Marketing (part 1)

The second most asked question I see (after taxes) is always about marketing – advertising and/or promotions. I spent 10 years as a marketing professional before becoming a stay at home Mom. Like all things I’m not an expert, but I’m pretty good at it. If I had more time (there’s that thing again) I could market the hell out of Bewhiskered. Since I don’t, and my marketing has been very limited in scope, I’m going to share a little bit about marketing in general and a lot more about what has specifically worked for me.

There are a lot of things that go into marketing, but it can be boiled down to the four “P’s”: product, price, place and promotion. I talked about product a little bit and my process of moving through various ideas before finding my passion and niche. That part’s important. If you don’t genuinely like and enjoy what you’re making, you can’t sell it effectively. In the handmade marketplace there are plenty of people selling (or trying to) crap glued to other crap, or variations on whatever’s hip, hot and happening at the moment. Sure, some of them make a little money. But look at the true powerhouse businesses in the handmade market. They all share one thing in common: they are making a unique product. Something that is truly theirs.

I actually have a policy of not favoriting or buying from resellers or people who have obviously copied an idea. If I’m going to pay a premium for a handmade product, I want it to be original. I want to know I’m supporting the artist that created it. I’m sure there are buyers out there who don’t care and will go for the cheapest version. Those people are not my customers.

How many of these octopi can you find?

If you’re a big corporation, you can look for holes in the market and manufacture whatever you think will make you money. But when you’re a one man band, you better damn well like the sound of the instrument.

Once you land on your product – and like I said, it took some time and false starts for me to get there – you still have decisions to make. Will you offer customs? How many variations are you going to make? For me customs were a no brainer. There’s no way I could make every Ruggle animal I’d like and have them all in stock all the time. I also let customs be the guide to what I make next. I have a long list of animals I want to make and if I ever had a week without a custom or a regular needing to be sewn I’d make one or two. It’s always good to have a backup. But I’d say 95% of my business is customs. It’s a double edged sword because I love doing them, but they also make me nervous. It’s the deadline aspect of it.  Ruggles lend themselves very well to customs. Other products might not.

This Deer was a custom, but will now become a regular addition to the shop.

Then you have to decide if you’re going to add any variations on the product. If you’re making bracelets, it might be a no brainer to add necklaces and earrings. I say might, because it might not. You might not like making necklaces or earrings. I debated for a while before adding the mini Ruggles to the lineup. The giant was actually a no brainer for me since the original idea came from a rug. It made sense to make one big enough to use as a rug. The minis were a different story. I was afraid everyone would want the minis and the regular size would languish (didn’t happen). I was afraid people would ask me to make all sorts of custom minis, which did happen. I got one request for a mini fox, which I politely declined. The fox is really complicated and becomes more so when downsized. I would have had to charge the regular size price for her mini, which is absurd. So I put a policy in place of not making custom minis. I plan to offer more minis in the future, as soon as I get around to them.

Up next: the biggest sticky wicket of them all – price.

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