Welcome to Part 2 of the Starting from Zero blog series, all about launching a new handmade business.
(If you need to catch up, you can read Part 1 here.)
In this post I’m going to discuss the most important step when launching a new business.
Yet it’s the part so many people skip over.
They think of a product they want to sell, and get too excited to wait. So they just throw it out there, and unless they get lucky by sheer coincidence, they launch to crickets.
If you skip the step I’m about to explain to you, you can rest assured that crickets are going to be the most likely result.
I hate to break it to you, but you can’t plan on any amount of success unless you do this work first. But don’t worry, I’m going to show you how.
So what’s the first step to a successful handmade business launch? Producing a product line? Designing a website? Building an e-mail list? Setting up a Facebook page?
It’s none of those things.
The first, and most important step for a successful launch and business, is to define your target audience.
You have to know your market first before you can be certain that the products you are designing for them will be something they will want to buy.
If you start with your ideal customer, and then work on your product line from there, you’ll be working towards an almost guaranteed loyal customer base. When you know your market inside and out, you’ll know exactly what sort of products to make for them that will bring in the sales.
(Please note: this doesn’t mean you have to create products you hate. It’s just about finding the sweet spot between what you like, and what your customers like. A win-win for everyone!)
So how do you find your target market?
Well, fortunately, because of the internet, it is easier than ever to do market research. It just requires a little bit of internet stalking on our part.
Allow me to explain.
Here are the exact steps I took to research my audience prior to launching Twisted Pixies:
Step 1: Think of one, individual customer. This is not just any customer, but your ultimate, ideal customer. You can fill out the ideal customer worksheet included in the free sample of my Run a Handmade Business and KEEP Your Day Job Course to help you get a handle on it. But make sure you aren’t too set in stone here. What you are looking for is a starting point, after we delve in deeper in the research, the perimeters of what you consider an ideal customer might change.
Step 2: Write down some of the major stores your ideal customer shops at, people/things he or she is a fan of, groups he or she is a part of, magazines he or she reads, and so on. Write down all the major ones you can think of.
Step 3: If you can only come up with 1 or 2 stores you think your Ideal customer would shop at, plug those stores’ web addresses into SimilarWeb.com to find more options. Write those down too.
Step 4: Click through to the social media profiles of the stores/magazines/fan clubs/etc. from the previous 2 steps. Check out who the real people are who are following and engaging with their social media accounts. Really take your time here, this step is where you are gathering the most valuable information.
Step 5: Write down overall trends. For example, if you find out your target audience hates the color orange (or loves it), how they respond to certain products shown by the stores they follow, what posts they are most likely to recommend to their friends, their likes/dislikes, style sense, and so on.
Step 6: Keep repeating Steps 4 and 5 until you have a decent amount of information to work with. Then, for Step 6, pick through that information to see what applies to you. By now you should have a much better idea of what products, shapes, colors, marketing, design, etc. will appeal to your target demographic. This isn’t about guessing, it’s about making strategic business decisions based on what real people are going to respond to.
Step 7: Get to work making products that you now KNOW will be a hit with your target audience.
If you take the time to do these steps, it will be really hard for you to fail your handmade business launch.
But wait, we’re not done yet! In Part 3 of this blog series I’m going to give you a complete marketing plan for how, exactly, to set up your launch campaign so you can open your new business door with a bang. We’re going to get you sales from DAY ONE. Stay tuned for that.