Finding an untapped niche in this massive worldwide market, at times, seems impossible – especially when you have a specific idea and you keep your head down. Many people are great business owners, but are they missing elements that could make them true entrepreneurs? Yes, you have to make what you love, but not at all costs – flexibility is a virtue. You have to learn to customize so your customers can see that you really want them!
Why you must customize
An entrepreneur has a great idea, and then makes a mad dash to transform the idea into an income-earning business. Not every idea, however, ends up making money or even gels into a cohesive plan. What’s the difference? Passionate and excited people who are successful can also be stubborn; I’m saying this from personal experience. You can stick to your guns and just keep making what you think is perfect, but if it isn’t, your stubbornness may come to haunt you. If you’re so right about what is perfect, you could miss out on variations to your idea that could be successful. This is a key to being a successful entrepreneur. Sure, we’re always “right,” but keeping your head up and your eyes open is critical. What other options does your product have? What other problem is it solving? How can you grab the attention of a completely different demographic or market than the primary one you targeted? If you’re really paying attention to your products and the reactions from your audience, you will see that there are always other avenues to follow. With minor changes to your ideas, you can hit an entire untapped market. Your widget V1.2 could get more play than V1.0!
How does customization help a brand expand its audience?
For my market in the handmade indie jewelry business, customized work or creations can really lead to a broad customer base for one’s business. The indie/handmade/eco-friendly/small biz arena is hot right now. (Never mind if you get into the specifics of jewelry or accessories.) It’s hugely competitive, and not in the typical way that iPhones compete with Androids. Everyone needs a mobile, right?
But does everyone need a new necklace or pair of earrings? Well, of course – but in a different way. We all need special things, but this is such a personal experience that it’s hard to tell what will have the broadest appeal or even attract a specific target. So when you customize items, not only are you trying things out for a see-what-sticks approach, but you are making people feel really special, as they should, when they are patrons of your business. Indie shops are frequented by people who want to set trends and are looking for something unique; they want a gift that says, “Hey, I could have given you a blue box, but this is better! I put a ton of thought into you and not just it!” People have choices when things are custom. They are part of the design and, therefore, have a stake in how the product is viewed when they wear it or use it. When someone asks them about it, they can say they got it from a shop and helped design it. How cool! So now your customer is engaged, as is the person who asked.
How customizing has changed our marketing
I recently have started to add charms to some of my collection. Charms? What do they have to do with the traditional, historic, crafted-the-same-way-through-the-centuries evil eye beads that I exclusively use? Everything! Many people like the idea of adding a little luck to their lives with adornments. Why not make that luck carry over to specific parts of their lives? I’ve made bracelets and necklaces with specific themes (horses, animals, peace, or love) that target pretty niche groups. I am me, within a group is an interesting social theory, and it’s a strong desire for many people. Taking advantage of that desire will make your product relevant in any market.
How can companies find ways to customize their products?
Customizing your products for impact is easy in many markets, and it can make a big difference in the popularity of the items. Take Dell Computers as an example. Dell knows how to market to niche groups, add what they need, leave off what they don’t, and boom: a perfect computer, just for the user! Don’t you feel that Dell really cares about what you need, just because they asked?
Also, consider online sellers like Zazzle and Cafe Press. They’ve made a business of personalizing anything and everything you can think of. Great companies have jumped on this customizing bandwagon, like Nike, Vans, Ford Motors, Hallmark, and M&Ms. These companies’ customized campaigns have been extremely successful in bringing their products to new markets and customer bases, which is the only way to survive in the world of capitalism.
Your idea is unique to you, but you need to make your customers feel it’s unique to them. Give them choices and let them feel like they’re part of the process. You’re small right now and you can use that to your advantage; you can adapt to almost every customer’s need. You can keep your passion and ideas, yet still customize – it’s a win-win for both you and your clients.
Christine Lorenzo is a Boston-based designer and founder of SariBlue, an earthy, bohemian jewelry collection centered on the Turkish evil eye bead. As a member of The Artisan Group, her collection has been featured at the GBK Productions Luxury Lounge honoring the 2012 Golden Globes, the 2012 Oscars and the 2012 MTV Movie Awards nominees and presenters.