I’m picking on jewelry today, but this isn’t actually about jewelry (so listen up if you sell bags, soaps, sock monkeys, etc.). I’m picking on jewelry today because it’s the most common product type out there in the handmade/DIY scene. Everyone seems to think they can make some jewelry, put it on Etsy and make a zillion bucks.
It’s totally possible to launch a successful jewelry business; plenty of people have done it. However, if you want to be one of the lucky few who makes it in a saturated market, don’t count on just doing what everyone else is doing — it ain’t gonna cut it. When you move into a crowded space you need to have a very clear answer to the question “Why should I buy from you instead of your competitors?” Here are some ways you can tackle that:
One way to set yourself apart from your competitors is by making an otherwise common product in a way that’s special for an overlooked customer base. Products with a special service, feature or target market can do well, even in a saturated space. There are a zillion diaper bags on the market, but maybe not so many specially designed for handicapped parents. There are tons of shoe stores out there, but not so many that focus on unusually big or small feet. There’s certainly a shortage of cute-looking orthopedic shoes.
Think about a niche audience you can serve with your product. If you can’t serve with a niche twist on your product, consider ways you can provide niche service. Zappos sells a lot of the products their competitors sell, but they offer free shipping, free returns, and a 365-day return policy. Their bend-over-backwards customer service helps them shine in a crowded retail space. If you can’t make your product stand out, find a way to make something about your service unique.
2. Killer Marketing
If you can’t stand out with unique products or unique service, you can stand out through brute force and clever marketing. Snorg Tees has become nearly synonymous with online t-shirt shops, mainly because their ads are everywhere. Overstock.com has become an online retail giant, despite lackluster customer service and pricing that’s not as awesome as they claim it is, simply because they advertise nonstop. TOMS shoes has tied charitable giving to their brand, making them attractive to consumers and the press. When you’ve got a brand story that’s tied to doing something positive, it’s easier to get people to talk about you.
Think about what you can do with your marketing to stand out. Can you saturate your audience with ads? Can you spin a story about your line that’s so interesting that the media and customers won’t shut up about it?
Another way to make your product line special is to make the product line less of a focus for your brand. It sounds counter-intuitive, but sometimes this works. Plenty of brands have found success in selling a lifestyle. Sure, they sell products, but what they sell is almost beside the point. They’re selling an image and that offering is so powerful that the products sell simply because customers want to buy a piece of that lifestyle. Tiffany & Co is a terrific example of a brand that revolves around a lifestyle. They don’t just sell jewelry, they sell luxury, elegance and timeless good taste. They can sell a $125 keychain (and they do) because of the brand image they’ve cultivated. They reinforce this branding with their product photos, store merchandising, product packaging, etc.
Harley-Davidson is another great example of this kind of brand positioning. They don’t simply sell motorcycles; they sell the dream of appearing tough and rebellious, even if you’re really a middle-aged, suburban soccer-dad. They sell belts, jewelry, jackets, you name it! It all sells because it’s emblazoned with their logo and that logo is shorthand for a lifestyle their customers aspire to.
If you think this could be your brand’s ticket to standing out, think about what your brand can do for your customers’ sense of self. Can you position your brand to make customers feel hip, elite, eco-minded, or rebellious? What can you do with your product photos, web design, marketing copy, etc. to convey that kind of message?
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