We love giftware at The Design Trust!
I think creating giftware is one of the most exciting markets for designers and makers, because you need to be both creative and enterprising to stand out from the crowd and to understand your clients at a deeper emotional level.
When you are creating and selling giftware you are selling so much more than just a product … you are creating products that will be treasured for decades to come, often symbolising relationships and love, creating memories of past Christmases and significant birthdays or family occasions.
Launching our new online giftware course …
To celebrate the launch of our new, online course: how to create, market & launch your creative giftware collection we have asked 8 very different (!) experts to share with us their top tips – from online selling to blogging, from ‘place related products’ for tourism to personalised products, from indie retailers to big online retailers, from Scotland to London and San Francisco:
- Cat Elliott of popular online market place Not On The High Street
- Clare Yuille, indie retail shop owner and creative wholesale expert and tutor at the Indie Retail Academy
- Robin Kramer, jewellery & giftware consultant based in San Francisco
- Sheena Kitchin, Craft Tourism Manager at Craft Scotland
- Snowden Flood, giftware designer and indie shop owner at OXO Tower in London
- Natalie Lue, founder of popular children’s design products’ blog Bambino Goodies
- Fiona Duffelen, curiosity shop owner of Fee Fee La Fou in East London
- and myself! Patricia van den Akker, Director of The Design Trust
Want to learn more from these experts? Now you can!
I am really excited that Cat, Clare, Robin, Sheena and Natalie are all contributing to our new online giftware course!
- I will be interviewing them all (on skype) and you will be able to watch 15 – 30min audio-visual interviews with EACH of these experts.
- And Cat and Clare will also do a live Q&A with our course participants, asking these experts any business & marketing questions you like!
This is a truly unique opportunity to get a behind-the-scenes-view and so much professional advice and insights from these experts on creating, marketing and launching your creative giftware collection! Sign up here to our course now.
Cat Elliott: Not On The High Street
Cat Elliott is a Senior Partner Recruitment Manager at notonthehighstreet.com, the UK’s largest curated online marketplace. She joined the company in 2010 working in a number of roles, including being responsible for the commercial growth of some of the fastest developing product areas. She currently work to find the very best of new small creative businesses and entrepreneurs to join this popular online giftware platform.
Cat’s 5 top tips on how to sell giftware effectively online are:
Tip 1: Who are you selling to?
‘First and foremost, think about the two distinct customers you are producing your gift for:
One, who is the recipient and two, who is buying it for them?
This will affect your product a great deal, including how you present it online, how you photograph it, to how you talk about it.
If it’s a gift for a man, it is often likely that it’s a woman making the purchasing decision so your product imagery and description may need to reflect this.’
Tip 2: Expanding the occasion
‘Think about what occasion your gift is being purchased for. This is crucial to understand how you can develop the product and increase your sales.
For example, can you make a small tweak to the design or your image styling to make the product suitable for a wedding gift, a Valentine’s gift and a Christmas gift? Just a minimal change could open up a whole new range of potential customers for you, as well as extending the number of times per year your gift range can be purchased.’
Tip 3: A suitable price
‘Consider your product pricing in terms of your competitors, your margins and the uniqueness of your product.
Cover what it costs you to make the product (and make a profit!) but also be honest with yourself about what else is similar in the market already. Really hone what your unique selling point is – if there truly is nothing else out there similar, you may have the freedom to price a little higher.’
Tip 4: Make the packaging work
‘How you package the gifts you sell may also help you make a little bit more margin.
Some customers are after the sheer ease of sending a beautifully gift wrapped product straight to the recipient and are willing to pay for this, whereas others may want the freedom of adding their own spin to the wrapping.
Providing a range of gift wrapping needs for various prices can widen your customer appeal and your up-sell opportunities.’
Tip 5: Speedy delivery
‘Finally, some of our most successful sellers on notonthehighstreet.com deliver their gifts as fast and as widely as possible. We have found that an online product page converts at a much higher rate (the number of page views versus the number of products added to basket) when the delivery times are shorter.
Customers are getting much more demanding with how quickly they can get a gift and are often waiting for the last possible moment before purchasing via their phone on the move. Expectations are high and you’ll win over this panic purchaser by offering express delivery ahead of a key occasion like Christmas.
Wherever you can, offer international delivery. It may seem like a daunting prospect from an administration perspective, but customers shopping on notonthehighstreet.com come from over 150 countries, which is a huge potential market to miss out on if you’re only shipping to the UK.’
Clare Yuille: indie retailer & online wholesale tutor for creatives
Clare Yuille is the owner of Merry + Bright, an award-winning, independent fashion and gifts boutique in the Scottish Borders.
She’s also the founder of Indie Retail Academy, the site for creative people who want to sell their work to shops. She’s been called ‘a fresh, funny, endlessly encouraging voice’ with a ‘spot-on understanding of the doubts and fears of creative people.’
Clare says: ‘When it comes to gifts, the phrase our customers often use is ‘I’m looking for something a little bit different.’ They could easily buy from a department store, supermarket or a big online retailer, and sometimes they do, but they come to us when they want something less mainstream and more characterful.
It’s a way of showing their friend or loved one how special they are. We’ve spent a lot of money on handmade work over the years and have become pretty adept at spotting giftable products.’
Clare’s top 5 tips for creating and selling giftware are:
1. Think about price points
‘The average amount a customer spends on a birthday present, for example, used to be £20. That’s still an important price, but we’ve seen the average spend on presents drop over the last few years; people simply have less disposable income. We now sell a lot of gifts at the £5 and £10 price points too, although wedding presents have remained in the £50 range.’
Tip 2: Packaging matters more than you think
‘Packaging can make an enormous difference to how well an item sells. Last Christmas we stocked a skincare range made by a small British company. It was a Winter collection fragranced with essential oils of clove, orange and cinnamon, and it was packaged in black, burgundy and green. The range sold reasonably well but it didn’t exactly set the till on fire.
This Spring, the same company brought out a similar collection in white packaging with hand-drawn illustrations. It’s much more noticeable, easier to read and the different products clearly compliment each other. In short, it really sings on the shelf and looks like a ready-made present. We’ve already had to re-stock three times.’
Tip 3: Don’t go mad with the Christmas motifs
‘Unless it fits with your style, there’s no need to slap robins and snowmen all over your work in an attempt to make it giftable. Concentrate on making your product, price and packaging the best they can possibly be.’
Tip 4: Get in touch at the right time
‘The Christmas buying season for indie retailers is from early June through to late October. Bigger shops and galleries will tend to finish earlier, smaller stores are lighter on their feet and can leave it a bit later.
If you’re pitching products for Christmas, we need to hear from you soon [between June – September]. Getting in touch in November is unlikely to result in an order – by that point we’re too busy selling the stock we have (and stress-drinking Bailey’s in the stockroom …).’
Tip 5: Give a bestseller a new slant
‘Something we always like to see from suppliers, particularly in the run-up to Christmas, is a new twist on a bestseller. This can be very simple, like a new colour of ribbon around the base of your candles, or more involved, like a limited edition of your most popular charm bracelet.
Retailers love when suppliers do this because we get all the excitement of sharing a ‘new’ product with our customers, plus the comfort of knowing that it’s already a proven bestseller. It’s a win-win, and for indie shopkeepers like me, that’s really the greatest gift of all.’
Robin Kramer: giftware & jewellery business consultant
Robin Kramer is an independent sales and marketing consultant and the Director of Strategic Partners & Relationships at Flourish & Thrive Academy.
Robin has an impressive history with leaders in the retail industry that have built their brands on innovative merchandising and strong service cultures. Among these brands are Williams-Sonoma, Inc. and Gap, Inc.
For the past 15 plus years, Robin has worked with primarily small, upscale wholesale brands and designers to bring their products to market in the US, position these niche brands for maximum exposure to their target customers and build relationships with national and international retailers.
In 2010 Robin started her consulting business, RedBoot Consulting and in 2012 she partnered with jewellery designer Tracy Matthews to launch Flourish & Thrive Academy, an online school dedicated to teaching jewellery designers how to get their jewellery on more of their DREAM clients and raving fans. In addition to a vivacious community, Flourish & Thrive Academy offers incredible designer support services such as a complete jewellery business program and an ever-growing library of free sales, marketing, and business resources.
Robin says: ‘Do you have a great product you want to sell and you just don’t know how to? Or maybe your product is already ‘out there’, but sales aren’t happening and you are at a loss of what to do next. Or it could be that putting your product and yourself out there is just plain terrifying.
If any of these questions or concerns have ever crossed your mind, you are not alone. In my 20 + years in the gift and jewellery industry these are some of the most common concerns a designer has. So what happens next and what can you do to ensure success?’
Here are Robin’s 3 musts for giftware marketing success:
Tip 1: Identify your DREAM client
‘The MOST important starting point when developing your brand is knowing who your DREAM client is. Some people call it avatar or target customer, but over at Flourish & Thrive Academy we call it your DREAM client.
Understanding who your DREAM client is will direct you in how you are designing your collections, how you are selling your line and it will set the foundation of how you are marketing your brand. Without a clear vision of who your DREAM client is you will be wasting your time, energy and money.
Identifying your DREAM client does not mean you can’t sell to anyone else, it just means you are directed in your focus. This focus will make everything you do in your business so much easier.’
Tip 2: Know your WHY and your story
‘According to Simon Sinek, the author of Start with WHY, your WHY is the purpose, cause, or belief that inspires you to do what you do. Knowing your WHY and being able to communicate it is powerful.
Since I work mostly with jewellery designers, I am going to use them as an example. There are a lot of people designing jewellery. Some are inspired by their heritage. Some are inspired by nature. Some are inspired by fashion … and the list goes on.
What is going to set a brand apart from other brands is their story.
Part of evolving into a brand that people gravitate towards is what they know about you and your story.
What makes you unique and different?
What is your design process?
What’s your inspiration?
What’s the backstory on what you do and why you do it?
By sharing your story to your potential customers you are allowing them into your world. This is when the relationship starts.’
Tip 3: Branding
‘One of the areas I see designers not being consistent with is their branding. Branding (like knowing your story) is critical to your business.
Everything from your designs to your packaging to your website to your Facebook page to your Instagram page, should be branded with not only our logo, but also your look and feel.
Some of my favorite examples of branding are Tiffany & Co, Dogeared and Viv & Ingrid. Each has a strong brand feel that you can see in their product, on their website and in their packaging.
So are you ready to identify your DREAM client, your WHY, your story and your branding?’
Sheena Kitchin: Craft Tourism Manager at Craft Scotland
You might think of souvenirs as tacky, but don’t be fooled! You might not (yet) have thought about creating ‘souvenirs’ or local experiences, but ‘local’ products have become really popular in the last couple of years. Think about the importance of ‘Made in Britain’, and how many customers are increasingly interested in the provenance of products.
If you live in an area popular with visitors you may have the impression that tourism is all about large groups of people traveling by coach and spending very little time (and money) when they stop. Tourism, however, is one of the world’s largest growth industries and ‘tourists’ come in many shapes and forms. Most are traveling for personal pleasure but some visit different destinations on business, to attend a conference or corporate event for example.
Tourists may travel independently or in groups. They may be part of a general tour or they may be following a special interest of their own. Many visitors to the UK are interested in our culture and most want to shop for items that reflect their impression of the country. There is an increasing demand for authenticity, an appreciation of locally-made products, a desire to meet people and learn about a different way of life and thereby discover the ‘real’ place.
Genuine craftwork contributes to a ‘sense of place’ and makers can provide a distinctive visitor experience when they meet tourists by talking about their work, demonstrating their skills and providing ‘hands-on’ sessions if possible.
To help makers understand what tourism companies need, Craft Scotland runs craft tourism seminars and ‘buyer’ events where they explain what makers might be able to offer to different types of customers. Craft Scotland partners with hotels and visitor attractions for retail, residency and demonstration opportunities. An exciting development this year is the recently-launched Craft Collection for the National Trust of Scotland – a collection of contemporary craft from 9 makers designed and produced entirely in Scotland and on sale at the Trust’s major properties.
Sheena’s 4 top tips for makers interested in the craft tourism market:
Tip 1: Craft as gifts and souvenirs
‘Hotels, tour operators, visitor attractions are all interested in sourcing well-made local products. Business travelers in particular don’t have time to stroll around shops, but still want to take gifts home so if they can buy them at their hotel that is ideal.
Approach local hotels, B&Bs, restaurants, tea rooms and spa’s even, as they offer a great opportunity to sell your ‘local’ products. Make it as easy as possible for them. Provide your work in a secure glass cabinet. Have information available, and a price list too. Show directions and a map to your studio, with opening times. They will often charge a lower commission than ‘regular’ galleries and shops, so this can be a great opportunity for new creatives too (if your work is too expensive to sell through galleries and shops due to the markup).
But don’t just think about the visitors, very often locals also want to buy unique local products when they want to give a nice gift.’
Tip 2: Think about transportation
‘Travelers have a limited amount of space in their luggage so items must be light and unbreakable.
Would you send items by post if too heavy or bulky to carry?
Does your work give a strong impression of your area? Visitors want to make a clear association with the place they are visiting.
It’s useful to include a card with information about yourself, your work and your inspiration. This gives a more personal impression and is more likely to be kept. Make sure your contact details are obvious for future orders!’
Tip 3: Create craft experiences
‘Craft experiences are increasingly popular as a gift or a way to spend a holiday. Think about visiting a glass-blowing studio as part of a holiday trip, a visit to a local handbag company or textiles business as part of a tour, or a Christmas-wreath-making-workshop before Christmas.
Before you start offering these opportunities be clear about the numbers; What would be the minimum number of customers to make it worthwhile for you? What would be the maximum number you can comfortably accommodate in your workspace? How much will you charge and what will be included? Would you offer refreshments or lunch? Are equipment and materials included?
If your work premises are unsuitable, offer to talk or demonstrate at events or at a group’s hotel in the evening. You can charge a fee, negotiated with the hotel or tour operator, or you can bring work to sell – or both. Collaborate with other makers to offer a satisfying craft experience to larger audiences.’
Tip 4: Make it happen
‘Finally, the tourism industry is keen to learn more about the creative industries and to work with craft makers. However, they don’t know how to find you! You have to become visible and be proactive.
If you work in Scotland, get in touch with Craft Scotland. Elsewhere, try your local tourist offices, visitor attractions and hotels.
Talk to them and discuss opportunities. Leave your cards or brochures in local B&Bs, cafes, restaurants, galleries.
Visitors are always looking for new ideas, especially in poor weather!’
Snowden Flood: product designer & gift shop owner
Snowden Flood is a designer who has designed products for the British Museum, Chatsworth House, Tate Modern and the London Transport Museum.
While living in New York in the 1990’s, she became obsessed with a passion for designing and manufacturing high quality gifts and souvenirs that are made in the UK.
When she returned home to London permanently in 2000, she opened her small studio-shop at the OXO Tower, overlooking the River Thames. Here she designs and sells her range of products and also carefully sources the very best gifts and souvenirs she can find, often championing new and emerging designers.
Snowden’s top tips to create and sell giftware are:
Tip 1: Gifts are different from regular items
‘Gifts are different from everyday things we might buy for ourselves.
When I buy a gift I look for something that will make a special connection with the person I’m giving it to. Of course, I’m showing that I care and I do that by getting something that (hopefully) shows I’ve put some thought into this purchase.
I’m also obsessed by quality. I find it really helps if there’s a ‘story’ attached to it (eg this perfume is made by this amazing woman in a tiny studio by the seaside, using the absolute best ingredients).
When we give a gift, not only are we giving something we hope will engage with the receiver, but we are offering up a piece of ourselves; showing not just that we care (we spent time choosing something carefully) but that we have taste, style and good judgement.
If we buy from a small independent maker or storekeeper, so much the better. We show that we don’t just hurriedly give them something that everyone else has got!’
Tip 2: Why marketing giftware is different
‘When marketing your giftware you have to have both the receiver and the giver in mind. Many people come into my shop and stand longingly in front of products, hinting very heavily to the parents, husbands, wives and friends they’ve dragged in! Remember, someone has to want to receive it!
As a buyer we usually buy things we’d like to receive and think are great.
In my shop my customers often say ‘Well, I love it myself, but I’m not so sure about my friend though’ (and then we might have a chat about the tastes of the friend …) So the buyer has to feel good about buying it, but at the same time, have to imagine someone really wanting and using it!
Think about your market carefully: Who is going to buy your product and what is the purpose of the gift? e.g. Is it a wedding gift, stocking filler, for a birthday, or Valentine’s presents? This will really affect your pricing and what you offer to go along with the gift.
For example if it’s a wedding gift can your wrap it? And can they buy wedding cards to go along with the package? Do you offer special Valentines packaging etc.’
Tip 3: Do your research
‘If you are thinking of designing products for creative giftware collections then schedule some days to research. For example:
1. Write yourself a list of people (they can be imaginary) for whom you want to create gifts. For example: Sam & Jo, mid 30’s, best friends, wedding gift. Ann, boss, 55 years old, Christmas gift. Niece, 9 years old, birthday. Add more info to each so you can create a ‘story’ (for example what they like, their style etc e.g. minimal house, hates clutter). Also give each one a budget.
2. Head to an area with lots of independent shops. Choose a gift for each category on your list. Take pictures and good notes.
3. Head to the department stores or shopping centre. Do the same as above.
4. Look at online shops. See what comes up in Google if you search for what you had in mind. Is there a gap in the market for what you want?
5. Now go through everything and scrutinise thoroughly. What did you feel about the things you picked? What made you choose those things? What was the experience like in each place you ‘shopped’ in? Which did you like best/least?’
Tip 4: How to approach shops
‘When it comes to approaching shops you want to sell to, do your research once again. Visit them if you can. If not have a careful look on their website: What else do they sell?, How does it sit alongside your work price-wise and looks-wise?
I’m amazed at how many creatives try to sell me mugs with London scenes for my shop. As much as I might like them I already have my own ranges and I’m in a teeny store …. I don’t want more!
By all means, ask in the shop when you are there about who you should contact to show your work to. If they specifically ask you to see them there and then, only then should you get them out and start selling (I personally hate it when people come into my shop when I have other customers or am in the middle of some work I’m doing and start pulling things out of their suitcase!)
Much better to get the name and email address of the person who makes the decisions. Then send an email with images and info. By all means follow up a week or so later by email again but unless you know them I’d advice against a phone call. Even if they loved your work, if they’re a small busy shop they may have received lots of other product emails that week.
So you might not get a reply ever. Best you don’t hassle them with endless calls. But it’s a good idea to send reminder emails 3 or 4 times a year or so (unless they tell you definitely ‘no’.) If they like your work and want to know more they will be in touch.’
Natalie Lue – co-owner & blogger of Bambino Goodies
Natalie Lue, is co-owner of Bambino Goodies, a very popular and fabulous lifestyle blog showcasing design-led things to love, buy and do for babies, kids and their discerning parents.
It’s definitely one of The Design Trust favourite blogs as there are so many gorgeous products on there!
Natalie has advised many creative business owners on growing their brand and presence online and has been blogging for 11 years.
Natalie’s top 5 tips to market & sell children’s giftware are:
Tip 1: Build your brand with social media
‘Your social media presence is your very own press book and look book.
Retail buyers feel more confident about committing to an order if there’s evidence of your brand. They’re looking for indications that you’re invested and also that you’re actively marketing your brand and collection.
Trying to have a presence on everything is exhausting so choose a couple. Don’t worry about size of following; focus on using words and visuals to unfold your collection and brand, and to connect with likeminded people. Instagram is particularly good for this.
But remember to be on brand. Don’t go over the top but people need to get a sense of you and your brand from your presence. Even if you’re not ready to be selling yet, start from now.’
Tip 2: How to approach a popular blog with your product
‘The mistake that new businesses make when approaching blogs about featuring their giftware is they don’t make a meaningful approach by making it clear about why they’re a good fit. Lifestyle and design blogs tell their own stories and curate their own collections.
You need to sit well within what they’ve featured and if you demonstrate that you understand their values, you are that much closer to being featured. Plus they’ll often buy from you too, as well as showing you off on their own social media channels.
Bloggers promote their own content plus they follow other bloggers, so if you’re featured, there’s often a ripple effect.’
Tip 3: Create a collection that works
‘Confusing and jarring giftware collections aren’t commercially viable. The pieces in your collection need to make sense to each other and the values that you’re trying to communicate with your brand.
Imagine them photographed together or displayed on a stall / exhibition stand or within a shop: Is it a collection? Do you have a brand? Is what you imagine visually appealing? Are there gaps?’
Tip 4: You don’t need to reinvent the wheel
‘We rarely see inventions but what we do see are great ideas re-imagined. Flash cards are a great example of this – there are some truly stunning sets out there; all designed to stimulate, educate and even be a decor item. The right design and story and they become the must-buy new baby gift, popping up all over Facebook etc, because they capture the imagination of parents and gifters.
You don’t need to reinvent the wheel. You do, of course, need to be different but the mistake that people make is not actually thinking about when and how it’s going to be a gift. Your collection can’t be all things to all people so home in on key occasions or sectors as it makes it easier to target and market your collection.’
Tip 5: How to sell to the parents when selling gifts for kids
‘When people buy gifts for children, they tend to buy things that appeal on some level to their inner child or their own tastes. If you’re not capturing the adult’s imagination, you’re not going to get into their shopping basket or onto their shelves.
I would also recommend that you go easy on unnecessary gender distinctions because this is increasingly alienating both gifters and retail buyers.’
Want to approach Natalie with your design-led products for babies or children? Then check out here ‘how to work with us’ first.
Want to learn more about how to approach the press & media? Read The Design Trust recent blog series on PR & media here.
Fiona Duffelen: curiosity shop owner Fee Fee La Fou
Fiona Duffelen set up Fee Fee La Fou HQ in deepest, darkest Dalston in East London in 2009. It’s a neon, circus themed curiosity shop that makes curious products for curious people. Everything in sight is for sale from its ferocious furniture, eccentric teapots, clown-infused chandeliers to its residents pets, affectionately known as cheap & nasty. The shop is also home sweet home to a bona fide, lesser-spotted but free-range artist, Miss Fee Fee La Fou.
Fiona’s top 5 tips on creating, marketing and launching giftware are:
- The perfect gift should be relevant to its’ recipient, so identify and interview your target market before you make anything.
- Start with a clear pricing strategy for your products that matches peoples spending habits and their budgets. Less than £20 is a good and popular price point for smaller gifts.
- Buying a gift for someone is a very personal experience; it is the perfect opportunity for buyers to demonstrate exactly how they feel about the person receiving it. They want the recipient to know they have spent time choosing it. Often they want the gift they buy to reflect their own creativity, individuality or ‘good taste’. Most importantly they want to buy something special that the recipient won’t find easily anywhere else. Therefore the best gifts are unique, timeless and memorable, with a great brand story behind them that gets passed on for generations, like an old family heirloom.
- Never underestimate the importance of packaging, especially for the giftware market. It should reflect the time, effort and careful consideration that goes into making your products. Customers appreciate any efforts made to make their lives easier, so if your product comes in a nice gift box then they won’t need to pay extra for wrapping paper.
- Focus any marketing on the buyers, as opposed to the recipients, as they are your direct customers. Promote your business indirectly to the recipient by including a flyer or a personalised compliment slip. Tailor your marketing to the women who tend to buy most of the gifts in their households.
Want to know how approach Fee Fee La Fou? Fee Fee La Fou have their very own talent scout Mr Majeika. For further information on everything you need to know about joining the Fee Fee La Fou Circus check out the submissions page on the website here. Please be patient with him though as its not easy responding to emails with flippers!
Patricia van den Akker, Director of The Design Trust
Patricia grew up selling creative products from a young age, as her mother ran a giftshop/gallery in The Netherlands when she grew up. She loves giftware, as it can be such a creative product to create, and can make your business so much more viable. And with giftware you create so much more than ‘just a product’.
Patricia has worked with 100’s of small creative business, and through her work at the Crafts Council and later on at The Design Trust has helped many getting ready for trade and consumer shows such as 100% Design, Top Drawer, Pulse, Inhorgenta, Made London, New Designers and many more. When she worked at product design company Studio Levien she was involved with the creation of various giftware and tableware collection, including for international brands like Dansk, Villeroy & Boch, Vista Allegra and Ulster Ceramics.
Patricia’s top 5 tips to create, market and launch your giftware collection successfully are:
Tip 1: Do your research
‘Spend some time researching your market before designing anything. Find out what you want to do and who your ideal client group would be. Find out online who is already selling similar product ranges in the area you want to work in.
What products are included in a range?
What is the price level?
What are the materials used?
How is it branded?
Who is it aimed at?
Check online, but also visit department stores, shops and trade shows to get a good idea of the market you want to operate in. Talk to trade buyers and find out what is selling well, but also what is missing in the market in their opinion.
Do you know your client groups who are most interested in your products? Do you know them deeper, then just their gender, age and job? Do you know why they buy a gift? When they are most likely to buy? Where they would buy? What is important to them when they buy or give?
How can you be more adaptable as a small business than the High Street, and therefore charge a premium? Think about personalised products, exceptional customer service, but also your ability to be quicker with responding to trends.
Practical research is key! It will help you to focus, but also to become more creative and identify innovative new products that your ideal client groups might like to buy. You will save yourself a lot of time, money, sweat and tears if you do some practical market research.’
Tip 2: Make your product more ‘gift-able’
‘Everything can be (in principle) a gift, but some products do better than others when it comes to gift buying and giving. Jewellery and homewares are a personal but ‘safe’ option, and can be bought at a wide range of styles and price levels, to suit many different types of clients.
But it’s often not just the product itself, but the entourage that can turn a product into a potentially fantastic gift! Packaging and extra touches (such as packaging, swing tags, or ‘thank you’ notes) can make a huge difference.
My mum (who ran a giftshop/gallery in The Netherlands) used to say: ‘You need to add a candle into a candle holder to make it a gift.’ And she would neatly wrap it as a big present.’
Tip 3: Create a collection instead of a series of individual products
‘I am a big fan of creating collections (you can read much more about why collections are important, and how to create a collection here) as they will tell your story better, will help you to up-sell and get repeat business from trade buyers and consumers, and will create much better and attractive displays online, at shows and in retail outlets.
Offering your potential clients different options within a clear brand and target market will make your creative products much more sellable, then when you just launch your products whenever you are ready.’
Tip 4: Not selling enough? Don’t blame it on the price!
‘Very often I see new creative businesses lower their prices in response to a lack of sales.
In the hope to sell more.
But, pricing is very often not the determining factor here … lack of targeted and focused marketing is!
When you lower the price of your products you will not necessarily attract more or better clients.
In fact, very often your potential clients might think that your products are ‘too cheap’, and that ‘there is something wrong with it!’
The key reason that you aren’t selling enough isn’t the price, but the fact that you aren’t promoting yourself enough to your potential clients, through a series of interconnected marketing activities. It’s very likely that your potential clients doesn’t know you or your products!
Marketing is much broader than just the promotion at the end to help you sell your products. From creating the right products for a specific niche to start with (and doing the research before starting to create); to pricing, branding and packaging the products correctly; to then launching the products at the right time of the year through targeted social media, a series of blogs talking about the background of the products, newsletters, visual price lists and real life events.’
Tip 5: A timely launch makes all the difference
‘Do you know when your clients are most likely to buy?
Instead of just putting products on the market (or on your website) whenever YOU are ready, it’s crucial that you go with the market flow and launch your collections when they are looking to buy. It will make your life a lot easier, and your marketing a lot smoother! (But your cash flow bumpier, so you do need to forecast!)
Christmas is obviously a crucial time in the year, and most retailers will be buying at the end of August up till September for the vast majority of their Christmas sales.
But, a good launch, that creates a buzz over a sustained period, will help you to get more sales and get media attention too. Slowly revealing your collection over a period of time through a series of different marketing channels will make your brand and products much more noticeable and memorable!
Sneak peeks on social media, background info in your newsletters, a launch on your website, invites to a trade show or Open Studio event, and follow up emails or visual price lists, will help you to work towards a series of deadlines (and stop you from procrastinating!) and will make you much more excited about your work. And that will be contagious!’
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