April 23, 2013

Product Development

In my experience, one of the trickiest things about being a selling artisan is developing new products so as to keep existing customers coming back for more, and to attract new customers --- in short, to strengthen one's current customer base and extend one's reach into new ones. What makes this tricky is...a lot, including resources (time, money, skills), and brand identity, to name just two. Most of us operate with limited time, if not money, and have existing skill sets that are variously transferable or extensible to new crafts. Brand identity is perhaps less concrete, but no less enabling or constraining in regard to new product development. It all depends on how you look at it. (Leaving that idea hanging for now.)

Like most selling artisans, I started with a couple of product lines and have gradually added to them over time. But I'm at a point now where simply adding new variations to the same themes is feeling stale. But I'm working full-time and it's been a long, meager winter so how to put some shine on my product offerings this Spring?

First, I'm going back to basics, simplifying, and broadening. These things seem contradictory, and I suppose intrinsically they are but.... I'll explain. My very first product line --- what I launched my Etsy shop with --- was paper-mache bird figurines painted in crazy colors with flowers all over them. Very cute, but very labor intensive and not really sustainable as a core product as such. The legs in particular took forever to get right. The color schemes were also a bit unduly complicated. So, over time I simplified their design.

For Spring, I'm further simplifying my bird design and also broadening my paper-mache-sculpture line to include piggy banks. I did a birdie-bank once, but the fact that it was a bank was lost on most potential buyers, and the person who eventually bought it didn't even care about that feature. So, OK go with pig-shaped banks. It's what people expect banks to look like, it's an easier shape to make, and it widens the children's-gift market to me considerably. And as far as time and money, go, it's do-able. I just need to fine-tune the mechanism for releasing the collected coins.... (to be continued).

Until next time --

Happy crafting!

Linda // PurtyBird

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