How to Go From Experimentation to Focus
- [Megan] Why a lack of focus really is a challenge for your business. First off, you're confusing your audience. Does she make jewelry or paintings or scarves or chairs or lights or whatever that thing is? It's confusing. The other problem with a lack of focus is often you're never diving deep enough to develop your own voice. So when you first learn how to make something, you usually learn how to make something by copying something else that's out there. I'm not saying that as a negative thing, I'm just saying that's how people learn. But you can't build a business copying from other people. First of all, it makes you a jerk. Second of all, it means that you're always a step behind. Coloring books are hot. Yes, this is in. I'm going to do that. I'm going to do that . And you're never diving deep into any of them to develop your own voice. And that's really essential for succeeding in business as a maker, is you need to have a strong voice. People spot my jewelry all the time, not bec...
ause it says, "This was made by Megan Auman," it's because I have a really clear voice. People send me a screengrab, "Hey, I saw your necklace on a newscaster." Cool, awesome. That's what makes you recognizable. And if you lack that focus, you aren't becoming known for doing one thing really well. Now, I know that some of you have a fear of getting known for that. There's some couple people who have this fear of success problems. What if it goes too well and I can't handle it? First of all, you get to set the rules of the game. So if you can't handle it, you could change it. "Sorry, I can't take any more orders. Oh, this is still a thing but my prices just tripled." There are ways to fix those problems of success. And you might be afraid that you're going to get pigeonholed into one thing, but we can fix that problem. We're going to talk about how to fix that problem in a little bit, but for now, this idea that you're not settling on one thing because you're afraid that you're going to get pigeonholed means that you never are getting known for one thing. And if you're known for doing one thing really well, people will then usually trust you if you do something else. Apple made really great computers, and then they were like, "Hey, here's this little box that plays all your music." Apple did not invent the MP3 player. They were just the first company that people trusted enough to buy it from. So if you do one thing really well, you can move on, but you need to start by doing one thing really well. When I say one thing, there's a couple of options here. A strong brand comes from a cohesive body of work. So one thing might literally mean one thing. You can build a strong brand with a single product. Freshly Picked moccasins is a really good example of it. I realized that this is a screengrab that does not show very clearly moccasins, but she basically makes one thing. They're baby moccasins. She uses different colored leather. She uses different pattern leather. Now, she sells a few more products, but basically, she makes one thing. She has 713,000 Instagram followers and millions of dollars of sales a year, and was on Shark Tank and she hustles. Have you ever seen an interview of her? She hustles and she's not a solopreneur anymore, but she started out that way. She started making moccasins on her kitchen table. She built success around one thing. So that's okay, but you also don't have to make one thing. Focus can also mean a cohesive body of work. So I make jewelry. There's a range in here. I have a couple different collections within my jewelry, but it's still pretty cohesive. Still looks like it was made by the same person. So the more you focus, the better you'll become at your chosen craft. This is from both like a speed and execution standpoint. The more you do something, the faster you get, probably faster at making bunnies. Yeah, I'm guessing you're faster at sewing your straps than you were when you first started. The more you do something, you get better at it, but you also just get better in terms of, again, honing that voice. So what do I mean by focus? Focus can look like a few different things. It might be material. It might be technique. It might be process. It might be subject matter. It might be type of product. There's something that pulls you together. So this is a good example, I think, of someone who is really, even though you might look at it and say it's an evolution, to me, there's still a strong focus here. So this is my friend, Amber Kane. She makes scarves. Sometimes she posts pictures of my jewelry on top of her scarf. She's a weaver. She has three looms in her house and she weaves scarves. Now she started doing more tapestry work. It's a different product category, but it's still the same focused process. So for me, that's not an evolution because she's not changing what she's doing. She's a weaver. So don't feel like it has to be so narrow that you don't have room in there, but it would be weird if she was like, "I weave scarves and now I'm going to make jewelry or I'm going to make clay pots," or something. That's not focus. But I'm a weaver and I make scarves. So I might also weave wall hangings that literally use the same yarns, the same colors, the same vibe. That makes sense. So does that make sense on how…looking a different focus. The other way you can look at focus is, does it appeal to the same audience? Is the same person going to buy it? The same person who's going to spend a lot of money on a really beautiful hand-woven scarf is also going to spend a lot of money on a really beautiful hand-woven wall hanging. So does it appeal to the same audience? You do not reach out to a million different people at once . Yes, you're going to have a few different ideal customer profiles, but that's still looking at basically the same audience. You're not going, "Okay, I'm going to have this product over here and it's for moms of little kids, and it's got cats on it. So my focus is cats. I'm going to make everything about cats. But this one sells to moms of little kids and then this one is my line of cats that appeal to hipster dudes." That's two very different audiences which means two very different marketing strategies. So just be cognizant in your focus that you're hitting the same audience. Sarah, you have some distinct audiences in yours, but your product is focused. So that still works okay in your case. - [Sarah] Yeah. I recently expanded into making handbag straps and that's been one of my most popular things recently because it's the same aesthetic as the guitar straps and the camera straps, and it's the same sewing, the same materials pretty much but a totally different product. - And I'm guessing too that in your case, you probably attracted a lot of people because you have this really great vibe so you're attracting a lot of people who love the aesthetic of them but don't play guitar and don't have a camera. - Exactly. - So that's a perfect example of taking the focus and just appealing to the audience that you're getting. So it's a great example. So how do you choose where to focus? So if you're in that experimentation phase and you're like, "It's time to go. How do I choose?" Really at the end of the day, you just pick something. So I am a really big "Friends" fan. I grew up watching "Friends." It's my favorite show. Chandler and Monica are my favorite couple ever. And there's this episode after Chandler and Monica are married where Phoebe brings over a guy that she swears is Monica's soulmate. And Chandler's, of course, freaking out because he's married to Monica. And Monica is like, "Well, I don't believe in soulmates." He's like, "You don't?" And she's like, "No, I believe that you pick someone and you work hard at it." I think the same thing is true about your craft. You don't have to sit there and think like, "Is this the thing that I was born to do? Is this my destiny?" You just pick one and you work hard at it. Truthfully, I probably could have become a painter. I probably could have become a fiber artist. I love all of those things. In the end, I picked jewelry. And for the most part, I just stuck with it. So often, I strayed a little. It's always been forgiving and let me come back. But you just pick something and you get to change your mind if you want. We're not actually marrying it. Two years from now, you decide that it's really not the right thing, you can change. But for now, you just pick something. So I want to talk about some strategies for developing focus. Man, there's a lot of text on that slide. Let's talk about these one at a time. So first off, give yourself a time frame. You don't have to commit forever. You know what? I'm going to focus on this thing for the next three months or the next six months. I don't have to do it forever. I'm just going to try out focusing for a while. Put away your other supplies. This is that question that Jordan had about, is it okay to do other things just for fun? It is but I would keep those supplies out of your main workspace. So if you're like, "Okay, I've been painting, and I've been sewing, and I've been making jewelry." Actually, that's what I was doing. Do you know how I went back to jewelry? I packed up all my paints and I put away my sewing machine because then it's really like, "Oh, I want to sew today." Man, I got to get it out. I got a clear space on the table. So if you're in focus mode, just put your other stuff away. You don't have to get rid of it, just put it in bins, stick it somewhere, out of sight out of mind. Again, when your designated period of focus ends, if you're like, "I really miss my sewing machine," then you get to get it back out. Go into isolation mode, and what I mean by that is unfollow other makers on social media. I know this one is really hard, but do you ever go on social media and you see someone doing something really cool and you get jealous? I follow a lot of painters on social media, and some days I'm like, "Oh, maybe I should get my paints out. Maybe I should just do that." If you can't resist that, just unfollow them. If it helps you, if you're like, "But I like them," make a list somewhere and when your focus period is over, you can follow them back again. But get rid of them. Get rid of the temptation. When you're in this period of focus, if you get bored, push yourself to dive deeper or learn a new technique within your focus area. So instead of being like, "Okay, I'm focusing on jewelry and I'm really bored so I'm going to go paint. I'm focusing on jewelry. I'm a little bored. What else can I learn or what else can I do?" Maybe it's you grab a book. Maybe it's you turn on CreativeLive and look for a class related to your focus. It's not, "I got one on CreativeLive and now I'm going to watch three classes about knitting when I'm supposed to be focusing on jewelry." Stay in your category, but push yourself to dive deeper. And then at the end of your time period, you get to revisit. You get to say, "Okay, this is working. Business is moving forward. I'm happy. We're good." Stay the course. Or, "This is not working. I'm not happy. Maybe it's time to evolve. Maybe it's time for some new products, but okay, my time frame is over. Now I get to do that." One of the things I have found is really that focus is a muscle, and I swear I read this somewhere and I really thought it was in Cal Newport's book, "Deep Work" which is a really great book to read if you're struggling with focus. But when I tried to search within the book, I could not find the sentence anywhere, and that was actually typing it into the search bar in my Kindle. So maybe he didn't say this but he definitely implied it. Focus is a muscle, it takes time to build up. And so that's why when you're starting out and you're going from experimentation to focus, maybe you don't pick, "I'm going to focus for a year," because you might not have the ability to do that. So you might start out with, "I'm going to focus for two months or three months or six months," and then when you get to the end of your time frame, you're like, "Okay, I focused on this for two months and that went really well and I'm still feeling it." It's like, "Let's go another two." Or like, "Building up the muscle, let me do three. I'm going to do four. We're going to now commit to this for the rest of this half of the year." So you can build up that way as well, but this is really what moves your business forward. This idea of focus. It's what helps your audience understand what you're doing. Now, I know what some of you are thinking like, "Really, really Megan, what if I can't truly focus? What if I just can't handle it?" In that case, you have a couple options. One, you pick a public focus for your business. You decide that this is what my business is about, and I'm only going to share this and everything else doesn't get shared. Maybe it gets shared on a private one, but it doesn't get shared on the business . Or technically, you can develop multiple brands, but I don't recommend this because then you're splitting your time. It's hard enough to grow one brand. It's really hard to grow two. It's really hard to grow three. Not talking from experience or anything other than this one, but it's really hard to grow multiple brands. Think about whatever audience growth strategy you're focusing on. Now, imagine having to do that multiple times. Imagine having to manage multiple Pinterest accounts or multiple Instagram accounts, or optimize multiple websites for SEO. It sounds like a lot of work. Isn't it harder just to maybe pick a focus or easier just to maybe pick a focus and commit for a few months? Because that's so much work. Any questions about focus? Jordan. - [Jordan] I have a comment. Just that that did work for me, just choosing one thing. And in some ways, I'm like, "Oh, did I choose the right thing? Is this the right…?" But you just choose the thing and you just run with it, and yeah, that does help. It really is achievable. - And you don't feel this awful sense of regret. Like, "Oh, so bad that I picked one thing and now…" That's what it is. We're adults, we make choices. Any other thoughts or comments? But yeah, so you just pick one. It doesn't have to be this life-changing decision that we want it to be. You pick something and you go with it. Matt. - [Matt] Yeah. I was like, "Okay, I'll do prints." And then for a little while, I did the Printful and I set up a whole store that was my prints on t-shirts and mugs and blah, blah, blah. And it was this whole thing and I spent way too long creating all these products. And then it was this huge way too big of a thing that I was like, "I don't even know how I'd market all this stuff." Like, "Oh my God, this is way too much work." I cut all that out and just focus on art prints because it's so much easier. - Right. And that's the thing. There's so many options. You really can now make all the things, but that doesn't mean you should make all the things. I think that's a perfect example. I think we have a question from our online audience. So I want to focus, but I crochet, so many do my craft. How do I focus and stand out with staying in experimentation? Erin, I think I'm going to try to get to the gist of what you're asking here. So I think in this case, what it sounds like is that you're still in a stage where you're trying to develop your voice. But I think if you're only crocheting, A, you're already kind of focused, but B, you might decide to really hit in on some specific things. So one of the ways to stand out is always to niche down. So if you are the crocheter who's like, "I make baby blankets, and I make hats, and I make scarves, and I make those fingerless gloves, and I make coffee cup cozies because every time you can put a coffee cup in an Instagram picture, it's good. I make all the things." That's not how you stand out. So you stand out by focusing in more. So maybe you're like, "You know what? I'm the person who only makes the fingerless gloves. And that's where you're going to know me for and you're going to come, and if you want something else, you can go to another crocheter. But this is the thing you're going to know me for." And so that's how you stand out, is actually by focusing even more. Jordan. - Sorry, can I add to that? - Yeah. - Just something I've seen other people do, if you're just trying to build your Instagram or your social media following but you're not really sure like, "Oh, I don't know what I'm knitting yet, or I don't know what I'm crocheting yet," choose a very definite color palette and just go with that. So even if you are fingerless gloves and then this thing and this thing, if they're all like pastel… - Or they're all like hot pink or something. - Yeah, that still looks cohesive. - That's a really good call, and that goes back to that visual vibe thing. So if you can pick a narrow color palette, you actually have a lot more freedom because everything looks cohesive and similar. That's a great suggestion. - Thanks. - I think we have a couple of comments as well. I am confusing my customers because the work I was making is priced much differently than the work I want to focus on. I'm also all over the place in terms of style. It is definitely hurting me. Jessica, it's a tough one because that is the reality. And so all the different kinds of style, that means you're going to have to focus a little bit. As far as the price point thing, that's actually something we're going to talk about moving forward because it is a definite concern. When you jump from one price point to another, it confuses your audience but it also means you end up losing some audience and having to go find a new one. And this can happen whether you have to change the prices of your existing thing because you realized you were priced too low, and we're going to talk about pricing so we're going to figure out if we need to do that. But it could also mean that you changed your line slightly and that required a jump in price point. And so it is confusing to your customer, but you can navigate that change in price point. It's the terms and style thing that really requires the focus. I think we have one more comment. I feel like I have a good line with a lot of room for experimentation while making. My problem is that I am not sure how to fine-tune my audience. I also have a second line that I would like to develop but not sure that it would go to the same audience, not sure how to focus myself to my audiences. So I think that's the thing. If you're trying to put in a second line and it doesn't go to the same audience, that's really, really tricky. That really calls for a second brand, and that's really hard to do. So what I would say is either figure out how to tweak the second line so that it's more cohesive with the audience you already have or you're going to have to go out and attract a new audience. But again, the thing with attracting an audience is that it's really about the consistency of your brand. So if you're trying to do something that works for everybody, you're like, "Well, I don't want to commit to something so I'm going to make the baby blankets and the fingerless gloves and I'm going to make cat things for moms and cat things for hipster dudes." That's when you attract all those different audiences because you're trying to do that, "I'm going to throw it all against the wall and see what sticks." So you just have to commit. Let me tell you guys something. When you commit, do you know what that means? Not everybody's going to like you, and that's okay. Not everybody is going to like you. Not everybody is going to like your product. They don't have to. None of us need mass appeal to build a successful business. We don't have to be Coca-Cola, and even they don't have mass appeal because half the population drinks Pepsi and I don't drink any of it. Nobody has mass appeal and you're not going to appeal to everyone. And when you try to, that's when you end up not being memorable. I always say vanilla brands never get raving fans which is a terrible rhyme and I did not intend it that way, but it happened and then someone else told me about something someone else said which was that the middle of the road is where you get killed. And I was like, "That is the right way to say that." You cannot sit in the middle of the road and try to decide, you've got to pick a lane.