We don’t have to worry about the millions of people out there who will not like or want or need our makings, we just have to focus on reaching the people who will love us.
Popular doesn’t mean what it used to mean.
Everyone can be popular now. Yes, everyone. The cool kids may still be sitting at the best table, but guess what – we don’t have to look at them anymore.
We have our own table. We have always had our own table. But now thanks to this amazing thing called the internet there are a whole lot more people sitting with us and we only have to see each other.
The days of everyone seeing the same TV shows on a Friday night are gone; now everyone sees different things – the things we want to see.
(yes, the world is like Facebook now)
Those different things are niches.
(pronounced neeshe rhymes with quiche or like geese with a lisp, although here in New Jersey most people rhyme it with fish)
Your niche is what separates you from the pack. It is also what helps the right people find you.
Forget the internet and Etsy for a minute and think of it like this – you are a chiropractor in a small town. If you focus exclusively on golf injuries you will probably be out of business, your small town will not support this type of specializing – you probably need to be more general.
But let’s say you move your practice to the big city – suddenly your general practice is getting lost in the shuffle. There are gazillions of clients for you now, but they can’t find you because there are gazillions of other chiropractors, too – suddenly a golf injury specialty becomes a good thing. In the big city you need a niche.
As cuddly and down home local as it looks, Etsy is the big city folks, yes, we need a niche. But there are some tricks to this niche thing.
1. SATURATION POINT
Weddings are a HUGE niche on Etsy. Most of us probably have a thing or two in our shop for weddings and most of us with a thing or two will tell you “weddings are just not big sellers for me”, but this is because this isn’t the way a niche works.
A niche needs a saturation point.
The shop on the left has 178 items. 91 of this shop’s items are listed in her section as weddings, but really almost everything in the shop is geared to weddings, about 140 items and yes, that’s a lot – you might not need as many because your niche will probably be smaller, weddings are a huge niche for buyers and sellers.
Almost every wedding item in this shop is basically the same thing, yes, 140 variations of the same thing.
And before you think that is crazy let me tell you something that might change your mind - this shop sells 20 items a day.
She isn’t selling things no one else is selling – lots of people are selling very similar things. She doesn’t have anything super amazing and her pics are clear but nothing spectacular is going on. Her prices are not cheap, but they are not expensive and there is no great skill to her makings.
But when someone goes into her shop after looking at any one of her thingies (everything is pretty much the same thing) – they see WEDDING, WEDDING, WEDDING everywhere – if they are looking for that thingie for their wedding, they are probably not leaving without buying.
(and this thingie she sells does not have to be geared to weddings, it’s not like a cake topper or anything, it could be geared to anything – this seller is choosing wedding as her niche)
They don’t have to search Etsy anymore – they just have to search this shop. So she has a niche (weddings) and then she has a broad appeal within that niche.
2. THE BROAD APPEAL PART
I know broad appeal and niche sound like two different things, but you could go too far with this niche thing – you don’t want to be sitting at the table all by yourself.
Let’s say you sell handmade earplugs (yes, I said earplug, google it) – well, that’s a niche all in itself because most people do not wear ear plugs. But now let’s say you only make ear plugs with pictures of anchors on them – well, that would be a niche that needs a broader appeal because you would have to find the ear plug wearer who likes anchors, so unless you are the only person selling earplugs – and if you are, there either isn’t a market for them or you won’t be the only person selling them for long - either way this will not work.
The smaller your niche the more you might need to broaden your appeal within that niche.
When I started selling wine cork jewelry I thought I might work exclusively with images of grapes and wine related stuff. I quickly found out that this was a little too narrow an appeal within my niche for Etsy. It works great for my winery wholesale customers – but I would have missed thousands of Etsy sales if I hadn’t widened my audience. The cork is so specific the imagery I work with needs to have a broader appeal. On the other hand if I just took that same imagery and used typical jewelry makings I would lose my niche.
This broad appeal thing is also the reason that if we create something like recycled baby clothes – that’s a niche. But if we sell recycled baby clothes, but only in girl’s size 2-4 because that is our daughter’s size – that will be a niche that is likely too small because we will have to find someone who wants to buy recycled clothes and then they must have a child to buy for in that sex and age and then they have to like our clothes! Now, we could totally make this work in our daughter’s preschool, maybe, but this probably won’t work on Etsy.
3. NICHES CREATE EXPERTS
I have a friend and big-time Etsy seller who emails me about trends – she knows I have no pop culture reference points anymore and so she keeps me up to date.
Every time she emails me “Cat, it’s almost Shark Week” or “Cat, marbleizing (?) is hot now.” I stop what I am doing (unless I am eating chocolate or doing sudokus, of course). I maybe list or renew or somehow highlight something around these ‘trends’, maybe, but the truth is this never works for me.
I am not the expert. This is not my niche.
The girl with the year round shop focused on sharks – the girl with the facebook page all about sharks, the girl with the Etsy shop name SwimmingWithSharks (this name is available BTW so you can totally dive right into this idea) – this is the girl everyone will turn to during Shark Week.
And this is the girl who can turn her authority into all kinds of opportunities to sell her shark thingies the rest of the year, too.
Niche creates experts.
And before you start thinking this will not work, this niche thing is too limiting – think about Facebook, think about the internet in general, think about cable TV – people are only seeing the things they want to see now – this is the only thing that will work.
4. CREATE A NICHE HOT SELLER WITHIN YOUR EXISTING SHOP
There are unlimited ways to do this within your broader craft makings.
Let say you knit scarfs. Well, since everyone has a neck this is not a niche.
Now, let’s say you take one of your scarves which is probably perfect for subway commuters, who are most likely freezing – THEY NEED YOU – so you knit their subway entrance and exit points into the scarf ends – personalization always wins – and you sell it to commuters.
Now this kind of niche selling does not give you the same kind of saturation point as our wedding example, because you will probably not fill your shop with these subway scarves. You will have to let people know you are out there, you will have to figure out where these subway commuters are looking, but when you do and they go searching subway scarf they will find you because you will have reached the subway scarf saturation point.
Etsy will get you excellent google SEO – the people seeking your niche will find you.
Another example would be let’s say – you sew neck ties into wallets, so then you start recycling wedding neckties into wallets for grooms. Brides start saving neckties after their weddings. You start a necktie revolution!
(what is happening to all that wedding stuff when the wedding is over – we are the recycling team – we need to get on that!)
Maybe you create a niche for a certain something that you make just by changing the packaging. Those blue earrings you make are no longer just blue earrings – they are “true blue” best friend earrings that you share with a friend after a break-up and they come with 2 sets!
There are hundreds/thousands/gazillions of ways to do this.
Niche thinking makes selling online a whole lot easier because
1. there is less competition
2. it makes it easier to find the customers who will be attracted to us and it makes us easier to find
3. our stuff has a higher perceived value since we can position ourselves as an expert in a smaller field and so
4. we can charge more (ka-ching).
And yes, this stuff can be a lot of work … that’s why it’s called work.
And sometimes what you think is a niche, and it probably is a niche, is not a niche that will make you any money and you have to change what you are a doing. There are no guarantees with any of this stuff. We have to enjoy the process (the outcome is out of our hands after all). We have to get excited about trying new things and figuring out what works for us and we have to remember to celebrate those things that do work because many things won’t and even those that do will not work forever.
(and I don’t think any blogger has ever used the word ‘work’ so many times in the same paragraph – so I’m tired now and need a nap – naps are totally allowed, too)