Back to our little soap opera. What dilemma is our start-up hero facing today? Last time, we discussed what it is that we want to sell: Handmade soap. The next question is:
Does anyone need or want what you are planning to sell?
Wow. Harsh reality hits fast and hard. Just because I want to sell something, it doesn’t mean that someone wants to buy it. That is a very important thing to realize, and one that a lot of small, passion project businesses forget. So let’s get down to does anyone care to plunk down their cash for handmade soap? The first thing that people say when asked this is: Well, I’d buy it. But have you? Have you ever actually purchased that good? If you are the target demographic, and you haven’t purchased it, something is potentially off. So have I purchased soap? You betcha. Simple Soaps for Simple Folks is awesome. And I’m not just saying that because I’ve known Shanna since kindergarten. Am I the target market? Yeah, I am, but we’ll get into that question deeper in a later post.
The second thing that many people say is: Well, other people are selling it on Etsy, Ebay, Facebook Marketplace, or another online marketplace. But that doesn’t answer the question: Is anyone buying it? That answers the question: Is anyone selling it? Those are NOT the same question.
If you want to look at those places to answer “Is anyone buying?”, it can be a great start. Don’t just look if there are sellers. Look to see if they are actually selling. And to more than just their mom. For example, let’s take a look at one of the listings:
Craftsman Soap Co. has a listing for Mountain Sage soap. They have reviews for that soap of people who bought it who seem unrelated (not always the case). In addtion, they have almost 15,000 sales since they started on Etsy on 2013. So yes, someone is buying handmade soap. If you want to waste some time today, go look at all of the sellers at those sites who have sold nothing or very, very little. It is not a small number.
But will anyone buy mine? And why would they buy mine instead of Craftsman? Good questions. That question as to “Why me?” can tie into the target market and what is my value proposition. But let’s not get too into that today. Today, we are just looking at is there any market.
OK, we know that I buy soap. And we know some people somewhere sell soap made in California. But what about where I want to sell it? That’s where it helps to either be or know an extrovert. The best way to find out that is to ask. Ask people around “Would you buy this?” Again, not your mom. She’ll say yes.
I am not a shy person so if you are in an elevator with me, there’s a chance that I’ll ask you about something I am cooking up. Or in line at the grocery or even waiting at a crosswalk. It is a “skill” that I inherited from my mom that drives my husband a bit batty at times. But, man, do I get good information. If you think it is awkward asking if someone will buy something now, wait until you are actually trying to sell it to them. Think of this as sales training.
In summary, we have to get over the promise of The Field of Dreams. Just because you build it, it doesn’t mean they will come. First, let’s make sure they exist.