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Branching out in your business

Sara Davies MBE, founder of Crafter’s Companion, explains how to expand into a new market sector

If you're eager to revamp your business and try something new, expanding into a new market area is a great way to boost sales. Whether you plan to move from papercraft into art, soft craft into the latest trend or simply want a fresh challenge, here is my go-to guide to extending into a new area.

Growing your business in this way can be beneficial for many reasons, particularly if it is done correctly. Diversity will bring more people through the door and onto your website, and will ultimately boost your customer base. While this may sound great on paper, however, extending your remit is a tricky art to perfect, especially if you are transitioning into a market outside of your expertise.

Do your research

Unsurprisingly, your venture should begin with plenty of research. For example, artists can be very different to papercrafters in terms of spending habits, and understanding these distinctions will be vital to your success. If you can't put yourself in the shoes of your audience you will fail at the first hurdle, so get to know your prospective market.

The next step is to think about how this new craft will fit into your existing brand. If it is too different to your current stock, you run the risk of upsetting your already loyal customers and distracting yourself from being able to see potential new ones.

Let's say you currently stock dolls' house furniture and accessories. You could think about branching out into sewing products and fabrics, as people can use these to create dolls' house items like curtains, clothing and other projects. By contrast, making a move into crochet might seem like a random and distracting new direction.

So what do you do if you are completely new to the potential sector? Study, study, study! Research dedicated websites and publications to get a true feel for the industry, its terms and most importantly, its customers. Have a look to see if there are any influential brands or products that keep popping up, or any core products you could stock. For instance, wool in its various types might be a staple for knitters, but you might find it is worth stocking tools you hadn't initially thought of, such as looms or stitch markers.

Go online

Another must, whether you are new or experienced in the sector, is to join online forums and ask lots of questions. Which brands or products would your existing customer base prefer? How is the market moving? What are the upcoming trends? What are crafters in this area like: are they die-hard fans or dabblers? Use their knowledge to get a clearer picture of the space you are entering. You never know what you might find out.

Lastly, trial any new craft products. Use a small area of your shop or website and test the waters. Keeping stock small is a great way to minimise the risk involved and avoid alienating your current customer base. Now is the time to make a huge fuss with lots of advertising and perhaps even a promotional event. This could be a great way to make your mark in a new territory.

If this sounds great but you are stuck when it comes to deciding which road to take, speak to your customers and get their feedback. Ask them what different crafts you could look into stocking for them. There might be demand for a particular product or type of craft you haven't even considered. Once the decision has been made, make your way through the checklist to success!

Sara Davies MBE is a Durham-born entrepreneur and founder of Crafter's Companion.


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