How to know if your products will sell – Part 1
Would it be less scary starting your handmade biz if you knew in advance that YES your products will sell? Of course it would!
Although there isn’t a magical formula that can give you a 100% guaranteed answer to that burning question, there are practical things you can do and look at to take most of the guess work out of the equation.
To figure out if your handmade products will sell, you have to look at it from two different perspectives: a market-based and a product-based.
The first part of this series focuses on a market-based validation. It will help you work out if your product is marketable. In other words , whether there is a demand out there for it, and whether people are ready to buy it.
The second part, based on product-based validation, will help you work out if your actual product idea is a good one.
Part 1 – Market-based evaluation
In this first part, what we want to know is: Is this product attractive to potential customers? Will you be able to market it and sell it to potential customers?
N.B: All along this article, I am going to pretend that I am thinking of selling handmade bow ties, and walk you through the validation process with this example.
Ready? Let’s go!
STEP 1 – Evaluating the demand: how big is the market?
Unless your product is ground-breaking-never-seen-before, or aimed at a really specific niche, you can get a good idea of the size of your market by using these 3 simple (and free!) tactics and tools: Google Keyword Searches, Pinterest, and trending hashtags.
The Pinterest Test
Pinterest is waaaay more than a social media platform. Because of the way it was built, it is more of a visual search engine, and therefore by looking at how many pins exist about your product idea, and how many times they were repinned and saved, you can get a pretty good idea of how big your potential market is.
Let’s take our bow tie as an example. I typed in “bow tie” in pinterest and started scrolling down to take a look at the number of times the pins were liked and pinned. The numbers are pretty good:
Take action: Head over to Pinterest and do a few searches around the keywords for your product idea. Is there a lot of relevant pins showing up? How may likes and repins on average? Share it with me in the comments!
The Google Searches Test
Have you heard of the Google keyword planner tool? If not, go and sign up for a FREE google Adwords account right away. Seriously, do it. It’s free and a must-have tool to gain insights into your market, competitors, and more.
Once you have your account, find the keyword tool and select “search for new keywords using a phrase…”.
Now, type in your main keyword (in our case: bow tie) and if you need to, select a location (if you only plan on selling to the US for example) and let google do the rest:
Google tells us that there are 135 000 searches a month on average for “bow tie”. That’s a lot. You can go deeper in your analysis by looking at the suggested keywords and their amount of monthly searches. In our case:
To go even further, search for niched down keywords such as “wedding bow tie”, “black bow tie”, “boys bow tie”, etc. You can also look at related terms such as “tie” or “wedding ties”, etc.
The Hashtag Trends Test
The last test is all about hashtags. Hashtags are a great way to measure engagement for your product idea.
If you go on your Instagram and search for your keyword under “hashtag” you should see a list of related hashtags and for each the number of times it’s been used.
In our “bow tie” example:
#bowtiesarecool was used more than 200K times, #bowtie more than 2 million times, and #bowties over 500K times. Not bad!
Take action: Do a quick instagram search for your main product idea keyword. How many times was this hashtag used? What about related hashtags?
For Twitter, there used to be a great tool called Topsy that would do exactly the same thing… but they closed down. 🙁 Since then, to find out how many times a certain hashtag has been used on twitter with precision, you have to use paid tools. BUT, you can always use the free trial of a tool such as ‘Keyhole’ or ‘Hashtag Tracking’. The free trials are enough for what we are trying to do here 😉
STEP 2 – Evaluating your potential customers: who are they and can they pay?
Your product idea can only be validated if we can be fairly certain that there is a pool of customers out there waiting to buy this thing from you. If you don’t know exactly who your ideal customers could be, it’s time to think about it a little. Once you have a clear idea of you you would be selling this product to, there are two things you want to be looking at: Can they pay ? And will they pay?
Take action: Define your ideal customer profile. Make sure you can easily market your product to them, and make sure that they can (and will) pay for your product (average income).
STEP 3 – Evaluating the competition:
Looking at the competition is a weird and scary thing to do. We all want to have zero competitors because we think it would be easier to sell our products then. But.. that’s not true at all! Having competitors is a good thing! If there is already someone selling this product successfully, then why wouldn’t you be able to? On the other hand if there isn’t any competitors out there… then it probably means than no one is actually interested in buying this product.
Competitors are pretty much other entrepreneurs that validated your product idea for you! You should thank them 😉
Who are your competitors?
Start by listing down your main competitors. If you don’t really know who they are yet, simply type in your keyword in Google search like you would if you were a potential customer and look at what websites come up as a result.
Take action: Do a little research (google, etsy, social media) and list down your main competitors.
How are they doing?
Now that you have your list handy, we are going to use SEMRush (free) to get more insights into how well they are doing.
In SEMRush, type in your competitors URL and let the magic happen. The app will give you the average monthly traffic, which gives you an idea of how successful they are.
NB: They might be a HUGE online shop out there(see below) that has over 300K visitors a month, that’s great (people love ties yay!), but also not a big help. Because really, I wouldn’t be directly competing with them.
Make sure that you are looking at competitors in your niche.
Eg.: When looking for “bow tie” I am often redirected to big online shops that also sell suits and ties, etc. I might need to type “handmade bow tie” or “boy bow tie” (if I plan on making bow ties only for kids) in Google instead to get a more accurate list of competitors.
Take action: Head to SemRush and get traffic insights on your competitors.
STEP 4 – Evaluating the market trends: Is your product here to last?
Last but not least, we want to look into is if your product idea is based on a sudden craze or on a more long-lasting market trend, which of course is better!
To do so, we head over to Google Trends.
And then it’s easy peezy: type in your main keyword and wait for the graph to show up. For our example, this is what I got:
Looking at the graph, we can safely assume that bow ties have gained popularity in the last 5 or so years , at a steady pace. Yay!
In the next part of this series about validating your product ideas we take a different approach to validating your creative business idea and we evaluate your products directly. It’s the final part of “How to know if your products will sell”.
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