The Top 3 Reasons Why You Should Welcome Competition With Open Arms
If you fear competition and think the handmade market is just too saturated, read on.
When planning to sell your handmade goods online, there are a lot of things to think about, and competition is always one of the considerations. If you've been taking the idea of "nicheing it down" to heart, then you might be making the big mistake that many of us insecure creative types make.
The mistake is this: Thinking you need to find an "untapped" market where you have no competition.
Contrary to popular belief, seeing that others are selling items you want to sell should warm your heart.
Why? Competition is a good thing because you can....
1) Confirm that people are buying in that niche market
2) Learn about the market much more quickly
3) Grow your business much more quickly
Likewise, no competition is very very bad. The pioneer days of the internet are over so its unlikely you'll be the first person to think of selling to an untapped market.
We'll discuss some ways to leverage the competition in detail so you don't make the mistake of choosing to make items that will have no takers, and instead choose a niche and devise some strategies where your business can thrive in the competitive environment.
Confirming That There Are Buyers
Competition usually means people are spending money.
Did you watch my Master Class Video on market research? If you did, you might remember that one of the criteria of a good niche is that people are spending money online.
How can you tell if people are spending money?
Advertising dollars being spent is a pretty good sign. If you see others spending money on advertising, and see the same ads over a period of months, then you can surmise that the advertisers are making money. Magazine ads for example typically need to be purchased 3 months at a time so if you see a company advertising for more than 6 months, then you can be sure the ad is creating revenue for the company. If lots of advertisers are selling similar products, you can bet that there are enough customers to warrant it.
Ditto for online advertising. Online advertising dollars being spent is a good indicator. An even better indicator is proof positive that people are buying. One way to figure that out is by using the eBay advanced search technique, or scrutinize the data on CraftCount.
If no money is being spent, then whether you've spent years building an infrastructure or whether you are just starting out, you need to bail. Get out and don't look back. Life is too short to fight windmills like Don Quixote.
(I know Don Quixote fighting windmills is a romantic story - “Dreeeeeam - the impossible dreeeeeam...!” But in real life the impossible dream sucks. I prefer the attainable dream. Not as poetic, but a lot less work.)
Gathering Market Intelligence
Gotta love the internet and how far it's come. Internet marketing is starting to mature and technology has caught up so there is a buffet of free tools out there that give absolutely unbelievable intelligence about the market.
Types of intelligence you can gather:
- How well others search engine optimize (so you know how hard you have to work to beat them)
- Which products are hot and which are flopping
- How much money is being spent on advertising (to get a gauge of market size)
- What others do well (and not so well) so you can find holes in the market you can fill
Gathering the intel isn't too hard. A quick look at a web pages source code can sometimes tell you the keywords they are trying to rank for in the search engines. Checking the Alexa rank tells you approximately how popular a website is. A look at an Etsy shop will show you what others have bought (although not for how much). A check on Google Adwords will show you approximately how much advertising is being done for a specific keyword term and how much search volume there is. And oftentimes forums and blogs can be great resources to find out what customers are happy (and not so happy) with.
Using the Competition to Grow Your Business More Quickly
One of the biggest reasons people fail in online businesses is thinking about the world as a “dog eat dog” kind of place.
The more generous giving person will always capture the trust and hearts of others – and reap the benefits.
Competitors are best viewed as potential partners down the road. You can get to know them and leverage their influence to increase yours. Combining influence goes a long way towards increasing traffic if you can find good influential partners.
Here are just a few ways to partner with your competitors. (There are actually many, many more if you start thinking creatively.)
- Trade articles (or blog posts) with them. Web content for you and a link back for them and vice versa.
- Create referral relationships – for example if you repair jewelry, you could partner with someone that gets requests but isn't interested in repairing jewelry.
- Barter services to save time and money. For example, if another businessperson hates writing, but you love it, you might write for her and she could give you some service that she is good at in return.
- Create contests together.
- Mastermind together to talk about what's working and what's not working. This way you don't need to do all the trial and error yourself.
- Get advertising on their site to leverage their traffic.
- Advertise on their mailing lists. You can often get dirt cheap ad space on a newsletter mail-out.
Clearly competition trounces no competition and you can see now why instead of running away from competing businesses, you should instead thank your lucky stars they are there. We've looked at how to check for buyers, various ways you can gather intelligence about your market and your competitors, and also a number of ways you can grow your business a lot faster by partnering with others. Now that you have all this new knowledge, go out there and find some competition and make your handmade business a great one.
P.S. For 3 more reasons why you should love competition (and a ton of ways you can leverage them to increase business) consider joining Handmade Results Weekly. This article is a small excerpt from one of the 52 weekly lessons.