Customers make your world go ‘round. In the beginning they all sort of blur together ,and your giddiness at actually making money leads you to believe there will be lines and lines of them, waiting to hand over their money.
Once you’ve got a little taste of that thrill, you’ll start thinking to yourself, “Man, this is great! Where do I find more of these people?” Before you can answer that question, you’ll have to think about who your dream customer is, and then find out who your actual customers are. It may surprise you to discover that your dream customer and your current customers are completely different, and this knowledge can help you refocus your energy toward your target market, where it counts most.
Your Dream Customer
Learning about your current customers is easier to do in person, and is one of the biggest reasons to sell at a craft show or other in-person venue. You will actually get to hear feedback, watch your customers interact with your product, and maybe most importantly, find out where else they’re shopping. If you can find out where else they’re shopping, there’s a good chance you can look up specific marketing research for your target market
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Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- What age group are my customers?
- Are they made up of mostly one gender?
- Where else do they shop?
- What are their aspirations?
Answering these questions will help you develop what I call a "Customer Story." This is just a sentence or two that includes the basic facts about your dream customer and your target market. For example, a customer story might be, “My dream customer is a twenty-something crafty female, with lots of extra income, at least one pet, who loves to shop at Anthropologie”. Go ahead and start with the most specific dream customer you can come up with and once you take a look at your actual customers you’ll be able to reevaluate your customer story if necessary.
Your Current (Real) Customer
It’s very easy to make up entire stories about your customers' lives, but until you actually start building patterns those stories are not much better than false assumptions about your target market. Why are the answers to these questions so important? Because they tell you how close or how far off you actually are regarding your target market. Remember that example dream customer story about the twenty-something pet lover who shops at Anthropologie? For a long time, that was my dream customer story. And I realized after a year of craft shows that my customer story was waaay off.
As it turns out, there are a few contradictions in my customer story. Customers with extra income within my dream customer age range tend to shop at Urban Outfitters, and not Anthropologie. They tend not to have pets, and actually most often, tend not to spend their extra income on craft supplies.
Once I began to actually pay attention to my most enthusiastic shoppers I noticed a pattern: my target market really was mostly homemakers, late thirties to late fifties, who were as concerned with price as workmanship. This made me look long and hard at my branding and marketing strategies. I realized that not only was my customer story a fantasy, it was also based on my own desires and not those of my customers.
Once you’ve honed in on your dream customer, you’ll want to make sure you’ve got a realistic concept of that kind of shopper. For example, while my fantasy customer may exist in small numbers, she does not actually exist in the kind of numbers that will sustain my business. Once I took a long, hard look at my current customer versus my dream customer, I made some adjustments to my customer story. I broadened my group to include thirty- and forty-something crafty moms and first-time crafters who are eco-conscious and willing to spend a little extra for a quality product. Notice I didn’t specify that they had to be customers with plenty of extra income. Once I broadened my customer story in the right direction, I was able to focus my efforts not on converting twenty-somethings with Paris Hilton money into crafters, but on getting accounts with shops that speak directly to my dream customer.
Now all that’s left to do is to maintain good communication, frequently update and freshen my product, and follow the needs of my dream customer!