Adding Value to Your Products

In the gift industry, eye-catching packaging typically sells the first item, so adding extra value to your product packaging greatly increased the likelihood that it will sell well.

What do I mean by adding value?  Personalized packaging and labeling can make a big difference to the look and appeal of your product.

Many years ago, we launched a brand of gourmet foods (and a few personal care items) we loving called Idaho Redneck.  Of course, they appealed to Idaho stores almost immediately.Adding Value to Your Products -- Idaho Redneck Huckleberry Toe Jam

The contents and ingredients were excellent, but first time buyers don’t know that.  What sold the products was the unique humorous labeling.

At the time, we wanted to target a specific buyer and did very well with our complete line of numerous Idaho Redneck products.

Of course, I don’t recommend this approach for everyone.

McKenna Hallet posted an article on Artsy Shark that lists a few ways you can add value to your products.

Simple Ways to Add Value and Boost Your Sales

One way to stand out is to employ the somewhat elusive strategy of adding value. Designed to entice, this is adding something that makes them say, “Wow, this is great. I want to buy this.”

There are many other inexpensive ways to woo and convert lookers into buyers for any number of different products:

  • Using unique packaging
  • Offering to gift-wrap items
  • Including written care instructions
  • Including an artist statement and/or bio

Some ways to add value that I have used and seen other producers use successfully:

  • Using hang tags to describe material, care instructions, ingredients or recipes
  • Enclosure cards inside your packaging telling a story about your company or products
  • Adding extra branding labels (we added little circle size labels with our Tastes of Idaho logo to the top of gourmet food jars.)
  • Extra ribbons or bows on the packaging, where appropriate
  • Special holiday labeling or packaging

Next time you are shopping where items like yours are displayed, check out the packaging and see what ideas you can come up with to add value to your products.

 

 

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What Problem Does Your Product Solve?

You may have the most wonderful line of products everyone will love (at least that is what you think), but what problem does your product solve?

When I was first starting my sales rep business, I was selling ads in a printed Trivia/Tidbits newsletter on the upcoming Lewis & Clark (L&C) Commemoration.  Since we lived right on the trail (just off Hwy 12 which, loosely, is the original trail), it was pretty easy to sell ads to the business along the rWhat Problem Does Your Product Solve?oute.

When I started getting questions about where to find Lewis & Clark Souvenirs, we saw an opportunity to expand in a niche market where they was a problem to solve:  Where can I find L&C souvenirs to sell in my store?

Lewis & Clark Trivia & Gifts (my business name back then) became one of the leading sales rep business specializing in this niche.  Although I visited stores from Montana to the ocean, I received calls from as far away as St. Louis from buyers looking for my products and from producers wanting to sell their specialized L&C products across different sections of the trail.

Near the end of the commemoration, I knew I would need to change my focus and began asking and listening to my buyers  for an unanswered problem or need in their stores.  Not wanting to travel so many miles anymore, I began to see that selling Idaho products to Idaho stores was a real niche that did not have a good answer in the marketplace.

So, I changed from the Lewis & Clark sales rep, to the Idaho or huckleberry (Idaho’s state fruit) sales rep — all because I searched out a problem that needed a answer.

I realize that not every producer can make these changes as easily as I did.  It does take time to ask buyer questions (what are you customers looking for that you don’t currently have stocked in your store?) and find a product to fill it.  But at the same time, every crafter, producer, artisan or small manufacture can see what is in the marketplace, watch the trends and listen to what their retail and wholesale customers are telling them.

As a product based business, Rob Fortier suggests the following steps:

… make a list of the problems your customers might have. And as part of taking care of them, I encouraged you to think of resources you could offer.

Now I want you to turn your attention to what you and your business could specifically offer and be someone’s solution. I’m not asking you to suddenly create products or services that are outside the realm of what you do. But I am asking you to look at what you offer and see how you could reframe it so it might make more sense to someone who is unfamiliar with what you do.

What can you do to solve a problem in the marketplace with your products?

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Knowing When a Buyer is Interested

Even if you are the best salesman possible, if a buyer is not interested in purchasing your creations for their store, you will not be able to convince them to buy.

So how do you know when a buyer is interested in your line of products?

There are several obvious signs, such as ….

  • The buyer is interested in what you are sayingKnowing When a Buyer is Interested
  • The buyer wants to see more information or samples
  • The buyer is asking questions
  • The buyer is calling in a manager/co-worker to evaluate your line

Indie Retail Academy published an article titled,  How do I convince retailers my stuff is right for them?, that addressed this issue in a very interesting way.

Here are some tips for the article:

It has to appeal to them on a fundamental level, to some degree at least. If it doesn’t the game’s over.

So how can you increase the chances of a shopkeeper feeling that immediate attraction?

1. Be amazing

I know that sounds flippant but I’m serious. Be frikkin’ incredible. Make your product, branding, packaging, descriptions, photographs, website and pricing structure as good as they can possibly be. That means making sure they measure up to the highest professional standards in your industry, and that they reflect what’s in your head and your heart.

2. Only target retailers who are predisposed to dig your work

This means doing homework. There’s no point submitting your lovely thing to every shopkeeper in the country. That’s a waste of your time and a pretty efficient way to make yourself miserable in the process. If I asked you why you pitched to a particular retailer, you should be able to give me solid reasons.

Look for similarities in style, outlook, the ranges they stock, price, location and anything else you can think of. Find this stuff out by looking at their website, blog, facebook page and twitter account in detail. Join their mailing list. Best of all – if you can, visit the darn shop. If you can’t come up with at least two or three good reasons to think they might like to stock your work, move on.

Very good advice!

Personally, I have dozens (if not hundreds) of producers contacting me wanting to either hire me as a sales rep or wanting to sell me their products for my online store.  Most of these producers have never even looked at my website, seen what I sell or done any research at all to see if their line would fit into what I already sell.

How do I know this?  Well, it is obvious (or so you would think) that since my websites are IdahoGiftsWholesale.com and TastesofIdaho.com that I feature Idaho products!  Or at least after looking briefly at the sites, this niche would be obvious!

And you know what I do with the emails I receive from these folks?  Yup, you guessed it — I delete them!

Follow the tips above from Indie Retail Academy and you will be on the right track to being successful in selling wholesale.

 

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How Many Choices are Too Many?

Sometimes too many choices can overwhelm your customers.

Don’t understand?  Let me give you an example:

A few years back, I represented a company that made ‘berry’ products (very big in Idaho).  When she first started out, she exhibited in craft shows.  And being ambitious, she had several different berry/fruit products, such as huckleberry, blackberry, blackcap, elderberry, chokecherry, gooseberry, plum, apple etc.How Many Choices are Too Many?

Sounded like a good idea as choices are always good … at the least that is what she originally thought.

Over time, she noticed that too many people could not decide on which berry jam or syrup they wanted to purchase, so they left without purchasing ANYTHING!!

Of course, it did not take her long before she narrowed down her line to four different berry products and discontinued the rest.

This all happened before I started working as her sales rep, but I could understand the situation.

As a sales rep in Idaho, huckleberry is the biggest selling product!  Most stores I worked with were not interested in any other gourmet berry product.  But those stores who did, found it fairly easy to take on the rest of her line of blackcap, blackberry and chokecherry products.

I would imagine that if her line was much bigger, I would have trouble selling the extra berry products — just like she had at the farmers markets and craft fairs.

The Artsy Shark recently posted an article about an artisan having a similar problem.  This is what they suggested:

The truth is that no matter what you have for sale, there are bestsellers, mediocre sellers and slow sellers. It’s typical that your bestsellers will make up about 20% of your portfolio. Then there are bestselling sizes, and others that are rarely purchased.

Start by pulling out those choices that don’t sell well for one reason or another …

Look at the range of images that you have for sale. A body of work that is too small isn’t good, since it doesn’t give enough choice. One that is too large creates an inability to make a decision. It’s up to you to determine through experience the size of portfolio that is just right to maximize sales while keeping your customers satisfied. Don’t give into the fear that you might miss a sale because you don’t have enough options; you might miss sales because you have too many.

If you are looking for a guideline, I found that three or four options were about all that a buyer could effectively deal with concerning a certain product.  After that, they became confused.

Of course, every product line is different.  Only three of four different styles of jewelry is probably too small.  But maybe, only earrings, necklaces and bracelets would work better than having several different types of jewelry.

One strategy that I found very effective — especially when dealing with a line that featured several options — is to create an opening ‘starter’ order of best selling pieces/items.  That removes the ‘analysis paralysis’ of having too many choices out of the buying process.

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Gift Shop Buyers Want Unique Products

Gift and independent retail stores, unlike big box stores (i.e. Wal-Mart, Costco, etc.) or grocery stores, prefer new and unique products.  They are not interested, necessarily, in a “proven product” that has great sales volume, but would rather buy locally-made items, the newest item on the market, or something they will not find in every store in town!  Because of this, gift stores make a great venue for new or smaller gift producers that cannot or do not wish to “mass produce” their products!

Unique products, on the other hand, are very different from products sold in Gift Shop Buyers Want Unique Productsconsignment or craft booths and stores.

Whereas consignment stores and craft stores are interested mostly in anything handcrafted, gift shops are looking for products that have more professional appeal. Unique and appropriate packaging, logo and/or labeling adds to the professional look of a product.

On the other hand, most crocheted or knitted products, for example, would not be an item gift shops would want to purchase for their shops.  A balance between the mass produced look of big box products and the homemade look of crafted mall items is the type of products gift buyers will be interested in purchasing.

Although gift stores are interested in unique products, there is a limited to HOW unique an item is!  As a general rule, buyers will want to order 6 or 12 of an item and have them look reasonably similar.  For example, if you are selling handcrafted jewelry, the pieces you show the buyer can be available in blue, pink or purple.  The pieces are mostly the same and vary in color only.  But if your craft is so unique that you cannot make several of the same item, it may not a good product for wholesaling.  An example could be a wooden bowl made from a rare burl (imperfection in a tree).  Art galleries would be a better fit for this type of product.

To sum up: If your product looks like your grandma made it, retail shops won’t be interested.  Or if your crafted item is one-of-a-kind, it may not be a good product for gift shops either.  Products between these two extremes might just be the newest hot item in the gift market!

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