An Expert in Your Niche
Welcome to Episode 16 of the Craft Seller Success podcast. In this episode I will be talking about the benefits of establishing yourself as an expert in your crafting niche. No matter what handmade crafts you sell, hopefully you will find some useful ideas and techniques here to boost your sales.
Listen to the An Expert in Your Niche podcast here, download it for later or read the transcript below.
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To see the other episodes available – Craft Seller Success Podcast Main Page
This is the Craft Seller Success podcast from Tin Teddy. Episode number sixteen – An Expert in Your Niche
Welcome to the Craft Seller Success Podcast – helping craft sellers sell their crafts
Hi, I’m Deborah Richardson from Tin Teddy.
When you run a small craft business it can seem very tough to get noticed. How do you get people to see your shop? To check out your products? To buy from you?
Every day there are more craft sellers. That is more competition.
Now, there are some areas where it is very hard to compete when you are just a one-man-band or at least a very small band.
- You do not have the buying power of big brands like Walmart, Hobbycraft or Joanns and so on for getting your supplies
- You do not have the infrastructure to offer heavily discounted or subsidised shipping like Amazon
- You do not have the space to hold huge quantities of stock
- You do not have the workforce to have a dedicated marketing department, sales department and so on
- You may well have another job and/or other commitments that take up quite a bit of your working day.
So trying to compete on things like price or number of products available can often be impossible. There will always be someone undercutting you, offering more choice than you or with more marketing than you.
So what on earth CAN you do?
Today I am going to talk about one technique which can work very well for some craft sellers. I will immediately say that it is not for everyone. But many small craft sellers can definitely use this idea to increase their sales. Even if you don’t think it will totally work for your particular business model, you may be able to embrace some of these ideas and suggestions to help you. So please stick around!
The concept I am going to discuss now is how to become… and expert in your niche.
Now, the word “expert” can seem a bit loaded, and might be making you raise your eyebrows and tut a bit. But bear with me, it might be something you could embrace which will really help your craft business.
I am going to explain what an expert and a niche means in this context, and, of course, what you can do to become one yourself. And why you might want to bother.
What is an expert in a niche?
An expert in a niche is someone who is generally considered to be knowledgeable, experienced and active within a particular small field.
People consider them an authority on the subject, someone who can be trusted to know what they are talking about.
They may be viewed as the “go to” person in that niche.
They may have a very obvious presence within communities related to the niche.
They are sometimes referred to as KPIs or Key People of Influence.
Or “movers and shakers”Establishing yourself as an expert in your crafting niche can help boost your sales.Click To Tweet
Why would I want to be one?
Remember how I said it was very hard to compete on price etc? Instead of trying to fight the big guys, work towards becoming an expert in your niche. You can add authority to your brand and boost your sales that way.
People trust experts. An expert has invested time and effort into the niche. They know things about it that the average man on the street doesn’t. They have skills. They have experience.
If your car breaks down and you know nothing about engineering, you go to a garage, or a friend you consider an expert, to get help fixing it.
Most of us wouldn’t want just anyone performing surgery on us, we prefer to go to a hospital to seek the help of a trained expert.
When people see you as an expert, they turn to you over others. As an expert in the niche that you sell your crafts in, customers will trust you to buy from. You know what you are doing. You are “above” the many other sellers out there who maybe dabble in this niche. You are the “go to” guy for the niche.
What is a niche? How do you find yours?
There are many levels of niche. You already sell in the niche of “handmade items”. But clearly that is a pretty big niche, so do millions of other people!
To easiest way to become an expert in a niche is to pick a small niche. The smaller the niche, the easier your chances.
Let’s say you sell jewellery for everyday wear. It appeals to women of all ages. This is clearly a pretty large niche. You have a LOT of competition. It would be nigh on impossible to become an expert in the field of jewellery. For a start, you would struggle to compete against the big names and highly qualified professional jewellers.
So let’s narrow things. What if you concentrate on wedding jewellery?
This is a much smaller niche. Not tiny, but much smaller than before.
You would still struggle to become one of the top key people of influence in this field. But you couldusee some of the techniques to improve your business.
Let’s say someone asked you to make some steampunked themed jewellery for their wedding. You make a few more pieces for your shop, and they sell quickly. You start making more and more.
Eventually, you are concentrating on these lines. You may still have some of the other wedding pieces, but steampunk weddings are your main niche now.
Steampunk wedding jewellery is a nice small niche. You have a fighting chance of becoming a genuine expert in this niche. You could definitely improve your sales by doing so.
The smaller and more specific the niche, the easier it will be to become an expert in it.
Won’t this limit my reach?
At this point, you may well be thinking “But by limiting myself like this I will surely lose lots of potential customers?”
Well yes. And this is why you must consider carefully before making big changes like this to your business structure.
If someone is looking for general wedding jewellery they have many thousands of sellers to choose from. The chances of them picking you are low. If you can not afford or do not have time to do a lot of marketing then your chances are even lower.
Let’s imagine a bride who is planning a steampunk wedding.
She goes online and searches for steampunk wedding jewellery. Because you have worked on establishing yourself as an authority in the steampunk wedding jewellery niche you are definitely easy to find by our bride-to-be. She sees your website, with its steampunk vibe. She sees your blog with articles relating to steampunk weddings. She sees mention of your name on other people’s steampunk and wedding blogs.
Everywhere she looks that involves steampunk jewellery, she sees your name.
“Gosh,” she thinks, “you must be THE steampunk wedding jeweller!”
That is being an expert in your niche. Having that authority that people think of you as THE person in your field.As an expert in your niche, people will look at you as an authority figure. Someone they can trust.Click To Tweet
Instead of trying to reach everyone, and struggling to get seen at all, you are concentrating on a much smaller number of target buyers. Remember, especially if you sell online, even a very tiny niche can still have vast numbers of target buyers.
Because your target market will be small, you can really hone everything to ensure you reach them. Indeed, you will not need to actively do much marketing if people are instead seeking you out!
And when your precisely targeted audience does come to your shop, they are far more likely to buy as you know already that they want what you have on offer.
And even if you want to concentrate on a particular small niche, you can, of course, still, offer some other items for sale etc. You can become the go-to-guy for one particular type of product but have others that are related as well. Sales of the other items will benefit from the air of authority that your main niche has generated too.
How to become an Expert in your niche
OK, so what do you need to do to actually establish yourself as an expert then?
First up, if you are going to try to become a key person of influence in a particular field, I strongly recommend that it is an area you are genuinely interested in. This will make it much easier and quicker than starting from scratch.
So if you enjoy making and selling planner stickers, but don’t use a planner yourself, or want to, you may find it much harder to become an expert in the field of planners. Hehe, that is not rocket science, is it? If you want to boost your authority in the niche it will be far easier if you are a planner fan, especially if you have been so for a long time.
Let’s get real. This is not something that you can expect to do overnight. Indeed, I would say that it takes at least a year unless you already pack a lot of punch in your chosen field.
That is not to say that you can’t begin to benefit early on, as you probably will, but it will take time to build up the necessary reputation and reach to really see this technique working its magic.
Here are 9 actionable things you can do that will each help propel you towards expert status.
You do NOT have to do all of them. We are all different, all in different niches, all with different business models and all in different personal circumstances with different time constraints etc. Think about which of these actions you could utilise to help you. It may be one or two, it may be most of them. Some may be doable for your right now and others much more of a long-term concept.
The important thing is to be doing SOMETHING toward improving your status as a person of authority in your niche. Even small steps will get you there eventually – If you keep going.
1 Know your stuff
Naturally, it is easier to give the air of being an expert in a subject if you actually know a lot about it. Or at least know more than most. That can sound like a daunting goal but remember, if your niche is nice and small there will not be too many others around to challenge you.
Schedule time into your day to work on building up your knowledge of your niche.
a – Read books on your niche
Nowadays it is far more economical to get access to books than it once was. Look into your local library – as well as physical books many now offer ebook lending too. You can also save a lot of money by buying second-hand copies of books. Obviously, you need to be aware that old editions may have some info that could now be a bit out of date. Digital versions of books are sometimes a bit cheaper than the physical copy, and of course, don’t take up any space!
Don’t forget that there are now millions of audiobooks available too. The advantage of having someone read to you whilst you do something else, like craft, can make these a particularly handy way to get extra information on your niche.
b – Read relevant magazines
Magazines are particularly useful as they can keep you abreast of the latest goings-on in your niche. You will also see articles, book reviews and adverts for the other experts in the niche. Ideally, subscribe to the most relevant magazines in your niche. If that would be too expensive for you, consider buying an issue every few months instead. You might want to look into digital versions which can be quite a lot cheaper for some titles.
c – Read online sources
This is usually free, and a great way to stay up to date. Follow relevant blogs, social networks and websites within your niche.
So, taking our previous example of an expert in steampunk wedding jewellery, she might be following all sorts of wedding news sites, large wedding companies and even sites that cover celebrity weddings. As well as steampunk forums, blogs and so on.
d – Listen to podcasts
Again these are usually free. You can listen whilst crafting or travelling too. If there are not already any podcasts on your particular niche, perhaps you could consider creating your own? I will talk more about how to do that in a future episode of this podcast.
e – TV and other media
Keep an eye out for documentaries or other tv programs that relate to your niche. There may be many of these for some niches. For example, if you sell home-baked products then you may learn a lot from cookery shows. If you specialise in Art Deco style jewellery then programmes about life in the 1920 and just before could be full of inspiration as well as useful info.
f – Visit museums, art galleries, bricks and mortar shops, exhibitions and anything else that relates to your niche
Take every opportunity to immerse yourself in your field. If you sell Ancient Egyptian inspired jewellery then being able to talk about your own trip to Egypt will carry a lot of authority. If you are a watercolour artist, having been too big art galleries to see the works of famous artists of the past will bring you many benefits. Think about what opportunities could present themselves for your particular niche, and try to take whichever ones you can.
Oh, and don’t feel bad if you are not in a position to travel right now. Remember, you really do not need to do all the things on this list to become an expert in your niche.
2 Look Professional
To convince people you are an expert you will need to ensure that everything you do with your business looks as professional as possible. Of course, this also helps sales anyway!
Make sure your online shop has policies, an about me and a contact me page – see episode 6 Six Page Your Shop Must Have for more on this.
Polish up your photographs, listing descriptions and overall shop appearance as much as you can.
Definitely avoid doing anything illegal! Your credibility will be instantly diminished if visitors to your shop can see that you are selling unlicensed trademarked products such as Disney, Sesame Street, Harry Potter and so on. The character designs, logos and names from most movies, cartoons tv shows and so forth are registered trademarks. You can not sell things that incorporate them unless you are licensed to do so by the trademark owner.
Also, avoid products that should not be sold – many items are restricted by law, such as alcohol or firearms.
Plus the selling platform you are using may have additional rules. For example, Etsy only allows items that are handmade or designed by yourself, over 20 years old or supplies and tools for crafting.
Be careful about selling products that could offend your target market – be mindful of your main target market. If you know that you mainly sell, for example, to people of one particular faith, having items to do with another might not be a good idea. If in doubt, just avoid it.
3 Connect with the Movers and Shakers
Try to establish links with the other experts in your niche. Read their blogs, follow their social media and interact with them. You are hoping to soon be considered one of them, so making connections as early as possible can really help. Be sure the connections are good ones though. Never just post links to your products for sale. Instead, concentrate on offering thoughtful and useful content to their conversations.
Post insightful comments on their blog posts – not just “I agree” or “This is good.” Offer value to other readers.
Remember that this is a bit of a long-term game. Do not be in a rush to post links to your own stuff.
Be sure you have as memorable an avatar as you can, and of course, are using the name you want people to know you as – your personal name or brand name. Ensure you have links to your own blog or website in any profiles where you can.
Let them find you for now.
Ensure your social networks etc have clear descriptions of what you do and links to your site etc.
Be friendly, professional and helpful. Over time the movers and shakers will begin to notice you – in a good way!
Take your time to build up your reputation as someone who is helpful and very knowledgeable in the field. Do not get yourself a reputation as someone who is pushy, arrogant or all about the hard sell.
Subtle is better here.
If you blog you could consider asking other experts in your niche if they would like to guest post for you.
Or perhaps you could guest post on their own blogs (though wait until you have built up a bit of reputation before asking this!)
4 Strengthen Your Branding to Reflect Your Expert Status
Be sure that you have included information on your blog, website, online shop and social media to reflect your existing qualifications in your niche.
- relevant academic qualifications
- books you have written
- magazines you have written for or been featured in
- exhibitions you have taken part in
- courses you have done
- classes you have taught
- if you have been doing things in your niche for a very long time
- any other achievements that strengthen your claim to be an “expert in your niche”
Cheeky tip – Have a picture taken with any movers and shakers in your niche, if you get the chance at a show, class etc. Ask their permission to post it on your social media. “Here I am with Johnny B, at the big show, he is such a nice guy!” It never hurts to be seen to be mixing with the other experts!
And, when your time comes for people to ask to have their picture taken with you, be sure to be gracious!
5 Help on forums etc
Are there some forums for your niche? If not, how about a wider niche that includes yours? So with the previous steampunk wedding jewellery niche, one could post on wedding forums in general, or steampunk forums – or both.
It is really important that you gain a reputation as someone who is:
- a friendly, nice guy
Before posting anything try to remember those 4 things. To be seen as an authority in your niche you need all 4.
Your posts should be helping people. Answer people’s questions. Offer useful help when people have problems.
Double check any facts you are giving. Avoid giving info on areas you are not sure about – wrong info could reflect badly on you, or even cause someone big problems.
Remember that at all times you are representing yourself as your brand. Think carefully about your use of language. If the person you are replying to is clearly a newbie in this field, do not use complicated terms but aim for simplicity. Never say anything that you would not want to later be found by someone searching for you online. As a general rule of thumb, think of everything you post online as being totally out in the public.
As someone who enjoys reading forums myself, I have seen a lot of people who enjoy correcting others. They are quick to jump on anyone who is doing something wrong, and make sure they know about it!
Whilst it is, of course, a good thing to try to help someone, be sure that the help is actually required first. There is an old saying “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all” and this is worth keeping in the back of your mind.
Be charitable. People make mistakes, they mess up, they do things they shouldn’t and they say things that may sting far more than intended.
You are an expert in your niche, an authority figure, a key person of influence. You are above such things. You are loved and admired.
Blogging is probably one of the most powerful ways to establish yourself as an expert in your niche. It is low cost, easy to get started, does not necessarily need a lot of time and can pack quite a punch.
With your own blog, you can craft your own little part of the internet. Here you project your authority in your niche.
So, for example, if you create collars and coats for small dogs, you might blog about things that are of interest to small dog owners.
Some of these articles might be directly connected to the products you sell, such as “How to Measure your Small Dog for a New Coat” or “How to Clean Your Dog Coats”. You can also have lots of articles of a more general nature, such as “10 Tips for Feeding Small Dogs”, “My Favourite Small Dog Videos on YouTube” or a “spotlight article” on a particular breed of small dog.
Over time you will, hopefully, become an expert in the small dog niche. People will go to your blog for info on many small dog related situations. When someone buys a small dog, their friend will say “Oh, you must check out Xs blog, it is all about small dogs!”
My book, Make It, Blog It, Profit! – Blog Post Ideas for Craft Sellers has more info on how blogging can help you establish yourself as an authority figure in your niche. There are also lots of examples in the book of articles you could write, how to repurpose and reuse your articles and so on. You can get the book in physical or ebook versions on Amazon, Etsy, Itunes, Google Play etc.
I will be talking a lot more about blogging in future podcasts, and have touched on quite a bit in previous ones.
You may want to check out episode 1 – Five Reasons a Craft Seller Should Have a Blog.
7 Write books, Magazine articles and similar
One of the most powerful ways to boost your expert status in your niche is to write a book on the subject. Obviously, the better the book, the most potent it will be for your prestige.
If you want to do this, take your time and do it properly. Research your topic thoroughly. Try to create a book that offers something new to the niche. If there are already loads of books covering exactly the same ground as yours then your hard work will not be as valuable as if you have something new to say on the subject.
Here is a little secret. Your book doesn’t actually need to sell any copies to be worth writing. Obviously, if you can get sales from it that is great, and definitely something to aim for. But simply having a published book out there in the real world, available on Amazon etc gives your expert status a massive boost.
You are no longer just “Henry Smith, purveyor of dog collars for small dogs” but you are “Henry Smith, specialist in dog collars for small dogs and author of “Small Dogs and How to Care for Them”.
I will talk more about writing a book about your niche in a later podcast.
For now, you can take away the following points:
- treat it as a serious project, do the necessary research to do a good job
- make sure the book is properly edited and spellchecked, ideally by a professional. A badly written and mistake-laden book could easily damage your reputation
- aim for a book that can sell in its own right, because why not? You are going to have to take a while to write it, you might as well benefit from it as much as possible
In the last section, I mentioned my own book. Because it is a book for craft sellers, it adds to my authority as host of this podcast!
If you don’t feel ready to write a book – and it is better to wait until you are definitely ready, then you could perhaps consider other forms of publishing.
Is there a specialist magazine that covers your niche?
Search online for their requirements for articles and approach them with your ideas. Many such magazines are always on the lookout for well-written articles that will appeal to their readers. Even if this doesn’t pay well the prestige that comes from being the “author of articles in such-and-such a magazine” is very valuable. This is especially so if your target market recognized the magazine as being an authority in the niche.
If you operate in a more local area, would your local newspaper or magazine be interested in an article on you? Many papers like to feature “local girl made good” type stories.
If you have done something special in your niche, such as publishing that book, hosting an exhibition of your work, helped your neighbourhood in some way with your crafts, then get in touch with the editor.
Even though the paper is local, it is another feather in your “expert” cap – “I was featured in the Wimbleby Times in 2017” – sounds impressive if you say it like that. Especially if folks finding you online don’t realise that Wimbleby has a population of 200, hehe.
You may want to look into guest posting on the blogs of other experts in your niche. Be sure to read their blog for a while first, to make sure you will fit in. Some bloggers have a page with details of how to go about guest blogging for them. If not, ask politely. I would recommend waiting to do this until you have built up a wee bit of authority yourself. And only contacting them when you already have an idea for an article – or ideally, the article ready written.
8 Personal appearances etc
Could you give a talk on your niche to an interested group? Some niches are great for more general audiences too.
Back when I was a miniature teddy bear artist, in the 1990s, I would do talks on collecting teddy bears for local Women’s Institutes and similar.
Sales of my local history book and visits to the related website were boosted by my giving regular slideshows on the area.
This is not everyone’s cup of tea. And to be honest, you are not likely to do a good job of it if the very idea makes you feel sick, personal appearances can again boost your expert status.
A cheeky hint: you might be thinking that doing a few talks to a handful of local people will not carry much weight when you sell online, internationally. Here is one of the little secrets of building authority.
Once you have done a few talks you can use this as examples of your expertise.
So you might have on your profile on your blog:
- I regularly give talks on the history of bobbin lace making
- I particularly enjoy giving demonstrations of my woodturning
- and so on…
9 Be Yourself
One of the more fun aspects of being an expert in your niche is you can let your personality shine out. Indeed, having a bit of an, erm, unusual personality can be rather a plus.
When I was younger I was very interested in cross stitch. One of the ladies who designed for the cross stitch magazines that I read had bright blue hair. You could instantly spot her. Later on, I saw some kits for sale, by this lady, with a photo of her, blue hair and all, on the front. I bought them because I felt I already knew and trusted her as a good designer.
Many movers and shakers in the crafting world have aspects of their characters that are memorable.
Tim Holtz, the genius designer of the Distress range of crafting inks, pens and dies, is instantly recognisable by his boyish looks, lots of hippy-style bracelets and he always has ink on his hands!
Vicky Papaioannou (I do hope I have pronounced that correctly) is a hugely popular YouTube vlogger who posts videos on how to create beautiful art journal pages, greetings cards and more. Many people love her beautiful Greek accent, her wonderful upbeat narration and her “you can do it too” motivation. And her naughty cat who sometimes pokes his paw into the shot.
Sheena Douglass the popular designer of rubber stamps and much more is beloved in the UK for her “messy” style of crafting. Yes, that is what she calls it. She preaches that it is fine to make a mess when crafting, indeed it is more fun that way! She is loved for her cheerful disposition, soft Northern English accent and friendliness.
These are all well-known experts within the (rather large) niche of crafting in general. But each is also even more of an authority within their smaller niches.
What makes you, you? Don’t be afraid to let your natural personality shine out. Being memorable is definitely a good thing when it comes to being an expert in your niche!
I believe that many craft sellers can benefit from trying to become more of an expert in their niches. Not all craft sellers have a particularly small niche, and that may suit them just fine. But for those of you who do choose to concentrate on a particular product, style, technique, target market or another form of niche, you may find that some of the ideas from this podcast can boost your authority in that area.
May I just Recommend a couple of books….
If you would like to read more about becoming an expert in your niche, I recommend the book Key Person of Influence by Daniel Priestley. Here, Priestley gives lots of examples of how being an expert in your niche can boost a business, together with a 5 stage plan to become such an expert.
Oversubscribed: How to get People Lining Up to Do Business with You, again by Daniel Priestley, also contains a lot of information that is relevant.
Daniel Priestley is an expert in the niche of helping people become experts in their niche!
Links to these books on Amazon are at the end of these shownotes.
Those of you who listened to episode 14, Goal Setting for Craft Sellers, may remember my using the creation and setting up of a new Etsy based shop as an example of how I use goal setting.
I am still building up the stock levels but, thanks to the goal setting technique, Tin Teddy Die Cuts, on Etsy, is now open for business as planned. I will be selling a wide range of die cut shapes, felt, foam and card toppers for crafters, and more.
In the next episode of the Craft Seller Success podcast, episode 17 will be Help! My Craft Shop isn’t Getting Any Sales! Practical advice on how to work out what is going wrong, and, of course, how to fix it! This episode will be out on the 27th November 2018.
Thanks for listening. Please subscribe to the Craft Seller Success podcast.
Check out www.TinTeddy.com for more Craft Seller resources.
Until next time, bye
The Craft Seller Success Podcast from Tin Teddy.
Featuring Deborah Richardson
Original music by Matthew French
Craft Seller Success from Tin Teddy
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Links to Books Mentioned on Amazon
Here are links to the mentioned books on Amazon.com (top) and Amazon.co.uk (bottom). If you buy after using these links, I will get a small commission for sending customers to Amazon. This is at no extra cost to yourself. Thank you.