Established businesses with large funding and significant revenue have the budgets for marketing and advertising firms. Tiny companies, like a jewelry-making business that started in a garage or a clothing line based in someone’s bedroom, can’t always market the same way. However, many creative marketing options exist for businesses that sell handmade goods.
This guide offers tips for handmade businesses to help get the word out about artisanal products that many customers value over mass-produced goods.
“Anyone that has aspirations of being successful selling their products online needs a website, period,” said Jonathan Peacock, founder of Zibbet. “When promoting your brand online, you need somewhere to send them. This must be a website that you own, not a marketplace store like Etsy.”
Peacock added that when you drive traffic to a marketplace, you almost always lose that traffic to a competing seller. Buyers are inundated with options in online marketplaces. Even if they are sent to your e-commerce store, the sidebar and bottom of the page are filled with suggestions for similar items from different sellers.
Having your own website also offers more control.
“With your own website, you own that as your own property, and you don’t have to rely on third-party media channels, like social media, that change over time,” said Mike Khorev, growth leader at digital marketing company Nine Peaks Media. “For example, social media platforms saw a decline in organic reach/traffic they drive to businesses recently, and you will need to invest in paid ads nowadays. If you rely solely on social media at this point, you will most likely lose traffic.” [Related read: How to Build a Business Website]
This doesn’t mean having your own website and using third-party sites (like social media platforms or marketplaces) are mutually exclusive. Your website is your hub and your home base. Imagine your website as a train station: Visitors can take trains that depart from it (like a link on your site to an Etsy store), or they can take trains that arrive at the station (like an Instagram link in your bio leading to your site).
Though there are advantages to hiring a professional web developer, making a website yourself is easier than ever with platforms like Squarespace, which eliminate the need for coding knowledge.
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Thinking outside the box about how you sell your products can set you apart from the competition and set you up for continued success.
Peacock added that creative entrepreneurs should always be exploring new and unique sales channels. Despite his recommendation to not drive traffic to a marketplace, that doesn’t mean a handmade business owner shouldn’t have one.
“The very reason a marketplace store isn’t suitable to drive traffic to is the reason why it’s valuable – potential customers are viewing your products simply because you’re a part of it. Good marketplaces have internal traffic and will give your products more exposure. More exposure leads to more sales. So, should you sell on Etsy? Absolutely. What about Amazon Handmade? Yes. You should sell on as many sales channels as you can manage.”
He also said not to be afraid of trying different marketing channels, such as social media, email marketing, blogging and even SMS marketing to find what works best for your business. Be sure to track your results on each channel to see where you gain the most traction with your target customers.
Social media is an evolving platform that demonstrates this push to be outside of the box. Businesses used to prioritize Facebook as a marketing tool. Then Instagram became the focus as sellers looked to accumulate 10,000 followers to get the “Swipe Up” feature in their business page’s story. Now sellers are looking into TikTok to gain exposure and customers. Ask yourself which platforms your customers use the most, then deploy quality content to hook their interest.
A sales pipeline is a way of tracking what stage your customer is in leading up to a sale. Peacock said to think of it as a funnel. A sale often doesn’t happen on the first interaction, as there are generally several stages the customer goes through before committing to a purchase. The funnel usually goes from awareness to consideration to a purchase decision over time, according to Flynn Zaiger, CEO of digital marketing agency Online Optimism.
“It’s worth mapping out what the stages in the funnel are and how you can help the customer progress through each stage,” Peacock added. “When marketing, you don’t have to go in for the sale right away. Seek to add value and build relationships first as you progress them down your funnel toward a sale.” [Related: Guide to Building a Sales Funnel]
While handmade and mass-produced products can use the same platforms for selling, they target different customers, so the marketing strategies should be different.
“Handmade products have the full story, and mass-produced items don’t necessarily,” said Jonit Bookheim, sales and outreach director for Mata Traders. “There is a natural transparency with handmade products, and it’s important to emphasize that to customers.”
A major selling point for your product can be as simple as you – yes, you! Handmade products have a story behind them because you decided to invest your time, effort and resources into making something unique. This is something customers respond to, especially those shopping for handmade goods. [Learn more about shaping your narrative in our guide to how storytelling improves sales and engagement.]
“For businesses that specialize in handmade products, I love seeing them showcase those products after the purchase, in customers’ home and care,” Zaiger said. “Mass-produced products tend to look the same, so their advertising strategies usually end at the point of sale, but handcrafted products were likely purchased for their unique style in a customer’s home or wardrobe, so be sure to follow up with them.”
Zaiger added that not only does post-purchase content look great on social media and in blog posts, it also makes the customer feel special, which means they are more likely to return to your store or website for their next purchase.
What it comes down to is that handmade products and the artisans who craft them have a unique skill that others admire and go out of their way to support.
“Don’t be afraid to elevate your brand,” Bookheim said. “Just because you make products in your home doesn’t mean you can’t photograph them like they’re the highest-selling items on the market, and just because you’re only producing 50 a month doesn’t mean you can’t pitch to customers who would order 10 times that. Don’t just step out of your comfort zone – step ahead of it.”
These marketing strategies are useful ways of reaching out to potential customers and growing your business, but any tool or route you choose must be part of a unified strategy. Getting more customers is the obvious goal, but you need to know the roads you’ll take to get there. A coherent marketing plan is the root of any successful enterprise.
A marketing plan is an essential guide to choosing the right strategies. It’s one thing to say your goal is to “increase our social media presence” – it’s quite another to set measurable benchmarks, such as “I want to increase followers by 50% on Instagram by the end of the year.”
Your business endeavors will already take up a large portion of your time, from production to client relations. You need to set your marketing priorities and allocate the right amount of resources according to the best timeline.
Developing a marketing plan can allow you to organize and execute an efficient marketing campaign. For a guide on how to develop an effective strategy, read our tips to create a business marketing plan.
Bassam Kaado contributed to the writing and research in this article. Source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.