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283. Why People Aren’t Buying: Is it Your Product or Your Marketing?

283. Why People Aren’t Buying: Is it Your Product or Your Marketing?

Over the last few months word on the street is that sales are down and business is a struggle. And I’ve had some conversations with students, clients, and biz friends – some even here on this podcast  – I’ll stick some links in the show notes for you – helping you navigate through that and figure out your best next steps. 

And most of the time… the conversations we’re having are double-down on what’s working, be more consistent with your marketing, send more emails, talk to your customers, look at your data, etc.

And all of that is still true… please do all of that.

But I want to make sure you're asking the right question when you're digging into the data and analyzing the results…


The Importance of Product-Market Fit

Essentially, does your product satisfy a need or solve a problem that exists in the market?

Pretty straightforward right?

Last week, talking about website conversion optimization, Chase mentioned the importance of having a product people want. 

For the sake of that episode, I glossed over it, because I assume (something my mama told me never to do) that you have probably already proven that. 

If you’ve sold your product to multiple strangers on the Internet or in-person that don’t know you then there is a pretty good chance that you’ve got that or are on your way. 

But… the truth is, finding product-market fit isn’t a one-time event.

Why Product-Market Fit Isn't a One-Time Event

As your business grows, evolves, and matures,  as you release new collections and products, as you start reaching a wider audience you might notice that the product-market fit you were once so confident about seems to be eroding. 

That could look like a large or long-term sales slump, it could look like a decline in repeat business, or it might just look like a plateau where you can’t seem to get yourself to that next level. 

No matter how long you’ve been in business or what revenue level you’re at it’s possible something in your market and its connection or desire for your product will change. 

So if you’re struggling right now or do in the future, I want you to keep this concept of product-market fit in mind while you’re evaluating and trying to reinvigorate your business.

Struggling to Get Repeat Business

Take my student for example.

She started making candles in her mom’s kitchen last year and while it was slow growth at first, come Q4 when she joined the Lounge and started ads, her business started blowing up. In fact, she was doing so well she was able to quit her toxic day job and go full-time in her business. Very exciting. 

While the stars aligned for her during that time, when Q1 rolled around she started to struggle a bit. She was doing all the right things, but nothing was making a meaningful impact on her bottom line.

Customers left rave reviews for her candles, but not enough of them were turning into solid repeat customers. She tried focusing on increasing that first-purchase AOV by offering bundles, and that helped but not enough to make up for the lack of repeat business. She did full pre-launch events for her new scent collections, but the results were lackluster. 

While her ads continued to bring in new customers, all the optimization in her marketing efforts wasn’t translating into enough repeat sales. 

Then… it all changed. 

She launched a new collection of scents that were more in line with the vibe of her initial best sellers and boom, people were all over it. 

The other scent collections she had released were fine, they weren’t unique. And they weren’t at all what she had become known for. 

Once she released that new collection, her business became easy again. As easy as business can be of course. 

This is such a great reminder that you don’t need to be everything to everybody and why being known for something, why focusing on what you’re really good at, and what is unique to you is all you really need. She essentially just made iterations on her best-sellers and they were a hit.

Make It Easy for The Customer to Buy

The other big win she had… creating pre-determined bundles instead of build-your-own. While build your own always sounds like a good idea… at the end of the day – people need the mannequin. 

And if you don’t have build-your-own, there will ALWAYS be a customer who wants that – I’m usually that customer to be honest. But the truth is, pre-set bundles are likely to sell better. 

And hey, there’s no reason you can’t offer both. 

Losing Connection With Your Existing Customers

I had another client run into a similar situation last year too. We’ll call her AvaI know I talked about this somewhere on the podcast but for the life of me, I can’t remember what episode. 

Anyway, one of her ads went crazy viral last year bringing in a shitload of new customers and she sold a ton of this one particular pair of earrings. 

While having that sort of visibility and growth was great, they struggled to turn those customers into repeat customers after the fact. 

And they’ve got their marketing pretty dialed in. Great emails multiple times a week, strong social, launch events, etc. 

Even when they released a collection that had a similar vibe to the style that went viral… it was kind of a bust. It didn’t do well with their long-term loyal customers, and the first-timers were mostly checked out by then. 

After digging into the data and the engagement of those customers with them our mutual conclusion was that they’re really just two different groups of customers. The style was different than what her brand traditionally does, and those new customers just didn’t have the same connection with her brand as her OGs.

How to Determine If It's Your Product or Your Marketing

So… was it their product or their marketing? Technically, in these two cases, it was their product. Not the core of what they sold… it’s still candles and jewelry… but the vibe of those products. 

At the end of the day, they just didn’t fit with the market they were playing in. Does that mean they can’t play in that market or that they shouldn’t have those products? Not necessarily. 

And actually, the next steps for them were a bit different. 

For my student with the candles… she’s gonna just keep leaning into what she’s known for and capitalize on that. 

For the jewelry client, the idea was to test a few things to prove our theory. If the OGs weren’t resonating with the new collections, I recommended they create a mini-collection of items with materials they have on hand that had a more similar vibe to what they’ve sold in the past. They handmake a lot of things in-house so it’s not as big of a time or financial investment as it sounds. 

The second part of that is creating a special welcome series for the customers who come in from those ads on that product and be a bit more intentional on building a deeper connection with them so they’ll buy into the brand and what is stands for instead of just thinking of them as that place I got these really cool earrings. 

But… before we got to the place of its your product, there was a considerable amount of time dedicated to optimizing the marketing things.

Of course, this can be a fine line… and it’s hard to know exactly when to call it. You’ve got to give your optimization attempts enough time to produce results but in the words of Kenny Rodgers, you gotta know when to fold ‘em too. 

I like to give things at least 90 days before throwing in the towel, but it’s also dependent on how much traffic and eyeballs you have. You might be able to see meaningful results in 30 days, especially if you’re running paid ads. 

If you do suspect it might be a product issue, consider testing that theory before you invest in materials or time to make something. 

I was chatting with another candle maker recently and she was toying with the idea of releasing some scents that were a bit out of her comfort zone or a little bit different than what she normally does. 

If she’s listening to this episode she’s probably thinking shit, maybe I shouldn’t do that – but my advice still stands. 

Run a pre-order. There’s no better way to validate your audience wants something than to ask them to buy it before you even make it. Sure, there are some logistical things you gotta manage like making sure they understand when it’s going to ship and keeping them in the loop, etc. but it’s not nearly as scary as it sounds. 

And if you don’t get enough orders to make it worth it, just be honest. There wasn’t enough interest in this and we won’t be producing it. Refund their money and give them a discount off their next purchase. 


Moral of the story. Your job as the CEO of your business is to always be evaluating your place in the market, if you have product/market fit, and making sure that your messaging is in line with what you’re selling, who you’re selling it to, and why they’re buying from you. 

This is likely going to change over time based on how your brand changes and how your customers change. And what that change looks like is going to depend a bit on your business and what you sell. In the jewelry case, the brand was evolving a bit beyond their existing customer base. For the candles, she just went a bit too wide with her scent assortments. For others’ your customers are going to age out of your product. 

All of this is completely normal and part of the evolution of business.

Listen to the Episode


00:00 Introduction and Welcome
02:04 Current Market Challenges
02:37 Understanding Product Market Fit
04:28 Case Study: Candle Business
06:55 Case Study: Jewelry Business
10:23 Strategies for Testing Product Ideas
11:23 Conclusion and Final Thoughts

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Jessica as a Guest
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I support scrappy female entrepreneurs with actionable steps & strategies to grow and scale the traffic, sales & profit in their eCommerce businesses. 

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