Why are Your Crafts Not Selling?

While the majority of my clients are now reporting excellent sales, I am getting inquiries from other crafters saying they are getting hits on their sites but that their  work isn’t selling as well as they would like.  Normally I would first evaluate their marketing.  If a site is getting lots of hits but no sales, it’s possible that there is something weak about the site itself, not the aesthetics, necessarily, but likely, the marketing funnel. However, a comprehensive marketing analyses is very time consuming and while I am generous, I am so busy with my paying clients, I can no longer  spend hours with an individual who isn’t a client. Still, being curious, I couldn’t help checking out their sites.

We all know that you can make the most gorgeous product but if it isn’t marketed correctly, it won’t sell. Likewise, it doesn’t matter how great your marketing is if you don’t have something people want to buy.  I know, this is common sense, but there is much more to having a marketable product than its’ being beautiful or functional.  I decided it was time to take a look at what these crafters are making.  Maybe there was a common product factor among those who were not making money with their craft.  Bingo! Those who were reporting slow or no sales mostly had lovely crafts but their products all had one thing in common.

They were handmade versions of what the importers are selling for a fraction of the price. And yes, I can absolutely empathize with these crafts people. In addition to material costs, they are spending hours beading,  hand knotting and sewing up a storm so they can’t possibly compete with what the importers are paying laborers in a third world country to knock out similar products. I also understand the American consumer well enough to know that they aren’t likely to pay several times more for something they perceive as the same item they can buy at the big box stores. Now, you and I know it’s NOT the same product, and I’ve spent years supporting and promoting hand made crafts.  I’ve also spent enough time in retail to know that even buyers of handmade are savvy consumers and are only willing to shell out more money for something green or handmade if they perceive the product as different enough to be worth the increase in price. So, what’s the solution?

I’m not advocating your pricing your work like an import, which would be paying yourself about a nickel an hour, and I”m also not suggesting you have your work produced oversees.  (The latter is an option if you have a design that someone is willing to pay you to license but that is another topic.)

I’m suggesting you take some time to shop around and do some homework.

Clients are always surprised when they are starting a business selling handmade and I suggest they attend a mainstream wholesale trade show.  It is important to stay current with trends, but that isn’t the main reason  to attend a gift show. (no, it isn’t where you would purchase and it isn’t to get ideas or inspiration.)  What you’ll find is that even in the so-called handmade section of these gift shows, most of the items are imports. (There are separate venues for strictly handmade in America.) I suggest you walk one of the wholesale gift shows -there are many this summer. You do have a resale license, don’t you? )  Look for several things:

Most importantly, are there items that look similar to yours (to the untrained eye, of course)  priced such that retailers could at least keystone (double) and sell for significantly less than you price your work?

Is someone knocking off your work? That’s an issue for your attorney-I am only telling you what you need to be aware of.

Can you tweak your work so that discriminating buyers recognize the value of paying more than they would for the the import?

Do you have your personally “story” , a photo of yourself and something about how your work is crafted on your hangtag? Can you sign your work-if it is jewelry, for example, this can be done with a custom silver  logo tag. These can be ordered through a charm company inexpensively. If you are a textile artist, embroider your signature. Do as much as possible to make it obvious that your work is hand crafted. If you sell online, your bio page should be very personal including your story and images of you doing the craft. If you show your work in shops or galleries,  be sure that the staff is well versed on who you are and your method. At craft fairs, trade shows or trunk shows, if there is space, either do demos or have photos or videos of yourself  making your craft.

As always, I just can’t stop giving you info. but that should get you started on making your craft stand out and increasing your sales.   More tips coming soon…

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Comments (2)

florence wangMay 1st, 2009 at 12:06 pm

Wow, this is so helpful and insightful!

adminMay 1st, 2009 at 12:49 pm

Thank you for the feedback, Florence. I’m glad it was helpful. Check back frequently for more helpful hints and don’t forget to get your F-r-e-e 13 Tips-tons of good content

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