Do you create and sell handmade products? Whether you have your own website, or want to earn recurring revenue by selling your products as a subscription on a site like Cratejoy, one of the first and biggest challenges we all face is getting our products in front of the right customers.
Social media, trade shows, craft fairs, email marketing, a list of cool ideas and new platforms and networks that never really stops growing: How do you know where to focus, to get the best return on your time?
We reached out to successful entrepreneurs who sell handmade products and asked them to share their best tips with us: Here are 28 of their best.
“Tell your story! No one has a better story about how they got started, the process to manufacture their products and why they do what they do than handmade artisans. Is this a technique passed down from your grandmother? What tools do you use? Did this start as a hobby that grew and grew? What trials and tribulations did you go through in your journey and how did you overcome them? Remember that your story will be retold by your customers –- whenever someone compliments your piece, or if it’s given as a gift, it will become a conversation starter. So spend time making sure it’s a good one, and tell it every chance you get.”
“When handcrafting a product, consistency can be a challenge. It’s important to work out all of the potential kinks before marketing a product, this includes packaging and shipping. Your packaging should complement your product, protect it and be durable enough. The reality is if you don’t do these things it can kill your product right out of the gate.”
Ellen Cagnassola, Sweet Soaps
“Get your product in front of as many people as possible and offer a variety of options within your specific line of products. For example, I create custom portrait paintings for weddings, newborns, memorial services, pets, families, and business/organization founders (and more!) It is one product — portraits — but you’re offering many types.”
Arlissa Vaughn, Special Event Painter
“Find a team of people who love your product, offer them an attractive monetary incentive and have them sell at local events that relate to your product and target market.”
Lisa Riedel, Corky Kouture
“I market through good old SEO, with my website and word of mouth. Search engine optimization is tedious, but necessary. The more photos you post the more you get indexed.”
Kevin Ellis, Tack Tux
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“My #1 tip for selling unique, one-of-a-kind products online is to take plenty of good, honest pictures. The pictures set the expectation that the customer has for the product that will show up in the mail. It’s important to set that expectation and then meet it. You know what your product is, what it looks like and how it is made. Try to look at the pictures of your product from your customer’s point of view, without all that bias. When you think about it, your customer is really buying the picture. And if a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video is worth a million.”
Jeremy Pellani, Adirondack Stone Works
“My tip for selling your one-of-a-kind product is to be passionate about your work, and truly believe that you have a unique product (hopefully you do!), then go about getting it out to the public. I think my original artwork, digitally printed on silk scarves, fit the criteria. I explore every avenue to get it out in public, be it social networks, blogs, newspapers, or retail stores. Whatever you do, don’t give up!”
“My best tip for selling my handmade and one-of-a-kind products online is to make sure you take high-quality, hi-res photographs of the product so that your customer can get a sense of the quality of the product. Using social media to interact with people who have great influence, or websites that focus on handmade or one-of-a-kind products, is essential. There is a growing focus on locally sourced and -produced consumer goods, which should be leveraged to your benefit. Using local media outlets, such as neighborhood print and online news sites, is a great place to start. Share your story and your passion for your product, your brand and your vision.”
“Promote that they’re handmade, and one-of-a-kind. Make sure to provide the buyer with information on how they can acquire more at another time — or if they want to refer a friend, how they can do that. Make sure to also ask for their email address, or connect on Facebook, so you can stay in front of them with new products as they come out. Social media is extremely important, and the cheapest way of keeping your brand in front of your customers.”
“Be extremely passionate about the problem you are trying to solve for your customers. This adds to the credibility of your product or service, and engages a potential customer on a personal level… A potential customer first needs to understand the problem, but showing your passion for your solution will turn a potential customer into a paying customer… Your job as an individual is to get this goal, or passion, across to your customer in the easiest way possible.”
Al Chen, KeyCuts
“Know what it is you are selling, who your customer is, and how you fill a need for that customer. Make it with the highest standards. It has your mark on it and that needs to be honored. Have passion for what you bring to the market. Stay true to your mission. And when things get tough, and they will, ”Rest, but don’t quit.” Our products evolve along with the amazing women we serve. We are proud to have brought an idea to reality and to market: For women. By women.”
Marsha & Rachael, Just in Case Inc.
Word of mouth is our number one seller.”
Barb Przybylowicz, SafetyBunns
“We realized that before we launched, we would need a PR person to market our product. We had limited funds, but agreed that this was an expense we could afford. We were lucky to find a person who loved our product and has worked as hard as we have to help spread the word.”
Rachel & Stacy, RAINRAPS
“Include a lengthy product description (at least 200 words) that has all the right product keywords. A detailed description gives our customers more confidence in the product (which, in our case, is a business document). I think it creates a perception of higher quality. Having product keywords ensures the document shows up in the site’s internal searches and helps with SEO. All this leads to higher sales.”
David Tang, Flevy
“Diligence is my best tip for selling handmade products. It is a tough market to compete in for any business just starting out, especially for a work-at-home Mom. I never give up on my dream to have a successful business from home and to be able to contribute to the family budget, which pays for my ongoing medical care. If you have determination and willpower, you will succeed!”
Marsha Jaramillo, Markets of Sunshine
“Whether you’re selling to a passerby at a farmer’s market or a buyer for a retail store, what separates your stuff from most of what’s out there is the thought, energy and effort embodied in EACH product — when you’re a small company with a beautiful product it shows, but only up close and personal. So here’s our tip: Get out there and bring your product to people -– let them touch it, hold it, feel the weight and texture that separates it from the mass-production we have all grown accustomed to. This isn’t to say mass production is evil, rather, it’s allowed us to live, as a whole, in a way our ancestors would have never thought possible, BUT, in a world where things are made in the millions a day and an individual product may reach the shelf without ever being looked at by another human being, YOUR handmade product is all the more precious — be proud and show it off — in person; it’s the biggest advantage you have.”
Michael & Catherine, Wee Rock Toy Co
“Packaging matters. After asking the customer to pay $2.99 for a custom whole-food bar, we used to stuff our boxes inside a USPS flat-rate envelope to save a dollar on shipping. The first experience of the customer was this overstuffed envelope, and it wasn’t a positive experience. I wish we had spent more on packaging and shipping when we started the company.”
Jonathan, Element Bars
“Get the product out in the marketplace as much as you can, which means a combination of internal promotion (newsletter to customers), public relations (pitching media) and advertising (in print, online and radio). Much of this depends on developing relationships with each entity and listening to their needs. For example, our customers — we produce personalized romance novels, made one-at-time — suggested we start offering e-books, and we became the first customized book company to do so. Now 20% of our business is e-book sales.”
JS Fletcher, YourNovel.com
“Use social media to promote your products. Word of mouth is your best advertising avenue. But remember, that’s social media, so don’t overwhelm followers with constant sales pitches. They will tune out and ultimately walk away. Instead, find ways to engage them. One example: Ask for their feedback on your product/product ideas, what they like/don’t like. And solicit bloggers’ input as well. They are incredibly influential and often overlooked. Remember to update your social media regularly and keep it current, relevant and interesting.”
Amy Maurer Creel, Smart Mom
“From a digital perspective, email still drives about 60-70% of commerce transactions, so collecting your customers’ email is extremely important for optimizing interactions with existing customers. Pictures, above all, need to be of stellar quality — then utilize Pinterest to help your product get discovered. Only about one in 1000 Pinterest pins go “viral” or have over 100,000 interactions, so it’s a blend of quality and scale. Of course you can use an affiliate company like SeQR Pay to sell your product for you, in which case the affiliate will take 10-25% of the transaction.”
Bryan Colligan, SEQR Payments
“I am using Google advertising, because with it I can specify the region where I try to sell, and limit my spending, but also using Ebay, as its really cheap to set up and don’t have to pay big until after the sale.”
Tamas Fodor, Fodor’s Cabinetry
“My suggestion is twofold: Take great pics that speak to human eyes, and do your best to describe and position your products in a way that speaks to search engines. Handmade-loving humans are your customers, but sadly they can’t find you without the help of search engines. As for great photos, make sure to get a normal view that shows the scale and use of the item at a glance, and also a detailed close-up. For making your products findable, use Google Keywords to see what phrases people are searching for. (For example, ‘recycled jewelry’ brought back more results than ‘recycled necklaces.’) Then make sure to use those terms in your description and in your URL. When you are determining your pricing, try to foresee if you want to sell wholesale or not. If so you will need to multiply your comfortable price by 2–2.5. It sounds painful to give more than half of the sale price to your retail partner, but it could be worth it, because they have access to customers who don’t know you exist yet. Talking with retailers about price points is also a great way of getting a second opinion on what your item is ‘worth.’ You might be underestimating what a customer would pay for your handmade item, and a retailer’s opinion is invaluable.”
Betsy Kaufman, Near & Far
“I try to make all my dog dresses thinking about what customers cannot find in the regular pet store. I use unique fabric, the finest embellishments, and apply it to the dog’s structure. Of course, quality is the best seller for my designs. I also take custom orders so customers can relay to me exactly what they want to have made. This is what makes my business successful and sets me apart from other pet clothing companies.”
Olga Zabelinskaya, Elite Pawtique
“Establish your presence in the social media world. Grab your company or product name and begin to post information that people in your niche find helpful. Answer questions, refer them to information, and sell minimally. It’s not about YOU… its all about your community.”
Chris Melton, Joint Mechanix
“To start with, keep a limited product line (build a niche) and focus on the presentation and branding of your products. Never, ever compromise on quality of the products that you make, or are getting made. Quality check them at various stages, since handmade products provide a lot of flexibility to do so. Then comes the most important part — getting your products in front of potential buyers. If your target market is a mix of different segments, prioritize and conquer one market segment at a time. For instance, I am starting a range of handmade accessories for women. To start with, I am launching my store for the Wedding Market: Focusing all my energy on building and designing accessories for weddings, and focusing my marketing efforts, on just the wedding market.”
Anjum Gadhok, Fair Intentions
“My handmade items are an outgrowth of my graphic design work, so I am needless to say a big fan of a good presentation, branding and a professionally designed line sheet. I also have a ‘one-sheet’ that is easy to attach to email inquiries — a kind of ‘pared down’ line sheet that shows sample products and a blurb in one glance. The other tip, which is harder, is really believing in your own creations.”
Jean Roth, Rotem Limited Edition
“The best way to sell a handmade or one-of-a-kind product is by first wielding the power of social media, such as Facebook, Pinterest, Google + and Twitter — but do not push it. The other important thing to do is target those who really need this product and not try to get the whole world to like it. Be patient and focused.”
Nasser Mahamadeen, SSS Trade
“The best tip I can offer for selling handmade or one-of-a-kind items is to make your product stand out through branding and marketing. If you develop a brand for your product, it will help people gain familiarity and brand recognition for your product, versus a competitor. It also helps to use marketing tools, signs and handouts, and a good website. Use social media to grow your audience. I love selling my items at local farmers’ markets, art fairs, green festivals and through my site. Find your niche market and start promoting yourself and gaining brand awareness today!”
Holly Slawter, Fiddlebump’s Apothecary
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This article is by Launch Grow Joy from launchgrowjoy.com.