I LOVE social media. You get to meet such AWESOME people through it. That’s how I met Cheryl from Cheryl Quilts and Crafts and got to interview her about her craft booth biz. And that’s exactly how I met Erin, an AMAZING person with LOTS of knowledge on handmade biz.
Today, she’s sharing a VERY detailed post on finding a niche for your handmade bag biz, and she’ll be covering
- why it’s SO SO important to have a niche to be successful
- and HOW to actually do it.
So, without further ado, over to Erin.
How to Find a Niche For Your Handmade Bag Biz
I ran my own handmade handbag business for several years. I started selling the bags I made at craft shows, through which, I made connections with local store owners and grew the wholesale side of my business. And eventually, I started selling my handbags online. My bag business improved over the years and I was ultimately able to focus on it full-time and quit my 9 – 5 job.
But it wasn’t an overnight success. It required a lot of trial and error. And without a doubt, one of the biggest mistakes was not finding my niche sooner.
The first craft show I sold handbags at, I offered every type of style I could dream up. I went crazy with drafting new patterns, using different fabric combinations and trying to offer something for everyone.
People stopped at my table, shopped through my selection and many bought. But when that one handbag that caught everyone’s attention was sold, I didn’t have backup stock or similar options to offer.
I slowly started to narrow my selection based on what sold and what sat, which moved me in the right direction. But simply having a select offering of handbags still wasn’t enough. My craft show, wholesale and online sales jumped when I found my niche and created a specific handbag in a style suited for a specific person.
What Is A Niche & Why You Need One
A niche product is one that appeals to a small, specialized section of the population. In other words, a product that is not for everyone.
As great as it may sound to create a product that everyone needs and loves, doing so is next to impossible. You want products that aren’t a fit for most people but are just right for others.
When you start excluding people and defining who your products are definitely not for, you’re on the right path to finding your niche.
Consumers have a lot of choices when it comes to buying a handbag. Even if you take the big brands and mass-produced items out of the mix, there are still many options to choose from when it comes to handmade bags.
So what makes a consumer choose you?
How do they find you among all the other handbag listings? What makes people feel they need one of your bags? Why do they have the desire to talk about your bags and tell others to check you out? What makes them proudly say your business name when someone compliments them on their bag?
Creating a niche product will help you answer all those questions.
Consider this: when you go to a restaurant, what makes you rave about it, tell others and head back each week? Great food right?
If you go to a restaurant and they have every type of food on the menu (e.g. Italian food, Mexican food, Chinese food, etc.), what are the chances they’re able to make every type of cuisine successfully? They probably make so-so spaghetti and meatballs, mediocre tacos and an average tasting chow mein. If you’re in the mood for a particular type of food, you only have one or two options to choose from on their menu.
But if you come across a restaurant that focuses on Italian food, they’re going to have a wide variety of dishes that are likely amazing, because that’s what the chefs make, day in and day out. They’ve perfected their recipes and can easily decipher when a dish isn’t popular and needs to be tweaked or removed from the menu.
When you have a craving for Italian food, are you going to head to the multi-cuisine restaurant with the so-so spaghetti and meatballs or the Italian restaurant? If you search for “local Italian restaurants”, what are the chances the one with 2 Italian dishes is going to show up? And if someone asks if you know any good restaurants, are you going to rave about the so-so meal you had or the amazing Italian dish you can’t stop thinking about?
That’s the power of finding a niche and the hazards of being too broad with your product selection.
Here are just a few benefits of finding a niche:
- Stand out – there are millions of handbag listings online. Having a distinct style or purpose is going to make it easier for shoppers to find you or notice your bags when they’re scrolling through the options.
- Become an expert – you’re able to focus on one type of handbag, material, technique, etc. and create an extraordinary product. You become THE vendor to shop with when someone is looking for ____________ type of handbag.
- More time – when you’re constantly dreaming up new designs, drafting new patterns, sourcing new materials, coming up with descriptions, etc. it doesn’t leave much time for other important aspects of your business such as branding, packaging, marketing, etc.
- Streamline your business – you can quickly find when something is or isn’t selling and react appropriately. If you make one or two of 20 different types of products, how can you tell which ones are most popular? And how do retailers choose bags to buy based on their shoppers’ tastes when the styles you offer are constantly changing?
- Less competition – you’re not a department store. You cannot compete with big stores and brands offering a wide selection. The broader you get with your product, the more businesses you’re competing with. The more specific you get, the fewer options people have to shop from and they’re more likely to find and buy from you.
- Repeat customers – if you find one or two things on a menu that look okay, after you’ve tried them both, why would you go back? You want your products to speak to one type of person so they have such a hard time deciding between all the amazing products that are perfect for them and they just have to buy more than one item.
How To Find Your Niche
Whether you’re already making handbags or you’re just starting a handbag business and aren’t sure what to offer, anytime is a good time to find a niche. Small changes to existing products, the branding, marketing, photography, name, descriptions, etc. can sometimes be all it takes. So don’t let an existing product lineup stop you from exploring a niche.
Here’s how to do it.
1) Start With A Person
It’s really important to know who your products are for so you can determine the types of niche products they’ll be interested in. If you simply define “women” as your customers, how do you know whether they need a long strap or short handles, zipper closure or a flap, a big bag or small clutch, pockets inside for baby supplies or one for a laptop?
If you define your ideal customer as new moms who are in their 30’s, you can start to imagine the styles, trends, product features, etc. that appeal to them. Now you can imagine someone who needs a stylish diaper bag with lots of pockets to organize everything they need when leaving the house. They probably want a long strap to easily throw the bag over their shoulder and a closure they don’t have to fumble with when they need something in a rush.
Most handmade business owners start making a product based on what they can make and what they want to make and then go hunting for people who might want to buy that product.
As you’ve probably discovered, it’s really easy to create; we could do that all day. The hard part is marketing and selling your product.
So instead of starting with the easy part and trying to adapt the hard part around it, start at the end and find that person you want to sell to and then create products for them.
2) Get Specific
Once you know the type of person you want to create products for, think about the specifics of that ideal customer and what they need/want to help you narrow your product down into a niche.
Here are a few of the ways I like to discover niches:
Is there one type of handbag you can focus on? Take a look at the different subcategories, sub-subcategories or options that fall under “Bags”.
For example, you may decide to narrow your niche down by subcategory to Bags -> Handbags -> Clutches and get even more specific by concentrating on a particular material, color, style, size or shape.
Can you become know as the handbag vendor who makes THE best clutches and has an amazing selection when it comes to asymmetrical leather ones? Or maybe you become known for oversized and colorful clutches.
You’ve already defined who you want to sell to (your ideal customer), but can you get even more specific with who that person is? Think about:
- Demographics – age, sex, education, income, occupation, location, marital status, parental status, home ownership, pet ownership, etc. Instead of making diaper bags for moms, you may discover there’s an untapped market when it comes to diaper bags for moms with twins, triplets or quadruplets.
- Psychographics – personality, values, opinions, attitudes, aspirations, interests, hobbies, behavior, lifestyle, etc. You may create bags made for brides, people who play a certain sport or for those who love to travel.
- Physical characteristics – shape, size, height, disability, etc. Petite women may find they often love popular styles of handbags but most of them are too big, bulky or heavy for their bodies. A line of handbags for petite woman could be a good niche.
When people have a problem, they want it solved and are often willing to pay money for the solution. Is there a common (or not so common) problem when it comes to handbags that not many businesses are solving?
Sometimes you can find forums with discussions on your product. These are a great place to get ideas, learn about common problems and read opinions (e.g. where can I find ________ type of bag, how do I fix __________ problem, etc.).
You can also try Google-ing “problem” with a specific type of bag to see what comes up. For example, if I search “messenger bag problem”, “back pain from messenger bags” is a common topic and an article covering the reasons it’s hard to find a good messenger bag, offers a few issues that need to be solved. Maybe you could solve them? 😉
Pay attention to reviews and comments as well. If you search the type of bag you want to offer and read reviews on different websites, you may find helpful information on what customers don’t like about a bag and features they wish it had.
3) Increase Chances Of Success
Once you decide on a niche for your product, there are a few other factors that should be in place:
- Your passion – I made a few diaper bags back in the day and they sold really well. But I wasn’t a mom and had never changed a diaper so I was a little clueless when it came to knowing what moms need and want. Be sure you’re not choosing a niche based on popularity and that you can truly understand and connect with your customers.
- Your skills – skills can be learned but be sure you’re taking advantage of your natural talents. If you’re great at beautifully pairing unlikely fabric patterns or colors together, find a way to incorporate your design knack into each product.
- Low competition – you’ll likely never be the only person selling the item you make but check to be sure there aren’t hundreds of other vendors jumping on a popular niche bandwagon. If there are, find a way to put your own spin on things and create a niche within the niche.
- Demand – if you’re getting really specific with your product, be sure it’s not so narrow of a niche there aren’t enough people searching for and buying it. It also needs to fit into the price range people are willing to pay. You may find many people want a laptop bag with lots of pockets for organization, but sewing all those extra pockets and zippers may raise the price above what they’re willing to pay.
It’s easier than ever to set up your own website, join a social media platform or start selling your handbags through an online marketplace. But if you can easily do it, so can millions of others and that means more competition. You can’t just put your bags out there and hope they’ll get found. You must draw the right people to your products by posting consistent images, keywords, hashtags, topics, etc.
People are more likely to head online looking for a “black and white backpack diaper bag” than they are to type “Handmade bag” into Google. Online shoppers are typically looking for specific, hard to find niche items. Having a niche product instantly gives you a set of keywords to use in titles, tags and descriptions to help you show up in searches.
An Instagram account that shares a different bag each week, targeting a different type of customer, will have a hard time gaining engaged followers. That person who liked and followed last week when they saw a trendy clutch perfect for Saturday evenings at the nightclubs, will lose interest when they see a diaper bag the following week. When an account is all about baby, baby, baby, using images and hashtags that attract moms, it’s going to build an audience of moms interested in diaper bags and be more likely to convert followers into customers.
For more tips on selling online (and offline) effectively, check out my ebook THE SUCCESSFUL INTROVERT . It covers fitting more “you” into your business to stand out, finding your niche and building your brand as well as marketing and selling techniques to build that audience and boost those sales.
Selling At Craft Shows
Having a niche product is going to make it much easier when it comes to getting accepted to and selling at craft shows. Organizers have the tough job of sifting through many amazing vendors and choosing ones that will give shoppers a variety of products to shop from. They don’t want to have two vendors selling similar handbags. When you sell a niche handbag, you’re less likely to be competing with a vendor selling a similar product and will beat out the competition when there are limited spots in the category of handbags.
You’ll also stand out at the craft show and draw in more paying customers. It’s hard to create a theme for your display when your products don’t have one. Knowing your ideal customer and your niche makes it easy to decide on the colors, display fixtures, props and overall vibe of your space.
Imagine a craft show table selling a couple diaper bags, a few evening bags, totes and coin purses in a variety of materials and colors. What color should the tablecloth be? What type of finish should the display fixtures have? Wood, wicker, plastic? Which type of props would enhance the display? Which keywords and images should be used in signage to attract the right customer?
Now imagine a table selling bright colorful diaper bags with a few diaper bag accessories, such as diaper clutches, wet/dry bags and bottle bags. A white tablecloth and display fixtures are an obvious choice to help the bright colors of the bags stand out. Children’s toys or a couple stuffed animals would be good props to strengthen the baby theme, while a few items that typically go in the bag would not only strengthen the theme but also show shoppers how everything fits inside. Images and keywords that communicate “mom”, “baby”, “organization”, etc. would help draw in the right shoppers.
You can see how having a niche simplifies your display too. For more tips on selling at craft shows and selling more at them, check out my ebook MAKE MORE MONEY AT CRAFT FAIRS. It is a complete, start to finish guide on preparing, displaying and selling at events.
That’s my pitch on why you should find a niche for your handbags…are you convinced? 😉 What type of niche handbags are you going to start making?
More about Erin
Hey! I’m Erin 🙂 I’m one of the creators behind Made Urban and I absolutely love sharing my craft related business advice on the Made Urban blog, in challenges and through my ebooks MAKE MORE MONEY AT CRAFT FAIRS and THE SUCCESSFUL INTROVERT. I’ve been in the craft industry for over a decade now and have gained a ton of valuable information from being a Visual Communications Designs graduate, a regional visual merchandiser for a major retailer, a full-time handmade business owner and a handmade hoarder who goes to way too many craft shows.
Whew! That was one long post loaded with GOLD NUGGETS girls! I’m sure this post helped you in giving a completely NEW perspective on running a handmade bag biz and hopes on making it successful.
I can’t agree more with every single word written by Erin, she has definitely solved a major problem in running a bag biz which is how to stand out in the crowded world of bag makers. Don’t forget to visit her blog Made Urban and drop a thank you note.
Lastly, if you found this article helpful, SHARE IT WITH OTHER BAG MAKING BUDDIES!
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