“Know thyself” is one of the most important pieces of advice for artrepreneurs who are starting to build their creative business and brand. But advice I think is just as important — “Know thy customer.” Your customer is the heart of your business and the one who will recognize and pay for your value. So, it’s time to learn about thy customers!
Before starting your research, jot down some ideas or hypotheses you might have about who your ideal customer is. Include demographics (age, gender, location, family size, etc.) and psychographics (interests, hobbies, buying preferences, etc.). These hypotheses will help guide your research.
So where can you go to research your potential customers?
The United States Census Bureau has tons of demographic information that can be crucial for your research. Want to market to individuals who make over a certain amount of money? This data source can tell you which zip codes have the most of this type of consumers. Want to market to families? This data source can tell you about households that report having kids. There’s a lot of information here, so just take some time to browse around and make sure to copy and paste information helpful information into your own research document.
Free services from America’s SBDC
I might be a bit biased here, considering that I work for the organization, but the nationwide Small Business Development Center is such an amazing, free resource. Not only can you work with counselors on every aspects of your business, but some centers also help with research work. For example, in my office at the Nevada SBDC in Reno, we have access to databases that provide us specialized, in-depth information that could be crucial for developing your business model. We receive access to reports from hundreds of databases that provide information that would normally costs a pretty penny to obtain. There are SBDCs all around the country, so visit this page to find one near you!
Free market reports
Mintel is a highly respected data source that provides research on all kinds of markets and people. Single reports can cost up to $5,000, but Mintel offers some reports for free. Check out this page to see if they have free information that might be helpful for you. For example, Mintel is currently featuring two free reports titled GLOBAL BEAUTY AND PERSONAL CARE TRENDS and THE AUSTRALIAN CONSCIOUS CONSUMER. These titles might seem quite specific, but if you’re targeting these particular industries or markets, these reports could be a huge win for you. There are more reports and resources, so go check it out for yourself!
You can also use sites like Quora to get a better idea of trending topics and opinions of those who you think are your target market. This kind of research is less structured and takes a bit more digging, but can be helpful nonetheless.
If you have an idea about who your target market is and want to learn more about their preferences, surveys are a good way to collect that information. Of course, you have to actually get your survey to your potential customers, so think about how you are able to reach them. SurveyMonkey is a popular service that can be used to deliver surveys, along with Google Forms (which is free!).
If your survey is going out to people you do not know the age, gender, location, etc. of, it can be helpful to collect this information as part of the survey. You want to make sure you understand the demographics of your potential target market. Other important questions to ask might be: “How do you access ____?” or “How much would you pay for ____? or even “When do you think about/buy ____?” Try using scales and multiple choice options to get more clear and concise answers. The goal of this survey should be to understand the habits and preferences of your customers. From this exercise, you want to learn how and when to reach them.
Google’s Consumer Barometer
Google provides some free resources that can help you understand your ideal customer, such as the Consumer Barometer. This tool helps you learn about how your potential target market behaves online. Understanding how your potential customers use the internet is critical for tailoring your marketing strategies and business model around their habits and preferences.
Once you feel like you have a good grasp on who your potential target markets might be, consider creating a customer profile for each type of person you want to market/sell to. An example might look like this:
Tonya: Tonya is a stay at home mom who is apart of a household that makes over $100K per year. Her average age is 38 years old. She loves fashion and is drawn to exclusive purchases. She likes to show off her purchases to friends and family. She loves her kids and even spoils them. She exercises often and engages in repeated purchases. Once she finds a brand she likes, she sticks with it. She is very active on Pinterest and Facebook, but doesn’t seem to bother with other social media platforms. She acts as the decision maker in her house when it comes to travel decisions, household products, and purchases for the kids. She likes to online shop, but often engages in weekend shopping trips with friends.
As a mural creator, Tonya might be a great target customer for you. Knowing as much as you can about her helps you to understand where to reach her and how to express your value to her in a way that will convince her to buy.
Do some research of your own and then try creating a customer profile for your potential customer type(s)!
NOTE: Some businesses might have multiple target markets. For example, as a mural creator, you might offer high-end home murals to well-off families and fun, funky murals to small businesses. Learn about each and understand how your value and marketing shifts between them.
Research might not be your favorite, but try challenging yourself to find new ways to understand your potential customers. The more you know about them, the better you’ll be able to communicate and work with them. You’ve got this!
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