WHO IS YOUR CUSTOMER?

I subscribe to a newsletter put out by Aletta de Wal, and this month’s issue was a good one. It’s called “Discover Your Audience” and you can read it here. Aletta offers good tips on identifying your target audience.

I recommend this article because I think many of us make this mistake:

We lock ourselves in our studios, making our art. But then we have no idea who it’s for.

In fact, ask most artists who their customer is, and they’ll describe someone very much like themselves.

What’s wrong with this picture?

I don’t know about you, but I can’t afford my own work. If I didn’t make my own wall hangings, I probably wouldn’t have one. (Well, I do have layaway….)

This may be why some artists underprice their work. They can’t imagine a customer who has a bigger budget than they do. They think, “Well, I wouldn’t/couldn’t pay that much for this item, so I’ll price it lower.” When in fact, they may be underpricing the piece for an audience that could afford it… (Overpricing your work comes from an entirely different mindset. Overpricing occurs when you overvalue your time or overestimate your skill level, your reputation or the uniqueness of your product.)

So who is my customer? I’ll admit, I still sometimes have a hard time visualizing my target customer.

I know some of my customers appreciate fine craft, fiber art and/or art history. I have yet to meet an archaeologist who doesn’t like my work. People who love horses, bears, fish, etc. often like my work because it’s different than other jewelry and art with those animal motifs.

But that’s not very focused.

I’m getting better. In fact, at a show, my daughter can often tell who’s going to love my jewelry and who isn’t, though that doesn’t always translate into who will actually buy it. But loving it is the first step, and she has a sense of who that is. These women often come in with beautiful, dramatic jewelry or clothing–not diamonds and gold, but ethnic, handmade, eclectic stuff. Native American work, perhaps.

The year I did the ACC Baltimore fine craft show, I discovered customers who loved Wendy Ellertson’s work also loved mine. What’s the common thread there?

We are also still pleasantly surprised from time to time, and there are other “hooks” to my work that attract people. I find people who are going through transition, gathering courage to enter a new phase in life or taking that next “big step” forward, are often attracted to the stories in my work.

Thinking about the kinds of homes where my fiber wall hangings would look good lead me to believe traditional New England decor may not be a good fit. So obviously I have much more to learn.

Why is it good to know who your customer is?

Because when you promote your work, you need to know what venues also target your audience. When it’s time to buy advertising, send press releases, apply to shows and target galleries, you must determine if their target audience is also your target audience.

For example, one common mistake I see is artists who purchase ad space in magazines that target….other artists! Now, perhaps your target audience is other artists, in which case that’s a good choice. But if it isn’t, check the demographics of the magazine to make sure art collectors and galleries are part of its audience, too. Want to be sure? Call up one of your target galleries, and ask if they read that magazine. If the answer is no, you may want to rethink those ad dollars.

Knowing who your customer is helps focus your marketing efforts.

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7 Comments

Filed under art, business, marketing, self promotion

7 responses to “WHO IS YOUR CUSTOMER?

  1. it's a hard life

    i am an aspiring artist, and found this post insightful. thanks! if you have any other advice on getting out into the productive art world, please write about it!

  2. Hello, IAHL, thank you for your comments.

    I’ve been blogging about the business of craft for over four years now. I hope you’ll look at some of my other articles. I think you’ll find a wealth of information there. :^)

  3. Ben-David

    Hi –
    I’m trying to develop a crafts career alongside a desk job, and have gotten a lot out of your site – so I’d like to repay the favor by pointing you to an article I found that makes the business case for artists who cultivate their core constituency within the “long tail” ignored by larger sellers. It’s geared to authors and musicians, but also applies to craftspeople.

    http://www.kk.org/thetechnium/archives/2008/03/1000_true_fans.php

    Thanks again for a great blog!

  4. Ellen

    Ben-David, thanks for the GREAT link above. Both my kids are artists (one painter, one musician) and I forwarded it to them. Thanks Luann for starting this whole discussion!

  5. Oooh, my husband and I talk about the “long tail” a lot. I LOVE this article! Thank you, Ben-David, for this great link. And Ellen, thanks for letting us know how helpful this was.

  6. It just goes to show you that there is still a major distinction between the art business and the business of art.

  7. Luann each time I visit your blog I feel as though you have entered my journal you always touch upon the topic of the day.

    This is a wonderful topic one I think all artists struggle with at times, the business side of Art is one of the harder parts of being an artist and you have covered all the important points so perfectly! Thank you.
    Kristen

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