If there is one thing you can guarantee about being a small business owner, it is that the things we need to do to sustain or grow are constantly changing and evolving. In the modern world, this is happening faster than ever which can leave a lot of us feeling like we can never make a dent in our bigger goals. In nearly 20-years of business ownership and existing in the e-commerce space, I have learned that pivoting with strategy is essential to not just surviving – but thriving. With so many voices trying to “sell” you on bad information, let’s talk about what you can actually do to grow in 2024 as a craft business and why.
NICHE DOWN YOUR BUSINESS
For two years, I have been spreading the message of niching down your business. Every time I mention this, without fail, I get people who express that they cannot imagine doing this. When I ask why, the answer is always the same – my current customers might not order.
Here are some questions: Are your current customers sustaining your business? Are they ordering consistently when you have sales or launch new products?
If the answer isn’t a resounding yes to questions, then you need to niche down your business.
Niching down your business specifically applies to anyone making and selling physical products. This does not apply to digital designs, blanks sellers (assuming you are focused on a specific industry), or service providers (embroidering, laser engraving, ect) who fill bulk orders most often – as each of these is a niche in itself.
The best way to niche down your business will depend on the business itself. You can focus on a specific product (tshirts and sweatshirts), a specific target theme (Medical professionals, teachers) or a specific aesthetic (snarky text designs, watercolor designs). The purpose of niching down your business is to isolate your ideal customer based on their interests and spending habits.
Why does this work? When you niche down your business, first and foremost, you make your business less work. No more buying excessive blanks and designs – while being unsure of what to promote and sell. Second, you create a target audience that wants to buy your product – likely many times over. When we try to sell every product with any design to every person, we create too many options. There is nothing unique about being a business that prints-on-demand one-off items. Your business is not able to stand out from the competition because your competition is everyone.
If you are someone who thinks: The market is over-saturated. I cannot make any money selling my products. I have spent too much money on materials and don’t know how to sell them. – then you need to niche down your business as a first step.
LEARN TO MARKET YOUR BUSINESS THE RIGHT WAY
Marketing and selling are not the same thing. Selling is where you say “I have this, you should buy it!” while marketing is saying “I know a problem that my product can solve, let’s talk about it more.” As makers, we all are prone to putting selling ahead of marketing – especially when sales slow down for any reason. But just like we don’t want to be sold all the time – neither do our customers. When we prioritize marketing, we build connection with our audience that facilitates engagement and helps our reach grow both offline and online.
Marketing the right way means being willing to focus on being relatable and connecting with your audience. Share your products alongside information, thoughts and ideas. Think about it like this: How many times have you bought something that you saw someone else using? We see someone’s décor, shirt, mug, makeup choice – whatever – and we think “huh, I kinda like that. That would work for me” and then buy it. Your friend isn’t selling it to you. Your friend is just existing and sharing their life with you – which includes various products.
That is marketing, in a nutshell. Marketing is creating conversation around your products in an indirect way. Treat your customers like your friends. Use your product in your content on social media. Share the benefits of your product and talk about it in an objective way – the same way you would tell a friend about your favorite sweater. Be a resource for conversation, laughs and information instead of a 24/7 sales pitch.
If you’re not sure what to post or how to post it, be sure to check out the 365 Social Media Content Calendar for Craft Business. This calendar is free if you join the 2024 Social Media Coaching Private Group (paid access). In this group we dive deep into strategy, audit your social media accounts and provide feedback and provide developed examples to go alongside of the content calendar.
DIVERSIFY AND GROW YOUR PRESENCE
One of the biggest issues that handmade small business owners are facing is navigating the changes of Facebook algorithm. Particularly, the changes made to the groups algorithm. Up until the end of 2021, Facebook groups had been the must-have option for all types of businesses. They created a place for community and connection – plus an opportunity to promote your products and services. This is no longer the case and many businesses are feeling it – myself included.
When I announced the Sub That Mobile Learning Library App, the biggest shocker to people was my plans to close down Sub That on Facebook in 2025. Trust me when I say that it absolutely guts me to think about all the work we’ve done in 6 years to grow and build community and let it go. But here is the thing – the community, support and positive experience we had in the group is gone because of algorithm changes and has been declining for the last 24 months. If I want my audience to have support, find answers, see our tutorials and be able to best serve them and their business development and growth – it cannot be limited to a Facebook group like it once was.
While yes, Facebook is massively suppressing any and all sales posts or posts with external links; the lack of engagement and visibility is not just a selling-group issue. It’s happening to groups that are built around coaching and helping people with NO sales or external links, as well. Groups of 200K people are lucky to see a few comments when someone asks for help.
Diversifying how we show up for our business is crucial. Going into 2024 and 2025, Instagram has taken the forefront of small business marketing. Influencers are being suppressed more and more, which only benefits small business. TikTok falls in-line with Instagram as well. Pinterest has been a steady source for businesses for years but strategy is key. Incorporating your products alongside related ideas is secret on Pinterest. Lastly, use your reach to drive people to your email and text marketing list so you have a way to contact them with sales and promotions.
SET BOUNDARIES FOR WORK, LIFE & BUSINESS
The final thing you can do to improve your business in 2024 is to be better about setting boundaries for your business and life. Many small business owners feel worn-down and torn by trying to juggle so many parts of their life at once. It bogs down creativity and work flow while increasing frustration and resentment for your business, your life and the goals you aren’t achieving.
Setting boundaries can feel like a challenge. It is normal to feel like you are letting someone down (customer or family) because you aren’t giving them immediate attention when they ask for it. I assure you, setting boundaries is going to make you feel better on every level.
What does this look like?
- Set dedicated time for work and be committed to only work during that time.
- Set a path of communication for your customers via email/website and only respond during your business hours time. End messaging on multiple platforms that is hard to keep track of.
- Talk about boundaries with your partner and children (if applicable) about a structure in your home that honors your business goals and your life. Communication is key – and yes, I know it’s hard but I have faith in all of you.
- Learn to decrease your own mental load. This goes out to all the women, especially. We have a terrible habit of adding to our own mental load by creating expectations at every turn. Combat this by asking yourself “Does this honor what I am trying to achieve or am I creating more work for myself in hopes of a quick outcome?”. If it is creating more work, it’s a hard no. This goes to commitments for work, life and business.
- Hold your boundaries. Don’t be afraid to simply say “I will tackle this at this time which works best for me.”
As we continue in economic turmoil, I cannot stress enough how much this is the ideal time to work on better structuring your business to benefit your long-term goals. Let 2024 be the year that you focus on finding the balance and marketing your products so you can grow and thrive – instead of just surviving. Building a business is a marathon, not a sprint – the next 12 years can set you up for success for years to come.