If you’ve been reading my articles for a while, have taken one of my free email courses or have read any of my ebooks, you know I encourage handmade businesses to limit how many products they make and sell.
With me constantly preaching about limiting products, it makes sense that one of the most common questions I get is:
“Am I making too many types of products?”
Although I can’t answer that question for you without gathering information on your revenue, profits, return on investment, etc. I can help you come to a conclusion.
And you’re the best person to make big decisions about your business because you know it inside and out.
>> You know whether one type of product gets more response on Facebook than another
>> You know which product always get noticed at a craft show
>> You know which items are your bestsellers
>> You know what’s best for your business <<
Other people can offer you guidance, advice, motivation, etc. but at the end of the day, you have to go with your gut and what you feel is best for you and your business.
*If you don’t know your numbers when it comes to things like revenue, profits, ROI, conversion rate, etc. you’ll benefit from THE SUCCESS PLANNER.
It’s important to know that there really isn’t a “right number” of products to offer. There’s a right number for your business and that number may be higher or lower than what other businesses offer or what I suggest.
HOW MUCH IS TOO MUCH PRODUCT?
We’ll use these numbers as a starting point. The questions that follow in this article will help add more clarity.
In most cases, a handmade business should be sticking to: ONE CATEGORY
That means all of your products fall under one of the following categories:
- Bath & body
- Home décor
As you branch outside of one category, it starts to require very different materials, tools, skills, etc., which means it’s harder to be efficient and profitable.
Under that one category, I believe a handmade business should offer around: 1 – 5 TYPES OF PRODUCTS
- Under the BATH & BODY category: (1) Bar of soap, (2) hand lotion, (3) toner
- Under the JEWELRY category: (1) Earrings, (2) rings, (3) necklaces, (4) bracelets
- Under the ART category: (1) Acrylic paintings
Limiting the types of products offered to five or less is particularly important for a new business or a business that’s struggling to profit.
You may need to test new products and make changes to existing ones to find your bestsellers and to increase profits, but in the startup phase, my suggestion is to swap products in and out to stay within that 1 – 5 products range.
As a business finds success with products, marketing, sales channel(s), and day-to-day operations, and is able to repeat patterns, then it can start to expand its product offering. However, if a business can’t keep one plate spinning, how will it get several plates spinning?
Get a few products selling and profiting and find your rhythm before you add more to your plate.
Within those 1 – 5 types of products, you may offer options. When it comes to options, my suggestion is: 3 – 5 PRODUCT OPTIONS
Product options offer slight variations of a product. This allows you to have a variety for shoppers to browse and to appeal to different styles/needs/etc. but remain focused.
For example, you may offer:
- Soap, lotion, and toner
- PRODUCT OPTIONS: (1) normal skin (2) dry skin (3) oily skin (4) mature skin
- Earrings, rings, necklaces, and bracelets
- PRODUCT OPTIONS: (1) silver (2) gold (3) rose gold
- PRODUCT OPTIONS: (1) skylines (2) city streets (3) landmarks
In some cases, you may even add another level of options.
- Skylines, city streets, landmarks
- New York City
- Skylines, city streets, landmarks
How you organize your products is up to you. What’s important is that all products make sense together.
For example, adding bookmarks to the list of paintings doesn’t make sense. Neither does adding paintings of kittens and puppies to a collection of travel paintings.
In the example of the soap vendor selling 3 products, each offered in 3 options, they have a total of 9 products for shoppers to choose between.
The focus of making 3 different products with slight variations to create 3 options in each, makes it much more profitable compared to offering 9 completely different products, which would require big changes made to:
- Shipping prices
- Processes and techniques
- Display fixtures
1 – 5 types of products won’t work for every business and you’re the only person who can decide if that number is too high or low for you. Use the following questions to determine your “right” number.
FINDING YOUR RIGHT NUMBER
To help you determine if you’re offering too many types of products or too many options, you can answer the following questions.
1) ARE YOUR PRODUCTS ALL FOR THE SAME TYPE OF CUSTOMER?
When one of your products catches a shopper’s eye at a craft show, on social media, on Etsy, etc. they stop at your craft show table, click through to your social media profile, or visit your online shop to take a closer look.
They want to know if that item caught their eye by fluke or if all of the items you carry are a fit for them.
Imagine you’re walking through the mall and you notice an amazing top on a mannequin in their window. You’re interested in trying it on and potentially purchasing it, so you head into the store. But when you walk in, you notice the majority of the items in the store seem to be fitting for teenagers. All of a sudden, the elegant top you thought would be perfect for you no longer seems as fitting.
On the other hand, if you head into that store and you love all the items they carry, that top becomes even more appealing and you may even buy more than one item.
When each item a business carries seems to be perfect for you, you’re more likely to buy and become a repeat customer.
You must know who your customer is and what they’re interested in (HOW TO FIND A GOLDMINE OF CUSTOMERS will help you with that).
Once you know that information, all of your products should be a fit for that customer.
If the same customer wouldn’t wear/use/consume/display/etc. all of your products, it’s likely you’re offering too many.
2) CAN YOUR PRODUCTS BE USED TOGETHER?
Creating products that complement each other creates cohesion and helps increase sales, as well as sales per transaction (i.e. a purchase includes 2 or more items).
If someone is shopping for one of your items, would they logically buy your other items at the same time?
For example, someone shopping for a new bag may also be interested in a new wallet. However, they’re not likely thinking about a greeting card, table runner, or a burp cloth (unless the bag they’re looking at is a diaper bag).
Vendors selling products under one category (e.g. jewelry, home décor, art, etc.), can still have a tendency to offer too much variety within that category. If your products all fall under the same product category, consider if each would be worn/used/displayed/etc. by the same person.
>> would the same customer use your face wash, cream, and toner?
>> would your customers be happy having every piece of your jewelry in their wardrobe or are there only a few pieces that appeal to their style?
>> could each piece of your art be displayed in the same home?
This doesn’t apply to the product options you offer in each product; that may cause a slight variation in who purchases your product.
>> a customer who buys your face wash, cream, and toner in the option for oily skin probably won’t also use your products in the option for dry skin.
>> a customer who prefers gold may not purchase your silver options, but they’d love and wear every style of ring, necklace, and bracelet you offer in gold.
>> a customer may not hang art featuring all 5 travel destinations but rather focus on the destinations they’ve visited.
Trying to offer something for everyone or to suit a wide variety of tastes, often leads to a product selection getting out of control. If your products aren’t likely to be purchased and used together or purchased by the same person, you may be offering too many products or too much variation through options.
3) DO YOUR PRODUCTS SHARE A USP?
A USP is a unique selling position and it’s impossible for a business to have a USP when its products are all over the place.
If I’m selling colorful paintings, eclectic jewelry, and knitted scarves, how do I sum up what I do in a simple, easy to understand message?
It would be hard to do because it’s there isn’t a clear connection between the three categories and types of products.
If instead I focus on one of those categories of products, let’s say Art and find a niche within it, then it becomes easier to explain what I sell and for consumers to understand why they should buy from me.
My USP may become: I sell colorful pop art paintings featuring the skylines, city streets, and landmarks of popular travel destinations.
Now a consumer understands what I’m an expert at and that I’m the person to come to if they want a painting that reminds them of their favorite trip.
You may be offering too many products or product options if you don’t have a USP or have a hard time clearly explaining:
>> what you sell
>> who you sell to
>> why you sell it (what’s the hole in the marketplace you’re filling?)
*You’ll find an entire chapter on developing your USP in HOW TO SELL HANDMADE BEYOND FRIENDS & FAMILY.
4) DO YOUR PRODUCTS SHARE A SIGNATURE STYLE?
Is there a theme that gets carried throughout all your products?
If a craft show shopper had to sum up all of your products, could they pick up on a common theme? (*Not in terms of category, e.g. “everything is for the home”, but rather in terms of the style or feeling all your products have)
Where your USP communicates the benefits of your products and why consumers need to come to you if they want the best _________, your signature style communicates your visual identity (how people know a product is from your brand without needing to see your logo).
Think about your friends who have a strong sense of style. You might see a piece of clothing and think: That is so __________ (Jane or Sarah or Kelly).
We want the same type of reaction when consumers see your products so your business stands out to them and they’re able to separate your products from your competitors.
If a consumer can’t really tell the difference between your products and another business’s they’ll likely buy from the business with the lowest prices (e.g. if you see two red hats that seem almost identical but one is $10 and the other is $25, which one are you going to buy?).
If your products have a distinct style and there aren’t many other businesses offering something similar, consumers have to come to you to get “the look” and you’re going to make more sales 🙂
Too many products and product options make it hard to apply the same signature style to all.
For example, applying “colorful statement pieces” to a line of jewelry would be relatively straightforward. Applying that style to jewelry, bookmarks, greeting cards, etc. becomes quite difficult.
That’s an exaggerated example, but even for a business selling products under one category (e.g. jewelry), developing a signature style can be neglected in favor of creating more and more products in hopes of appealing to more and more consumers.
You may be offering too many products or product options if you don’t have a signature style/theme, can’t apply it to all products, or haven’t applied it to all products.
You may also be interested in:
5) CAN YOU CREATE A COHESIVE DISPLAY?
Whether you’re selling your products through craft shows or online, your “shop” needs to have cohesion.
It should instantly, clearly, and specifically tell shoppers what you make. For example, a shop full of nursery art clearly tells shoppers you sell “nursery art”. A shop full of a variety of art using different mediums and subjects does not tell shoppers what you specifically make. And a shop full of art, knitting, and jewelry tells shoppers you make a little of this and a little of that.
Your display should also communicate why you make what you make. What makes your products better or different and why should they buy from you?
Learn how to clearly and specifically communicate what you make and why you make it with the help of this article.
Your product presentation should also help shoppers imagine how your products will fit into their lives. Who are your products perfect for? Where will they use them and how?
If you have too many products, it’s hard to tell a story through your shop’s presentation.
If you need help improving your craft show display, check out: 5 DAYS TO A STANDOUT CRAFT SHOW DISPLAY
WHERE TO ADD VARIATION
Variation is important, and obviously, I’m not suggesting you never introduce new products.
New products can bring existing customers back, add freshness to your lineup, and encourage more sales.
Aside from offering product options within a category of product, these are the following types of products I think most businesses should have:
ENTRY-LEVEL PRODUCTS – these are products that introduce people to your brand and don’t require a big investment/commitment. Check out: HOW TO CREATE AN ENTRY-LEVEL PRODUCT FOR YOUR HANDMADE BUSINESS.
ADD-ONS – products shoppers can add to their purchase to improve it, complete it, care for it, etc. Check out: HOW TO USE ADD-ONS TO SELL MORE HANDMADE
UP-SELLS – options that allow customers to spend more to get more value. Check out HOW TO USE UP-SELLING TO SELL MORE HANDMADE
DOWN-SELLS – products that get a skeptical shopper to take the leap and buy a lower-priced item, rather than no item. Check out: HOW & WHY A CRAFT BUSINESS SHOULD DOWN-SELL
I started my handmade business by offering everything from keychains and bags to aprons and mittens. As I grew and improved, I limited my offering to just a few styles of bags, with a focus on one style (what I wanted to be known for).
Not only was it easier for me to prepare for craft shows, take photos for my online store, and pitch to retailers, it was also more rewarding financially. My business became more profitable and I made more sales.
if you truly want a business that can partially or fully support you, you have to be smart with your numbers (THE SUCCESS PLANNER will help with that).
Those numbers include your time. The more time you spend designing new products, perfecting prototypes, shopping for materials, etc. the less time you have to spend on marketing and selling.
Creativity and fun do not have to be limited just because your product line is limited; it just becomes more focused.
It IS important you love what you do. So if the products you love to make are not the same ones that sell well, you can find a balance with your product line. Here’s how to make money and create what you love.