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Confession: I’ve been a vocal believer that the way to that handmade nirvana, of endless sales and stress free production is niche marketing. After all it worked for me with Ainslee Fox Handmade! But this weekend I changed my mind . . .
When I first started sewing to sell, I made it all, I was even asked to make tab curtains at one stage! Sales were pretty slow and I was trying hard to figure out what people wanted to buy, so every week I made something new.
Then something amazing happened … I made a particular dress and it sold right away. So I made another, and another, and the same thing kept happening. Before too long I was just making the one style. I got really quick and good at it and demand remained high. It was easy for customers to know what they were going to get from me, and I knew who they were, which made marketing easier.
Since then whenever anyone has asked me what the key to my success was, that’s what I’ve told them. Niche market. Make one thing and make it better than anyone else.
So when Mr Fox (my husband) first started talking about starting his handmade business I’ve got to admit I was a bit of a bossy boots. I told him he couldn’t make bowls and pens and memo holders and key holders – he had to choose one and he had to make it unique. And he had to be the best at it, or there was no point! … What a dragon!!!
On the weekend we went to a local market and Mr Fox took me to see his mate’s stall. His mate sells pens, toys, wine holders, bowls, artwork, absolutely everything timber … and he’s doing a roaring trade! It was like everything I’d believed about selling handmade was wrong and then it hit me – there’s a big difference between selling at markets and selling online.
At a market your audience is anyone who’s going to that market. They’re not necessarily looking for something specific. And there’s a lot less competition than there is online. Online your competition is anyone, anywhere, world wide with an online shop. Customers don’t browse the web looking for anything, well sometimes they do, but generally they search for something specific. To stand out in that sea of competition niche marketing certainly makes things easier.
But unlike what I had believed, before the weekend it’s definitely not the only way!
Turns out its down to your own “secret sauce”. Your business is unique and what works for you mightn’t be the same as what works for anyone else. And to be honest – that sucks!
I want Mr Fox to succeed, I want you to succeed too.
The more successful and happy and innovative people there are, the better the world will be!
I don’t want you to have to struggle and stuff up and think about giving up. And I know you want there to be a simple answer out there too. A course or an ebook or an expert who’ll be able to give you the answers.
But there’s really not one size fits all answer.
It’s not time to give up though – there’s things that you can do to help you find your secret sauce.
1. Ask questions. Find mentors. Mentor others. Share what works for you and learn from what works for them.
2. Read broadly. Take courses or hire experts, if you like that sort of thing, but don’t expect them to have the whole answer.
3. Experiment. Try stuff out. If it doesn’t work, well at least you know more than you did before you tried!
4. And if someone, like me, tells you that the way to guaranteed success is niche marketing or storytelling or selling on etsy or at markets or glitter business cards or whatever, remember to take it with a grain of salt.
You have the answer to your businesses secret sauce – trust in yourself and don’t give that power away!