If you’re struggling to make sales in your small handmade business, it’s important to take a look at your products and determine if they have the qualities of a best-selling product.
When you have a great product, people brag about it for you, write good reviews, become repeat customers and if they own a retail store, they may even carry it. Having a great product also helps take the pressure off when it comes to marketing and selling.
You can use the following techniques to come up with a best-selling handmade product people rave about and actually thank you for making. It takes some deep thought but is pretty simple and super effective. Follow the 3 steps below.
STEP 1 – Define the exact person you’re selling to
Before you skip over this section thinking “Ya ya. Narrow down my niche, define my ideal customer, get specific…I know that already.” Take a minute to read over the exercise. It’s an angle to think about your customer in a way you probably haven’t and I think it will make a big impact on your handmade products.
Get so specific with who your customer is, it’s like you’re selling to one person and one person only.
It helps if you know this person or have a general idea of them. It may be a friend or family member or someone who has shopped from you before.
You don’t need to know every detail of their lives but you should be able to describe the basics and fill in the blanks with your best guesses. This ensures you’re building an authentic profile and not making up a fantasy customer who doesn’t exist (i.e. She has amazing taste…an existing wardrobe that works perfectly with all my pieces…and she has an unlimited budget to spend on my products.)
I know it can feel a little scary narrowing your customer down to one person but it really is incredibly helpful and doesn’t mean people who don’t fit the profile exactly, won’t buy from you.
Instead, it’s going to help shoppers imagine using your product because they can picture exactly how they’ll look or feel. In a way, it helps weed out people who hem and haw, likely never to buy, and allows you to focus on those who will become loyal customers.
Think of it this way; imagine a popular fashion designer. When they design a new collection and organize a fashion show, they don’t create a look that appeals to as many people as possible or change their vision to cater to different tastes. They define the man or woman they envision wearing their clothes and create an entire show around that.
From the models they cast, to their hair and makeup; everyone who walks down that runway is a version of their ideal customer. They tell us who their products are for and how they should be worn. And they’re celebrated and respected because of their clear vision and ability to lead the way.
Don’t be wishy-washy by offering one product for one type of person and another product for someone who’s the complete opposite.
Decide who you’re going after and make every element of your product, display, and brand tailored to that person.
Make customers feel they’re buying from a trendsetter they’re willing to change their style or routine for (not the other way around where you’re changing your vision and being persuaded by each new customer).
Before you can appeal to the masses, you need to start by appealing to one.
Imagine one person came to you and said “I’ll pay you to create products exclusively for me for a full year. If you do a good job, I’ll hire you again next year.”
What would you need to know to tailor your products perfectly to that person?
You don’t want to present items they’d never wear or use. You want to wow them and get all the details right, which requires having a deep understanding of that customer and knowing all the little details that make them tick.
Let’s imagine you sell jewelry and a customer hired you full-time to create pieces for them. What type of questions would you ask so you could create pieces they love? You may want to know their:
- Style – how would they describe their style? Classic or modern? Do they love wearing a bold lip or are they more of a lip balm type of person? Do they wear nail polish? Red or nude?
- Jewelry preference – what do they always or never wear? Maybe they hate wearing earrings because they get tangled in their long hair or love bold earrings because they always wear their hair up? Maybe they never leave the house without a necklace and matching ring because it’s the quickest way to pull any outfit together.
- Wardrobe – what type of pieces do they currently have in their closet? Which trends are they going to follow this season? What type of neckline looks best on them? Boat-neck, v-neck or crew-neck?
- Budget– how much will they typically spend on a piece of jewelry? Do they look for high-end pieces that last a lifetime or costume jewelry to follow the season’s trends?
- Favorite colors – which colors do they love? Which colors go great with their skin tone? Which colors do they hate and never wear?
- Favorite materials – do they only wear gold? Rose gold? Or silver? Do they love chunky stones in primary colors or gems in muted colors and organic shapes?
- Allergies – do they have sensitive skin that gets irritated by a certain type of metal?
- Preference on clasps – do they hate how certain clasps get tangled in their hair? Maybe they avoid bracelets with clasps because they live alone and have a hard time getting them on and off.
- Activities – what type of occasions do they need jewelry for? Do they like their jewelry to go from day to night or do they prefer to change up their look using jewelry?
- Work – what do they wear to work? What do they do after work? Do they have a phone pressed up against their ear most of the day and hate when the back of the earring presses into their neck?
Once you define the questions, answer them as the customer to create a profile. The idea is to define every detail about this person as though you’re creating a product customized specifically to their needs and wants.
From there, you can think about how to apply their preferences to your products. What can you tweak or change to make your products more appealing to your customer?
STEP 2 – Imagine what they secretly complain about
Most of the time, we start our businesses by creating products for ourselves. They’re items we couldn’t find so we decide to make them. Typically, we are our ideal customer. This makes it easy to get inside your customer’s head, figure out their thought patterns, and create a best-selling product for them.
What were you frustrated with before you started making your products?
>> Maybe you couldn’t find on-trend jewelry at an affordable price that didn’t fall apart the 2nd time you wore it.
>> You may have started knitting scarves because it was hard to find ones made from cruelty-free wool.
>> Or perhaps you started making soap because you couldn’t find one that was a fit for your skin type and effective.
Imagine that customer you defined in the last step and think about their wandering thoughts when it comes to the different aspects of your products.
>> What type of product or product features do they wish existed?
>> What frustrates them about what’s currently on the market?
>> What do they hope to achieve by wearing/using/consuming/displaying your products?
This is a technique you may have heard before through ideas like Dave Gray’s empathy mapping or exercises that get deep into describing your ideal client through role-playing.
I love Marie Forleo’s take on it, encouraging people to create a product so fitting for their ideal customer, they feel as though their phones have been tapped.
Imagine you’re listening in on a private conversation your ideal customer is having with someone they trust. They’re not holding anything back.
What might they say about shopping for products in your category? What frustrates them? What are they embarrassed to admit? Who do they compare themselves to? What do they hope no one else notices? What do they wish was out there to solve their problem? Go through all the pains and gains; their frustrations and their hopes.
Let’s imagine the ideal customer we began outlining in the last step. What would be their frustrations and interests when it came to shopping for jewelry? Perhaps the conversation would sound something like this:
I need to update my wardrobe. But I’m so tired of spending money on new clothes that are out of style within a year. I’d like to use the clothes I currently have and just update them. Jewelry would be a great way to do that. I need bold pieces though, something that really stands out. I also have a ton of neutrals in my wardrobe so it would be nice to add color with a statement necklace. I want to be able to wear it with jeans and a t-shirt for weekends, a collared shirt for work, or a dress for all the weddings I have this summer. I also love matching my nail polish and lipstick to my jewelry, it’s such a great way to pull a look together.
I don’t want to spend a fortune but I also don’t want something that’s cheaply made. I bought a couple of statement necklaces last summer and the metal wasn’t finished properly so it scratched my skin and snagged my sweaters. It was also really heavy. Definitely not something I could wear for longer than a couple of hours. And the claps got tangled in my hair. Unless I wore my hair up I’d end up having to rip it out of the clasp before I could take the necklace off. The toggle closures are so much better. I wonder where I could find something like that.
- spending money on clothing trends
- poor quality jewelry
- heavy jewelry
- clasps that tangle in hair
- bold jewelry to update a wardrobe
- match to lipstick & nail polish
From there, the jewelry maker may choose the top 3 ideas to research and consider implementing:
- Creating collections based on the season’s most popular lipstick and nail polish colors.
- Raising their prices slightly to ensure they could spend a little extra time and money on each piece, making sure all edges are smooth and upgrading the closures.
- Taking photos of their pieces on a model, showing her going from casual to dressy, wearing the same piece of jewelry.
If you let your mind wander, it will come up with all kinds of ideas you may never have thought of and lead you to a best-selling product idea.
Imagine a conversation between your ideal customer and a friend or family member. They’re in the market for your product but are frustrated by what’s currently out there. What might they say?
Then think about changes you can make to your existing products or new products you can introduce to solve some of their problems.
STEP 3 – Describe what wows your customers
People don’t line up for average products. They don’t rave about them to friends and they don’t come back for more.
Think about what you’re selling and how it’s delivered. Is there an aspect people rave about or you’d like them to rave about that would make it a best seller? It may be the quality, quantity, type of materials, design, customer service, etc.
If someone were to rave about your product, what would they say?
This one may be a bit more exaggerated as people don’t typically go on and on about every little detail but just imagine they’re that excited about it.
Let’s imagine the ideal jewelry customer again. What would a necklace have to look and feel like for them to rave about it? What would that conversation sound like? You can start by addressing how you’d solve all the frustrations that came up in the last step.
OMG! I just bought the most amazing necklace! It is so my style. It’s a beautiful watermelon pink and neon yellow. It looks amazing against my tan and I have the perfect watermelon pink lipstick and nail polish I’m going to pair it with. The necklace is big and bold but is lightweight so it doesn’t feel heavy after wearing it all day. It’s also really well made; there are no unfinished edges that rub against my skin or catch my hair. I can wear it with a simple white t-shirt, a little black dress, or that colorful sundress I’m wearing to brunch on Saturday. I also got a matching ring that looks so trendy. I can’t wait to wear everything out.
This really helps you get realistic about what types of products are rave-worthy and have the potential to be best-selling.
No one is going to brag about a necklace that’s so-so, they don’t know where or how they’re going to wear it, and is something they can find in any department store. The customer needs to be excited about the product and feel like it’s perfect for them.
You could also imagine your dream review. If someone were to leave the best feedback you could imagine, what would it say?
Once you’ve brainstormed the details customers might rave about, you can begin to look into ways to implement them.
Which product of yours is best-selling? Does it target the specific needs or wants of a specific customer or did you use a different method to come up with the product? Comment below!
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!