4 ways to make your products more niche

By megan auman on March 22, 2011

I hear it at craft shows and trade shows all the time, “You’re so lucky you make X, because I make Y and so does everybody else.”

Regardless of whether you’re a jeweler, potter, or photographer, you probably feel the same way – like you’re in a very crowded product category.

{image via The Great Northern on Etsy}

The great thing about sites like Etsy is that the barrier to entry is so low that you can start a business really easily.  But the bad thing is that so can anyone else.

With each passing day, more and more people throw their hat in the ring when it comes to running a craft business.

And as your category gets more and more crowded, it can be a struggle to get your products to stand out.

But getting your products to stand out in the sea of jewelry, soap, photography, or screen printed t-shirts is essential if you want your business to be a success.

So how do you stand out in a crowded product category?

By focusing your products on a niche.

Focusing on a niche means picking out a specialized corner of the market and diving in.  It means making products for one special person, instead of making average products for average people.

Diving into a niche can be scary.  It can mean alienating a lot of people.  But it can also mean endearing yourself to a small, but passionate group of fans.

Making your products more niche doesn’t mean you have to completely abandon everything you’ve designed.  Instead, you can make your products more niche by focusing on one of four areas – material, subject matter, aesthetic or style, and branding.

Niche by material

When you look at your product category, are you working with the same material as everyone else?  Is there a dominant material in your product category?

While I understand that some categories (like pottery) are more limited in their material options, for others, like jewelry, the sky’s the limit.

And picking one signature, and unusual, material can be a great way to build a niche for your products.

Juliet Ames, who studied craft and jewelry in college, has a wide range of techniques in her repertoire.  But she’s built a business working with one unusual material – broken plates.

By embracing an unusual material, Juliet has created plenty of buzz and recognition for her jewelry.

Niche by subject matter

Can you sum up the subject matter of your designs in one sentence?  How about one word?

Or does your product line span a dictionary’s worth of topics?

A great way to create a niche product, regardless of the materials you work with, is to focus on one unique subject matter.

At the Etsy Success Symposium a few weeks ago, I was introduced to The Great Northern.  After struggling to sell embroidery on Etsy, the designers decided to only create pieces that pertain to the cult classic TV show Twin Peaks.

Now, they have a clear focus for their marketing efforts, and a group of loyal fans.

Niche by aesthetic or style

Is there a dominant aesthetic in your product category?  Does your work have a similar style to just about everything else on the market?

Another way to get your products to stand out is to find the dominant style in your niche, and do the opposite.

A quick browse through the photography listings on Etsy reveals soft, vintage-y images.  It’s not surprising – the photographers who originiated that style saw a lot of early success, leading to a wave of copycats.

But if I was a photographer looking to stand out, I would focus on dark, hard-edged images.

Niche by branding

Even if you love everything about your products, and don’t want to change, there’s still a way to carve out a niche for yourself through your branding.

On the surface, the I Believe in Myself bracelets from Pincurl Girls are just simple beaded bracelets.  But paired with fun characters and informational booklets, they become tools for empowering pre-teen girls.  It’s not the product, but the message behind it, that gives the brand a definitive niche.

Standing out in your product category doesn’t mean you have to niche your products in every way I’ve just described.  In fact, niche by all of them is probably overkill.

Instead, look at your current products and skill sets and ask yourself if there’s a way to dive deeper into a niche in one of these areas.

As makers, we have a seemingly infinite number of skills, techniques, and ideas at our disposal.  But as business people, it’s critical that we focus our attention on something a little narrower in order to make our products stand out.

Etsy Success

 

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Frustrated with running your business? Feeling doubtful or broken down? How do you stay commited and on track – honing the craft of running a small business?  John Jantsch of Duct Tape Marketing compares running a commitment filled business to honing a craft in this must read blog post.
 
Drawing Lab workshop Did you miss Carla Sonheim’s live drawing how-to? Not to worry! Take a break from your usual day-to-day activities and loosen up those free drawing skills and view it online right here
 
Image by oktak
Guide To Twitter: Rethink Everything

I caught this question in the Etsy Success Forums, “I thought tweeting your listings was a good way to market oneself?” In short, the answer to this would be “No.”  Actually, with each item listing tweet, you could be losing Twitter-cred. The very best resource for Etsy sellers curious about using Twitter effectively, is this guide by another seller, CopperLeafStudios

From Etsy’s Merchandising Desk

From Etsy‘s Merchandising Desk: March(ing) Into Spring

marymary Story by marymary

Published on Feb 8, 2011 in Seller Handbook

Photo by Kristybee

According to Punxsutawney Phil, spring will be here before we know it. Today we’ll share our merchandising tips for March. It is our goal to create a healthy balance between promotions for traditional holidays, seasonal changes, cultural events, and lifestyle trends all while keeping you in the know with ideas, tips, and inspiration for the way you think about merchandising your Etsy business.

Rounding Out February:
Keep up with February’s seasonal themes, holidays and trends in the February edition of Merchandising Desk.

Promotional Opportunities for Sellers:

  1. Create and tag treasuries fitting February’s merchandising themes for a chance to have your collection featured on Etsy’s homepage or linked from promotional emails. Additionally, sharing these collections via your social networks during these relevant times will help increase traffic and engagement around your items and shop. Tip: We’re looking to introduce a wider variety of unisex, men-centric, and vintage niches into the more regular rotation. Make sure to tag lists appropriately for the best return.
  2. Update Your Location: Make sure your items can be found in Etsy’s Shop Local feature and Local Search by filling in your country, city, state.  Be sure to choose an automatically suggested location for your listings to appear correctly in buying features that use location data to surface items. 
  3. Stay on top of success tips and opportunities as they arise by signing up for the Etsy Success Newsletter.

Stay Engaged in March
Our central merchandising topics this month will focus on the coming of spring. Below you’ll find the extended list of topics we plan to reference. While emphasis will be placed upon the seasonality of the Northern Hemisphere, it’s important to remember the Southern Hemisphere is preparing for autumn. Maintaining seasonally appropriate options year-round is good practice for boosting international and overall sales.

  • Intro to Spring: March brings the spring equinox and a lighter outlook with it. Think in terms of how you can market towards and contribute to seasonal activities like spring cleaning, spring fashion, spring break, spring planting, a fresh outlook, rejuvenation and splashes of light, bright color.
  • Gardening: It’s time to go outdoors and cultivate nature. Trends this season center around tools, plant markers, composting solutions, gloves, scrubs, seeds, plantable papers, organic methods, farmers markets, seasonality, planting calendars, tips and recipes.
  • Saint Patrick’s Day: Parties, celebrations, parades, touches of green, shamrocks, feasting, beer drinking and a nod to the Irish.
  • Etsy’s Euro Week: We’ll be celebrating the 2nd annual Etsy Euro Week this month from Monday the 21st through Friday the 25th. Stay tuned for more details on how to get involved in this growing event and check out the festivities from Etsy’s 2010 Euro Week.
  • The World in Sports: Time for both college basketball and baseball spring training. Think in terms of teams, colors, brackets, predictions and wagers.
  • April Fools: Practical jokes, gag gifts and emphasis on the sillier side of handmade and vintage.
  • Easter and Mother’s Day: Now is the time to plan ahead for holidays right around the corner — Mothering Sunday: April 3, Easter: April 24, and Mother’s Day: May 8. Tag appropriate items with related terms and list your items for these holidays now. Press and media outlets are in the process of finalizing print features and will be looking for content to populate web features well in advance of the actual holidays.
  • Fashion: Spring fashion will emphasize basics, dresses, bags in lighter materials, sunglasses, hair accessories, jewelry and the return of open-toe shoes.
  • Home Updates: Spring cleaning, organizational solutions, DIY projects and functional furniture.
  • Weddings and Celebrations: Try expanding your line of wedding offerings by considering the planning process from ring shopping all the way through the honeymoon — how can your unique point of view be threaded throughout?
  • Aquamarine is March’s birthstone, and March’s astrological signs are Pisces and Aries (Pisces: February 20 – March 20, Aries: March 21 – April 20).

Current Trends:

  • Gadget accessories: With the recent iPhone and iPad availability at Verizon, accessories for smartphones and tablets are on the rise.
  • World in sports: College basketball brackets and spring training (baseball).
  • Glass domes, terrariums, succulent plants, garden markers, and planters.
  • Fashion: Safari, nautical, American classics, tribal influence. Large beads and natural stones. Bold colors, intricate weaves and patterns. Lightweight materials: linens, canvas, cotton knits
  • Animals: Rabbits, honey bees, woodland and sea creatures.
  • The beard and its many variations have transcended the mustache in popularity!
  • Food trends: Year of the homemade pie, whoopie pie, and macaron.
  • Writable surfaces: Chalkboard, whiteboard, fingerprints.
  • Vintage designer pieces and collectibles, namely in fashion and bikes/auto.
  • Personalization: Monograms, initials, text, numbers, zodiacs, constellations, portraits, custom labels, stamps, fingerprints and family trees.
  • Lockets, secret hiding places, vintage letterpress blocks and skeleton keys, feathers, arrows, diamonds, geometric shapes and patterns, paper cuts, silhouettes, fortune cookies, wishbones, fortune tellers.
  • Farmhouse references, vintage industrial decor, vintage cameras, letterpress drawers, typewriters, brass and cast iron animals.
  • Natural history and woodland forest themes and animals, namely birds, owls, squirrels, hedgehogs, chipmunks, bunnies, butterflies, feathers, nests, eggs, acorns, leaves, trees, branches, woodgrain, and natural colors.
  • Colors: Bright pops of color in pinks, turquoise, yellows, avocado, peach and oranges. Earth tones and neutral palettes remain strong with the incorporation of rusts, deep greens and brown.

If you’d like to stay engaged and involved with the approaching merchandising themes, use them in your own artistic voice as you add to your shop. They can be translated in your listings, photos, shop announcements, descriptions, tags, titles, sales promotions, and more.

If you make items that would fit well with the themes outlined, try stocking up and listing them in advance to take advantage of potential shipping deadlines and site features. Do you already have items in your shop that meld well? That’s great! Now it’s time to revisit those items to make sure your tags, titles and descriptions reflect keywords that shoppers might be looking for this time of year. This is also a great opportunity to revamp your item photography with a new look. Check out some great how-to’s for item photography to get started.

For those of your who enjoy making Treasuries, we’ll be looking to highlight lists that interpret these themes in a creative and cohesive way throughout the site. Please tag your Treasuries accordingly.

Beating Creative Burnout

Image representing Etsy as depicted in CrunchBase

Image via CrunchBase

The Etsy Blog has some really excellent articles on it, which I try to keep up with on a regular basis.
Here’s one on beating creative burnout.

http://www.etsy.com/storque/seller-handbook/etsy-success-beating-creative-burnout-12400/

In addition to these, have you considered turning the day-to-day process to someone who actually enjoys it?  We can’t do the photography for you long-distance, but we can certainly do all the photoshop fixes for your photos, the listing, and the promoting.

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