07 Jun Maybe Marketing Isn’t the Answer: When You Can’t Find Your Ideal Customers
Your business is your baby, and no one thinks their own baby is ugly. However, there may come a day when you have to face the facts and admit that you may be the only one who thinks your baby is beautiful. When all of your marketing efforts are not paying off and your sales keep slipping, you need to ask yourself if it’s your marketing or if it’s your product. At that point, it’s time to examine your product line and make some clear-headed decisions about what to keep and to let go. We’re here to offer some tips so you can make an informed choice about the direction your business needs to take at this critical juncture.
Nobody is Buying My Fabulous Product!
As someone with a craft-based business, you are selling products that are wants, rather than needs, by definition. No matter how great you think your product is, few people are going to buy it if it doesn’t do at least one of these things:
Solves a Pain Point
What does your product do for a crafter that no other product on the market does? Successful products in the craft and hobby sector have been developed by people who had a specific problem while engaged in their favorite hobby and created something that solved that problem. If your product is merely an upgrade or variation on a tool or material that others are also selling, you’re not solving a problem, so you’d better be able to compete on some other factor.
Appeals to the Right Audience
Let’s say your company sells fabric bundles for quilting. Originally, you may have put together bundles of coordinated fabrics along with a block pattern. Since starting your business, perhaps you expanded your line to include gradient bundles, neon bundles, and black/white bundles, all with various scales of prints – but the sales of your original bundles have been dropping steadily. What happened?
It could be the block pattern. As you grew your product line, your customer may have shifted from one who wants to make the quilt exactly as pictured to one who is inspired by your color and print combinations, but has her own ideas about what to make with them. Either you have to find more of the original customers, or grow in this new direction to keep your company on the move.
Adds Value, Not Just Features
If you’re selling a tool to craft hobbyists, you need to focus on your tool’s core function. Features like materials, design aesthetics, or packaging differentiate your tool from that of competitors’ with the same core function, but may not be enough to sway customers to choose yours, especially if it more expensive. The silk case for the interchangeable knitting needle tips is not as important as the tips themselves – unless you can show your customers how your product makes engaging in their hobby easier or more fun. If you can do that, you’ve given them a compelling argument to buy your product; if you can’t, it may be time to consider dropping that product from your line.
Fills an aspirational need
Your products, particularly if you are selling designs for garments, or the materials to create them, are part of the fashion industry as well as the craft industry. Your customers may not be buying their clothing from couture ateliers, but they may want to. If your products don’t reflect what’s going on in terms of Pantone colors, or current trends in patterns, textures, or fibers, it’s time to rethink your offerings. Your customers choose to spend their discretionary funds on your products. Give them access to the luxury they can afford.
Hearing Customer Feedback
If you’re still reading, you have some kind of feeling that an underperforming product needs to go. Despite marketing campaigns, price reductions, and other retailer incentives, sales continue to drop. It’s hard to admit to yourself that the product which launched your business is no longer the one your customers want; it can feel like a personal rejection! If the rest of your line is selling well, your customers still love and value what you’re doing – they’ve just grown and changed along the years, along with you and your products. You can infer that what you’re doing now is more interesting to them than what you were doing five years ago.
Across the industry in general, whatever was selling like wildfire five years ago has likely cooled off, too. It’s time to move on—but how do you know that discontinuing a product is the right decision for your company? You’ve already taken the first step by acknowledging the painful truth that your customers are no longer buying your product in a way that makes it viable to continue.
Look at the competition
In the particular niche for your product, take a good look at what your competitors are offering. Are their products at a lower price point, or are they offering more product at the same price point? Do you have more than one competitor in that niche? These are all signs that your product is not the first choice of customers looking to solve the problem your product addresses. Remember: you don’t have to be everything to everyone. You can leave this niche and still have a successful business.
Look at your own lines
You know what’s selling well and what isn’t within your own product lines. Rather than devoting your production and marketing resources to a low-performer, cut your losses and reinvest in your high-performers. Better yet, do the market research necessary to anticipate where your customers are headed next so that you can create a new product to meet that demand. Discontinuing an out-of-date and out-of-demand product frees resources to promote your latest creation. Have confidence in your vision. The product you introduce next could be the one your competitors are imitating in another year.
Look at the edges of the industry
Your old product may have been at the center of that craft or hobby when you first brought it to market. But trends in crafting shift, displacing these products and creating a new center. While the center is a great place to be, the edges are where growth occurs.
How do you learn where the edges are? Go to consumer shows and find the things that aren’t like all the others. Go to industry trade shows and pay attention to the vendors and manufacturers from around the world. What’s hot in Europe right now will be big in North America in a year or two. If you’re designing or creating garments, look to the runways, then figure out how to translate the trends to the crafting audience and find a way to position your products on that edge.
Where those edges intersect with other crafts, you can find pain points that are opportunities for your products to solve. If you can’t find a new place where your old product makes crafters’ lives better, it is one more sign that it’s time to cull that product.
You’ve worked hard to make your business become a strong presence in the craft industry. While maintaining a sense of your own history, hanging on to a product line whose time has passed limits your business’ future. Don’t be afraid to edit and refine what you sell. A hard pruning, timed correctly, only makes the blossoms bigger the next season.
If you’re looking for ways to grow your craft-based business, we’re here to help. To find out more about what we can do for you, Click here to contact Leanne.