Updated: Feb 17
While all creators get joy from the work they do, to continue with their endeavors they may be required to market the work and eventually sell it. This is always easier said than done but there is a classic marketing technique that can help you find and communicate to people that will buy your creations – the ideal customer.
Your goal should be to market to your ideal customer (or perfect customer), sometimes known as a customer persona. Marketing to them gives you focus; helps you talk to them in the right way and understand the best places to find them. Let’s look at how to identify them and what you can do with this information.
Who Is Your Ideal Customer?
If you are going to market to your ideal customer, you need to go right back to the start and draw up a picture of who your ideal customer is, building up an image of them and filling in the details.
But first, remember that not everyone can be your ideal customer. Most people start thinking they can sell to everyone, but by trying to appeal to everyone, you end up doing an average job for all. When you focus on just your ideal customer, you do an excellent job for them, still attracting others.
You have a couple of routes to drawing up your ideal customer, through your knowledge of existing customers that you would like more of, or if you don’t think you have that perfect customer yet, then mock-up what the ideal customer looks like.
Look at your current customers. Search through your social media for people you believe represent what you are looking for. Your ideal customer isn’t just someone that buys one of your creations, it’s someone that will buy from you again and again. They will be an advocate for your artwork and tell others about it.
If you can identify someone that fits these criteria, flesh them out. You want to think about what they do for fun. What would they read? How old are they? Describe their background, what education do they have, places they like to visit.
If you don’t have this customer yet, let’s draw up who they could be or who you want them to be. Think about pains, needs, desires, and what drives them to purchase.
First remember this phrase, “People Need Dessert Plates.” Now let’s see what that stands for:
Pains – Problems you solve for them. They need to buy a present and cannot think what to get?
Needs – Something they need for their day-to-day life. Maybe an office manager that is tasked with updating the artwork monthly or a real estate needs art to spruce up a house they’re showing to a client.
Desires – They might not need this, but they desperately want it anyway – a lot of art purchases fall into this category. Maybe a customer sees you at an event and is thoroughly entranced in a painting. They really want the piece, but their spouse declines the idea because they don’t have any room in their home. The customer then asks if you can create the same piece but on a much smaller scale just so that he can have a similar piece. This is a desire and not a need.
Purchase drivers – What motivates them to buy, maybe they are price-driven or for them, it’s about exclusivity. Remember the customer from the last example? They desire this piece so much that their spouse comes back the next and purchases it for them. They express the understanding that a similar piece won’t be the same and that this really is a one-of-a-kind and unique piece. The exclusivity of the artwork is the purchase driver in this example.
These factors are vital in understanding how to appeal to your ideal customer. Now finish this off with the fine details. Are they male or female (or a couple), do they have a family and where do they reside? Ultimately, to do this correctly we will want to give them a name – then they’re like a best friend.
Just Like a Best Friend
When you build these personas correctly, you should understand your ideal customer just like your best friend. When you see a post online, you know they will like it. When you paint something, you know they will love it. When you craft something new, they will buy it. By achieving this, you’ll know what to say to them and how to get their attention – this is marketing.
Do you know what else you can do with people you understand like best friends? – Interact with them. Just imagine if your understanding of them leads to good conversation, it can then lead to repeat purchases. Now take that a step further and realize that they could be telling everyone else how amazing you are. Therefore you need to understand your ideal customer like a best friend.
Does It Have to Be A Person?
Important sidenote when we look at our ideal customer, are they a person? This might seem like an odd question, but some creators sell exclusively to organizations rather than individuals. Maybe you are an interior designer, and your clients are normally corporations. This will make no difference and let me explain why.
Ultimately, there is still someone that needs to select your work or vision. Yes, it might be going on display in a business, and they are paying customers, but someone in that company has to decide to choose you for that assignment. That is the person we are targeting.
Think about their pains, needs, wants, and desires about work, their dessert plates.
Are they under pressure to procure the most astonishingly original piece of work – this would be a pain?
Are they expected to get something passable that sticks to a tight budget – this is a need for them
They might want to show off to people that the room was designed better than anyone expected – this is a clear desire.
While you are dealing with a company, it is still the individual you need to consider when talking to them, selling to them, and ultimately creating something for them.
Where To Find Your Ideal Customer?
It should now be easy to work out where your customers are because you know what your ideal customer does. You know if they are a big fan of Facebook or if they find that it’s for old people and much prefer the visual elements of Instagram.
Maybe they listen to Podcasts, or would they prefer the written word? Would YouTube be the right medium for you? If they are hanging out somewhere like Facebook, do we know enough about their interests that we could find them in some of the groups? Are there forums for these people?
Let’s use an example. A good friend of mine is an amazing graphic artist and draws mainly horror. She understands that her ideal customer is a horror fan, that she loves to have something original to impress friends, and wants to support other people in the horror community.
Therefore, my friend spends a lot of her time on horror forums and a couple of Facebook groups chatting to people and occasionally shares a drawing and asks people’s opinions. She has built up a large collection of customers from this strategy, including some that reach out directly and ask her to do a custom piece of work.
How To Market to Your Ideal Customer
Remember earlier when I said understand your ideal customer like a best friend? This is when it pays off. I could (and probably will) write a whole article on how to market your work but for now, let’s have a look at a couple of ways understanding your ideal customer helps us communicate and sell to our customers because that’s ultimately what marketing is!
Know What to Say
You know your customer interests and motivations. If you combine this with what you are comfortable with and knowledgeable about, you have the perfect Venn Diagram. (See diagram below)
· Circle 1 – What you feel comfortable talking about
· Circle 2 – What your art is all about / what makes you special
· Circle 3 – What content your customer wants to consume
The intersection of these three circles is what I like to refer to as your subjects of influence. These are the things you could post about, write blogs about, create graphics for – it is what you are communicating in your marketing, and you know it is appealing directly to your ideal customers.
Share Your Progress
One little tactical tip I’d love to impart is to share your progress with people. If you know where your customers are hanging out, then you have a captive audience and people love to feel part of the process.
So much of selling art is about capturing interest and having your audience desperate to see a completed piece of work and then have the chance to buy it or get something for themselves. Let’s look at a couple of examples:
Example 1 – Designing a room
If you are an interior designer working on a project, assuming you have permission from your client, start sharing progress from the start. This means the sketches you do, then updates as the project comes alive. Maybe show videos of you out choosing finishing touches. It all adds to the intrigue before you reveal the final room.
Potential customers will be attracted to this, want to see how it finishes, and assuming it wows them (which of course it will) then they will be eager to get in touch and see how you can do a room for them.
Example 2 – Creating a chair
The following works for anyone crafting or building a work of art but let us use a chair maker as an example. As the interior designer, show your audience what your plans are. They will love being at the ground level and getting a feel for what you plan to make.
Show them your process for selecting the materials, for choosing colors, and the decisions you must make on design, sizes, and shapes. Keep the reveals to small sections of the chair, never show too much of the larger project until the end – remember you are building anticipation.
It Becomes Second Nature
As a creator, your relationship doesn’t have to end after just one purchase. Use the techniques above to get into the mind of your customer and it will help you find new ones, get existing people to buy again, advocates spreading the word and you might find it inspiring you with new ideas – you know them so well that you know what appeals to them.
I think this is a great way to end as well because what I’ve described is all very natural to you. To creators, marketing and selling is rarely second nature, in fact, it’s normally pretty uncomfortable if we are all honest. By using this concept of the ideal customer, we can talk to prospects and customers as if it’s a one-on-one conversation with people we know and even us artists can do that!