Finding the right customers – Creative Choices

27Aug12

Oscar Wilde wrote: “The play was a great success but the audience was a total failure”. You must find the right customers to fit with your creativity, ambitions and values.

Is your creative product selling?

What should you do if your performance, product or service doesn’t sell? Change the offering, or change the audience?

This question takes us straight to the problem creative people often have with marketing: the fear that a marketing approach will lead to a market-led enterprise, an appeal to the ‘lowest common denominator’ in order to maximise sales, and a ‘dumbing down’ of the product or service.

“Some people won’t like what we do, won’t pay enough, or won’t share our values.”

In other words, it will lead to ‘selling out’ our creative principles.

The greatest danger is that by rejecting marketing, market research and market segmentation in a wholesale fashion, the creative entrepreneur is discarding very useful tools. Surely what we must do is adapt these techniques to our own purposes, to achieve success in our own terms.

Not all customers are good customers

We must be clear about our purpose. Then we can select the most appropriate audience, clients or customers to suit our objectives.

The first stage of any effective marketing strategy is to choose the right customers – the people and organisations that fit with our objectives, creativity, values and economics. Devising a unique business formula that connects our best creativity with the right customers is at the core of any successful creative enterprise.

Not all customers are good customers! Some customers are more trouble than they are worth. Some people won’t like what we do, won’t pay enough, or won’t share our values.

We must ignore theses people and find better customers around which to build our creative enterprise. In short, marketing is about actively selecting and targeting the right kind of customers.

Trying to sell to anyone and everyone is not good marketing. Worse, it smacks of laziness and/or desperation, when what is needed is intelligent and creative thinking.

It is when creative people in business choose the wrong kind of customers that they are faced with the choice of ‘selling cheap or selling out’. Trying to build a feasible business around the wrong type of customers is doomed to failure.

Marketing for your business

Much of what we see and hear about marketing is about ‘mass marketing’ – the glitzy adverts for big companies that need to sell to the mass market. But the vast majority of creative enterprises don’t need or want a mass market and so need to play a different game.

“When creative people choose the wrong kind of customers, they are faced with ‘selling cheap or selling out’.”

Market segmentation involves differentiating between different groups and types of customers so that we can select the right ones to approach and to deal with.

By implication, it also means we can identify those segments of the market not to deal with.

So instead of thinking of the market as one mass, it’s much more useful to think of it as a “mass of niches”. The key marketing question is then: “Which market niches best fit our products/services, our values and our financial needs?”

Help with business strategies involving market segmentation are available from Business Link, the business support department of your local authority and specialist creative industries support organisations for your own sub-sector or locality.

How to choose customers

When selecting customers, don’t just think local. Sometimes the best customers are not necessarily close by.

In fact, the more specialist your products or services, the more likely it is you will have to go further to find enough of the right kinds of customers. This strategy can be described as ‘narrow niche plus global reach’.

UK artist Sharon Mutch deliberately targeted the Viridian Artists Gallery in New York and was successful with the help of the Passport to Export scheme from UK Trade and Investment (UKTI).

Galleries, bookshops, theatres and other venues might best be viewed as channels to customers rather than customers in their own right. Nevertheless they too should be chosen carefully in the same way and for the same reasons: to avoid the ‘sell cheap or sell out’ trap.

Choosing customers is essentially about being both active and discerning in relation to markets rather than passively responding to whomever shows up, or trying to sell to the most convenient people.

Choosing the right customers is an essential part of marketing strategy for any creative enterprise. Just as important is the other side of the other side of the same coin – saying no to the wrong types of customer.

Copyright © David Parrish

via Finding the right customers – Creative Choices.

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