One of the issues many new handmade entrepreneurs frequently approach me with is the concern that the handmade market is too saturated for them to be successful. While I agree that consumers can choose from an almost dizzying array of handmade products, I disagree that the handmade market (or any market, for that matter) is too saturated for a new entrant offering quality and value to get a foothold. That’s not to say it won’t be a challenge. It will. Here are three tips (with case studies) to help you effectively compete in the competitive market for handmade goods.
Competing in a Competitive Market
1. Be Distinctive
Not only must your product be distinctive. You must be distinctive.
This does not mean your life must become a social media reality TV show, but it does mean that you must find unique ways to connect with your target customers on a personal level.
For example, you won’t find many pictures of Samantha Thompson, the Maker behind Tempe, Arizona’s Standard Wax, in the company’s Instagram feed. But you will find tons of reasons to love and admire Samantha after a few minutes of browsing there. Here are a few of them.
Samantha is loyal to her Tempe community and shares snapshots when she is physically interacting locally. Samantha values her off-the-grid time, as shown in this Big Sur vacation image. Samantha is serious about her craft, as shown in this fun shot of her and a team member suited up in candle making protective gear.
People don’t just buy Standard Wax products because they are distinctive. (And they truly are, so you should check them out!) They buy them because Samantha wraps a bit of herself into the brand, and a bit of the brand into herself.
It’s distinctive. It’s unique. And no one can compete with it.
It is something no one else can duplicate … because no one else can be Samantha Standard.
2. Be Discerning
When you see other people selling products that are similar to yours, you must look quickly for what you can learn, and then step away. If you cannot do that, then don’t look at all.
If you cannot learn anything, move onto something else. Don’t hang around long enough to wreck your confidence by meditating on all the things they have that you don’t have.
It’s hard not to be drawn in, I know. But you must remember that when you make a habit of visiting competitors’ websites to compare yourself to them, you are putting nails in your own coffin. There will always be people doing things better than you. You must learn what you can from successful people, and then turn the other way and focus squarely on what you need to do to serve your target customers.
Do not torture yourself by subscribing to their newsletter. Do not wake up in the middle of the night to see how many hearts they have on Periscope. Recognize what you have to do to serve your customers, and get busy doing so.
3. Diversify Your Income
After you’ve created a solid business foundation selling specific products to specific people, look for new products and services to offer. For example, Roberta Perry of Scrubz Body Natural Skin Care Products in Bethpage, New York, has been selling a line of bath and body products for a decade. Over the past few years, she has been featured in dozens of media outlets thanks to Help a Reporter, a service that posts media queries that anyone can respond to. Roberta has become so good at it that she started answering other small business owners’ questions about how to use the service. I personally noticed her developing expertise and asked her to speak on my annual #IndieCruise this year, and she did. When a friend of mine said she needed someone to speak at her conference on how to get media attention for your small business, I referred Roberta and she was immediately hired. Roberta is now writing a book about how to use the service, and I’m sure courses and programs will follow.
Roberta is an example of how a Maker created a new income stream serving a new audience, but you can also create a new income stream for the audience you already serve. For example, Kristin Fraser of The Grapeseed Company in Santa Barbara, California, had been making and selling bath and body products containing grapeseed extracts for years before deciding to open a store. Today, not only can you get Kristin’s handmade products online and in her Santa Barbara store, but you can also make your own custom lotions, perfumes and body butters at her in-store scent bar. This is a new way for Kristin to enhance the lives of existing customers already in her target market. They can chose from one of Kristin’s products off the shelf, or they can come into the store and create their own. This new income stream is a win for both Kristin and her customers.
From this discussion and these case studies, you can see that effectively “competing” in a competitive market place is not about competing at all. It’s about serving.
More specifically, it’s about serving your target customers and then capitalizing on the opportunities that naturally come your way when you do so.
Handmade Leather Goods Photo via Shutterstock