I got an email the other day from someone who was considering purchasing my Magical Molly & Bronco Ben hobby horse pattern. This potential customer asked me how much I thought it would cost to make a hobby horse using the pattern. At first my reaction was, “Come on, can’t you figure that out? It’s 3/4 yards of fleece, a fat quarter of quilting cotton, some stuffing, and a dowel!” But as I started thinking more carefully about this question of cost, here is what occurred to me:
Each new customer is looking at listings with something unique in mind. When you write Etsy product descriptions, or draft a blog or Facebook post about a new product, keep in mind the different sorts of customers who will encounter what you’ve created. Here is my breakdown of potential customers for my sewing patterns:
The Gift Giver
Some customers are buying the pattern in order to make a toy for their own baby or child and, thinking ahead, they may make a few more to give as gifts. For this customer buying the pattern is a hobby purchase. They like the way the toy looks, they think it might be at their skill level to sew the toy as long as they had good instructions and step-by-step photos, and they are probably willing to go to the fabric store, or shop online, for something pretty to sew it up in.
The Handmade Business Person
Yet another customer may be gearing up for a craft show, church bizarre, or a busy holiday season in their own Etsy shop. This customer is searching for a unique, attractive pattern that will enable them to sew toys at a reasonable price and then sell those toys successfully. For this customer, like the one above, the cost of the pattern is an investment in the future of their business. If the toys sell well, they can make a lot of them and easily make up the cost of the pattern. The huge array of Dolls & Daydreams sellers are a great examples of these customers.
Another customer may be
interested in beginning their own sewing pattern business. This customer
is related to the Handmade Business Person, but may have no intention of sewing the toy. Instead they are curious about how
the pattern itself is written, photographed, formatted, and priced.
Before I began selling PDF sewing patterns I was this customer. I bought
several patterns from different Etsy sellers as part of my research.
Granted I’m kind of unusual and this may be a small customer base in the
grand scheme of things.
The Make Something From Nothing DIYer
Yet another sort of customer is more in line with the old-fashioned notion of making your own toys. This person would like to make something creative and fun for a child at very little cost. For generations people have made toys from leftover things around the house and barn. Rag dolls are made from rags out of the rag basket, after all, and corn husk dolls from husks found on the barn floor. Toy pattern that highlight the possibility of resuse and upcycling appeal to this customer. A description such as, “To make this cuddly teddy bear you’ll need a 1/2 yard of fleece or an old fleece sweatshirt,” would peak their interest.
What started out as a simple question in an email pushed me to think more carefully about the profiles of my customers. Going forward I plan to think about each of these customer types,
gearing new patterns and pattern descriptions to appeal specifically to their interests and needs.
Do you ever fit into one of the customer profiles above? If you do, share with us how you think when you are considering purchasing new supplies such as a sewing pattern.
Are there other kinds of customers that I’m missing? How would they approach a possible pattern or supply purchase?
Rachel L. says
I think about this a lot when writing my descriptions for my Etst listings! I try to frame the description in terms both for a person buying a doll as a gift for a young child AND for the adult collector ( and several other demographics in between). It is definitely a challenge to cover all bases! I love that you’ve sat down and named the different groups and thought about and written down their needs and perspectives. Such a valuable practice that I’m going to have to try!
It sure is tricky to appeal to everyone. It helps to have multiple listings so that you can cater them to different customer profiles. That way you shop has wide appeal.
Melissa H says
This is a useful way to look at it, especially since I bought a pattern as a researcher checking out both Craftsy and your work. Any minute now I’m turning into a gift giver as babies keep arriving on the scene in my little world 🙂 thanks as always for your posts!
Awesome. You bring up a good point for me that the same person can be a different kind of customer at different moments in time. I hope you like the pattern you bought! And Craftsy's interface, too!
Caren Adams says
I don’t sell patterns, but I just started selling finished toys this summer. I was just thinking over this problem, because I have had so much demand for dolls as opposed to other types of softies (and I only had one doll listed for sale, so I’ve had to make several custom orders). It seems that grandmothers are my main client, as opposed to mothers or friends of mothers. The question now is “how do I better serve the grandmother market?” and the immediate answer is simple: make more dolls (maybe different types), and see what sells!
I agree that you could do a nice business there, Caren, especially in person at craft shows. At the same time you have to really want to make dolls and dolls that appeal to grandmas. If that's interesting to you, go for it! And if it's not then you could keep developing your other toys until the appeal to the market you're after.
Jody Herbert says
I think I fit into all your categories! I started off wanting to use up fabric scraps I had and make them into toys for my kids. The kids just loved what I made for them and these toys soon became their favourites. This then led me into making toys for their friends as birthday presents and gifts and then I had their parents and teachers at school asking if I would take orders for toys. I then started designing some of my own toys and developing and selling the patterns. So now I buy patterns for several different reasons. Research is one reason – as I like to get an idea on how different designers write and present patterns, to make and sell the toys at Makers Markets and custom orders, for me to make as gifts for friends and family and as birthday presents for the kids friends, and also for presents for my own children. I think it is a good idea looking at the differnt types of customers you have and making the patterns to suit these customers. When I look at a pattern that I can make a toy from to sell at a market for example – I look for something simple, easy and quick and relatively inexpensive to make so I can sell it for a reasonable price. It also has to appeal to someone that would be at a makers market – so I focus on items parents, friends, grandparents would buy for young children and babies. When I look for a pattern as a gift for one of my kids friends or for my own children – I look for something that would appeal to older children and it can be more detailed and take longer to make. I also don’t mind spending more on fabrics and will go to the fabric shop specifially to buy fabric for that pattern. For my custom orders I try and use fabrics from my stash but will also buy fabric that the customer wants and these patterns need to be reasonably easy to make and cost does play a big part in the choice of pattern here too.
Sugary Flower says
I agree with some of the other comments above – I think that one person can often fit into several of these categories at once, or be in one category but thinking of branching into another. At the moment, I’m probably mostly a gift-giver, but any patterns I buy are certainly with a view to possibly selling some of the toys I make in the future. Plus, I am quite interested in designing my own patterns – not particularly to sell the pattern itself, but just for my own use, so that my handmade toy is unique to me.
Hi Jody –
I think you are on to something – one customer can have several of these profiles at different moments in time. This emphasizes to me the importance of having a varied set of products and patterns available, and also of varying the descriptions of each product, to appeal to every sort of customer, hopefully multiple times. Thank you for sharing your perspective.
I hope you do delve in (or further in) to designing your own patterns. That is what I truly love!