Product Validation: Simplify Your Sales

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By Morgan Nield. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.

Hey there- Morgan Nield here and while I”m usually ALL about sharing the latest in marketing strategies and advice, today’s episode is going to put that on the back burner for a hot minute-- pun definitely intended-- while we dive into one of the most important things you need to figure out BEFORE you ever do a drop of marketing in your Etsy shop.

And it’s called….dun dun dun… PRODUCT VALIDATION.

Now I know that sounds all official and tedious, but I promise it’s not!

Basically, we’re ensuring that your product is DESIGNED to sell before you EVER put in the marketing grunt work.

Because I don’t know about you, but even after all of these years selling online, it is NERVE WRACKING for me to put out any type of new product into the world, so the more reassurance I can feel that yes, my audience IS interested in what I have to sell and it’s not going to be a total flow, the more confident I am moving forward with my ideas and putting them out into the world.

Now, I’m going to walk you through a step-by-step product validation sequence to follow that is not only going to make this EXTREMELY easy and low key (no major comfort-zone pushing out of here!), but it’s also going to ensure that:

  • You won't spend wasted time or money on product that won't sell
  • You'll have deeper customer insights that can propel your business moving forward
  • You'll be able to move forward with marketing your shop confidently-- because you have a product you AND YOUR CUSTOMERS believe in. And that’s a big deal.

Sounds pretty sweet, right?

But before we dive in and get to the nitty-gritty take action stuff, I need to make a disclaimer: You HAVE to be objective about your product going into this podcast episode exercise. There is NO room for emotional attachments to your products in this process because those kind of thoughts tend to cloud your judgment as you go throughout the process. Yes, I KNOW you love your product line-- and I’m truly thrilled that you do! But product validation isn’t about you--it’s about YOUR POTENTIAL CUSTOMERS. So we’ve got to leave your emotional baggage behind when we dive into all of this.

Sound good? Good. Alright, let's get started!

Step 1: Determine whether or not your product is already validated

So let’s start off by answering the question I bet at least a few of you are probably thinking to yourself right now: “How do I know if this applies to me and I need to validate the products in my shop?!”

Fair enough question-- I wouldn’t want you to waste time on a task that isn’t necessary to grow your business. SO here goes:

Chances are, if you have been around on Etsy for a while, you probably already have completed the product validation stage without even realizing it!

So if you:

  • already have a good Etsy sales history
  • do well at in-person events (think: craft fairs)
  • have past customers who are delighted with their purchase

...then congratulations-- your product is already validated! You've got the stats to back you up that there IS a market for your product, so I want you to feel confident moving forward. You have EVERY right to feel good about the products you are selling in your shop right now.

HOWEVER.

If you:

  • have a difficult time making sales
  • are gearing to switch up product lines, but are worried about interest levels
  • are just getting started and have NO CLUE what actually sells

...then let's move on to the next step in product validation to make sure that you won’t spend a lot of money and time on building up supplies and inventory-- without a guaranteed way to make it back. Yikes!

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Alright, so moving on for those that are like “yes, my product line needed to be validated, like, yesterday!” then let’s move on:

Step 2: Research the competition

Most of us-- myself included-- have been conditioned to believe that competition is a bad thing-- that if someone has already created something, there won’t be any sales left for us because there’s some mystical sales “limit” that has already been set.

In reality, the opposite is true!!

Competition in the marketplace is not only a GOOD thing, it’s actually something you should feel encouraged by.

Why? Because if multiple shops have already created a product like yours, it tells us two things:

  • There is a market for your product-- hooray!
  • Your marketing just got a heckuva lot easier. You now have prices, materials, marketing strategy, and more to reference when creating your own killer product line.(Note: I said "to REFERENCE," NOT "to copy" ;)

To actually do the research, simply hop onto Etsy and type your product idea (such as "baby headbands" or "beaded necklace") into the search bar. What are the results like? Click on some items that are similar to yours, and take note of how well those shops are doing.

Again, if there isn’t any competition, this doesn’t mean your product idea will bomb-- but it DOES mean you have a lot of work ahead of you to educate your audience on your product and why they need it. I want you to ask yourself honestly-- are you willing to put in that extra work? If not, it's time to go back to the drawing board. :)

(Note: this brings up the whole “do you mean I can't sell my original state-of-the-art invention??" Of course you can, BUT if you’re introducing something completely new to the table, you had better be willing to do the grassroots legwork to actually EDUCATE people about your product-- because the awareness isn’t there for them to even know to look for it.)

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Now onto...

Step 3: Choose your flagship product line

It's easy to get sucked into the trap of "if I can make it, then I should list it" as an Etsy seller, but please trust me on this-- that is a HORRIBLE product “strategy.” And yes, I said “strategy” while making air quotes even though I know you can’t see me right now, (which I’m actually kinda thankful for because it’s after 9 pm here and I’m in my pajamas. The beauty of a podcast, eh?)

In fact, I recommend that every Etsy seller starts out by focusing on just ONE (gasp!) type of product-- your FLAGSHIP PRODUCT.

Your goal with this product line is to be seen as THE EXPERT in this niche-- the "go-to" shop for this particular type of product, and the industry standard that people look to.

Please do NOT make the mistake of dipping your toes into every single market niche to “experiment” and “see what sells,” because that’s going to turn away a lot of people; plus, it will fail to give you an accurate idea of your sales potential.

This lack of focus = Major problems.

Because let’s get real for a second: when you’re starting an Etsy shop, you’re already trying to wrap your head around a million different things-- photography, copywriting, marketing, etc. SO many business hats!

It’s hard enough figuring all of those things out for ONE product, let alone 10.

If you’re trying to market 10 different things to “see which one sells”, you’re going to put out disjointed marketing messaging, and confuse your customers on what you’re trying to sell and what they should buy.

Believe it or not, customers like being told what to do. Basic human sales psychology.

They LIKE having limited choices (too many choices = decision fatigue).

So make things easier (and much more clear!) for them and yourself (and your bank account!) by simplifying your product line down to ONE flagship product.

I don’t care that you can make tea cozies and baby blankets and slippers and scarves (well, I do care-- I mean, you sound really talented!). But that doesn’t mean you should.

Did you get that?

Just because you CAN make it, it doesn’t mean that you SHOULD.

I am SO serious about that

If you are looking for more guidance on creating a killer flagship product line, check out morgannield.com/blog/episode2 (which I’ll link to in the show notes) where you’ll get a SUPER in-depth approach to designing a killer flagship product line with major focus. It’s a must-have for success and has PLENTY of examples to further illustrate the point because I don’t know about you, but I always seem to understand concepts better when I can “see” them in real life.

Now, I’m not going to dive into all the nuances of a strong flagship product line today-- since you can get a super detailed breakdown over at morgannield.com/blog/episode2 already, but the bottom line here?

I want YOU to look like an EXPERT at just ONE thing. You are a boutique, and selling 5 different types of items just to “see what sells” is going to INSTANTLY make you look more like a garage sale.

Now, maybe you’ve been on Etsy for a while and as you’re sitting here listening to this podcast, you’ve thinking to yourself “Hey, I’m TOTALLY that shop that Morgan’s talking about-- I’m selling tote bags and mouse pads and towels and t-shirts and mugs right now.”

So what do you do if you’re at that point? You KNOW that you need to cut out the excess, but how do you even BEGIN to narrow things down so you can focus on just ONE type of flagship product like recommended?

Let's start by taking a closer look at just your top few best-selling items. You can do that by heading over to Etsy → shop manager → stats → and then sorting your listings by the “revenue” column.

Once you’ve got them sorted, take a quick glance at the list and ask yourself “Do any of these items have things in common?”

I’m willing to bet that you’re quickly going to see a pattern of what is selling and what isn’t-- and I’ll let you guess what that means for your flagship product line.

Also keep your dream customer and attraction statement in mind-- and if you don’t have that yet, head over to morgannield.com/blog/episode3 where I give you a ridiculously easy 4-step exercise for nailing that down for good. I’ll also link to it over in the show notes for this episode-- morgannield.com/blog/episode6.

Okay, so once you’ve got that dream customer and attraction statement in mind, take a closer look at your best sellers and ask yourself “What is the ONE product I sell that can provide the best solution to my customer's struggle?”

Quick tip:

Now really quick, I want to interject with a quick recommendation here.

It's a good idea to have a decent number of products within your flagship product line-- I recommend at least 20.

For example, instead of selling a wide variety of baby items, choose one type of item (like baby headbands) and sell 20 of those in a variety of patterns. If you’re selling a wide variety of spa products, choose lotion for your flagship product and focus your efforts there.

And then one additional thing you’ll want to consider is that even your flagship product line needs to have some degree of cohesiveness. So if you sell floral watercolor greeting cards, having a couple random bold abstract art cards isn’t going to fit in with your flagship product line-- even though they’re both greeting cards. You want your items to feel like they belong together. Again, check out episode 2 for more details on exactly what that looks like if you’re still feeling a little fuzzy about things.

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Moving onto...

Step 4: Choose 1-2 additional complementary product lines

Now, just because you're focusing on one main type of product, that doesn't mean you can't sell any other type of products as well-- in fact, I encourage you to!

So I want you to ask yourself what products would pair really well with your flagship product and complement it.

So an example of this is that in my Etsy shop, Little Highbury, I sold baby headbands. These were my flagship product line and I had more of them than anything else. In addition to that, I also sold just a couple of other newborn essentials, also made from the exact same soft, organic material-- baby hats and swaddling blankets.

Okay, so when it comes to choosing complimentary product lines, don’t go so broad that you begin looking like that garage sale we just cleaned up-- keep it simple with just 1-2 additional product ideas for now, so your shop feels nice and organized.

I also want to add at this point that I KNOW it’s extremely tempting for print on demand shops to slap their designs on everything under the sun and claim it as a “flagship product line” because they have similar designs.

Um,no.

If the same dream customer couldn’t easily be seen shopping for each of the different items in your shop at once, then they’ve got to go. Your flagship products MUST have something in common besides just the artwork on them. They need to be created for the same type of customer. This is going to save you from SO many marketing headaches down the road-- just trust me.

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Okay, and now we’re at our final step and it’s one of the scarier ones for a lot of Etsy sellers:

Step 5: Reach out to your dream customer for feedback

Once you’ve got chosen a flagship product idea (and, ideally, created some samples, too!), it’s time for the hard part-- you need to start talking to people.

And no, I don’t mean your mom and your sister-- I mean people who actually fit your dream customer description, and who could use your product to help with a real struggle that they are facing.

(Fun fact: I actually pitched my custom fabric baby headband product to my mom before anyone else, and she thought I was crazy and told me to go back to the drawing board! Spoiler alert: I didn’t). So perfect example of why it’s SO important to talk to the people who could potentially be buying your stuff.

I KNOW it’s easy to want to take the “shortcut” and cut corners on this step, but this is arguably the MOST important.

So what does this stage look like?

Part 1: Reach out to people you already know who match your dream customer profile (read: the person you want to buy your product)

  • If you're in the baby industry, reach out to friends/family who have recently had a baby or are going to soon.
  • If you’re in the health and beauty industry, reach out to friends/family who are obsessed with organic products and see what they think.
  • If you’re in the planner industry, create some prototypes and test them out on your organizer-obsessed friends.

What kind of questions should you ask? Use the following as suggestions (but feel free to substitute in your own!):

  • What do you like best about this product?
  • What don’t you like about this product?
  • Is there room for improvement with this product?
  • What is the biggest struggle you face with using a product like this?
  • What would you be willing to pay?

Bottom line?

Ask for feedback on your product(s).

Be willing to take the good (and the bad!) and act on those suggestions (<-- SO important).

This is NOT a time to let personal bias get in the way. While you may think you know what will sell, you’ll never actually know until you ask.

Remember- you’re not creating a product for YOU-- you’re creating it for THEM.

Okay, and then part 2 of this step: Reach out to people you DON’T know, but would be a good fit for your dream customer criteria.

Now that you’ve gotten some good feedback from people you know (and have hopefully made some tweaks based on their feedback), it’s time to pitch your product to an audience of people you don’t know.

Now, if you’ve got an existing fan-base, this is a GREAT time to reach out to them. However, if you’re just getting started, chances are you don’t have a pool of people to pull from.

So where can you find people to get feedback from?

  • Reddit threads
  • Facebook groups
  • Niche blog forums

Again, you're going to want to ask the following questions:

  • What do you like best about this product?
  • What don’t you like about this product?
  • Is there room for improvement with this product?
  • What is the biggest struggle you face with using a product like this?
  • What would you be willing to pay?

Yes, I know these are hard questions to ask-- but they NEED to be asked.

There is nothing worse than blowing cash on a huge inventory of product that no one will be interested in buying.

Save yourself the headache (and the financial stress!) and do a bit of research before you dive in-- you'll thank me later, I promise ;)

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Alright, and that’s it-- you have JUST learned how to successfully run product validation in your Etsy shop to ENSURE that the items you have are designed to sell and won’t just be gathering dust on your virtual shelves.

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Take action: Today’s take action comes directly from the steps we listed out for product validation, so let’s quickly recap:

Step 1: Determine whether or not your product is already validated

Step 2: Research the competition

Step 3: Choose your flagship product line

Step 4: Choose 1-2 additional complementary product lines

Step 5: Reach out to your dream customer for feedback

And then go ahead and head over to the Simplify Your Sales Facebook group, which I will link to in the show notes over at morgannield.com/blog/episode6, and share how your product validation is going. Do you have any questions on how to narrow down your product line? Struggling to figure out what to ask your dream customer for feedback on relating to YOUR shop? Hit us up with your ?’s inside the Facebook group so we can help you make progress.

Thanks for joining me on this week’s episode-- now get to work! I’ll see you next week :)

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