I often see people asking the same questions about how to sell their art on a Facebook group that I follow specifically developed for promoting and selling art. The questions range from 'how much should they charge' to 'how do they know who to sell to'. For the former, if it is appropriate, I usually post a link to the article I recently wrote based on advice from an expert that outlines a couple great methods for pricing art. For the latter, the answer is a bit more complicated.
I love that this Facebook group exists because I often see some great conversations going back and forth between artists. Even if you create something other than art, most of the conversations and advise can still apply. The strategies behind selling art, photography, jewelry, and other creative products are not that different. It’s all ‘art’ in some regard: you created something beautiful that you want to share with the world. For the simplicity of this article, I make references to artists and art.
This is typical of how a conversation goes:
There's usually a mix of feedback and lots of support.
Target Markets for Creatives
I see a lot of conversations about finding your target market and often there are not a lot of very well thought out responses, or maybe there’s just not enough room to go into an in-depth conversation in a small Facebook response box. This is huge topic and should not be taken lightly. If you build it, “they” will not come. You have to go find “them” and first, you have to know who “they” are.
Creative small businesses are no different than any other business when it comes to spending time and serious thought about who is your ideal customer in your target market. If you don’t get this right, you will struggle.
First, let’s briefly talk about what price to charge. Charging what you think something is worth and what it is actually worth can be extremely different. If you are a new artist, or new to your creative industry, and have not produced or sold much work, you may have a bit more emotional attachment to your work than someone more experienced. This will likely influence you to want to charge more than most people would be willing to pay. Often more experienced artists who have been producing and selling their art for a while may be undercharging their customers in fear of raising their prices will mean less sales. Pricing art can be very subjective. You at least want to cover your costs of materials regardless of your experience and it is good practice to increase your prices as your experience increases. There’s more to it than that of course and there’s more detail about these concepts here if you want to read more.
Next, let’s talk about the focus of this article: finding your target market. This is difficult to do and most business owners struggle to identify their ideal customer. If it were as easy to boost sales by simply changing the people you are trying to sell it to, we would all be very successful. Who are ‘those people’? Where do you find ‘them’ to sell it to? How do you know if ‘they’ will actually buy it? It’s easy to throw out general statements; it can be very difficult and frustrating trying to accomplish finding your target market.
So what is a target market and how do you find yours?
A target market is a categorization of people that have similar likes and interests that align with your product or services for sale. Ideally, if you know who to market your product to, then you should be able to make the most sales, or at least that is the theory at a very high level. There are many more factors that go into a customer buying a product: economical, seasonal influence, special occasion gifts, spontaneous buyer, and so on. Think about why you buy a product and when. Is it out of necessity? Is it an impulse buy? Are you treating yourself or someone else to something special? Now, try to get into your customer’s head and think about when they might purchase your product and at what price.
Let’s say you design wedding invitations. You may think your ideal customer would be women in their early 20’s.
But what type of invitations do you really make? Let’s say you have a very traditional and expensive look. Now you can expand your ideal customer to also include women who have this specific taste.
Do you have top-of-the-line invitations with entire all-inclusive packages that are hand written in calligraphy with embossing? Ok, now you are likely not designing economy invitations. They are customized, expensive, tailored to a specific customer. Often, people tend to spend more on their first wedding over their second or third weddings. And with big fancy invitations, big fancy weddings are usually on the menu.
But don’t limit yourself to women in their early 20’s. People of all ages get married, or remarried. Men may be just as involved in wedding planning as women, and what about the parents of the future bride and groom? Would they be in your target market? They may be very well forking the bill and they may want that extra special design that a young couple may not have in their budget.
Now you have gone from a target market of women in their early 20’s to...
- Men and women, late 20’s to early 40’s
- First wedding
- College educated, good careers
- Come from middle to upper class families
- Traditional taste
- Big, fancy weddings
That’s a huge difference. Now you know who you can really target.
What is your competition up to?
First thing’s first: do a little recon and spec out your competition. Find out what they are charging for their products that are similar to yours. Compare how long they have been in business and how successful they have become. Align yourself with the competition that is most similar to your business. This will give you an idea of what people are willing to pay. This may also help you refine your target market if you can find out from the business owner who usually visits their site or store.
You might be asking yourself how are you going to find out more about your competition past what you can find on their site. Ask them! You may have to contact a few before you get a response, but there are people in your industry that want to see you become successful too. I’ve seen it first hand in the Facebook groups that I follow how helpful people really are when they are in the same industry. There’s something about being in a creative industry where people seem to be much more open in sharing what they have learned.
Here’s an easy and free guide to help you!
There’s more information with a downloadable guide here. This article and guide takes you through the basics of understanding your target market and your competition. You should be able to answer these questions in detail. If you cannot, then you need to do more research about your target market. It is good practice to revisit these questions every so often so you do not stray from your goals.