More than half of all handmade hobbyists and businesses are struggling heavily with sales right now in light of the current recession; the other half, however, are doing just fine. Declining sales is a normal part of any economic downturn because the average consumer is tightening their belt financially. One significant fact that is overlooked is that we are not all in the same financial boat.
Chances are, when you started your crafting venture, you put a lot of emphasis on selling your friends, family and anyone who they referred as well as your local audience. While this strategy – as well as offering anything and everything you could create (aka no niche) – might have worked when there was extra money floating around, you’re noticing now that it’s no longer the case.
We’ve talked about the benefits of niching down your business for the last year and why it’s essential. But the reason why it’s effective is less about the products and more about cancelling out the #1 thing that small businesses do that kills their sales:
SELLING instead of MARKETING.
For the last several years, you have focused on selling your products to the audience that you have. An audience with diverse interests and plenty of options to shop from that aren’t you but offer the same things. Since we started talking about niching down your business, I have heard more than a few business owners state that they are afraid to lose their current audience if they do. My question to you then is: Is your current audience sustaining your business right now?
If the answer is no; which it is for most makers, then the problem is your approach to your business. You are too busy selling – aka trying to push products and hope that they will sell – instead of marketing.
When you are selling-focused, your business is going to face high overhead costs and constantly feel like you are fighting for sales. You buy all the blanks, all the digitals and chase every trend that you see hoping to make a dollar. If you’ve been in the maker game for a while, then you probably feel like the market is saturated and may even want to give up your craft altogether.
During times of economic downturn, it’s normal to re-evaluate what you are doing with your hobby or business. Unfortunately, most makers are looking at their customers instead of at themselves. Here are some considerations you have to make about your current customer base:
- They have seen you try to sell them for a while and are tuning out because no one wants to be sold.
- Have you built a genuine connection with your customers and audience or are you posting products for sale and disengaging?
- If you’re promoting your products using influencer strategy then you’re building a watchful audience – not paying customers. Likes, follows and comments do not equate sales.
- Not everyone in the state, country, or world is in the same financial situation as your audience. Just because your audience is struggling doesn’t mean there aren’t people to buy your products.
- If you’re selling “anything you can print” then your customer sees your items as an generic impulse purchase – which means it’s the first thing to be removed from the budget during economic downturns. Your product cannot stand out or create a following when you offer the same options as every other crafter. This is why niching down your business is important.
- Your current customer base is only a small drop of the number of people that you can reach with your business.
If you are saying things like “I don’t know what my customer will buy” or “I don’t know who my target customer is” then you are operating with a seller mentality instead of a marketing mentality.
There is a reason why we don’t have door to door salesman anymore – the seller mentality doesn’t work long term and is the fastest way to tank your business especially in an economic downturn.
I am sure that you are thinking – What the heck does she mean when she says I’m not supposed to sell my products! How do I make money then?
Marketing and selling mentality are similar but different. Yes, the ultimate goal of both is to get sales but the way which we go about it is different. A selling mentality is saying “This is what I have – don’t you want to buy it? No? Well I have this other stuff as well? Let me show you all the things until you feel compelled to buy from me!” While a marketing mentality is saying “I am passionate about my product and I know that it provides customers with this value. I am going to share this value and let the customers come to me.”
I always love to use the comparison of car commercials to help people understand the difference between selling and marketing. When you see a commercial for a local dealership, it usually has a salesman telling you how they have all these great vehicles and can get you into the car of your dreams if you just come on by. It’s a friendly face and an upbeat personality that leads you to their door when you want to buy your next vehicle. When you shop at a local dealership, you may or may not have a specific idea in mind. Most people present a salesman with some ideas and a price point and let them show what they have on the lot.
Sound familiar? This is exactly how makers push their business through selling mentality. You have your big waving arms man and flags, begging for attention.
Now, let’s look at vehicle manufacturer commercials. Every vehicle manufacturer commercial is built on marketing a specific vehicle to their ideal customer. Kia is not trying to sell someone like me on the Kia Carnival. They are presenting the aesthetic and idea that this mini-van is the best mini-van on the market for families. It has all sorts of family-friendly features which they don’t tell you about but show you with a family in action. Their ideal customer is a family and when a family sees marketing they can identify with, they want to buy that product. If you a Dodge Ram commercial – it’s often working men doing construction or farming, for the same reason. I drive a Buick Enclave. Most of their commercials are geared towards adults without kids (although they do have some commercials with kids). When I see their commercials of the luxury living life of going on dates or traveling as a couple without kids – I see myself and my partner. When I sat in my car at the dealership for the first time, I knew it was the car for me based on how it looked and felt inside and out.
That is marketing.
Marketing is taking a product that you love and are passionate about and projecting it’s awesomeness out to the world to attract those who share that passion and will line up to buy your product. Marketing tells a story where the product and the customer are the star of the show.
You can’t be passionate about 100 different products or design themes. Neither can a customer following your business. This is again why niching down your business is a smart business move. But even if you don’t, you have to shift from a selling mentality to a marketing mentality. Only then will you start attracting buyers instead of watchers and actually sustain and grow your business through economic changes.
Remember that there are a lot of people in the world who can be your customer. Focus on attracting them to you. You’ve got this!
Ready to learn how to determine your niche, make it profitable and how to focus on marketing it properly – join us for the Discover Your Niche 4-Hour Workshop!