It’s likely most handmade businesses have had fewer sales during this crisis.
For businesses selling products that are more in-demand during this time, production may eventually slow due to lack of supplies or delayed supply shipments.
I sat down and had a brainstorm session for my handmade business to determine where my time would be best spent now to prepare for being “back in business” or back to “business as usual”, whenever that may be.
These are the 5 most important tasks I landed on.
Important meaning, tasks that are safe to work on now.
Safe meaning, they’re more likely to produce a return on investment.
I explained what return on investment means and what types of tasks are riskier to work on during this crisis in last week’s article. You can check that out here: HOW TO HELP YOUR HANDMADE BUSINESS SURVIVE A CRISIS
TASK #1 – UPDATE YOUR ETSY SHOP OR WEBSITE
Although the number of people shopping has decreased, people are still shopping. So it’s important that if anyone does happen to visit your online shop, you make them feel comfortable and confident to buy from you.
If you don’t have an “update” message or announcement regarding how your business is handling this crisis, many shoppers may question if you’re still in operation.
Aside from simply letting people know you’re still in business, accepting orders, and shipping products during this time, let them know about any other precautions or information they may find helpful.
For example, you may let shoppers know:
- The measures you’re taking to create and pack products in a clean environment.
- How you’re making it easy for them to receive your orders. For example, you may skip the decorative tissue paper, business cards, and promotional flyers, you typically place with each order so customers have few items to touch. (*Which also helps you reduce costs)
- How your business is doing its part in social distancing. For example, by you ordering materials online (instead of going to a store), reducing trips to the post office, stopping all mailers and going electronic (*it’s a great time to start your newsletter and allow customers to stay in touch since they can’t see you at craft shows: HOW TO START A NEWSLETTER FOR YOUR HANDMADE BUSINESS). Customers will appreciate you doing your part to get this situation under control and that you’re doing everything you can to keep the environment you create and package products in, clean.
- Tips for how they can stay safe when receiving packages. For example, keeping shipments at the front door instead of setting them down on counters, disinfecting each package, placing packaging directly into the recycle bin or garbage, disinfecting products or setting them aside for a few days, and washing their hands immediately after disinfecting the package/product and disposing of packaging.
- Any incentives you’re offering. For example, free shipping, a discount on online orders since they’re unable to visit you at craft shows and farmers’ markets, any donations you’re making under the business.
If a business doesn’t acknowledge the situation and how they’re taking customers’ health into account, shoppers may think twice about placing an order.
Ensure your Etsy shop announcement section is updated with how your business is handling the current situation.
On your website, visitors can land on a number of pages, so it’s best to add a banner to the top of your website. The banner would be displayed on every page and could link to more information. For example:
We’re still accepting orders and are offering FREE SHIPPING!
For more information on how we’re taking extra precautions Visit our UPDATES page
TASK #2 – RETHINK PRODUCT SELECTION
The fact of the matter is, most of us are going to have to rethink how our business operates and what we sell.
I’m optimistic about the future and have no intention of adding fear, but it is going to be a while before things go back to normal.
I’m sharing my opinion, which is based on the information I’ve read from sources I believe are credible. But of course, no one knows how this will all play out.
The world has never dealt with a situation like this, so no one can accurately predict what will happen in the coming weeks or months.
Things could go back to normal fairly quickly or the economy may back stronger than ever…who knows? The world has never been so collectively focused on one issue and one goal, so something positive has to come out of this, right?
Although everyone is dealing with this on different levels (e.g. some have lost their jobs while others have lost loved ones) and preventing the spread is top priority, everyone also needs to take care of their mental health.
Stress and anxiety cause a number of health issues and can have a negative impact on the decision-making process. Millions of people feeling stressed and fearful about this situation won’t help anything. There’s no benefit to staying up at night worrying about all the “what if’s”.
We can only take it one day at a time, and when you do, it makes the entire situation feel more manageable.
It will be okay. It will be different (for some time), but it will be okay.
With that said, take the following with a grain of salt, it’s just my opinion…
Social distancing will likely need to be *somewhat* in effect for some time. Until everyone is back to their regular work hours, earning their regular income, consumers are going to be more conscious of their spending.
For me, it’s a matter of:
Do I want to keep selling what I’ve been selling and potentially see a significant drop in sales?
Do I want to be prepared by having a plan for alternative products, prices, re-thinking my business and how it operates, etc.?
Challenge creates opportunity.
This is an opportunity for my business to adapt and improve.
If things go back to the way they were before this crisis, great. I know how to deal with that.
But if they don’t, doing what I’ve always done won’t give me the same results.
I have to think beyond what worked in the past and plan for a “new normal”.
You can start to adapt your business and products based on the fact that most people are currently earning less money.
For that reason, buying will be more purposeful.
HOW TO ADAPT YOUR PRODUCTS FOR PURPOSEFUL SPENDING
This has always been my advice, but now, more than ever, it’s important to think about the purpose of each product you make.
Don’t create for the sake of creating.
Before creating a new product, think about:
Who is the product for?
Do you know who you’re creating a product for or are you simply making what you feel like making?
You must know who your target market is so you can create products for them. You can also easily find customers when you define your target market properly.
For example, if I target people who live in tiny homes and create the perfect product for them, I can find them following #tinyhome hashtags on Instagram, or creating inspirational “Tiny Home” boards on Pinterest, or in “tiny home” Facebook groups, or reading blogs about tiny home living, etc. If I put a product made for tiny homes in front of people who live in tiny homes, I’m likely to make a sale.
Make sure you know exactly who is going to buy the products you make going forward; know your target market.
*For help choosing and defining a target market, check out HOW TO FIND A GOLDMINE OF CUSTOMERS
Why do people want to spend money on the product?
“Handmade” typically means prices are higher than average. So how are your customers going to justify spending more money on your products when they can easily find a cheaper option? (E.g. why will they spend $10 on a bar of your handmade soap instead of spending $5 for Burt’s Bees soap or $2 for a bar of Irish Spring?)
One way to help customers justify spending money on your products is to make them feel your products are made for them. And the way you create products that evoke that feeling is to know who you’re selling to.
You can also offer a product that’s better than others like it (e.g. it uses better ingredients or materials that offer an important benefit).
Or, you can offer a product with features that are different than what’s on the market. You may stay ahead of trends (find this year’s craft trends in this article) and be one of the first to offer a new trend, or look at the competition and find an angle that makes your products different.
For example, most home décor signs are printed on wood or paper. I may create framed “plant walls” using faux plants and carve/cut phrases into the plants, or attach wood carved phrases on top of the plants. There are thousands of handmade shops selling signs, but someone may purchase mine because it’s different than what everyone else is offering.
What purpose does a new product serve in your business?
Do you really need to offer another pair of earrings that are just slightly different than the pair you have listed on Etsy that haven’t sold? Or another bar of soap in a new scent? Or another sign with a different phrase? If you’re creating more of what’s already not selling, consider why it’s not selling and what might be missing.
A new product may offer a more affordable price option, or a benefit your current products don’t offer.
If current products are selling, offering more of the same is purposeful. However, if current products aren’t selling, new products must serve a different purpose.
Knowing that many people are watching their spending, it’s also a good idea to offer more price options or ways for customers to save money.
For example, if I have a business that makes wreaths to hang on front doors, I may adjust my products in the following way to accommodate more purposeful spending and to offer a range of price options.
I could offer:
- Smaller wreaths/door decor – this would reduce the price by using fewer materials and make them cheaper to ship.
- Broader themes – if I previously sold wreaths for each major occasion (e.g. spring, summer, fall, winter, Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc.) I may focus on just the seasons or wreaths that could work year-round.
- Accessories – instead of creating wreaths for each season/occasion, I may offer basic wreaths and sell wreath accessories separately. So my customers would only need to buy one wreath but they could update it throughout the year with clip-on accessories. For example, for Easter or spring, I may offer sets in different color combinations that include clip-on: bows, (faux) eggs, a bundle of tulips, etc. Instead of customers having to buy an entire wreath for spring/Easter, they can reuse the same wreath and simply clip on new accessories for each season/occasion.
- Indoor décor – homeowners don’t see their front door as much as guests, and with social distancing, they may not be as concerned about having their front door decorated for visitors. Instead, they may purchase items that brighten up the space they’re spending all their time in, like an arrangement for their kitchen table.
We won’t know what the “normal” in “back to normal” looks like until things do start to go back to normal. So it’s important to stay in the brainstorm and test phase until the future is a little more certain.
Consider how your business and products can adapt but don’t spend a lot of time or money making those changes.
If you think offering a lower-priced product might boost sales, make one or two and see what the reaction is before creating an entire line of lower-priced products.
TASK #3 – ALTERNATIVE REVENUE STREAMS
If you think it’s going to be a while until people are going to start buying your products again, and you’re not willing to adapt or change your products, consider other ways for your business to earn revenue.
- Create DIY kits so customers can save money by purchasing the supplies, instead of a finished product, and have something to keep them entertained.
- Teach others the crafting skills you’ve perfected over the years. This would be done online through a blog, video, email course, etc.
- Become an affiliate and make money by promoting and selling other businesses’ products
- You may even start your own affiliate program to get others to help promote and sell your products
- If you have a lot of craft supplies you won’t be able to use any time soon, consider selling them online
- You might start a blog, sharing your expertise on a subject such as your crafting skills or knowledge on starting a craft business
- Offer your services to businesses that are thriving during this time. You’re likely skilled in updating an Etsy shop or growing a craft Instagram account; these are tasks you could take care of for other business owners and charge a fee for your time.
TASK #4 – CREATE SYSTEMS
Systems help you streamline your business so you can lower costs. You can identify tasks that should no longer get time and money, and find ways to work more efficiently on tasks that do produce a return on investment (ROI).
You can create systems for most aspects of your business. In general, I like to focus on three areas of business (creating, marketing, and selling) and create systems that:
- Lower expenses
- Allow work to be passed on to others
- Nurture new shoppers
Your business’s expenses are anything you spend time or money on.
Many handmade business owners disregard their time, don’t track it, and don’t pay themselves an hourly wage.
Your time must be accounted for and you must factor your wage into product prices. As mentioned earlier, this ensures you’re properly calculating profits, creating healthy profit margins, and are prepared for a situation like the one we’re currently in, or for any future recessions or changes to your business.
To lower your expenses, you must first look at everything you spend time and money on and how much time and money is spent. (*For hours, multiple the time spent on a task by your hourly wage to determine the cost.)
You can work from memory but the better tactic is to track hours and costs as you go (THE SUCCESS PLANNER will help you with that).
Once you have a list of expenses, determine if and how each can be reduced or eliminated.
For example, materials are likely to be a big expense. You may reduce material costs by:
- Researching suppliers each quarter so you don’t get stuck in the pattern of buying materials from the same place because that’s where you’ve always gone. Continuously look for the best supplier.
- Organizing materials to easily see what’s in stock and what needs to be re-ordered
- Taking inventory of materials before placing orders
- Scheduling orders/craft store trips at the end of each month to avoid paying to ship multiple orders or making multiple trips to the store
- Planning product collections to better plan materials needed and reduce material waste
Now, instead of buying materials when you’re feeling inspired to create something new, you have a system for ordering materials that helps you save time and money.
Continue looking at each task, item, service, etc. you spend time or money on and list ways you can spend less, as well as create a step-by-step plan to follow.
HIRING OUT WORK
Imagine you’re paying someone to complete a task for you. You don’t want to pay them more than you have to, so you wouldn’t want them spending time on anything that’s not essential. It’s also important not to spend your time on tasks that aren’t essential.
You may not be at the point of hiring employees but when you think in terms of how others might take over and complete the work you do, you begin to think about the steps you follow to get a task done and what tends to waste your time.
For example, I have no intention of hiring someone to post to Facebook for me. However, if I take the time to outline the proper steps one should take to post to Facebook, I can more efficiently post to Facebook.
When I post to Facebook, I first log into my personal Facebook account to get to my business’s Page. That can lead to me checking my personal messages or scrolling through the feed…just to see the top few posts…which, of course, never ends after a few.
When I finally do make it over to my business’s Facebook Page, I may sit and think about what to write, then write, delete and re-write the post a few times before hitting “publish”.
Noting that my personal Facebook page can be a distraction makes me more aware and more likely to avoid that distraction in the future.
Next, I can outline a more efficient posting system.
I might look at past posts that garnered the most interaction and determine a good formula for posts. That may be to start each post with a personal thought or story, a brief explanation of how it’s connected to the link/picture I’m sharing, and then add a call to action (CTA).
Think about how you might create an “employee manual” for each task that falls under each major area of your business: creating, marketing, and selling.
Although you may be the only one completing the tasks now, and maybe even ever, it organizes the steps and helps you create more efficiencies.
>> List the steps that must be taken for each major task.
>> List potential distractions or time-wasters (so you’re more aware of them and can avoid them)
>> Edit steps to create efficiency
Once you have your steps, think about how you can batch tasks, which creates even more efficiency.
For example, I may batch creating and scheduling Facebook posts so I’m logging into Facebook once, at the beginning of the week; reducing the temptation to quickly check my personal page during work hours.
Or, I may batch a step in that task. For example, in a word document, I may write the text for all of my week’s Facebook posts. That way, I can get into a writing flow, quickly write a week’s worth of posts, and then simply copy and paste the posts into Facebook each day.
NURTURE NEW SHOPPERS
Some shopping situations are more conducive to shoppers buying from your business the first time they hear about/interact with it. For example, craft show shoppers are more open to taking a chance on an unknown business.
However, most shoppers require multiple interactions with a business before they’re ready to buy from them. This is especially true online. There are so many un-trustworthy businesses online that it makes online shoppers more skeptical.
There are ways to show first-time shoppers you’re a trustworthy business, but the more important task to work on now is to create a system that nurtures shoppers so they do eventually turn into customers.
To nurture a shopper you must have a way to interact with them again and again.
If a shopper stumbles upon your Etsy shop and leaves without taking any action (e.g. buying, signing up for your newsletter, following you on social media, etc.), they’re more likely to forget about your business and all you can do is wait and hope they come back.
The BEST way to stay in contact with shoppers and warm them up to the idea of buying from you is through email.
If someone receives your business card or flyer, it’s likely it will get tossed and forgotten about (check out: HOW TO KEEP YOUR BUSINESS CARDS OUT OF THE TRASH)
If someone follows you on social media, you want them to see your posts. But unfortunately, reaching the people who follow you is becoming less and less in your control.
If you have someone’s email address and you send them an email, they will receive it.
Emails can land in the spam folder, but the recipient is still getting your message, it’s just in a different folder. And there are best practices that will help keep your emails out of spam folders (which are covered in HOW TO START, SEND & GROW A SUCCESSFUL NEWSLETTER).
If you haven’t done so yet, now is the time to get your business’s newsletter set up.
Once you have a newsletter set up, create a sales funnel.
A sales funnel is a set of emails automatically sent (sales on autopilot!) that warm newsletter subscribers to the idea of buying from you.
It’s sort of like the difference between a salesperson who:
>> Asks: “What can I put at the till for you to buy?” as soon as you walk in a clothing store.
Versus a salesperson who:
>> Acknowledges you with a smile and hello when you first walk in
>> Asks what you’re shopping for and if they can help, after you’ve walked around a bit
>> Asks if they can put an item into a fitting room for you, once you’re holding an item
>> Then asks if they can put anything at the cash desk for you, once you’ve had a chance to try items on.
The emails in a sales funnel sequence might:
>> Introduce you/your brand and why it’s different shortly after someone signs up
>> Help a new subscriber without asking them to buy (e.g. a clothing business may share the top 5 trends of the season). You can still promote your products but in a way that doesn’t feel pushy (e.g. adding links to clothing in their shop that follows each trend).
>> Then sell. Which may be sharing a discount code, promoting a product, etc.
More details on creating sales funnels for your business can be found here: HOW TO SET UP A SALES FUNNEL FOR YOUR HANDMADE BUSINESS
TASK #5 – SOCIAL MEDIA
As I’ve explained in past articles, you should not be using your social media to sell.
When a social media page is started, it must focus on gaining and nurturing followers. And the way to do that is not by selling, it’s done by entertaining.
Now is likely the perfect time for you to regroup and adjust your social media marketing strategy.
For most handmade businesses, it’s not a great time to sell. So put sales tactics aside and think about how you can excite and entertain your followers.
Although you won’t be focusing on your products as much, you still want to stay on-brand.
For example, if I sell fine jewelry for families (e.g. mother & daughter necklaces, sister charm bracelets, etc.), I wouldn’t start posting cat memes because they always get likes. I would stick to topics related to my brand (e.g. fashion/accessorizing/family/etc.).
And keep the tips in this article in mind when posting: 5 STEPS TO VIRAL SOCIAL MEDIA POSTS FOR YOUR HANDMADE BUSINESS
Get to know your followers and what they’re interested in by looking at past posts that garnered the most interaction.
If you don’t have stats to work from or haven’t been able to get much interaction on social media, take this time to regroup.
Who do you want to target on social media?
Find popular groups of people by looking at existing:
- Groups on Facebook – topics groups are formed around (e.g. gardening groups)
- Boards on Pinterest – popular topics Pinterest users are creating boards for (e.g. parenting)
- Hashtags on Instagram – popular hashtags people are using (e.g. #yogalife)
Once you know who you’re targeting, you can create content they’re certain to be interested in.
For example, if I sell home décor items, such as art for kids’ rooms, I may decide to focus on the topic of parenting.
I may post fewer product photos on social media and begin to share posts about:
- Kid activities around the home
- DIY’s for kids
- Creating a learning space for your kids (I could sneak a product mention in by suggesting my art for the space)
I don’t have to create all the content; I can simply share other people’s posts or link to an article about kid activities.
My followers are now more likely to “like”, comment, click links, etc. on posts, which helps get my posts, page, and business more views.
Consider who you’re targeting on social media and how you can be more helpful to them (while keeping posts related to the products you sell).
Those are the 5 main tasks I’ll be focusing on in the coming weeks. Any others you’d add to the list?
LINKS MENTIONED IN ARTICLE:
- HOW TO HELP YOUR HANDMADE BUSINESS SURVIVE A CRISIS
- HOW TO START A NEWSLETTER FOR YOUR HANDMADE BUSINESS
- THE SUCCESS PLANNER
- HOW TO KEEP YOUR BUSINESS CARDS OUT OF THE TRASH
- HOW TO START, SEND & GROW A SUCCESSFUL NEWSLETTER
- 365+ NEWSLETTER IDEAS FOR A HANDMADE BUSINESS
- HOW TO SET UP A SALES FUNNEL FOR YOUR HANDMADE BUSINESS
- HOW TO USE THE TROJAN HORSE STRATEGY TO SELL YOUR HANDMADE PRODUCTS
- 5 STEPS TO VIRAL SOCIAL MEDIA POSTS FOR YOUR HANDMADE BUSINESS