Why you aren’t making more sales (and how to fix it)

“Why am I not selling more?”

This is the single most-asked question that makers anguish over. The specific reasons are complex and unique to every situation, but let’s tackle the underlying problem of why you’re not selling more (and how to fix that). The answer is that you’re making a mistake that most small businesses make, and it’s exhausting you, without being effective.

It’s so simple:

The problem isn’t that you are doing something wrong, or that your product sucks, it’s that you are trying everything. Your actions are scattered and chaotic, so your results are muddled and ineffective.

(It’s possible you have the opposite problem, that you’re not selling anything because you’re not trying anything and you’re just waiting for sales to stream in. But if you are motivated enough to be reading this blog … then you’re likely trying a LOT of different things.)

We all want to find the simple solution. We want the magical unicorn to tell us the ONE thing that we can do that will change our business (and our lives!). So we try a bit of everything. Maybe it’s Twitter, maybe it’s Instagram, maybe it’s an email list. Maybe it’s a new product, or a new show, or a new wholesale account.

Sadly, there are no magic unicorns who hold the solution.

There is no one thing that you can do once to fix your business.

Instead, build a stable foundation of clarity, profitability, and focused action…then build systems for sharing your work with your Right People. Over time, performed consistently, this builds strong, sustainable, profitable businesses.

Not as inspiring as magical unicorns, right?

If you’re suffering from chaos and scattershot ineffective marketing, here’s how to fix it:

1. Get your house in order.

You need to have your house (i.e, shop) in order, before you start inviting people (i.e, marketing) over to it.

To get your business ready, be sure you have:

  • A selection of items in your shop (this depends on your products, but most sellers see increased sales the more items they have available)
  • Great, clear, descriptive photographs
  • Clear, error-free and engaging descriptions

2. Get clear on your goals.

Orient yourself in where you are right now and where you want to go, both in the big picture and in the near term. Most of the makers I talk to are really great at doing one or the other: They can picture their business in 5 years when their business is huge, but they have no idea where they want to be in three months. Or, they know the next thing they want to do (like make $200/mo), but they have no idea where it’s all going, what the big picture is.

You need both the big picture and the next steps because you can only move towards your goal if you know what they are and the in-between steps. But if you only focus on the short term, you may make decisions that take you away from your Big Picture Ideal Business. For example, you may choose to take on a project, to meet your short-term goal, that takes you away from the work you really want to be doing.

3. Check your math.

You need to make sure that you can actually achieve the goals you set. In other words – does the math work out? I have to admit, I’m NOT into doing math, or talking about money…but I can’t believe how many super-successful makers – those with books and press, whose shops sold out … have told me that weren’t making any money. You can avoid this fate by doing the profitability and pricing math.

4. Align your actions with your goals.

Once you know where you wanna go, and you know that your goal is reachable (because, profitability), then you can focus on the marketing and try some of those strategies.

But don’t do everything, pick one thing at a time.

What to pick?

Start by answering these three questions:

  1. What is special about my work?
  2. Who does it serve? Who will love it? (These are the people you want to reach!)
  3. Where and how I can best communicate the sparkle of my work, with these specific people, in a way that impacts my goals?

For example, if you want more traffic and make beautiful art for busy moms – develop your email list and send emails with beautiful photos.

Once you choose the tool you’re going to focus on, develop your plan and strategy. When will you post? How often? What kind of content? This is the time to put what you’ve read into practice – best practices, tips, tricks – choose one thing you’re going to change about your strategy and test it. After one to three months, revisit it – how did your experiment go? Did it cause progress towards your goals?

You see, there’s a systematic way to share your work with intention, to get more sales and grow your business. When you approach it in an organized way, things get much easier. You’re not constantly feeling pulled in a zillion directions and you’re not confused about what to do next.

Also, when you approach it with intention, it’s even easier test out new things and hold experiments. You can see a clear connection between the new thing you’re trying and increased sales. You can test out new tools or tactics and see a result.

My challenge to you is to look at what you are doing to increase sales, right now, and ask yourself:

  • Is this all in support of my main goal?
  • Do I have a foundation in place?
  • Am I consistent with my current marketing?

I’d love to know if your marketing is laser focused or chaotic. Leave a comment and let me know!


This post was written by Tara Swiger. Tara guides makers + artists in exploring their best business. She is the author of Market Yourself, a system for creating a marketing plan for sharing your handmade goodness.


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