This morning I had a great conversation with some business-y friends and I just have to share it with you, because it's the kind of question that gets asked a lot in the periphery. People moan about it on Twitter, they email about it and despair. But it's something nearly everyone experiences and it's time to bring it out of the darkness and into the light.
It's the Cricket Launch.
It's when people we love and admire have this experience we've seen over and over: super smart people create a program, a product, a service and they work hard on it, and then they launch it…to crickets. Nothing. No sales. Why?
Here are some of the reasons I've spotted in real life Cricket Launches:
- You don't have a business, you have a Thing you're into (a hobby, an idea, a passion) and you offer something that doesn't help anyone with anything they care about. You don't have a system in place to support the product, or for telling people about it, or for continuing to interact with it. (You can just announce: I have this thing! and expect it to continue to sell.)
- It's all about The Maker. MY process. MY stuff. Here's what I need in MY life, and I explain it (on the sales page) by telling MY story…but without ever translating that into YOU and YOUR stuff and YOUR life. (In other words, if you're solving a problem I didn't know I had = crickets)
- Not enough people hear about it. You can't launch something to 20 people and expect to sell out (well, you can, but those 20 people need to ADORE you, not just subscribe to your blog and never visit). However! You can start with nobody and open a shop and THEN build people (this is the difference between coaching/classes + physical products: you have to make the physical product FIRST and then make it available, and then find people. If you spend all your time “building an audience” you'll never make anything.)
So if you launch your handmade thing and you get crickets…that's ok! All is not lost! Keep making more stuff, keep putting it out there, PLUS start finding people are into it (How? By marketing it!)
- However! The Not Enough People thing isn't the biggest thing (even though everyone wants to obsess over that). The biggest variable (in the crafty businesses I know) is that people have to understand that you Do A Thing That They Could Buy. If I don't get that in the first 15 minutes I spend with you (which is, like, 8 hours in internet time), I'm not going to buy it. No one's going to buy it. This is really #2 all over again. I have to know you SELL it and get why I would buy it for ME (not why YOU make it.) If your website is all about your love of sewing, and there's not a clear link to your fabric shop anywhere, it doesn't matter what marketing you do – no one will know they can buy.
- You're only talking to each other. (This might actually be the Biggest Thing in some groups.) The internet is an echo-chamber, especially if you only hang out with one community of people. Your one group might be the forums on Etsy, or your knitting group, or even the Starship. If I only ever talk to my business-mentors group, I would never sell anything. I do the kind of work that isn't FOR any of them. It's for crafters who are in the awkward middle of their business, who want a accountability + feedback. So even though I check in with my mentors, I have to spend my time getting to know crafty businesses who have already started.
- If you only hang out in one group, you'll start coming up with a version of your Thing that will serve things people in that group, which might not be your best work, or your best next step. And you'll be limited to serving the people you already know (and that can make it awkward when they don't buy.)
- You know how I said that stuff about talking so your customers understand? Yeah, if you're speaking in your group's language only people who will know that language will get it. You have a better shot if you speak your language, but an even better shot if you make sure the words you use make sense to your really right person, not the language of some tiny community they don't belong to.
Well, that was bracing!
It's no fun to talk about the things that aren't working. But most likely, you've already experienced this. You've already felt crappy about crickets. And it's time to know that you aren't alone, and all is not lost.
In fact, it's the opposite of lost!
If you found yourself and your crickets in this list, you've been found! You've figured out what brought the crickets and you can figure out what will exterminate* them.
*It'll cheer you right up to say “Exterminate!” in your best Dalek impression.
There are lots of things you could do to rearrange, change, or improve on everything on this list. You can turn it on it's head. You can expand the group you hang out with online. You can translate your language into something your customers will understand. You can find out what your people really want, and give them that. You can get out of the echochamber and into another space, for even an hour a day. Just experiment.
Do you see your crickets here? What have you done to exterminate them?