This post is a longtime coming for a reason. It’s very difficult to guide someone through the process of picking a target market (niche, ideal customer, etc.) without talking about the specifics of their situation. But it’s high time I break the process down as best I can to help you determine your target market on your own. DIY it, if you will. And find that pearl of a market in the midst of all those oyster shells.
1. Brainstorm – This is the stage where you write out all your ideas. Start by just asking yourself “who would be attracted to my art?” and writing down anything that comes to mind, whether it be personality traits, job descriptions, or demographics.
2. Narrow the Playing Field – Now we’re going to cross things off your big brainstorming list. You’ll want to take into account a variety of parameters including:
– would these people be attracted to my art?
Take a second to think about this again and make sure. If you’re not sure, you can revisit the issue later in #4.
– can these people afford my art?
Socio-economic status is, sadly, important. You’re running a business and you have to put food on the table and the like. So the people you market to will have to pay you money for your work. This is a whole different blog post, of course, but it’s important to mention in this context.
– do these people make the decisions about buying art?
I.e. – if you’re marketing to children, it might be a bad idea since they don’t usually have control over the art in their homes.
– do I like these people?
If you don’t enjoy being around them, you’ll almost surely fail because you have to spend a lot of time with your customers and thinking about your customers.
– do these people have a need of some sort for my art?
An example would be if you make women’s jewelry, a gay man might be attracted to it but probably doesn’t have much need to buy women’s jewelry except on rare occasions of buying for a friend or family member.
– are these people accessible?
Can you find ways to reach them? It might be very difficult to get in contact with government officials for instance. Or perhaps you live in London and you want to reach people in the rural mid-west USA. It might be difficult to get in contact with them and start to build relationships. Both situations could be overcome, but now is the time to decide if this market is worth all the work it will take to find them.
3. Refine – Next, you want to pick the top 2. You can keep your short list from the last step in case neither of your top 2 work out, but it’s highly likely one will. If the last step got you down to 1 or 2 potential markets, you can of course skip the “refine” step! Yay!
4. Testing the Market – With each market you are now considering, you need to go out into the world (online or offline) and find people in that market and ask them questions. The key here is that you aren’t asking them questions about your business. You’re asking them questions about themselves. And you want to talk to them one-one-one, giving them ample opportunity to talk. No surveys and multiple choice questions. Let them explain themselves to you. Get a feel for how they talk and think. Here are some questions you might ask if you’re a painter:
– do you ever buy art?
– would you consider yourself an art lover?
– do you have a favorite painter?
– when you look to buy art (only ask this if in the first question they answered yes), how much money are you trying to spend?
– what websites do you visit a lot? (and along with that – do they have a favorite social media platform?)
– what magazines do you read?
– do you have a favorite interior designer?
– what is your interior design style?
– how do you like to frame your art?
– (and if you’re brave, you can ask them to look at one of your pieces, but you have to have a really thick skin. don’t get offended if they don’t like it) what do you think of this piece?
If you are a jeweler, you might ask:
– do you ever buy new jewelry?
– what clothing stores do you shop at?
– how does it make you feel when you wear a necklace?
– do you prefer to buy necklaces or bracelets?
– do you wear beaded jewelry?
– what colors do you wear the most?
– do you prefer silver or gold jewelry?
– how would you define your personal style?
– when you buy new jewelry, how much do you usually spend?
– (and if you’re brave, again you can ask them to look at one of your pieces, but you can’t take it personally if they say negative things or critique it because you are literally asking them to do so) would you wear this necklace?
You should look to talk to at least 5 people about this before picking a direction, though ideally you might talk to about 20 people. You won’t know enough about your market to nail your branding and marketing strategies until you’ve talked to near 50 of them. So this is a good time to get started.
5. Decision Time – With all the information you got from testing your market, you should now be able to tell who is a good fit for your work and who isn’t. You should almost always pick ONE market. The more markets you pick, the more work you have to do because two markets means double the branding, double the marketing, double the research, etc.
I find that a lot of the time we are drawn to picking multiple markets because we are afraid we won’t have enough customers if we choose one. That’s not true though. There are plenty of people in almost any market. If you picked the right market, the hardest part is making sure they know you exist, not convincing them to buy. They already want to buy.
Another thing that stops people from choosing one market is that they worry they worry they’ll leave people out who like their art. But it doesn’t work like that. Picking a target market is picking the people you will be searching out, not policing your “buy” button so only the people you choose can purchase from you. In most art businesses, 30 or 40% of your customers might not be in your “target market” precisely, but if you don’t market clearly and consistently to one type of person, your brand looks unprofessional and no one wants to purchase from you, target market or not.
So the point of all of this is that you really should choose one market – one business = one target market. It’ll make your life so much easier.
6. Branding and Strategy – Of course, I’m not going to go into all the details of marketing and branding to fit your target market in this one blog post! But your next step after you pick that target market is to figure out your branding and then begin planning out how you’ll reach these people.
If you’re having trouble, I’d love to help and offer several different ways for you to get that help. Pop me an email and we can talk about it.