Tuesday, February 3, 2015


The secret to smoother sailing for your business.

Getting sales is powerful. Just knowing somebody wants what you created can instantly turn a bad day into one of the best days ever!

But, without the proper foundation, you’ll probably end up in a headspin not knowing what steps to take to either get more sales or meet your current demand. 

To avoid a meltdown, I’ve created a to-do list for your maker business. 


1. Talk With Customers

Today, consumers face an abundance of choice. To get traction in this crowded marketplace, you MUST understand your customer. The good news is that people love to give their opinion. But, not everything they say needs to be taken into consideration. The secret is asking open-ended questions so that you get to the insightful bits.

So, get in the habit of reaching out to your customers (yes stockists are customers too) to gather feedback. As an example, you could ask how they might describe your product to someone else. Or, whether they bought it for themselves or as a gift and what the occasion was.  This information will not only give you a better understanding of who your customer is, but also how they search for similar products. Then, you can tailor your keywords and product descriptions to get better results.

2. Design Your Brand Experience

Brand is the mental image someone has of your offering. That image is formed over time as consumers are exposed to your business, either directly or via an intermediary, like the press. Brand is a powerful differentiator and a key component of consumer marketing.

The easiest way to consider your brand is to personify it. In other words, specify the body of your brand (product, packaging, logo etc.), the backstory (name, narrative, mission, etc.), and the personality (communication style, voice, values, etc.). Then, outline your brand and determine the ideal customer experience across every touch point a consumer could have with your business – i.e. your social media accounts, email interactions, online shops, fulfillment, store presence, etc.

Your goal is to ensure that anyone exposed to your brand walks away with a clear and memorable image of your offering.

3. Figure Out Your Cost Structure

Simply put cost structure equals your expenses, and it’s fundamental to your business. Your cost structure will inform your pricing, your sales targets, and your return.

Costs are broken into two groups: variable and fixed costs. Variable costs are the per unit costs associated with making your product - such as material, labor, and packaging. Everything else (marketing, administration, etc.) would go in the fixed costs bucket because these expenses don’t fluctuate with your output.

With your cost structure at your fingertips, you’ll be able to determine how many units you would need to sell to turn a profit and whether that’s even sensible.

4. Plan Your Pricing

Pricing is challenging for everyone. Even ├╝ber successful MBA-laden corporations like Apple have encountered pricing mistakes. But, that doesn’t mean you should go willy-nilly on your prices.

First, you need to make sure your prices have sufficient margin to cover ALL your expenses. You should also think about how your prices correspond to the perceived value of your product and how the price of each product relates to others in your assortment. Finally, you should compare prices with your competitors.

The idea is to view your pricing from all angles to avoid any surprises down the road. Sadly, I see many makers undercutting themselves to the point at which they are losing money on wholesale orders. That’s certainly not gratifying, nor sustainable. 

5. Leverage Analytics

Online retailing has opened up a whole new world of consumer data, and it can be quite overwhelming. Luckily, you don’t need to go that deep to find valuable insights. At this stage, you’ll want to track where your traffic is coming from, which items are getting the most engagement, and which key terms consumers are using to find your products.

This information is useful in determining your next steps for outreach. For example, if your customers tend to find you through certain channels, you might concentrate your efforts on those ones. Likewise, you can test the effectiveness of changes by comparing previous results with your current performance.

Brandy Davis-Balsamo is a business consultant who specializes in marketing/merchandising strategy. She works with SFEtsy member and local bag maker, furuKawa | Direct: www.furukawa-sf.com, Etsy Shop: KFBags

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