See my introduction post about writing a business plan for your creative business. So far, we’ve covered:
- Question #1. Why do I want to sell my product?
- Question #2. Where can people find my product?
- Question #3. What am I selling?
- Question #4. Who will buy my product?
- Question #5. When do people use my product?
- Question #6. Why should someone use my product?
#7. How do I distinguish my brand and my products from the competition?
This one is a biggie. We know all about your brand, your business, your products, and your target customer now. Let’s shift our focus a bit and zoom out to view the entire market.
Competitors come in all shapes and sizes. Let’s say you’re like me and you sell jewelry. I have a long list of competing businesses. There are big box stores like Target and Macy’s that also sell jewelry. There are smaller, local retailers with physical locations that offer jewelry, not to mention craft fairs and pop-up shops. There are tons and tons of Etsy shops and other online retailers as well. The list goes on and on. Take some time to brainstorm your main competitors. For me, I believe my biggest competitors are other Etsy shops that sell jewelry. How do I set myself apart from all these competing jewelry sellers?
Unless you are really lucky and really a genius, you are probably not the only business out there selling your type of product. Even if your handmade product isn’t really unique, you don’t necessarily have a problem. You just need to brainstorm a couple of things –
- What makes your product, shop, brand, customer experience, and “story” different from everyone else?
- How can you get your target customers to find YOU first?
The first question has a lot to do with your marketing plan. You may not be the only person out there selling your widget, but we can build a brand and a story around your product to make it unique in the eyes of a buyer. Here are just a few ideas for some of the concepts you can focus on to make yourself stand out as different:
These are just a few ways to set your business/brand/product/customer experience apart from the competition. Feel free to brainstorm ideas (you can use the worksheet below) and figure out what works best for you!
A quick example of just a piece of this process with my own shop, Lazy Owl Boutique… Something that sets me apart is that I am both a Certified Public Accountant and a jewelry designer, two things that seem pretty different. Most designers on Etsy are probably not also CPAs. I can tell the story of my journey from the cube to the craft studio in my Etsy profile and my About Me page to connect with my potential customer and make myself a little bit more memorable. The handcrafted marketplace is unique in the sense that a customer has the opportunity to connect with and learn about the artist that actually designed and created what they are buying. Take advantage of that!
To further my brand’s uniqueness, I ship all my jewelry in decorated packaging that is immediately ready to be gifted if needed. My product descriptions focus on my use of titanium ear posts for those with sensitive ears, a niche to which I’m currently marketing. I aim to use consistent, cohesive language and imaging in both my Etsy shop, my website, and my individual product listings. I also strive to respond to customer inquiries as soon as I possibly can. These are just a few ways that I try to get the Lazy Owl brand to stand apart in the over-saturated jewelry market.
Your next goal should be to do everything you can to make sure your target customer finds your products before they find the competition’s. Yes, a lot of buyers will shop around several venues or shops before making a purchase, but it’s still important to try to get your stuff in front of their eyes first to make that lasting impression. This concept dives into the realm of SEO, tagging, relevancy searches, and a whole other field of business and marketing that we’ll save for another day. It also relates back to the best places to market and sell your products, which we’ve discussed with past Crafting a Business plan questions.
We’re almost there! Just one more capstone question left, and you’ll have successfully completed your very own creative business plan for your handcrafted business!
Over the next series of articles, we’ll discuss each of the W’s and H’s individually. Feel free to click here to download a pdf of the business plan questions.