The Ultimate Guide For Setting Yourself APART In An Oversaturated Marketplace: 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 hey! And welcome to another episode of the Simplify Your Sales podcast! Last episode--- episode 9-- we talked about the importance of taking CONTROL of your marketing instead of just hoping that Etsy will handle it for you because it’s NOT Etsy’s job to send you sales-- it’s yours! And once you understand that and get to work creating a marketing system for your shop, I guarantee you you will feel RELIEVED and IN CONTROL of your shop’s success and that is an INCREDIBLE feeling that is going to make running your Etsy shop a million times more enjoyable.

Now I am SUPER excited about today’s episode because we’re going to go DEEP into possibly one of THE most important factors to consider BEFORE you set up your shop’s marketing system--your unique selling proposition or USP. Once you’ve got this figured out, everything you do-- including all aspects of setting up your profitable marketing system-- are going to be SO so so much easier and you’re going to be blown away at just how seemingly effortlessly the sales seem to roll in once this is established in tandem with your marketing system.

A few months ago I created a poll in my free Simplify Your Sales Facebook group, which, if you’re not already a member-- definitely pop on over and join us because there is a TON of goodness going on in there-- resources, free video trainings, motivational quotes which I add my own thoughts to and pretend to sound really inspirational-- but seriously-- there are over 13,000 sellers in there and SO much goodness coming out of that group on a daily basis, so if you’re NOT already a member, head on over to the link I’ll post here in the show notes (which will be morgannield.com/blog/episode10) and join us. We’d genuinely love to support you on your Etsy journey!

Anyways, now that I’m done shamelessly begging for your company in our group, like I was saying, a few months ago I created a poll in our free Facebook group and asked Etsy sellers what the #1 marketing struggle they ran into was.

The results-- I’ve gotta be honest-- actually surprised me in a BIG way.

Some of the biggest struggles included:

  • Not knowing which marketing platform to focus on
  • Wondering how much to spend on promoted listings
  • Lack of time; and
  • Overwhelmed by all the differing pieces of marketing advice out there

So why did they surprise me? Well, I’ve gotta be honest-- and this is a good business life lesson for you, too, so listen up!-- I’ve been selling online for a while and I feel like at this point in my business I’m not entirely a newbie-- although I’m definitely learning new things everyday!-- but for the most part, I understand my audience and the challenges that they face on a regular basis.

So when I created this poll, I ASSUMED that I would know the answer. In fact, I created this poll with the sole idea of validating what I already thought to be true-- and getting people to fess up to the problems that I felt I already KNEW they were struggling with.

Whelp. I was wrong.

And I’m humbled enough now at this point to admit that.

What I THOUGHT my audience was struggling with the most and what they actually TOLD me they were struggling with the most were two VERY different things.

Overwhelmingly, they were struggling with standing out in a saturated marketplace.

Now, when I started selling on Etsy in my first shop in 2011, Etsy didn’t feel terribly saturated. In fact, it felt relatively easy to stand out and get noticed because there just weren’t so many shops constantly competing for potential buyer’s attention. And if you were smart with your SEO-- a strategy you could almost entirely bank on back then (although I did have my ups and downs with it), you could stand out almost effortlessly without much additional marketing.

Now in 2020, it’s a completely different ball game.

And having a great product and great SEO-- or even FANTASTIC SEO-- isn’t enough to get you found on the marketplace.

Now, there are a million different ideas and strategies we could talk about in this post about standing out, but I want to talk to you about one that goes a bit further.

One that makes the competition COMPLETELY irrelevant.

And that all begins with your Unique Selling Proposition.

What is a Unique Selling Proposition?

Your unique selling proposition, or USP, as I’ll be calling it in this podcast so I can avoid getting too tounge-tied-- is essentially the niche YOUR shop fills in the online marketplace, and the driving force behind everything that you do.

But in more straight forward terms-- it’s what simply what makes your shop STAND OUT as unique.

And this is a very, VERY big deal when you’re competing in a marketplace that is loaded with saturation.

Trust me-- anything you can do to stand out from the competition and become what New York times bestselling author Seth Godin calls “a purple cow” (or basically something that’s extremely different from everyone else around it), will ultimately guarantee that EVERYTHING (and I mean EVERYTHING) about marketing and running an online shop becomes easier. Like 1 bajillion times easier. And don’t worry-- I double-checked that statistic before I referenced it in the podcast and it’s true. So feel free to quote me on that.

From a customer’s perspective, your USP essentially answers the question they may be asking themselves “So why should I buy from YOU?”

And if they can’t figure that out relatively quickly, that’s when they tend to hit the “back” button on their iPhone and keep browsing. Just like that, you’ve lost their attention.

What a USP is NOT

We’re going to dive into some awesome ways that you can create a killer USP, but first I want to talk about what it is not. Because there is a LOT of misconception going around about what a USP is, and sometimes what we think is setting us apart actually isn’t helping at all. So lets clear up some of those misconceptions really quick!

Thing #1 - Okay, a USP is NOT about having a high quality product.

I’m going to assume-- and correct me if I’m wrong-- but I’m going to assume with what little I know about your current shop situation (which I would TOTALLY know more if you would join our FREE FB group and introduce yourself, hint hint)-- but I’m going to assume that you sell a pretty high quality product.

One of the things I love about so many sellers on Etsy-- is that they take great pride in their work and pay a ridiculously amazing bit of attention to detail. A few months ago-- and this is just going to prove how nerdy I am, so hopefully you can accept that-- but a few months ago I purchased a set of dirigible plum earrings off of Etsy.

What are dirigible plum earrings you might ask? I’m shocked that you don’t know-- kidding. It’s totally a really weird thing, so by all accounts, you probably shouldn’t know.

Anyways, they are the earrings that Luna Lovegood from the Harry Potter series wears. They basically look like small radishes, which is a strange thing to wear on your ears-- or anywhere really-- but Luna Lovegood is strange, so it suits her. And ever since I took the Pottermore house quiz and was declared a diehard Ravenclaw through and through-- which matches my personality pretty dang well, I’ll be honest-- I took a liking to this comic relief character of books 5-7. I mean, those books get heavy-- not just literally-- and she’s quirky enough to bring some of that much-needed lightheartedness.

All of that is to say that when I searched on Etsy for these earrings, I was AMAZED at the level of detail and craftsmanship out there. Now, I’m not going to get into whether there should even be dirigible plum earrings for sale on Etsy or not-- but what I am going to say is that there were some really nice options out there. And the set I ended up purchasing-- when they arrived at my house-- I literally squealed in delight. They were the perfect addition to my Luna Lovegood Halloween costume and I’m super happy that I ordered them.

So what does this Luna Lovegood “go ravenclaw” tangent have to do with anything? What I’m saying here is that the craftsmanship of items on Etsy is IMPECCABLE.

So saying that you have a high quality product for sale and trying to pass that off as your USP isn’t going to be enough. Because there are THOUSANDS of other shop’s in your niche with that same quality.

Thing #2 - it is NOT yelling louder

Okay, I totally wanted to yell when I said that but then I felt really bad for my podcast editor and for all of you who are listening to this podcast during your commute and probably would have accidently steered into oncoming traffic at such a sudden outburst, so I refrained. You’re welcome.

Okay, but let’s talk about this: your unique selling proposition is also NOT just about yelling louder.

Having MORE sales. Offering BIGGER discounts. Spamming your shop link in MORE places.

None of those things make up a USP.

Sure, they may get the occasional attention of passersby-- I mean, have you seen those kiosk things at Walmart that start talking the minute you walk by? They scare the CRAP out of me and drive me crazy, and yes, they get my attention initially because it’s hard NOT to ignore a box on a wall that suddenly started talking to you at a relatively quiet store at 6 am in the morning-- but just because they initially CAUGHT my attention doesn’t mean it was enough to move me to action. I can say with 100% confidence that I have acted on those kiosks a grand total of 0% of the time because there’s nothing there that draws me in-- they don’t have a unique selling proposition. They’re just loud and that’s about it.

And while I am ALL for being vocal about your shop and marketing, at the end of the day, if that’s the ONLY thing that sets your shop apart, you’re going to just become another noisy distraction to your audience that they’ll learn (really quickly) to tune out.

Promotion-- that yelling louder--is just a SMALL part of the bigger picture. I tell my Mastermind Your Marketing students this all the time-- no amount of marketing can make up for a crappy product. And I’ll go as far as to say in this podcast episode, no amount of marketing can make up for a generic product line.

Your USP needs to be more than just the volume that you speak to your customers.

And Thing #3 that a USP is NOT- It is NOT about competing in absolutely EVERY SINGLE AREA.

Have you ever stalked your competition to make sure your shop was competitive enough and instantly got MAJOR overwhelm by all the areas you suddenly found yourself not measuring up to?

Suddenly it was like you had to have 100 different scent options and 1 day free shipping and

...and all of that is just so that you’re at the SAME level as your competition. It does nothing to set you apart.

And so often this is where I see MAJOR problems come into play, the most common being when a shop will undercut their competition and try to offer the lowest price on the market. Just so we’re clear, this is a major NO-NO for long term business because it’s not a USP and it’s just not sustainable. Someone will ALWAYS be trying to undercut you, just as you undercut them. It’s a vicious cycle and the only winners are the shoppers. The shop owners lose so that’s not a game I want you to even attempt playing.

The trick here is that you shouldn’t be trying to play the game like everyone else-- you should be creating all new rules instead.

So instead of saying “hey, look at my shop. We’ve got just as good of stuff as everyone else!”

You should be saying something like “Here at my shop, we do things differently and here’s how.”

Just like you can’t compete on a job or college application where all the applicants come into the process with the same exact qualifications…

...you’ve got to change the rules and do something that NO ONE ELSE IS DOING to stand out.

And that’s where your USP comes into play.

What a USP actually is

Okay, so we’ve covered all the things a USP is not (and just for the record, I know I didn’t mention it specifically in example, but trying to run with the USP of being “handmade” isn’t going to fly either).

Let’s talk about what your USP is.

We’ve already determined that Etsy is saturated-- yay, right?!

And while I firmly believe that competition is a GOOD thing-- in fact, I talked about it over in Episode 6 of the podcast which I’ll link to in the show notes in case you want to check it out-- it’s still that: COMPETITION.

And you’ve got to do something to make yourself stand out from it so that when someone comes on Etsy to buy your product, they have a reason to buy from YOU and not the thousands of other shops selling the (basically) exact same thing.

Now, I love sharing examples and making an example of my business experiences as well. I’ll be honest-- most of the examples I share about my business are bad ones I want you to avoid. I’ve made a lot of mistakes and I tend to share those so you don’t have to make those same mistakes.

Today though, I want to share an example of MY USP for LittleHighbury which is, surprisingly, something that I actually did pretty well right out of the gate because I had read that Purple Cow book by Seth Godin in college so I knew just how important it was.

Let’s preface this by saying that there are thousands (literally) of baby accessory shops on Etsy. Seriously— type in “baby headband’ on Etsy and you’ll get over 300,000 results. That’s insane! By all accounts, one shop selling headbands should not be able to make over 600 sales a month with that kind of saturation, which is what I averaged in my shop.

But enter a Purple Cow and viola! I was one shop among THOUSANDS and I was still making a HUGE dent in the baby headband circuit.

So what made MY baby headbands a “purple cow” in the marketplace? Well, let's just get this out of the way-- it certainly wasn’t my seamstress skills. I’m mediocre AT BEST. And while I’ll say the craftsman ship wasn’t horrible by any means, it also wasn’t anything super special.

What I did for my USP

No, there were a couple of other things I did to set my shop and product apart:

1 | First off, I designed my own fabrics.

When I first set up shop, I noticed that everyone in the baby headband category was getting their fabrics/supplies from the same sources (like Joanns, Fabric.com, etc.) and I would see the same designs pop up again and again and again. I get it— it’s much cheaper and easier to go with something that is readily available.

But I chose to make mine purposefully different because I wanted to attract a different crowd— not the type that would just spend $2 on a generic headband— I wanted the people that would spend at least $10 (and hopefully $28!) on unique one-of-a-kind designs.

100% unique fabrics gave my item INSTANT USP because you--literally- could not buy my designs anywhere else because I had designed them.

2 | I packaged + marketed them ready-to-gift.

That might seem like a waste of money when you can just spend $.10 on a plastic ziplock bag and be done with it, but by putting in the extra time and $ (which, to be fair, was REALLY minimal) to package it in a gift box + ribbon, I IMMEDIATELY appealed to the baby shower crowd in a much bigger way.

I would guess that I get around 5-6 orders PER DAY that are shipped as gifts directly to the momma-to-be because my headbands can be sent already packaged as a gift.

This was EXTREMELY different from the majority of shops that were just packaging headbands on a cardboard insert or no special packaging at all.

What does this tell us? Two things.

1- I didn’t compete in EVERY area. Like I said, my sewing was average on a good day. Nothing crazy special. So I wasn’t trying to make my USP about my sewing as well-- that would have been overkill at this point.

2- You only need 1-2 things that make your product UNIQUE to have an instant USP.

Now you may be saying, “Well, that’s all fine and good for you Morgan, but I don’t sell baby headbands, so how am I supposed to create a USP and be that purple cow in my niche if I don’t sell a product with things like fabric options?

I hear ya on that and luckily you don’t have to sell baby headbands to create a USP for your shop-- you just need to do a little outside the box thinking. Remember-- you’ve got to be better than your excuses! As Marie Forleo says, “everything is figureoutable.”

But let me help you get the wheels turning with a couple of ideas on how you can start to brainstorm YOUR USP.

  • DIMENSIONS - Is there a gap in the market for a certain size of product? Bridge that gap! Offer your artwork in custom sizes to appeal to buyers filling odd spaces, or make your jewelry into larger statement pieces that really stand out.
  • STYLE - Are the products in your category all photographed a certain way? There are A MILLION absolutely horrible, grainy product photos on Etsy, but yours doesn’t have to be one of them! Take a look at what the first 3 pages under a specific search term are showing, and then do something completely different. Give your company a specific branding vibe that goes against the grain and stick with it. Make it so YOUR listings stick out like a sore thumb--you’ll get noticed if you do!
  • FORMAT - You know those thousands of printables you see for sale on Etsy? Well guess what? Not everyone wants to print them at home-- I certainly don’t! Take a look at what formats your competitors are offering, and then go a completely different route. Offer your artwork on luxury canvas or a giclee art print. See a million crocheted scarves? Sell an easy DIY scarf kit or a scarf out of a completely different material.
  • AUDIENCE - Premium vs. economy. If you search for any specific item on Etsy, the first page that pops up will have a wide variety of price points-- even for the same object. But guess what? Different price points sell to different target markets. Case in point: If you’ve ever heard of the baby mocc company, Freshly Picked, then you’ll know they sell their baby shoes for $60/pair. Search “baby moccs” on Etsy and you’ll come up with thousands of moccs that look exactly the same but are sold at a much, much lower price point. Do both of these companies sell baby moccasins? Yes. But are they hitting up the same customers? Not even close! Decide now if you want to sell premium or economy and stick with it.
  • Timeframe. Everyone else taking 2-4 weeks for custom orders? Speed up that turnaround time! One of the BEST examples I’ve seen on this is actually for a service, not a product, but it is SO applicable. I have a graphic designer that I work with on a fairly regular basis and she’s fantastic, but I used to have to book her 2-3 months in advance of the project that I needed done and then it would take about 2-3 weeks to complete the project. And while I *try* to put on this show of being really organized in my business, between you and me, most days I feel like a hot mess of chaos with all the different things I’m working on on any given day. Throw a crying baby into the mix and all heck breaks loose.

Which basically means that I am NOT good at planning out my promos 2-3 months in advance. In fact, I’m usually just trying to plan out the next couple of days at a time. Not something I’m particularly proud of, but there it is.

So with that in mind, it was always a pain in the butt to hire her even though I LOVED her work-- because I wouldn’t know exactly what I needed from her before it was time. And it was a lot of hassle and back and forth communication trying to nail down the exact project which is totally not her fault-- it just wasn’t a great strength of mine.

Last year she introduced these “design in a day” things that were completely new in the design industry. Basically, you could book her design team for 1 day in the next week or two and they would spend that entire day completing as many design projects as they could for you. You paid a flat day rate and they handed you finished design files within 8 hours.

It BLEW MY MIND.

I had never had a designer offer a service like this and the ease of it all was INSANE. Like, I could have professionally designed graphics in my hand that quickly? It’s just not something that’s done in the industry! And because it was new and streamlined and AWESOME, it made her company and services stand out in such a killer way.

So use that as a bit of inspiration. Maybe there’s something about the customization process that you could tweak to be more straightforward or streamlined. Maybe you could offer a completely different way of customizing entirely that shaved 1 week off your turnaround time. Just get brainstorming and feel free to go purple cow wild.

Your marketing is only going to get a heckuva lot easier when you do!

And if you’re still stuck about what YOU can have as YOUR USP, at the end of the day, the best thing you can do is to take a look at what everyone else in your industry is doing…

...and just commit to doing it DIFFERENTLY.

And finally-- one final word before we part-- I need you to remember as you are trying to create your USP: You are NOT trying to appeal to everyone.

I know it’s tempting-- and I know logically it makes sense. More people = more sales, right?

And to do anything with your marketing or shop that might potentially alienate customers seems like a major red flag of a terrible idea.

But take it from someone with a $2,000 flopped product line centered around generic designs and colors-- when you try to appeal to everyone…

...you end up appealing to NO ONE.

So use your USP to appeal to the RIGHT kinds of people-- the people who are actually a good fit for purchasing your product-- and with a marketing system in place, get ready to watch your sales become EFFORTLESS.

// Take action

Pick 1-2 ways you can “purple cow” your business and put a plan into motion. Consider using these “purple cows” as unique branding points that you can hit home again and again when talking about your product. Remember, the point isn’t to sell just another xyz product-- it’s to sell an improved product experience. What can YOU sell that provides a different type of solution to customers already shopping for that product on Etsy?

And then feel free to post your USP in our Facebook group under the prompt-- and I’ll see you next week!

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