Deborah Fisher of Fish Museum and Circus notifies customers of her ceramic batch releases in her newsletter.
New products and limited-release products both offer powerful marketing opportunities for small businesses. Promoting new products can lead to increased sales and generate excitement about a brand or business. New products bring customers back to the store, keep a business fresh, and promote engagement. Plus, loyal customers will always be interested in the latest product offerings. But does a new product also need to be a limited release to achieve all of these benefits?
New Versus Limited
By definition, a new product can simply be new. But limited-release products provide an opportunity to generate a unique sense of anticipation that is unlike the excitement new products may generate. The human response to scarcity can lead to an increased demand or a greater sense of value for a product. And it can be an excellent marketing tool to garner first-time customers, boost holiday sales, create more buzz on social media, and prompt other positive effects.
It’s worth noting that a limited release can also be as simple as taking a product and making it available only in-store, rather than online. Or it can be stocking a limited number of a popular brand’s items in the store. These examples play into the concept of generating buzz and creating a sense of urgency for an already existing product or collection.
Melissa Quaal from A Happy Stitch produces limited release collaborations with designers for her fun yet chic espadrille kits, like this exclusive design from Sallie Dale at The Urban Acres.
Ideally, a limited-release strategy should create short-term buzz, while building on the brand’s long-term desirability. Product listings or in-store displays incorporating the phrase limited release will help nurture the got-to-have-it, FOMO (fear of missing out) phenomenon. If it’s a product made by hand or manufactured by a popular business, the packaging should use this language to increase interest. Additionally, creating a hashtag and placing it on packaging encourages customers to share it on social media.
Great examples from large companies, like Starbucks’ bright red holiday cups and Nike’s signature shoe from Kobe Bryant, employ completely reimagined packaging that break from the norm. This packaging fosters a sense of collectability.
On a smaller scale, an indie yarn dyer can create seasonal colorways carrying limited-release language on the packaging. Or a pattern designer can create a limited-edition design only available for a specific time with special product messaging reflected in the packaging.
Small Batch Makers
Some makers’ offerings rely on small batch production. They are making items by hand, sometimes as a one-person shop, which restricts their output. In this case, the limited release strategy is not intentional, but instead dictated by the natural confines of handmade production.
A great example is the whimsical ceramics and pincushions from Fish Museum and Circus. Deborah Fisher, who helms this one-fish shop, makes all the ceramics by hand. Her work has many collectors, and her customers know that when a batch is available for purchase, they better be ready.
She has an ecommerce store and a social media presence, but her customers know they need to be on her mailing list to receive notifications when a new batch is listed for sale. As she posts process videos and images on Instagram, her message is clear: sign up so you can be notified when the new items are ready for purchase. And her customers’ responses are just as clear; the pieces sell out within minutes.
“I post some things on social media, but my email newsletter is my most important marketing tool,” Fisher said. “The small batches of ceramics are listed on my website at specific times and dates. The only way to find out is to sign up and receive the email newsletter.”
While Fisher doesn’t consider this an outright strategy or part of a marketing plan, marketers would beg to differ. Whether it’s intentional or not, it works.
New ceramics listed on Fish Museum and Circus can sell out in minutes, so customers need to prepare by singing up for the newsletter ahead of time.
Other makers produce a limited number of products by design. Makers who work with other designers to create limited-product releases hit a collaborative marketing sweet spot. Melissa Quaal from A Happy Stitch produces limited release collaborations with designers for her fun yet chic espadrille kits, selling them under the banner of ‘Artist Series.’ In this way, she works with fabric designers and Sashiko, punch needle, weaving, and embroidery artists to create limited edition, sew-it-yourself espadrille kits.
The partnership creates a buzzworthy product for both collaborators—the artist in the series and Quaal as the seller of kits. The limited release is purely practical, as Quaal sources supplies to create the kits while the artist in the series produces a predetermined amount of material. This makes the product and selling cycle manageable. A bonus for Quaal is feeling connected to other artists while working on her business as a solopreneur.
“Every other month, I connect with an artist that works in a different medium,” Quaal said. “Then I make kits for others to enjoy the process while working with these exquisite materials.”
She has a website that links to her Etsy shop for the kit sales (and houses a blog) and an email list for newsletters, but it’s her Instagram account that gets the credit for most of her sales. Gorgeous photos can still do wonders, even when the algorithm wants to be fed videos.
Her espadrille kits tap into the slow stitching movement of sewing garments and shoes yourself. It is satisfying and soothing all at once. This ideology, and lifestyle, creates a connection with people who are seeking the same. It’s a perfect approach for any brand that wants to remain authentic while successfully selling the right product to the right audience.
Product or Tool
The act of labeling, packaging, and positioning a product as a limited release offers an opportunity to create a strong marketing campaign around a particular product. Constricted by production limits, small batch producers generate products with innate limited-release marketability. Regardless of approach, using limited released products as a marketing tool renders the same result—successful sales for the maker.
contributor, Stitchcraft Marketing
Kristin Beck is a writer, fiber artist, and curator. As an award-winning marketing communications professional with exceptional ideation skills, she works with the Stitchcraft Marketing team as a freelance copywriter. A native Floridian, Kristin lives in Coconut Creek. Read more of her work at KristinBeck.com.