Do you think you know your customers? The ones that have already bought your artwork and the ones who potentially might become your customers one day? And please, don’t say your products are perfect for everyone…
It is very difficult to promote your products and your business in general if you don’t know who your customers are. Some business owners resist the idea of defining a target market because they want to be able to sell to everyone. They feel such a definition would limit their audience and reduce the number of potential customers that might walk through their door. The truth is that business does not work like this. Without the knowledge of your customers you might be spending your effort on selling sand to the Arabs. Sometimes it might work but it wouldn’t make much sense, would it?
So. It has been decided, target market is something you must define before you can even dream of being successful in your business.
Everybody means nobody
If your products are for everybody, they are for nobody. Even Apple products don’t suit everyone, do they?
Same counts for your marketing activities: if your message is not targeted for specific audiences (your potential customers), it is very unlikely to be seen as useful or interesting by those audiences. Both your products and your promotional content have to be tailored to your audience’s expectations and needs.
Limiting your market might seem a bit crazy but in fact this way you can focus your efforts on the people that are most likely to spend money on your product. When you have your niche defined it will become easier to present the benefits of your products to the audience because your products fit their style and/or lives. The market will still be large enough to bring you a good income and you will be able to build up your position in that market as you are very clear on what you provide.
New business owners sometimes start with targeting everyone as they hope they eventually will find someone interested in their products. This is not the right attitude as the costs of the promotion will result in very little response. To make your marketing efforts successful you have to tailor your campaigns in such a way that they will reach those most likely to buy. As an artist you are looking for people who appreciate handmade AND can afford it. Don’t waste your time and money trying to reach those people who love your product but have no money. As much as they might love what you make, they won’t buy it anyway. And guess what? The ones who do have the money but are not too crazy about handmade (or your products in particular) will not buy it either.
Less is more (and narrow is better than broad)
While it certainly must be a very nice feeling to know that your potential customers count in billions, it is better (and healthier) to be realistic. Wishful thinking will not get you anywhere, you have to accept the fact that the number of people who might wish to buy from you is quite limited and understand that it actually is not a bad thing at all.
It is important that you understand why narrowing your target market is crucial in order to make your marketing efficient. It is all about finding your ideal customers who will be true fans for your products. It’s also about realizing that there is a huge difference between a true fan and a Facebook fan or a Twitter follower.
Your true fans are those people who not only follow you on your social media channels but also are really interested in hearing all the news from you and waiting to see your new product information, special offers, sales announcements and so on. They are also the ones who can turn into your loyal customers at some point. This is why you want to know who they are and what their problems are so that you can accurately guess their needs. Then you can approach them with well tailored promotional content as well as with products that meet their needs and/or tastes.
And remember: the more you narrow down your target market, the more efficient your marketing efforts will be.
Defining your target market means finding your ideal customer
A target market is a group of characteristics and not an actual person but personalizing it might be very helpful. It is a good idea to make up your ideal customer who will be representing all the characteristics of your target market, as long as you do it right.
- Define your ideal customer in as much detail as possible. Think of their gender, age, relationship status, education, job, hobbies, places they like to visit, their favorite music, etc.
- Make sure the person is realistic. A witch living in a house on chicken feet and flying a broom is not a good idea, while a housewife driving a sports car might be.
- Make sure the characteristics of the person make sense for your products. Don’t come up with a woman allergic to metals when the most important items in your repertoire are big copper bracelets.
- Keep in mind that you are not limited to one target market only and it is better to have more ideal customers defined in detail than just one sketched out very roughly.
- Remember that defining your target market does not mean that people from outside of that group will never buy from you. But they will stay occasional buyers rather than become your loyal clients.
IN CASE YOU DON’T KNOW WHERE TO START YOU CAN START HERE
- Think BENEFICIARY. Who will benefit from your product? What problems/needs do they have? How your product will help to solve the problem? In what way will it meet the need?
- Think BUYER. Who your product appeals to and who will eventually buy it? Hint: quite often the beneficiary is not the buyer at all (i.e. baby clothing and accessories usually are not bought by the babies themselves).
- Think GENDER/AGE. Will your product be mainly for people in a certain gender/age group? Sometimes the answer to this question might be not so obvious, but don’t worry. If your product fits people in more than one group, each group can be personalized separately.
- Think RELATIONSHIP STATUS. Sometimes the relationship status doesn’t really matter, but if you are making bridal jewelry or wedding accessories, for instance, you don’t need to address people who have been happily married for 35 years and have no children who would be getting married soon.
- Think FAMILY. Do your customers have children? Or many brothers and sisters? Elderly parents? Are they family people loving to spend time with all their uncles, aunties, grannies, nieces and nephews?
- Think FRIENDS. Do your customers have a lot of friends and/or colleagues? Do they meet often? Do they go on vacation together? Do they buy a lot of gifts for each other?
- Think LOCATION. Where do your customers live? Will your product be suitable for people in larger metropolitan areas, or for those living a quiet life in the countryside? Is it for local people rather than for those living in foreign countries? Are your customers in warm or cold places? These are all things you should consider.
- Think PROFESSION/JOB. Are your customers professionally active or are they retired? Maybe they are on maternity leave? Or not working at all, just taking care of their households? Are they office workers? Teachers? Coaches? Gardeners? Artists? Company owners?
- Think INCOME. This is an important one. You don’t want to waste your efforts on addressing people who will not be able to afford your product, do you? So you have to be realistic as to the income range of your customers. Hint: range does not mean the bottom line only. Very rich people quite often are not interested in buying cheaper things, you have to realize that.
- Think HOBBIES. How do your customers spend their free time? If you are making board games people spending all their free time on gardening will not be your best buyers.
- Think STYLE. What do your customers wear? What houses do they live in? What do they drive? What pets do they have? Where do they go on vacation?
- Think EXPENSES. What do your customers spend money on? Travels? Home decor? Clothes? Toys for their children? Musical instruments? Art? Gifts for their family and friends?
- Think GIFTS. Will your customers buy your products as gifts? How much are they willing to spend on a gift?
- Think PLACES. Where do your customers like to hang out? Do they go to a cinema, a theater, Chinese restaurant or to an Irish pub? Do they read fancy magazines or blogs? What type of blogs and websites are they looking at most often? It is important to be realistic and quite precise here as the places where your customers go. They will be the best places to advertise your products.
- Think TIME. What times of day do your customers browse the internet looking for something to buy? What days? What months or seasons? The times where your customers are busy checking your shop or website will be the best times for you to post new items and offers.
- Think WHATEVER. Whatever relevant, that is. If you are making religious items, your customers’ religion might be important. Or their tastes, if you are selling cakes and cookies.
How to use the information on your target market
If you think that the moment you know your target market you can sit and wait for the customers to come and knock on your door, you are going to be disappointed. Having your ideal customer personalized and your target market defined is only the start, now you have to take care of it. It is very important to take a proper care of your market and keep them happy, this is the only way to keep customers loyal to your business. If you keep your target market’s needs in mind at all stages of planning, designing, creating and marketing you will be surely rewarded in a growing number of sales.
- APPROACH YOUR CUSTOMERS IN THE MOST APPEALING WAY. Make sure your photography is absolutely stunning (if it needs some work read some TIPS ON CREATIVE PRODUCT PHOTOGRAPHY). Check and revise all your product descriptions, make sure they are tailored to suit your audience in the best possible manner. Be critical. Get rid of all the bits of description that will not captivate your customers (convincing someone to buy an exclusive product ‘because it is so very cheap’ is not a good idea at all). On the other hand, ensure that all the relevant and important information is there. Describe how your products fulfill and solve your customers’ needs and problems. Finally, write your copy in such a way that it will be appealing to the right crowd. You don’t want to use slang in a description of a very expensive and exclusive item that you advertise as a perfect gift for a respectable CEO.
- TAKE CARE THAT YOUR POLICIES ANSWER ALL THE QUESTIONS YOUR AUDIENCE MIGHT HAVE. Good policies are informative, fair and simple. Look at them from your customer’s perspective, think of the questions the customers might ask (or they already have) and provide the information up front. Once the basics are there don’t forget to explain what makes you and your products special and different from the others. It might be custom packaging, materials that nobody else uses, your own techniques, or extraordinary design.
- WRITE ENGAGING BLOG AND SOCIAL MEDIA POSTS. Writing posts for your social media you have to keep in mind your target market expectations. Write about what they want to read and in a way that will be engaging to your customers. If you sell supplies a DIY post might be a good idea, or one presenting projects done with the use of your supplies.
- USE YOUR MAILING LISTS WISELY. Use your mailing lists to draw people to your products as well as to your blog posts. And always make sure you mail the correct group of people. Having more than one target market defined you should consider dividing your mailing list in parts. Ensuring that people don’t get emails that are totally uninteresting to them is quite basic.
- BALANCE YOUR CONTENT.As much as your business is about selling, posting only links to your products is a bad idea. You have to find the right balance between the links and valuable (from your customers’ perspective) content. You also have to find the right balance between your business content and the more personal posts. Personal content is good as it lets your customers get to know you better but not many people interested in jewelry will be eager to read the tenth post on your kitten’s stomach problems. Really.
- BUILD ACTUAL RELATIONSHIPS WITH YOUR CUSTOMERS. Once your potential customers become your actual buyers you should start building relationships with them. Knowing your target market you know what are their interests, needs and problems. Use your social media to talk with your customers about things that matter to them. Learn how to listen to them and how to respond to their needs. As soon as they see you really do care, they will stay around and turn into your loyal customers forever. Or until they don’t need your products anymore.
- PLACE ADS WHERE YOUR CUSTOMERS WILL SEE THEM. Advertising can be tricky.You can advertise on some blogs and websites for free but before you do that consider if you are reaching your target market at all. You also have to be sure your products fit the place where they are presented. Not every free advertising option will be worth taking, think of the audience you might loose when they find out your high-end jewelry can be seen on a DIY blog for teenagers. It is easier to reach your target market with paid advertisement. However, you have to do good research before you spend your money. Find the websites and magazines with the best reach-to-price ratio. Make sure that you reach enough people without going bankrupt at the same time.
- GO WHERE YOUR CUSTOMERS GO. There are a lot of handmade fairs and art shows where you can present your work. Choose the ones where you can meet your ideal customers. Having a chance to talk to your potential buyers, hand them your business card, show how great your items are in real life is better than anything else. But it only works when you deal with the correct people so don’t waste your time and money on going to all the wrong places.
Important things to consider
Sometimes there will be people in your target market who won’t buy your products. It might be that your idea of your target market is not the correct one, but before you start redefining everything start with something simpler. Quite often finding answers to a few simple questions and slightly adjusting your product range helps to fix the problem.
FIND ANSWERS TO THESE QUESTIONS
- Are there people looking at your products but not buying them?
- Why are they not buying?
- Are your products missing anything important? If yes, can you fix this? What impact will this have on the prices?
- Or are your products simply too expensive? Could you come up with a slightly cheaper version of your product without going down in quality? Would using cheaper packaging allow you to bring the prices down?
- Is the waiting period for a custom order not too long? Is there anything you could do to make it shorter? Maybe you only buy supplies when somebody places an order? In that case having more supplies in stock should solve the problem. Otherwise, try to explain in your policies why exactly it takes so much time to make a custom piece.
- Are people feeling uncomfortable buying online? If so, go to more fairs and markets. Also, always put precise information on your website as to when and where your customers can find you.
You also can check your product descriptions again. Make sure they are clear, informative and friendly. If you have a feeling something is missing, add it. You also might consider adding links to other similar products in your shop, in case you haven’t done so already.
“Shoot for the moon and if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.”
It is a cool piece of motivation, isn’t it? Unfortunately, things usually don’t work exactly that way. There are no miracles in business, everything is hard work. If you count on landing on some star you should not be surprised when one day you will end up somewhere where you don’t want to be at all. Approaching everybody in the hopes of somebody buying something might result in huge disappointment. Really.
This is why finding your true target market is so important. The moment you know who the true fans of your product are and where to find them, you’ll stop praying for luck. Many problems will be solved as you will have a group of people who admire your work, are willing to buy from you and also spread the word to their friends and families. This will make marketing and selling much easier.