should eventually lead to a return on investment. Avoid tasks that aren’t certain to make you money.

 

For example, creating a summer collection when everyone is unsure if things will be “back to normal” by summertime could be risky for some businesses. The pieces may not sell and therefore, costs wouldn’t be recouped.

 

On the other hand, here are some tasks that may be acceptable for your business:

 

1 – Working on your website’s SEO (search engine optimization). It’s likely more people will be shopping online in the future and SEO will help your website appear in search results.

 

2 – The majority of online shoppers are using their phones to shop. Make sure your website is mobile-friendly so it’s easier for people to shop and buy.

 

3 – Create a liquid plan (i.e. skip details and create a loose plan that can be easily adjusted on the fly) for the types of products you’ll launch and how you’ll market them once the situation improves.

*THE SUCCESS PLANNER is marked down for the end of the first quarter if you need help with planning.

 

4 – Streamline your business so it runs more efficiently. You may create canned email responses or set up a sales funnel (here’s how: HOW TO SET UP A SALES FUNNEL FOR YOUR HANDMADE BUSINESS).

 

5 – Brainstorm ways to provide better customer service without driving up your costs.

 

6 – Research ways to reduce your business’s costs long term. You may look into cheaper options for monthly services (e.g. website hosting, email marketing service) or find retailers offering lower prices on your materials and supplies. Check out:

 

7 – Look into alternative revenue streams. For example, you may teach your craft online (e.g. learn how to knit classes) or sign up to be an affiliate to sell other business’s products and earn a commission. I even read about one local business that has completely switched gears and instead of offering their cleaning services, they’re now offering a grocery shopping service.

This article has a few alternative revenue stream ideas for handmade businesses: HOW TO MAKE LESS BUT SELL MORE AT YOUR NEXT CRAFT SHOW

 

8 – Consider streamlining what you sell to increase profits, strengthen your brand, and boost sales. Check out:

 

9 – Research ways to make your social media marketing more effective. Check out:

 

10 – FINALLY START YOUR NEWSLETTER! 😉 I know this one has been on many people’s to-do lists for a while because it’s the best way to market your business and products. Now is the perfect time to get one set up (and you can do it for free using Mailchimp). Check out:

 

 

I hope you’ve found this article helpful. If you have a specific question you’d like to see covered in an upcoming article, please leave a comment.

 

 

LINKS SHARED IN ARTICLE:



Finally understand why your hard work isn't resulting in more sales

Join over 18,000 others and sign up for the
Made Urban newsletter


Powered by ConvertKit
Previous Post
Next Post