Handmade and artisan goods are some of the most sought-after products. Shopping small has even become an event in itself, with one day a year dedicated to purchasing items from small and local businesses.
Because there's so much competition, those who start their own business of handmade goods may not know how to market their products to consumers. Here are some smart marketing strategies for handmade businesses.
1. Build your own website.
Competition is fierce these days for handmade crafts, which can make selling difficult. Jonathan Peacock, founder and CEO of Zibbet, said a seller's individual brand can easily get diluted by the marketplace's branding. For instance, most people will tell their friends they bought an item "on Etsy," as opposed to saying they bought it from a specific Etsy seller.
Another issue, Peacock noted, is that marketplaces are built for discovery. People who land at your shop page are encouraged to click around and discover what your competition is selling, which can ultimately end up losing you the sale. Peacock emphasized the importance of having your own stand-alone website in addition to a marketplace shop.
"Marketplaces are great, and you should use them for distribution in order to get in front of as many eyeballs as possible," he told Business News Daily. "[But] use [your website] as your primary channel that you send your buyers to. That way, your brand will be the one they remember and you'll completely own the traffic you send there."
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2. Explore new avenues for selling.
Being established on one marketplace is great, but that doesn't mean that should be your only selling place. Craig Weiss, CEO of marketplace platform ArtYah, said strategically choosing another avenue or selling tool could expose you to a wider audience and generate more interest, traffic, brand recognition and ultimately sales.
Besides opening up a version of your shop on an additional marketplace, you can look into social commerce tools on sites like Facebook and Pinterest to help you sell directly to your social media followers.
Marketplace giant Etsy has great resources for those who need a little help marketing their handmade goods. This list breaks down which social media platform is best for certain types of goods, customers and marketing tactics. For example, Facebook is a good place for your marketing efforts if you value connecting on a personal level with your customers, while Instagram is most useful for those who want to connect through a more visual channel. Showing snapshots of your work in progress or revealing a newly finished product can help build your brand and bring in business.
3. Use a sales pipeline.
For larger or more expensive handmade goods like furniture, jewelry or art, sales are frequently lost by failing to follow up with prospects or responding to changing needs, according to Richard Stevenson, head of global communications at sales CRM platform Pipedrive.
"Merchants can often struggle with administration, lack a clear overview and lose motivation. With activity-based selling, you schedule actions each day that progress sales through a pipeline," Stevenson explained. "Customers buy when there is a strong shared understanding, and using a sales pipeline allows you to stay in control via meaningful actions with customers that bring a sale closer."
You can form a sales pipeline in various ways – sticky notes or Excel spreadsheets work, Stevenson said. However, if you have a complex or long sales process, you would benefit from using an online tool for more efficiency.
4. Use the marketplace community to your advantage.
Third-party marketplace branding efforts sometimes overshadow the individual brands of sellers, as Peacock noted. This can also work to your advantage, though. For example, in addition to its Editors' Picks and Community Tastemakers roundups, Etsy hosts annual Small Business Saturday trunk shows to help its wholesale sellers get their products in front of retail customers.
While a third-party marketplace's built-in community elements, such as a sellers' forum, shouldn't be your primary customer acquisition strategy, you should make a point to participate in these discussions to pick up new ideas and selling techniques from your peers, Peacock suggested.
"Use the forums to build connections with great, like-minded people [and] learn," he said.
5. Tell a story.
Storytelling is an especially effective technique for smaller businesses, and your handmade e-commerce ship can benefit from it too.
Stevenson advised using storytelling to communicate your mission and values. "American shoppers love small retailers because it feels highly satisfying to buy goods that are a little special or niche," he said. "Storytelling is the big differentiator in e-commerce. It's the reason why buying from or supporting a small business can provide a more powerful experience than from a larger retailer."
Stevenson added that for handmade businesses, storytelling is also highly effective for building connections and trust with customers.
"Online consumers want to buy from experts, passionate and attentive, and will pay more for the experience," he told Business News Daily. "Social selling and ethical shopping are not just fads – data shows they are growing in the retail landscape."
6. Keep experimenting.
Peacock reminded entrepreneurs that there's no single formula for success in marketing, and there are many different methods out there, but they need to find the ones that work best for their business.
"Everyone is selling different products [in] different parts of the world," he said. "This means the strategies and channels you'll use may be different too. You need to try a bunch of things, find what works and double down on that. Constantly tweak and optimize to get the best results."
Additional reporting by Nicole Fallon. Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.