Monday , 27 March 2017
You have a niche market, a product specifically for a very targeted market. I speak from personal experience, and it took me a while to figure out how to actually market what my husband and I do:

Marketing 101: Niche Markets

Marketing 101: Niche Markets

Ever Had Someone Say, “So what do I do with that?”

Welcome to the world of niche marketing.

You’ve got a great idea for a product. It’s fun to make. You love it. Family members love it. But…you show it to strangers and they just look at you. Some even say, “Uh, what do I do with that?”

You have a niche market, a product specifically for a very targeted market.  I speak from personal experience, and it took me a while to figure out how to actually market what my husband and I do: create hand-marbled fabrics from a centuries-old process.

Hand Marbled Cotton Fat Quarter in Multi Tones

Hand Marbled Cotton Fat Quarter in Multi Tones

 

At first, our goal was to sell to quilters. I’m a quilter, and I would certainly buy an unusual fabric like this. Quilting is a 4 billion dollar industry, so there must be a constant demand for new fabrics. But – and this is a big point – marbled fabric is a very unusual, very detailed, and very beautiful fabric. So much so that many fabric lovers look at it and say one of several things:

“It’s too beautiful to cut into.”

“I have no idea how I would use it.”

“How could it possibly work in a quilt or garment?”

Hmmmm…obviously some marketing issues to be dealt with immediately. You need to market your product in ways that people can see how it can be used. You need to identify every possible use for your product, and this requires thinking outside your comfort zone, as well as being aware of unusual uses that just pop into a conversation. Just because you see a very specific use for your product doesn’t mean buyers will.

Try this checklist for your product. (My answers in parentheses.)

1. List 3 ways you would use your product. (For quilts, framed quilt blocks, vests.)

2. Ask at least 10 people (and not necessarily family members) how they would use this product. LISTEN for unusual ideas. (marble some ribbon, marble silk flowers, scan the fabric into a digital program and create new designs, create patterns for some of the items you make using the marbled fabric, frame larger pieces of fabric, sew children’s clothes, make covers for kaleidoscopes)

3. Walk through a “big box” store, or a local specialty store and see if you get any ideas. (wrap fabric around prepared picture frame mats,  create specific colorways of ribbons to help accent a display, marbled ribbon for floral displays, marbled silk flowers for displays, high-end pillows, pockets/hatbands/trim for clothing)

4. Start a list of additional by-products from your original idea. (Original patterns, tutorials on how to create marbled fabrics, tutorials on quilting marbled fabrics, note cards from digitizing your fabrics)

5. Create an “elevator pitch.” This is a single sentence or phrase you can use when someone asks you “What do I Use this for?” (Our pitch is “you can quilt it, wear it, frame it.”  That gets me a second look, a raised eyebrow, and an opening to continue talking about my product.)

After nearly 20 years of marbling fabric, we still come up with new ideas for our fabrics. Most recently we started looking at soft sculptures, with marbled fabrics as the base and embellishment on top.

What’s your market? Share with us your answers to these questions. You might spark another idea in one of us, and you might pick up some new ideas yourself.

Dean and Linda Moran are the owners of Marble-T Design and have been marbling for 20 years. Part of the creative enjoyment they get from working together is what each brings to the process. Dean is the primary marbler and color guru, and Linda gets to be creative with whatever comes out of the marbling tray. You can see their work at “The Art of Fabric,” follow their adventures on their blog, and watch their updates on Facebook.

  

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41 comments

  1. What a useful article!
    I design and sell crocheted flowerpots, very niche market! They sell well for Mothers Day and birthday gifts, but I was recently in hospital and was shocked to find out that patients can’t have flowers at their bedside. SO, I found a new marketplace!
    I will now ask others for their ideas!
    Many thanks
    Christine Harvey
    Rose Cottage Crafts
    http://www.facebook.com/rosecottagecrafts

  2. Btw your fabrics would be great for covering notebooks!
    Many thanks.
    Christine Harvey
    Rose Cottage Crafts
    http://www.facebook.com/rosecottagecrafts

  3. I create glass bird beads, with the obvious market being for jewelry making. But recently, I’ve started working them into ceramics, table lamps and plant stakes. I’ve got a bunch more ideas, too. Great points in your article and particular applicable to ‘supply’ sellers, like us.

    • Elise – another market to consider is art quilters. We do a lot of embellishment on our fiber, and your glass bird beads could be a great addition. I’m actually looking for glass fish for a new project. Check out some of the art quilting magazines, like Quilting Arts, for some more ideas.

  4. Wow! How did you get started with marbling?

    • 20 years ago I saw a book on marbling and thought the fabric would be great in quilts. Took hubby about 3 months to be able to find all the supplies. After we dropped that first piece of fabric on the design, we were hooked! You can go to YouTube and look at amazing videos by Turkish marblers.

  5. Very useful article. Thanks for sharing your expertise.

  6. Truly beautiful fabric (I think it would make an adorable skirt) & great thoughts. I’ve recently begun putting uses in my descriptions & tags. In the past I’ve also used the thumbnails. It’s time to add more, thank you for the reminder! I think it helps buyers to visualize how they would use each item.

    • Thanks for the kind words. I like your idea – we usually put care codes in with pieces of fabric….I think I’ll expand on that idea and included other uses.

  7. Great advice with the ‘elevator pitch’ I believe this is one of the best marketing tips I’ve read in a while :)
    Thanks!

  8. I make and sell handknit shawls. I work the local craft fair circuit during the Spring and Fall and I thought my target market was ladies who lunch, but then teens have been questioning my stuff with your question,”What is that? and What am I supposed to do with it?” When I showed them how shawls are traditionally worn, a couple of the girls really got into it, and showed me how they saw the shawl. And now I’ve got some very modern, fresh looks for my product. I liked your article, it hit home with me. Thanks.

    • That is such a great idea! Get some to pose with the shawl, and then get the pics up on your blog or online. Ask some of them to model for you at a craft show.

  9. “Elevator pitch”; perfect! I’ve been struggling with a one line tag line, or pitch, for awhile now, so now I’m motivated to get one created. I really like how you’ve stated this for us; from a seller’s point of view, and one this seller can understand without a hitch. Thank you for sharing, and beautiful fabric!

  10. That fabric would make awesome wallpaper. I don’t know if you could make it cost effective. I’m sure there are people who would buy your fabric to cover at least one wall.

    • oooh, what a great idea! Right now we don’t (actually, can’t) do large yardage, but we have looked in to printing fabric in China. There is this big problem with intellectual property that’s keeping us from moving ahead with it. I am trying to work out repeats (not an easy thing with marbling) to see about licensing the design – which would work with wall paper. Thanks for the idea!

  11. Great post, Linda! And, wonderful to see you over here! Look at all the comments you got already.

    I think your tips are excellent. I will have to think about what my niche is and how I can better package what I do…….. Thanks!

    • Thanks, Rachel! I’m hoping as I develop the articles around niche markets that I can send traffic TAFA’s way. And you know, so much of my success is because of what you have done with TAFA. Here’s hoping this is productive for all of us!

  12. I also think that the China move is risky. Property laws are different in China. Quality control is difficult if you don’t have anybody over there.
    Have you tried Europe ? My father used to have fabric made by old reputable houses in Europe. I know of Vlisco I think it’s dutch and Logan Muckelt in England. These are wax prints and may not work for you. But you get the idea. I don’t remember that he had much IP problems.

  13. Linda, have you looked into printing it through Spoonflower? They figure out the repeats for you, I believe.

    • I have, Sue, and overall haven’t been happy with the quality. The detail isn’t crisp. I have been playing with the repeats, and I can’t seem to get it so that the repeat is seamless. I do, however, get some really interesting secondary patterns. I’m going to put them back on my to-do list and see about talking to them directly. Thanks!

  14. Great checklist! I’ve gotta start thinking through them. Thank you so much, Linda! :)

    And very beautiful marbled fabric too! :))

  15. Found the checklist very useful. Saved for future reference too.. Thankyou.

    Now off to do some brainstorming.. :)

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