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Consumers fall into one of three categories when it comes to income during this pandemic:
1) Their income has stayed the same
They’re able to work from home or they’re considered an essential worker and are continuing to go into work.
2) Their income has increased
They may be required to work overtime or be one of few willing to work a certain job so they’re getting incentive pay. Or maybe they run a business with a product or service that is more in-demand now (hello hand sanitizer!).
3) Their income has decreased
They may not be able to work during this time or they may have a business selling products or services that aren’t in-demand right now.
If you’re a handmade business owner who falls under #3 (you’re making less money now), you can sympathize with and understand others who have seen a drop in income.
You’ve likely cut back on how much money you spend on non-essential items.
Imagine seeing an item marketed on social media. It looks great, but you just don’t have the money to spend on it right now. Would seeing that product marketed to you, again and again, change your mind?
That business has two choices, but we’re going to cover just one of them today:
Stop spending time and money marketing to you and instead, target a new consumer who falls under #1 or #2 (their income has stayed the same or increased)
If you’ve seen a drop in sales, your customers are feeling the same way you are.
They’re not in a position to buy right now, or aren’t comfortable spending as much money as they once did.
In this article, I’m going to explain how your business can target a new customer to start making sales again.
TARGETING CONSUMERS WHO SPEND MORE
Consumers who are able and willing to spend more money on a product (anytime; pandemic or not) are doing so mainly for quality; they expect those higher-priced products to function better and last longer.
They’ll also spend more to get a product they can’t find anywhere else.
For example, one might buy Mat & Nat bags because they love the style of their bags and have a hard time finding high-quality vegan bags that look like real leather.
Some consumers do spend more for status reasons. They buy products with a logo that tells other people; they’ve spent a lot of money on that product. But that has more to do with branding.
A brand, business, and its products must be well known for this approach. It’s unlikely people would spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a Hermes Birkin handbag if others didn’t know the cost of one. It becomes a status symbol because others are aware of its cost.
Building a brand that is known to many as high-end takes a lot of time and money, so we’re not going to cover targeting customers who spend more money to get a status symbol in this article.
Let’s focus on the customers who are looking for better quality or a unique product.
PERCEIVED QUALITY VS. ACTUAL QUALITY
It’s easy to make a product look more expensive than it is, especially online.
Shoppers aren’t able to pick items up and examine them so one could easily take a dollar store item and photograph it in a way that makes it look expensive.
That is part of the equation; we do want your product’s surroundings (e.g. props, website, craft show display, etc.) and the way they’re presented (e.g. photos, descriptions, etc.) to increase the perceived value.
But we also want your products to back up that value.
To build a good reputation and get repeat customers, your products must actually be high-quality.
They likely already are, as handmade requires more skill and attention to detail than mass-produced or machine-made products.
However, if you’re currently selling items that use low-end materials, you should not try to pass them off as high-end.
If you want to double your prices to appeal to a new target market, the price increase should be warranted.
Maybe you’ll use better quality materials, better packaging (e.g. recyclable), add new product features (e.g. line your knitted mittens with fleece), use production techniques that will help your products hold up to wear and tear better (e.g. double-stitching seams on bags), offer better customer service or faster shipping, etc.
I don’t want you to simply raise your prices (unless you’ve been undercharging for your work).
I want you to raise your prices because you’re providing your customers with more value, in one way or another.
PRODUCING HIGH-QUALITY PRODUCTS
Here are a few ways you can increase the value your products or business provide:
The easiest way to increase the value and quality of your products is to continue making the same items but with higher-quality materials.
>> Someone sewing purses or pillow covers may use better quality fabric.
>> Someone selling jewelry may use more expensive stones and gems instead of plastic beads.
>> Someone designing stationery may have their designs printed on higher quality paper.
There are so many online classes these days, there’s no excuse not to constantly improve your skills or learn a new one. For example, someone selling wire-wrapped jewelry may learn some silversmithing basics and how to bezel set a stone, which increases the value of a piece.
Perhaps your tools need an upgrade so they can produce better results. I have an old sewing machine that tends to get stuck on thicker seams, skip stitches, and break threads once and a while. It’s likely time for a new set of needles, a tune-up service, or a new machine.
Quality may be improved by slowing down your production and spending more time on each piece. Instead of trying to pump out as many items as possible in an hour, take your time with each one, ensuring you pay attention to the details.
Packaging has a bigger impact on perceived value but depending on your target market and product, it may increase the price consumers are willing to pay.
For example, someone selling art may use high-quality packaging that protects the product during shipping. If I’m looking for art on Etsy and notice on seller has several reviews mentioning the art arrived damaged, I’m going to go to another seller and specifically look for how they package their art for shipping.
Someone selling products to an environmentally-conscious market may offer biodegradable packaging for their products, which is something their customers will see value in and be willing to pay slightly more for.
WARRANTIES / GUARANTEES
Consumers may be willing to spend more and see your products as more valuable if you offer a warranty or guarantee.
For example, let’s say I was looking at 2 rings from 2 different vendors. If one is more expensive but guarantees the gems won’t fall out, I’d be willing to spend the extra money on it and would put more trust in the quality of their pieces since the vendor is willing to stand behind them.
Many people choose to shop with certain businesses because they provide exceptional customer service. Their higher prices are warranted because they’re able to talk with a human when they have a problem (instead of a chatbot), or because the business always does their best to make it right, or they add personal touches that make the customer feel valued (like a handwritten note with each order).
PERCEPTION OF HIGH-QUALITY
In the same way that styling and photography can make a low-quality product look higher-end, poor presentation can make a high-end product look low-quality.
It’s important the elements that surround your products communicate their quality.
Imagine being served a cup of home-brewed coffee in a cafe with baristas, espresso machines, the smells of fresh coffee brewing, the sounds of milk being steamed, etc. The surroundings would lead you to believe that cup of coffee is made with better quality ingredients and with more expertise; you’d be more open to paying more money for it.
On the other hand, if someone poured a cup of cafe-brewed coffee into an old mug and served it to you in their kitchen, you’d assume they made that coffee in their drip coffee machine. If they asked you to pay $5 for it, you’d be a little skeptical of the price tag.
To raise your prices and make shoppers believe those prices are justified, you need to create the professional cafe atmosphere.
You must create a valuable experience for your shoppers.
Here are a few ways to do so:
Price doesn’t always correlate with value or quality but it gives shoppers an indication of it. If you see two similar items, one is $20 while the other is $120, you’re automatically going to believe the $120 item is better in some way.
Here’s an article with tips on how to raise your prices: HOW TO CHARGE HIGHER PRICES FOR YOUR HANDMADE PRODUCTS
Good photography is absolutely essential when selling online. Items photographed in poor lighting, with poor focus, or in the wrong context (e.g. a piece of art photographed on the floor…that’s not where artwork belongs; it should be hung on the wall) can decrease the value shoppers place on your products.
Here are some basic photography tips you should follow: TOP PHOTOGRAPHY TIPS FOR HANDMADE PRODUCTS
Product descriptions that simply state the obvious (e.g. handmade bag) or provide basic information (e.g. 10” x 8” tote bag) don’t get shoppers excited about the product.
Imagine a sales associate in a store that tries to sell you an item by describing it to you. The item won’t seem more valuable after hearing their “sales pitch”.
Now imagine a sales associate who tells you why they love the item, all the ways you can use it, the benefits it provides, and about features you weren’t aware of. Now that item seems more valuable because you’ve learned something new about it.
Get excited about the product you’re selling, let that come through in your product descriptions, and find a way to get shoppers excited about your products too.
Here are some tips for writing product descriptions:
- “PRODUCT DESCRIPTIONS THAT SELL” SERIES:
Online, your display applies to your website and the colors, fonts, layouts, etc. Those elements can lead shoppers to believe your products are more or less valuable. Imagine modern, sophisticated handbags being displayed on an outdated website; the way they’re displayed online devalues them.
Offline, it’s your craft show display. Although craft shows may not be starting back up for a month or two (or longer), you can use this time to brush up on your visual merchandising skills and be ready to hit the ground running. Check out the free email course: 5 days to a standout display
Just as customer service can raise the actual value of your products, it can also raise the perceived value. It doesn’t cost you more time or money to reply to emails on the first day you receive a message versus the second or third day. But a prompt reply will be appreciated by shoppers and may lead them to believe your business is more organized or professional. Consider other ways you can improve customer service without increasing costs.
Packaging will increase costs but it can increase the perceived value more than costs.
If you think about a piece of jewelry from Tiffany & Co., it comes in a blue jewelry pouch, which is set inside of a beautiful blue box. That box is wrapped with a cream ribbon and tied in a perfect bow. It then gets placed in a blue shopping bag along with your receipt, which comes in a branded envelope.
Is that packaging necessary to charge thousands of dollars for a piece of jewelry? No. (It’s also a bit excessive in terms of waste).
However, it creates a luxury experience. Imagine if instead, that $1000+ piece of jewelry was tossed in a plastic bag.
You can also get an idea of what consumers expect when spending more money by looking at the website of high-end brands.
- How much are they charging?
- What materials and processes do they use?
- What do their photographs look like?
- How do they describe their products?
- Which colours do they use on their website?
- What’s the checkout process like?
OFFERING SOMETHING CONSUMERS CAN’T GET ELSEWHERE
The other strategy for raising prices and ensuring customers understanding why your prices are higher is to offer a product or service that’s hard to find anywhere else.
This isn’t about reinventing the wheel or creating a product no one else makes. It’s about making your products slightly better or different in some way and highlighting that feature.
That starts with knowing who you’re targeting.
For example, if I make bath products and I’m not targeting anyone in particular; simply people who take baths, I would benefit by finding a more specific group of people who take baths.
Someone more specific in that group may be:
- Moms who take baths to de-stress
- Pet owners who give their dogs baths
- Men who work out and take baths to soothe sore muscles
Let’s say I decided to target men who work out and take warm baths to soothe sore muscles. I may create a line of bath products for sore muscles with products such as:
- Muscle Recover Bath Salts
- Muscle Melt Body Butter
- Muscle Relax Shower Oil
There are still hundreds, maybe even thousands of other businesses selling bath salts that use similar ingredients as mine and provide similar benefits. I’m not reinventing the wheel or creating a product no one else sells.
But when my business is one of few highlighting the benefits bath salts provide to sore muscles and I’m branding my bath salts specifically for men who work out, my products will be viewed by consumers as different.
Think about how Spanx started; Sara Blakely took a pair of pantyhose, cut off the bottoms, and was basically selling footless pantyhose. Hundreds of companies were already producing and selling a very similar product, but Sara marketed her nylons as shaping tights and became known for offering something different.
A bag of bath salts titled “Bath Salts” with eucalyptus oil listed in the ingredients or labeled “eucalyptus scent”, does not make an athlete with sore muscles recognize or feel that product is for them. They may not even know that eucalyptus oil has a cooling effect on muscles and reduces inflammation.
This is where my business can stand out.
I can take the same product but:
- Use masculine colors/fonts/materials for my packaging
- Call my bath salts “Muscle Recover Bath Salts”
- Add a symbol for a flexed arm on the label to indicate “muscles” or “working out”
- Add a description that explains why eucalyptus oil is beneficial for sore muscles
Even though it’s the same product as the other package of bath salts, my product will stand out to men and athletes, and help them recognize my product is made for them.
Know who your business is targeting and create a product that’s so tailored to them, they’d have a hard time finding another business offering something similar.
If you’d like help coming up with a specific type of person you can target, check out HOW TO FIND A GOLDMINE OF CUSTOMERS.
HOW DO YOU FIND THESE NEW CUSTOMERS?
Part of the process will happen on its own. It’s sort of like fishing with different hooks; certain fish are attracted to a big shiny hook while others are repelled by it.
As you increase prices, you’ll start to attract a different type of shopper.
That takes care of people who are already shopping for your product, i.e. when they’re coming to you.
But a business can’t survive or thrive by waiting for sales; it must go out and get them.
>> Setting up at a craft show is waiting for sales.
>> Creating listings on Etsy is also waiting for sales.
>> Creating a product, brand, and business for a specific target market and then placing those products and marketing messages in the places you know your target market is, is going out and getting sales.
For example, if my bath & body business targets men who are into fitness and deal with sore muscles, I may reach out to a weight lifting blog to get my “Muscle Recovery Bath Salts” featured in one of their articles, that’s creating sales.
Finding customers starts with knowing who they are.
You may now know they’re people who buy high-end products, but that’s not enough information to find them.
Unfortunately, defining demographics such as:
- marital status
Don’t help you find your customers.
Yet most articles and worksheets explaining how to define your target market have you starting with demographics.
I have a different approach for those who want to grow their business, aren’t afraid to try something new, and aren’t going to let this pandemic shut them down.
I share my unique approach to finding a profitable target market in HOW TO FIND A GOLDMINE OF CUSTOMERS.
The advice shared in this article won’t be an overnight task to implement; most of my suggestions aren’t. Because that’s not how you build a sustainable business.
You must think long-term. And one thing we do know is that the world is going to be different for a while.
So if you’re going to make changes to your business, make them now; not to see a boost in sales overnight, but to plan for the future.
To do what you need to do now to be prepared for when our new normal starts to emerge.
LINKS SHARED IN THIS ARTICLE:
- Creative Live (online classes to improve crafting skills)
- HOW TO CHARGE HIGHER PRICES FOR YOUR HANDMADE PRODUCTS
- TOP PHOTOGRAPHY TIPS FOR HANDMADE PRODUCTS
- “PRODUCT DESCRIPTIONS THAT SELL” SERIES:
- 5 DAYS TO A STANDOUT DISPLAY (FREE EMAIL COURSE)
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!