Day 4 of #the100dayproject - Who does it already? Identify, follow and learn from them
Don't go in blind and definitely do not reinvent the wheel. Traditionally that would have been naive in the least but also very costly and a cause of so many business failures. Today, however, you are at a massive advantage. With the internet and technology everything is so much more transparent particularly with Instagram, websites, Etsy and so on and there are so many tools to help you. Make use of them, your competitors will! Find out who is doing well in a similar field to you. List a handful of competitors both local as well as international.
At the time of writing there are 458000 results for a 'fine art' search in Etsy. Narrow it down try 'fine art painting' instead and you have '104000' results! Then maybe narrow it down by subject matter, medium etc 'cat etching print' and now there are only 726!. There are going to be hundreds of thousands of artists and makers doing 'ok' there but much fewer doing really really well. Find those doing well that are similar to you and find out why they are different. Look through the listings. Ignore anything that has 'Ad' on it. These people have paid for an advert to get them listed so prominently, they haven't achieved it organically through clever design.
Whilst there is a place for paid advertising save that until much later down the line when it is less of a gamble and much more of a certainty for you. You can narrow your search on the left hand side, for example, by clicking 'handmade' or a price band, geographic location etc. Now work through the list looking for someone with lots of 5* reviews (I would say 1000 or more if possible but get a feel for your own product and how niche it is and how new to Etsy someone you find is). 1000, however, means they have been doing it really well for some time.
Next click on their product and from their product page click through to their shop page. Here you will see when they first listed on Etsy, how many products they sell and how many they have sold (Lucy first registered in 2010 then did nothing for several years before relaunching, it can sometimes be misleading!). Look at these numbers carefully. You will have large volumes of sales if you have 1000 products or more and you will have lots of sales on very low priced products, don't be misled by that. Only identify shops that have a similar number of products to you in a similar price bracket. You need 50 products or more to do well on Etsy. Decide on a criteria to find people such as '2000 or more sales in the last 2 years with 50-100 products around my price band'.
Look at 'number of sales', 'number of items', 'number of reviews', 'time on Etsy', 'number of favourites'. All these figures combined should give you a feel for if a shop is doing well or not but you should still dig deeper. Compare product prices and margins to make sure this works for you too. There is no point in trying to emulate someone who sells in volume when you are not set up to do that or sells at a price where you will have no profit margin if you copy that price. You will have to discard a number of shops before you identify a number of them that align with you in terms of what they are making, number of product lines and appear to be doing lots of sales. Don't concern yourself with how they have achieved that at this stage just record their details and we will come back to them again many times in this project. Make a shortlist of Etsy shops and follow the shops.
Look at Instagram - how many followers, how many posts, how many people are they following, how do they align with your brand? Ideally pull out people with a 30k or more following. Again you might vary this if your brand is niche. You might also spot people new to Instagram with only 5k following them for example but quickly climbing. As a rule of thumb the number of followers should be several multiples of the number of posts. Look for people who are following far fewer people than are following them, ideally 300-400 max. These people tend to be much more focused and trying to learn from the people that they follow. Those people following several thousand are not as focused and often they have got followers based on following someone else rather than on the strength of their posts or products. Make a shortlist of people on Instagram you can learn from and follow them!
To find these people identify a few hashtags that show artists and makers similar to you and your products then hover the mouse over posts looking for posts with high volumes of likes and comments (several hundred if not thousands!). You might find a few on the top row of good hashtags but then a mixed bunch of high and low likes. Identify strong posts then click on the post and then through to the account profile page. You will find lots accounts under 1k followers, ignore these for now, 1k-10k only consider these if they have achieved that in a small amount of time with a low volume of posts, ideally concentrate on people with 30k or more followers.
Look at the websites of the people you have identified above and also google new ones as well as people you might already know of. How do they present themselves on their website? Make a shortlist of good ones to come back to later.
Throughout this exercise focus on the people you 'know' are doing well from their figures not the ones you 'think' are doing well based on reputation. Write down what they do well and what they don't and keep the list handy we will come back to it many times. Look at the items you created on day 2 and day 3 and use these in your searches.