best of… jess van den: 10 steps for a successful handmade product launch

Let’s take a look back on 2011 – the posts that inspired, challenged, and encouraged us. Today, revisit Jess Van Den’s product launch post from September.

The Ampersand Earrings by Epheriell

As I write this post, I’m winding down from a busy day of jewelry-making after the launch of my new Punctuation Collection last week.

It was my most successful launch yet, and it got me thinking – since the product launch model that I use works so well for me, it might be something that other crafty biz owners are interested in trying.

Often, those of us who have craft businesses just add new products to our stores randomly – as we make them – but there are many benefits to a seasonal release or launch model. This is the sort of approach used by fashion houses, for example.

Today I’m going to share 10 steps that you can take to ensure the successful launch of a new handmade product range.

1. Plan your range beforehand – consider holidays or seasonality

I plan two main launches each year for my Epheriell brand – Autumn and Spring. Since I consistently make multiple sales online every day, I’m always busy with orders, and I found in the past that months would slip by without me creating any new designs because I was so busy.

I decided this year that I would commit to these two launches, at minimum, and have more if inspiration struck. This means I have to carve out the time to create new designs for each range, so my product line doesn’t stagnate.

It’s a good idea to consider seasons and holidays when releasing new lines. For example, my proper spring line, which will be out in a few weeks (remember, it’s spring down here in the Southern Hemisphere!) will be full of lovely fresh spring colours to celebrate the season.

This will be obvious to you if you make knitwear, cards, or any other product that is naturally tied into the seasons/holidays, but it’s worth remembering for everyone.

2. Release a coherent range rather than individual products

Fashion houses know the importance of this. They don’t just release bits and pieces but a coherent range of designs. There are a number of benefits to this, but one of the main ones is that you have something to talk about! It allows you to build anticipation and excitement around your brand.

While you’re planning your range you can talk about it; you can ask for suggestions and input from your audience. Launching a range of products means it’s more likely that your customers will find something they love. It means you can release your work to the world with a bang, rather than an ongoing whimper.

3. Prepare

Running a successful launch requires preparation. Not only do you have to get the products made and photographed, you also need to plan out your approach. How are you going to market your launch? Are you going to use social media? Your blog? An e-mail list? (I would suggest all of the above).

Also, don’t try to get it all done at once. Don’t be afraid to get all your products up and ready to buy in your online store before your launch. Just putting them in the shop won’t do much – it’s how you talk about them that will matter.

4. Talk it up beforehand

Don’t be shy about talking about your range! Talk about it from the beginning: share your planning, your prototypes, your thought processes. The more you can talk about it, the more anticipation you can build. Someone who does this really, really well is Elsie from A Beautiful Mess. Go check out her recent blog posts leading up to the launch of the Red Velvet Fall dress range.

5. Have excellent photos – and tell a story if you can

This goes along with number 4: You need to make sure you’ve got some awesome imagery to help launch your collection! I made the mistake this time around of not getting model shots done in time for launch, so I rushed and got that done on launch day, and had to blog about it separately. Not the best idea!

@ Symbol Earrings by Epheriell

6. Blog about it

Your blog is the home base for a product launch. This is where you can share photos, stories, and where your actual launch will be based. It’s the core around which everything rotates.

It’s also the place where you’ll be building anticipation, and getting people to sign up to your e-mail list (more about this below).

7. Tweet about it

Twitter is a HUGELY important part of launching a product for me. Once I’ve got blog posts written (or while I’m writing them) this is where I’ll share them. It’s also one of the places that I’ll chat about my upcoming range. I’ll post twitpics of my designs while I’m making them. I’ll share successes and struggles.

8. Facebook it

While twitter is a place to build buzz, Facebook allows you to share a little bit more about what you’re making. Upload your product images to albums. Put up a poll that relates to your range (for example, you could ask people to pick their favourite piece).

Also – I usually keep business separate from my personal FB profile, because that’s what a Page is for. But when I launch a new collection, I make an exception and share it with my friends on my personal profile too. This way they still get to see what I’m up to, but I’m not spamming them with constant stuff regarding my biz.

9. Have a mailing list – and give them exclusive discounts

This is possibly THE most important step. If you don’t have an e-mail list, get one right now! Head on over to Mailchimp and you can grab a fantastic, all-the-bells-and-whistles mailing list for free.

A mailing list is the best way to keep in touch with your best customers and fans of your brand. They might not check your blog, or your twitter, or facebook… but they always check their e-mail.

But don’t just whack up a signup form and hope for the best; give people a reason to sign up, and a reason to stay subscribed. For example, I give away one piece of jewellery every month to someone on my mailing list. So as long as they stay subscribed, they’ve got a chance to win.

I also give exclusive discounts to mailing list subscribers only when I launch a new range. This is my way of thanking my loyal customers for being there.

But make sure – like any sort of discount or sale – that you don’t over-do it. It should be an uncommon occurrence, or people will just wait until your ‘next sale’ before buying from you. You should also remember to put a time-limit on any discounts/coupons.

10. Contact press/blogs and pitch your new range

It’s important to reach beyond your own network when you’re launching a range. Pinpoint the blogs and other publications that are the best fit for your new products, and send them a short, sweet little e-mail telling them about it. Remember to attach some lovely low-res pictures, too. Also – don’t pitch too many blogs at once. Start with your favourites and work down the list, contacting three to four per week.

Don’t be afraid to contact bloggers – they need to find relevant content! The worst that can happen is you won’t get mentioned. The best is that you’ll get a whole heap of traffic from new people interested in your product. This is how I managed to get the @ symbol earrings mentioned on Design for Mankind last week.

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That’s it! I’m looking forward to learning even more about this process as I work on my next collection, and my aim is to make each and every launch more successful than the last.

Do you have any suggestions for a successful launch? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

 

3 thoughts on “best of… jess van den: 10 steps for a successful handmade product launch

  1. Wow, great advice. I just opened an Etsy shop and I don’t think I was as prepared as I’d like to have been. I will definitely look back at this advice before I launch my next group of illustrations! Thanks!

  2. I am just getting started on my jewelery business…great tips…I am aware that I need to get more prepared before I will be ready to go! I have my first show at a local art gallery, but need to do far more soon if I really am going to take it to the next level. Thank you!

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