How to Create Custom Made Products for Your Business
These days, it’s important to leave a lasting impact on every customer that makes a purchase or signs up for a service. Competition is fierce, and people are no longer interested in buying mass-produced products or services from companies that only care about the bottom line, not personal connections.
Custom-made products – and even basic personalization efforts – can add a lot of value to your business’s offerings and help to draw in new customers while boosting retention rates across the board. However, few businesses know how to start making custom products from scratch.
Today, let’s break down how you can create custom-made products for your business regardless of your industry.
Custom Made Products – What’s the Appeal?
We live in an era where almost anything can be mass-produced and sent to market in record time. That’s great, to some extent. But when businesses need to shine and provide unique value relative to the competition, mass-market-ready products don’t always cut it.
Instead, more and more businesses are turning to custom-made products and premium offerings that they can provide their clients, customers, and even their employees.
That’s because custom-made products offer something that mass-market stuff just can’t match: connection.
There’s a big example seen in the Coca Cola marketing campaign, “Share a Coke.” It’s a simple campaign through and through: all it involves are different Coke bottles that are labeled with common names and sayings. Yet even this minor burst of personalization drove up sales significantly as people looked for Coke bottles that had their names or the names of their friends and loved ones on them.
People love personalization and customization. They enjoy feeling like their brands and favorite businesses speak to them and value their patronage above others. Customers also appreciate it when brands create products that are custom-made for their unique pain points or requirements.
It’s all about creating value for your customer that only your brand can bring.
Personalization vs Customization
Before we get into the details, let’s clear up one possible point of confusion: the difference between personalization and customization.
Personalization is a little more niche and person-specific than customization. It involves forging a connection between you and one particular customer or client. For example, personalization as a marketing strategy might manifest as:
- making stickers that customers can place on their products with their names on them
- Coke’s aforementioned Sharing campaign
- sending out marketing emails that have customer names in the salutations or goodbyes
- even algorithms that use previous browser activity to suggest certain products is a form of marketing personalization
In contrast, customization means delivering wide market goods or services that are specifically designed or modified from a previous product to meet a certain customer need.
For instance, a customized car for the handicapped might have different controls compared to regular automobiles that are designed specifically to help them get around and enjoy the freedom and luxury of their own car.
Note that your business can both create custom-made products for the purpose of personalization and customization. But it’s important to know which you’re trying to make when designing your product or looking for agencies.
Are Custom-Made Products Worthwhile for Your Business?
Absolutely. These days, most markets are heavily competitive, and business bottom lines are tighter than ever. It takes distinguishing factors to make your brand stand out from all of your competitors, and people generally stick with brands that they feel connected to.
Custom-made products can provide you with that connection better than any other marketing or advertising campaign can hope to match.
Potential Difficulties With Custom-Made Products
This being said, custom-made products do take substantially more resources compared to mass-market products that you can turn out and provide to the majority of your target audience. Furthermore, some custom-made products can distract from your core business model. You have to be sure that custom-made products are financially feasible before pursuing them in earnest.
You’ll also need to consider how you’ll gain the information necessary to make smart custom products for your clients or customers. Will you use a quiz or questionnaire to learn what people want in their custom products? Or will you use big data analytics to accomplish the same goal? It’s ultimately up to your resources and personal direction, but it’s a question you should ponder before moving forward.
You should also plan how to execute your customization or personalization campaign. If you do it poorly, you could accidentally annoy your customers and cause them to feel disengaged rather than newly connected to your brand.
Perhaps more than anything else, customers dislike companies who seem to fake connections just to get them to buy more things.
Ways to Create Custom-Made Products
There are three main ways you can create custom-made products for your customers. Let’s break them down one by one.
Design Them Yourselves
You can always try to design the products yourselves. This is necessarily limited to industries where this is feasible – for example, maybe your small business involves making pottery or dishes, so creating custom-made products is already a big part of your business model.
If you create cars, however, custom designs might be a little trickier if there isn’t enough of a financial reward for doing so. You’ll also need to determine whether you have the materials to make the custom designs work or if you need to hire outside help.
When designing your own custom-made products, remember the above-mentioned challenges:
- figure out how to get the information needed to successfully personalize or customize a product
- make sure that the personalization process is painless for your customer
- don’t go forward unless you have the financial or labor resources necessary to do the job
Use a Design Studio
You can alternatively hire a premium design studio to create custom merchandise, gifts, or other products for your brand. One great example is us at Harper + Scott: a New York and Guangzhou-based design and sourcing studio that specializes in providing branded merchandise and premium products.
In our case, you’ll partner with us to provide the basic gist of what you’re going for. High-quality agencies like Harper + Scott then do most of the tough work by coming up with practical and specific ideas and executing on approved plans to create customized products that are perfect for your unique needs.
Design agencies like Harper + Scott offer a streamlined, professional experience that may be more feasible if you have the funding and time for some iteration.
Given that clunky customization efforts can come across as pandering or lower customer engagement, you may wish to go with a professional service just to make sure that your personalization attempts are successful the first time.
Offer Basic Personalization Instead of Deep Customization
But you don’t necessarily need to have tons of time or money in order to offer some basic personalization features for your customers. Rather than creating totally custom products for each individual order, you can offer much more manageable and scalable personalization add-ons for a profit.
For instance, you can customize your products by offering personalized packaging, like gift bags or eco-friendly wrappers. This personalizes customer experiences and can help connect people to your brand even if the wrapping doesn’t call them out by name. This may be a good choice for really small businesses that offer smaller goods, like hand-made trinkets or food items.
You might also consider creating a lot of labels or stickers that can be used for temporary product customization.
With equipment as basic as a printer and some software, you can easily accept customer orders for personalized stickers that can later be placed on products or on packaging prior to shipment. You can even use the same technique for your marketing campaigns (if you produce physical marketing materials, of course).
These customization efforts might seem barebones, and they are when compared to the above two options. But they can also be great ideas for small businesses that don’t have a lot of space for more dedicated or in-depth customization efforts.
Some personalization is arguably better than none, provided you execute it correctly. Again, custom-made products – even those whose customization extends to a simple sticker on the bag – have a greater chance of connecting a customer to your brand for long-term retention than products made by companies who give each customer the exact same thing.
Ultimately, custom-made products can be one more way to distinguish yourself from your competitors and engage your customers for long-term satisfaction and repeat business. However, make sure that you consider your options for custom-made product creation carefully. It’s often a better choice to go with a professional design agency than it is to try to make your own custom products from scratch without the right experience or equipment.
Still interested? Contact us at Harper + Scott today, and feel free to ask questions about the process. We’ll be happy to talk with you about potential product options.