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Craft Business Basics 1 - Product

This article is the first in a series of 4 articles that will guide you on how you can start your own crafts business using the 4 Ps of Marketing - Product, Place, Price and Promotion.

The crafts business is an evergreen business. Even in today's high-tech world, people are still craving for that nice, sweet, little hand-made craft item because they add a personal touch and demonstrate sincerity, something that high-tech products will not be able to achieve.

In this series, I apply the traditional 4Ps of marketing to the crafts business and show you how you can follow these steps and start your own profitable crafts business from home. We begin the series with the first P - Product.

1. Product

It is simple to start a business nowadays, especially an online one. Too many people know how to set up websites and payment processors are making it easier and easier for us (and them) to collect payment.

However, the fundamentals of business remain. Without a good product, we can hardly expect to have good sales. Even if you have the best killer sales letters or promotional materials and managed to get good sales in the short-term, bad products will give you ruin your chances of repeat sales and may result in a lot of refunds.

On the other hand, having the right product can result in tremendous sales! The right product will bring joy to the buyer, and as a gift, will bring delight to both the giver and the receiver. What's more, it will result in many repeat and referral sales!

So what are the right products? Yes, we all know that we need the right products to succeed. How do you know what the right products are? Here are some considerations.

We might, in our enthusiasm, forget how much it costs to create the item and price it too close to our cost price or even at cost price!

Cost is not merely the raw materials, but marketing cost, labour cost (hey it's your time and your life!) and the cost of facilities (should you need warehousing) as well. Remember to add them all up then add another 33% or so as your profit. (You'll read more on pricing in Day 3 of this course)

I know some people go as far as to say that if they can't make 33% they won't sell the products but it's your call. I wouldn't mind a lower percentage personally.

The point of mentioning cost in this section on products is to say that some product ideas, while being very original and lovely, may not be able to be easily commercialised due to the high cost of production.

Some craft items really take a long time to create but can only be sold for a few dollars each. If you spend a day or half a day on a craft item that you can only sell for , you'd have effectively lost money, even if your materials cost you nothing. Imagine if you do nothing but create that craft item for a month. You'd have earned 0 for a fulltime job, including working on weekends. Not worth your time, is it?

Production Time
Related to the earlier point, if you don't take this into careful consideration, you may find that what you earn is not worth your time. If you take 1 hour to create an item which you sell for , even though your materials only cost you .10, you'd be making much less than what you expected, definitely less than what you're worth.

Where do you get ideas for new products? How do you know what people want?

Ideas for new products are all around us. Exercise a little creativity and get inspired from the things around us. Here are some things you can do.

* Take a walk around the house and observe the small things, especially gifts that you've received in the past.

* Take a walk in the park.

* Take a walk at your local mall and look at the crafts that people are selling. Observe how the trend is changing and what are the gifts of the day. Over the years, I have observed that there will always be some craft items that suddenly become very popular and there are some that remain popular regardless of the season. You need to familiarise yourself with the market if you want to do the business. I think that is a fundamental thing to do, regardless of the business you're going into.

Here's a list of different categories to help you brainstorm for new products.

* Baby items
* Office accessories
* Gift items
* Jewelry
* Home decoration items
* Houseplants
* Gardening
* Signs
* Furniture
* Automotive accessories
* Wedding accessories
* Decorations

We also need to stay abreast of what's going on to ensure we have a constant stream of ideas for products that are in demand. Here's what you can do.

1. Look at all craft books available in craft and hobby stores.
2. Subscribe to craft or hobby magazines, or read them at your local library.
3. Go to gift sections of department stores.
4. Ask people which items in craft items they like and why.
5. Wherever you go, talk to people and ask them about things they might want (this includes people you sell to, friends, and family).
6. Go to gift, trade, and craft shows.

A show allows suppliers or craftsmen from many different parts of the country to set up booths and show their wares. These shows will give you an opportunity to find out the latest developments In your particular skill, and will give you product ideas. The people who display at these shows can provide a wealth of information and ideas. They also may be helpful in:

* Teaching you now techniques in your craft
* Giving you names of suppliers * Giving you names of places to sell your products
* Telling you about other craft shows.

If you've run out of new ideas, perhaps the best thing you can do is not to go for new fresh and original ideas. Go back to something that works and improvise on them. Sometimes a simple little change can give you a new product or help the same old product reach a totally new market!

* Go back to one of your current or old products and see if you create a whole product line starting with that product.

* Sometimes all it needs is a little twist. If you have a male bear, how about a female bear and a baby bear? Then add on grandpa and granny!

* You could also add on related products. If you've created a nice wooden spoon, why not add forks, knives, plates and bowls as well?

* Think of new applications for one of your current products and with a change in your marketing, you could open a flood of new users for a product you thought nobody wanted anymore.

Arm & Hamme originally sold it baking soda product as a leavening product for baked goods, but over the years home-baking has become less popular and the demand for the product has declined.

However, people soon discovered that the baking soda absorbed odors and started using it as a deodorant in refrigerators, carpets, laundry, dustbins etc.

Some people even used it as a mild cleanser for countertops and sink drains and even for brushing teeth!

Because it's digestible, some people took it as an antacid and some applied the baking soda to their skin as a soothing lotion for skin irritations and tired feet.

Arm & Hammer took advantaged of these discoveries and changed its marketing strategy. Instead of selling baking soda, it now sells a natural cleanser and deodorizer. What has changed? Maybe just the box. But the company gained a whole new group of users for that same product.

So, if you see people using the toy dogs you've created as footstools, don't be upset. Maybe that's a new product in the making.

About the Author: Visit Craft Business for more craft-related articles and resources.

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