Every product or business sold out there today is backed by a promise: businesses seek to serve customers. Before that, they seek to solve problems. Building a brand isn’t the privileged right of large fortune 500 companies.
David Garland of The Rise to The Top fame has a list of how entrepreneurs running small businesses have all worked to build brands.
Branding could be personal or for the smallest of the businesses. Selling handcrafted items might seem like a microbusiness opportunity. Or it might give you the idea that it’s best sold on sites such as Etsy, EBay, and Amazon.
It is. And it isn’t.
Sell your products anywhere you want to.
The point is this: you can sell way better when you build a brand around your handcrafted products. With a brand behind you, you’d just be able to make so much happen around your business of selling handmade items online (or offline) – all you have to do is to tell your story.
Think’s that difficult? All brands have stories. You have one too if you create it!
But how do you communicate stories? How do you make customers “experience” the brand you want to grow and build?
Build Your Own Store
If you wanted to, you could sell it off any of the marketplaces available online. TJ McCue helpfully listed over 29 different marketplaces you could sell your handmade items, apart from eBay and Amazon. You should indeed sell wherever you can!
It’s, however, hard to build a brand when your presence is all over those disparate marketplaces. Your customers won’t have more than a “username” to identify you as a seller.
Your own eCommerce store on the other hand has a lot going for you. Apart from being a standalone source for your business profits, it also acts a brand-building vehicle for your business.
Spread Your Marketing Efforts
Don’t restrict your marketing to any one particular channel. For instance, if you do paid advertising on Google, don’t just depend on that alone for your marketing. Likewise, don’t depend on SEO either.
Marketing is a mix of channels and activities on each channel. Develop a marketing strategy incorporating marketing methods that work for your business. Promote your business using print advertising, content marketing, email marketing, or even ads on social media.
Do what it takes. Just don’t restrict yourself.
Sell with a Personality and Charm
Don’t sell because it’s your business. If you are as passionate about selling your handmade items as you are about creating them, it’s not so hard to bring out a certain character to your brand.
You can use your blog, your social media updates, and the copy on your product descriptions to project this character. One of the things that make some businesses stand out is their voice. A business with an aura of personality and voice makes it distinct. It helps you make a mark. Your customers will love you for it.
Charm is endearing. Sales and profits are a result of your customers liking and talking about your business.
Keep in Touch with Every Customer, Forever
Product quality, customer service, and the overall working of your business will all contribute to your brand building efforts.
Yet, none of those will match the impact you’ll make when you reach out to your customers, one-on-one, even when you don’t really need to.
Use modern channels such as email marketing and social media to your advantage. Take painstaking efforts to nurture your customers. You can even go to lengths such as remembering their birthdays and wedding anniversaries and reaching out on these other important occasions.
Take surveys, accept feedback, ask for ideas to improve, and do what you can to keep your customers happy.
Branding isn’t rocket science; it’s just common sense.
Do More than You Promise Your Customers
So, you have a multi-channel strategy. Your handmade products are up on a few of those niche marketplaces, including eBay and Amazon. Thanks to your marketing efforts, you start seeing some orders piling in. The least that your customers expect is that your products are of excellent quality and that you’d ship them out to them in time. But that’s something most ecommerce store owners or Internet retailers do.
What’s so special about you?
The answer is simple: do more than you promised.
Consider this: if a customer purchases product X and if the shipping is supposed to take five days for delivery, make it happen in 2 days. If you promised 2 days, deliver products in a day. Give away gifts customers didn’t ask for, give out coupons or gifts when they least expect to receive them.
It’s usually these little things that matter.
Go Paranoid with Customer Service
If a customer did not receive your product in time, offer an explanation and find ways to make up for it.
Did you just send out a damaged product? Own it up and take responsibility for it even if the product was damaged during shipping.
Replace the product on the double. Maybe add another freebie with your product. Send out thank you notes, offer ridiculous guarantees like 365 days money back guarantee, a la Zappos!
It goes without saying, but for effect: always offer free shipping and returns.
Give More than You Take
Apply this to everything in your business. For the price, offer to give more of the product.
Compile, create, or curate interesting information on your blog but make no soft pitches for any of your products.
Create your own digital magazine, coffee table books, or anything else that might make sense for your handcraft product business. Donate some of your profits to charity, go green, or help support an organization for a noble cause.
Brands are created on the premise of excellent products with unbeatable quality. Brands then have layers of customer service, personality, voice, and a distinct reputation built up over the years. Nothing should ruin any of this.
How do you plan to build a brand around your handmade products? Do you think it’s possible for small businesses to build everlasting brands? What do you think it takes?
Tracy Vides is a content strategist who likes to keep her finger on the pulse of the latest small business products, services, and apps. Hit her up on Google+ for a chat. She’s @TracyVides on Twitter.