One resounding cry that we hear in the apparel and accessory decoration industry is that the market is “oversaturated”.
When these kinds of comments are made in Sub That: Sublimation Graphics & Tutorials, I immediately respond stating that there is no such thing – because there isn’t when you’re operating your business (or hobby) with intention. The challenge that many of you face is that you started your business from a hobby. Arguably, our group and tutorials are not geared towards the seasoned artist who is taking out a loan and opening a brick and mortar. Our audience is beginners, dreamers, those starting with little investment in the corner of their living room. Hobbyists who may wish to become business owners.
This month – and this year – we are focusing on helping you transform your mindset and approach to selling to maximize your success. Where does it all start? With “niching down” your business.
What Does it Mean to Niche Down?
You may or may not have heard of the term “niche down”. What this refers to is establishing a niche for your business and targeting your marketing accordingly.
Having a niche as a business owner is nothing new. Look at every store around you and think about the products that they sell. Whether it’s the pricing, the type of goods, the brands or the selection – it’s all built around a niche for that business model. The purpose of having a niche is to target the right customers who will value your products/services and pricing accordingly.
Now, we are not talking about the Walmart’s and Amazon’s of the world that cater to consumer convenience. That is, in fact, a niche of its own based solely on mass market consumerism.
We are talking about your every day specialty stores. If we want fabric – we shop at Joann’s. If we want home décor – we shop at Hobby Lobby. If we want general craft supplies – we got to Michael’s. Even though each of these stores is similar in some fashion, they all have a target niche with pricing and sales to reflect it accordingly.
Individuals who start as hobbyists often forgo having a niche. We all remember what drove us to purchase that first vinyl plotter, sublimation printer, white toner printer or other equipment: the potential. The potential to create a truly endless number of products and possibly even sell them for profit. When it feels like there is so much opportunity around us, it’s easy to fall into the hobbyist mentality rut.
What is that? It is the mindset that you have to constantly be offering EVERYTHING there is (and often overextending your budget) just to be successful. Sound familiar?
If you feel like the market is over-saturated, it is 99% likely because you do not have a niche. You are doing too much at once, hindering your sales potential and increasing your burnout from your hobby/business. We know that many want to transition from hobbyist to business owner; or at least be a lucrative hobbyist. This is where niching down comes in.
Have you ever asked yourself why there isn’t a competitor to Walmart? It’s because the world doesn’t need another Walmart-style store. The same could be said for the sell-it-all-hobbyist. Leave the low-profit pricing, endless customization, and do-it-all model to those hobbyists. If you want to be profitable, have lower overhead and stock, and just feel generally successful – then you need to find a niche and tailor your marketing accordingly to reach your ideal customer base.
What is a Niche?
It’s the little space in the columbarium where we put cremains.
If you haven’t been around long enough, I went to school to be a Funeral Director & Embalmer. Sometimes I can’t resist a chance to make a joke.
A niche is actually defined as “a place or position that is appropriate for something or someone”. It is truly a broad term. In terms of business, it is the art of creating the perfect “home” for your products and customers alike.
In the world of dye sublimation and other handmade goods, a niche comes when you combine your passion with your craft on a profitable item that is easy to sell over and over. For example, coffee mugs. Coffee mugs are one of my favorite profitable, wholesale-worthy items that can be sold. A dye sublimation coffee mug lasts longer than any other printed option on the market – making it more desirable for that reason alone. Now, when I think of coffee mugs, there are a few types of consumers I think of: coffee lovers, book lovers, and office workers. As an avid reader and author, my passion is going to fall in the book lover column.
This makes my niche coffee mugs (and other accessories) for book lovers. My entire design collection can be literary quotes, puns, and quotes that poke fun at book lovers. My wholesale potential can be found with aspiring authors, bookshops and libraries. Even though my primary item is coffee mugs of this theme, I still have room for some other lower profiting items like tote bags and bookmarks that help fill out the collection.
Niching down is focusing your business model as I just explained. You do not need to create every product. You need to create products with intention. You need to create the perfect appropriate space for you and your products.
What are the Benefits of Niching Down?
If tomorrow I decided that I wanted to take up cake decorating again [for those that don’t know, my first business was an allergen-friendly baking company which got flooded out in Hurricane Irene, in Central New York] then I would immediately head over to Jester’s Cake Supply and shop. Why? Because this is their niche. When I think of ordering fillings, cake decorating tips and bags, pans and more – I think of them.
The same is true for your small business. You want your small business to be the one-of-a-kind place where someone can shop for your one-of-a-kind product. This is what sets you apart from the competition. You are no longer creating everything for everyone. Instead, you are setting yourself up to be the go-to source for one product and theme that you are most passionate about.
As you evolve into your new customer base, you find increased loyalty and hype over your products. You can leverage limited runs on items and product drops to drive up your sales – therefore increasing profits. You are also able to drastically decrease your overhead by offering less product types. Not for nothing but selling 5 coffee mugs pays for a case of 24 easily. A simple change in product offering and strategy decreases overhead, moves product faster and increases sales volume and revenue.
Your workload will also decrease. The time invested in an item will be less by default – especially if you are currently doing customization on everything. Your customers will have set collections that you can produce in bulk or at least purchase/print supplies in bulk. Further driving down your overhead costs and time investment involved in your business.
And last, but not least – the easiest products to sell are the ones you are passionate about. Have you noticed TikTok/Instagram marketing over the last 18-months? Business owners are blowing up strictly because they are genuinely passionate about their niche products. They are excited to not be creating everything but instead creating meaningful items they love and putting them in the hands of customers whom share their passion.
Kind of seems like a no-brainer, right?
What About My Customers?
A natural fear when you are going to make a major shift in your business is wondering how your customers respond. My question to you is this – are your customers purchasing ever week? Every month? If not, then you have nothing to worry about. Designating a niche and targeting the customers who are passionate about your products as you are automatically equates to repeat sales and loyal customers. Those customers that are fly-by-night and have lots of random requests? They will just go be someone else’s problem. Since you are charging more for your niche product and decreasing the workload involved, you will make up for the shift in revenue. This is not to say that the change over is easy, just that it’s a small sacrifice for long term stability and success.
Does this mean that you never create anything else? Of course not. Even I still put out shirts and other items for long-time friends and old loyal customers. Those are just a little bonus on the side. It is not part of my mainstream business model. I prioritize my mainstream business model always because that is my bread and butter. That is what consistently pays my bills, supports our group giveaways and so much more.
Niching down is the new must-do for small businesses in a highly competitive e-commerce world. You have unique interests, style and passions that can be infused into your products and marketed to those with similar interests. Join us over the next few weeks as we talk more about how to navigate finding a niche, creating a product launch and marketing your new business model, successfully.