Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Business Chat - What are you selling?

image courtesy of katwise.com
“but no one will buy my bracelet for $300 at a craft show!”
“no one will buy a necklace for $250 online!”
“everyone keeps trying to bargain me down.”
“everyone is just looking for a deal, they don’t care about it being handmade.”
“there’s too much jewelry/sweaters/candles (insert item here) already! I can’t make any money.”

Today I am going to tell you a story, a true story. This story is for all those who’ve made the comments above. It’s for everyone who thinks they can’t sell handmade work at a good price. 

Recently I was introduced to the work of Katwise. Kat makes spectacularly awesome one of a kind upcycled sweater coats and armwarmers. She sells on Etsy, the handmade online marketplace that currently hosts just over 900,000 sellers. That’s a lot of competition. 

Her last batch of 50 armwarmers ($28 each) sold out in just under 9 minutes. The last 3 batches did the same. Don’t even think about getting a coat, which cost in the many 100’s of $, they don’t even last that long. 

Is she the only one selling armwarmers? Heck no, I searched armwarmers on the site and came up with 4,000 hits. Oh, and did I mention that she also sells tutorials on how to make her armwarmers and coats, and yet they still sell out in 9 minutes?

I pulled a couple of quotes from her Facebook page - where she has over 114,000 likes. 
"It has taken me years of trying to get mine, but it is all worth it when you are FINALLY the lucky recipient! Got mine today. Keep trying folks. "
I think it is so great that Kat offers patterns for her products and is still sold out immediately after posting. Sometimes the good guy does come out on top."
"It is like hitting the lottery ... I got a pair last time and now everyone around me wants a pair."
How is this possible? The coats are really incredible but the armwarmers while cute really aren’t that unique. The competition is fierce. How can she sell so much? 

Here’s a clue in another fan quote.
"When I buy something of Kat's, I like knowing that not only am I getting something funky, fun and creative... but the person behind the item is also funky, fun and creative. "
"I love her zeal for life, I love what she contributes to it... and every time I wear something of hers, I feel that energy. So if I buy her stuff, and I keep her doing what she loves doing and does so well... "
Ah.... 

People are buying more than armwarmers. People are buying Kat. 

From her Facebook page, her blog, and her website people are connecting with the person behind the work. They read about her making it, she posts pictures of her house and studio. She tells stories about what she did on the weekend, her house renovations, whatever she is up to. She also makes it very clear that she makes every single item and that is why there isn’t enough to go around. 

Kat is the product as much as her coats are. 

People choose to wait around for years trying to buy one of her pieces rather than running to the closest shopping mall because they want to support a person. 

We as makers are just as much our product as our work is. People buy handmade because they want to know about the hands that made the work. It’s not enough to make great work, take a photo and post it online. Your work needs a story and a voice. You are the story. How you tell it is your voice. You, your inspiration, your process, it’s all part of the package. 

More than ever it is vital to your success to share your story. Customers want to know that there is a person behind the work. They want to feel like they know you and can trust you. 

We face a tremendous amount of competition when we try to sell. We are competing with dirt cheap imported products and with handmade competition from around the globe when selling online. Yet each of us has something that is truly unique, ourselves.  This is your secret weapon for your success. You need to communicate your story to your customers. Telling your customers what you do is called marketing. 

Marketing our work online these days is so easy there is no excuse for not doing it. Social media is not just for sharing photos of cats, it’s for sharing photos of us at work or at play. Whatever you choose to share is up to you, just get out there and shout out your story.

Who knows, maybe your next collection will sell out in 9 minutes. Wouldn’t that be nice? 

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