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Adapting Product Lines in Response to Audience Demand

Blog

Adapting Product Lines in Response to Audience Demand

Academy Of Handmade

Business decisions are a lot easier when we know our numbers... and sometimes we are very surprised what those numbers tell us. Today we talk with member Staci of Crafty Staci about how she realized one product was taking over her sales and what she did to alter course.

Q: Please, introduce yourself. 
A:
 My name is Staci Wendland and my shop is Crafty Staci. I started writing a craft blog at the beginning of 2010, and had stock in my new Etsy shop by the end of that summer. My shop has changed over the years, but I currently major in vendor utility aprons and coffee cup sleeves with a minor in camera accessories. I'm planning to expand into sewing patterns by the end of the year.
 
Q: In your time as a business owner creating camera accessories, when did you realize you needed to take a hard look at your product line?
A: 
When my blog was still new, back in 2010, I had shared a tutorial for a pocket that would slide onto a camera strap to hold the lens cap. It took off like a rocket, and I had a constant stream of people asking if I sold them. That was back in the days when stuff moved quickly on Etsy, so once I started listing them most sold immediately.
 
I added a similar holder for business cards, memory card wallets and camera straps within the next year. I buzzed along for the next four years selling camera accessories and coffee cup sleeves.
 
I decided to try the craft show circuit in the winter of 2014 and wanted something to hold my cash, cards and personal belongings. I designed an apron and shared the pattern on my blog.  Like the original lens cap holders, I received lots of requests to sell them, so I added them to my stock in 2015. 
 
Around the time the aprons started to climb last year, the photography gear slid. I knew it was happening, but I was a little in denial about it, and continued keeping what had become my best seller on the back burner. It wasn't until this spring, probably even summer if I'm being honest, that I snapped myself out of it and realized it was time to really look at what was going on. 
 
I look at my stats every day, but only to see what's going on right now. I dug deep into the past year and found that my vendor aprons and a pencil-shaped coffee sleeve I make for teachers accounted for nearly half of my sales. I had no idea the gap was that large, and as I got closer to the present, it was growing. That was without putting much effort into promoting those items, and I knew based on what I was seeing that if I did it was likely to pay off.
 
Q: What did this experience teach you?
A:
 This taught me a couple of things.  For one, continuing to do something (or make something in this case) just because I always have is not a good strategy. I need to listen more carefully to the market and adapt, rather than digging my heels in and trying to make it what I want it to be, instead of what it is. It's not that I was still in love with photography accessories, and in fact I was becoming bored with them, but it was what I did. I thought it was who I was as a brand. Turns out, my brand is adapting just fine to the change.

The other thing I learned is that I should probably schedule a deep probe into my stats once or twice a year so I have a more accurate view of what’s going on. Actually looking at the who, what, when, where and why of it all gave me a different picture than just "what did I sell today?"
 
Q: You mentioned adapting rather than digging your heels in. For a lot of makers the idea of change, especially at the product level, is terrifying. What did it feel like for you and what helped you work through it?
A:
 What would have been terrifying would be to have the sales of camera accessories drop without an alternate product filling the gap. I feel like I was very lucky that way, and going with the flow was the smart move. It was a little weird for me to consider officially changing my direction after so many years, but DSLR camera sales are declining and I needed to face that fact. No one needs a neck strap or lens cap holder for their smart phone.
 
Q: How did this experience change the way you approach making now?
A:
 I flipped everything around. I'm clearing out my ready-to-ship camera accessories. I'll continue to offer them, but only made on demand. Instead of only offering the aprons on demand, I've added ready-to-ship options to my shop. I've only made the change this month, and the busy season hasn't hit yet, but so far I'm feeling like it's a good move and my stats are supporting that.

Q: What words of advice would you give to a fellow maker who finds themselves in flux between different types of products?
A:
 I think if you're a maker and your business has become comfortable and easy, you're probably not doing it right. If you're lucky enough to have the market tell you what it wants, and it's something you are interested in making, it's worth pursuing and challenging yourself. 

You have to stay true to who you are and what you want your business to be, but let's be honest, we're also here to make living. Letting yourself be guided by demand can be good business, as long as you can meet that demand without losing who you want to be and why you're here.
 
Q: Where can we find you? 
A:
 You can find me on Etsy, Handmade at Amazon, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter as CraftyStaci. My blog is craftystaci.com.
 

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