Candle making and candle consumption is an ever-growing market. It’s good and healthy to have growing demand, but it also means that the competition becomes quite wild because the barrier to entry isn’t tricky!
The actions to boost a candle making business affect several dimensions that vary from narrowing down customers in specific niches, working on the whole candle making life-cycle optimization and understanding customers in-depth to craft practical marketing stunts.
It feels pretty intimidating, but it’s not – don’t worry. Many of the points below come from product management practices of tech startups (my full-time job) that I have simplified and conjugated to improve your candle making businesses!
Some of the following tips will require time and effort to implement, but they will certainly pay you off. Let’s get started!
1. Narrow down your niche
How would narrowing down increase my candle making business?
Good question, indeed!
Let’s consider the scenario in which you are approaching the candle-making market. Even if the barrier to entry is low – meaning that anyone can pretty much make candles – you will find it challenging to sell them because there is a lot of competition.
Narrowing down your niche means focusing on a specific and smaller segment of customers and starting conquering a tiny market segment by focusing just on that little niche.
This narrowing down approach is the step-in-the-door that you need to start growing your market share within the vast candle making industry.
Some practical advice:
- What’s the customer niche you are targeting for your candles?
- Is there a way to make it even smaller? (i.e. can you limit it to a specific area? a smaller age-fork, maybe 20-25 years old instead of 20-40?)
Please write down your thoughts on the current niche you are targeting and brainstorm ways to make it smaller.
When you found, tested, and validated a smaller niche, it might be time to bring “another step into the door” by slowly and steadily expanding the tiny niche. The thoughts you wrote down to narrow it will be helpful to make it slightly bigger.
As a rule of thumb, increase the market niche after validating your current one. For validation, I intend you to have recurring customers and actively sell a certain number of candles per month.
2. Get to know your customers
Did you actively speak with at least one of your customers last week?
It may sound silly, but it’s a habit you have to instil in your business routine.
Considering you have defined your small niche, it won’t be a task so challenging to perform. The main objective here is to gather first-hand info on the customer or prospect and understand what they do and like and how your candles can fit their personal activities.
Some practical advice:
- Get in touch with your customers and ask for a 15-30 minutes informal chat
- During the chat/interview, ask open questions and let your customer speak
- Don’t push to sell your candles. This is an interview to understand your customer better, not a sales call!
- Give some call to action or reward at the end (a reward could even be as simple as: would you like to be in the testing group of my new batch of candles?)
During the interview, take notes and try to gather as much as possible, ask about their habits in using candles and even some feedback about yours, but focus your chat on understanding some (maybe implicit) pain points – maybe long commuting and work stress, or too many kids and pretty much no time for self-love.
Knowing your customers will boost your entire candle-making business!
3. Merge Two Passions
Do you have other hobbies other than candle-making?
What if you could combine them?
Let’s say you like poetry, and you are part of a poetry group of hobbyist poets. What if you could create a series that combines candles and poetry in one neat package?
Maybe your candles can be inspired by poetry or vice versa.
By simply merging two hobbies, you create a unique value for your business, and you could even attract more customers (those interested in the second hobby: poets who love candles).
The tactic can even be used to develop new recipes – get inspired by what you love!
4. Customer Experience
From the knowledge gathered in the first points of this list, you should be in touch and aware of your customer needs. That’s great, congrats!
Now it might be time to optimise your customer experience. Basically what are the steps that customers make in order to burn your candles.
We want to map the entire user journey from cart to unpacking, but I would even extend it to from the first time the know about your candle making brand until the light up their first candle they bought from you.
To optimise the customer experience you can gather feedback using point 2 above – interviewing existing customers on how they found your brand or how they enjoyed your scented candles. In the interviews it might emerge a subtle hit to something to improve or an unmet expectation. Write down those points and consider them as things to improve.
Another thing you can do, in parallel with inteviews, is to write down the entire user journeys a potential customer might do. You are going to end up with a mind-map like flowchart and maybe it can shows some gaps or flaws within the map (i.e. maybe after the sales you might add a thank you email or a follow up after one week?)
If you are using third-party services for distribution or user acquisition, make sure that the connection with your business is flawless – a delayed delivery might distrupt the trust you built abdruptly.
5. Refine your craft
We haven’t really talk about the actual product that we are making in the first points of this list, because this should be quite your main prerogative, since the very start.
Refine your craft is more of a everlasting mantra to have in life, not only for candle making.
Many times we look at our craft made one or two years ago and we can easily see how with our talent we managed to create a better product. Take sometime and look at something you did in the past and what you are able to do now, be content and grateful of your improvements.
Now look at the product you currently make, and try to see if there are things that can be improved. NOTE: this point isn’t meant to encorage you to be perfectionist, we don’t believe in perfection, but in constant improvements.
Take one thing you want to improve or try differently in your next bach, maybe a different temperature or soy or scent, and try it out – keep a diary of the changes (always one at a time) and see the progress in time.
The best judge is always the market, so share your creations with your most friendly customers and get feedback. This is a cycle that you have to embedd in your habits.
6. Optimize systems
Often we spend a lot of time doing things that aren’t the most important ones to move our business forward. The inefficiency of some processes makes us losing the focus on the most important thing as candle makers: make candles that our customers enjoy, and grow a profitable business.
It’s key to optimize production systems as much as possible. Everything that can be simplified or optimised from gathering materials, preparing the processes to create candles, distributing our products and pushing our marketing material should be tried.
It’s not something that can be done overnight, but with experience and trials and errors.
The preparation stage might be the first process that you can optimize, after all it’s what you do everytime you make a new batch of candles.
Again for this process we might need to write down step-by-step what we do and study how we could improve this phase. If you have read this post about how we package candles you might understand how organization should be both spatial (everything at hand when it needs to be) and temporal (using waiting times to sort and prepare new phases).
Distribution and marketing are two processes that can be time-blocked in your calendar once a week. Use an entire morning to create content material to use for marketing, photos, copywriting and so on and post/schedule it accordingly for the upcoming weeks. There are plenty of apps that can help this phase, let us know if you would like a post about them.
Same with distribution, don’t go every day to the post office, just dedicate a day a week to go and ship all the candles in one go (communicate with your customers this policy and they won’t be upset!).
Everything can be optimized in time. Don’t overthink or overcomplicate processes, take your time and if you have an idea, as usual, test it, see the result, if positive implement it in your processes!
7. Find Testimonials
We’ve finally landed in the marketing bit of the post! Social media nowadays are oversaturated in any niche and it’s so difficult to emerge, it’s almost like (referencing point one of this list) having to conquer another market segment just to let people aware of your brand. Marketing in this social media era is frustrated for many, also because we are exposed only to successful stories and it feels like that you are a minority. Don’t despeare, that only the narrative they (IG, FB…) want to sell you so you would invest in ads and let their revenue grow for some visualizations.
Let’s get smarter, get testimonials instead of paying those corporates. Testimonials of any niche have a following, real people talking to real people, this is where we want to focus.
The good thing is if you have a narrow niche (point 1) or you merged two passions (point 3) the testimonial might be a friendly contact without intent to monetize on you! The best thing to do here, is to look at your niche or niches, shortlist people you like and you feel might be representative for your brand and get in touch, without arrassing them of course! Propose a gift or incentive for becoming ambassadors.
8. Create partnerships
While you grow your candle making business you will get in touch with plenty of businesses that source your materials, or distribute your candles. Partnerships might give a strategic edge to your business growth by lowering materials costs or lead times.
Of course a partnership is a win-win situation for the parties involved so you would need to find a way in which they can profit them as well.
Some possible scenarios:
- let’s say you are earning a stable monthly income throuhg candle making and you understand how/when to order more material (wax, containers, wicks, scents, etc.) what if you could contant the seller and create a retainer contract with them for a certain amount of material with a discounted rate. You’ll end up pay less money and they will get the money every month avoiding any cashflow surprises (win-win)!
- let’s say you are getting stronger on the marketing dimension and you have a good and trustworthy local following. What if you could get in touch with some local shops where you distribute your candles and ask them to order a monthly batch of your candles instead of giving your candles for free until they sell them? In return they can have weekly shout outs in your social channels or newsletter for the things they promote (win-win).
To wrap up this post, we look at a diverse spectrum of things you can act upon to boost your candle making business. If I should summarize it within a fancy tagline I would say something on the lines of: “focus on customers, refine your processes and make strategic marketing stunts and partnerships!”.