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It’s beautiful, but will it sell? The art of Market Research

I Pete Mosley craft&design Business Editor E: businessed@ Order Pete’s New Book Now! See advertisement on the opposite page for full details. Pete provides coaching and business support for individual artists & makers and small creative companies, as well as working on larger regional projects. He is an Associate of the Institute of Business Consulting and a Business Link/EMDA East Midlands Service Provider Register 5* rated, based on independent client feedback.

n the last article, I talked about the benefits of taking time out to develop new work. After all, a business without a constant stream of new products isn’t really a business. The next logical step in the chain is to test which of your new ideas will find a ready market, and which will not. It’s so easy to get carried away in the creativity, the enjoyment of making, and your engagement with your work to the point that any thought of selling it becomes secondary. You naturally fall in love with the things you regard as being creatively successful. The trick then is not to fall into the trap of thinking that because you love it, everyone else will too. I found myself watching the X Factor auditions the other night, and reflecting on how many of the failed auditionees could have been spared their pain and embarrassment if someone had done the honourable thing and been straight up with them about their lack of talent. Instead, some had obviously been told that they were really good and that they should go for it. Did they get knowingly dishonest feedback, or were they naively misguided? Who knows? The problem is this; I’ve met people who have launched businesses on the basis of similar misinformation. Someone close to them said their work was good, and they committed to the whole set up - without bothering to conduct any further reality checks. This may all sound a little harsh but it is, unfortunately, true. So who can you trust to give you independent feedback when you need to know if an idea or product is going to cut the mustard? Your mates love you too much to be objective. Constructive, objective criticism might be uncomfortable. But it’ll save you a shed load of cash and pain in the long run. And if you have got the X factor, it’ll help you get where you want to go much, much faster. Do your research Every now and again, you need to check out what your fellow makers are up to. Not just what they are making, but how and where they are selling, and at what price. Quietly gather information. Visit the places they sell from, visit their website, and ask for brochures, catalogues and price lists. Join their mailing lists, and subscribe to their blogs, newsletters, Facebook pages and twitter streams. This is not an underhand activity. It’s a commercial


craft&design January/February 2012

necessity and most companies do it – some on an ad hoc basis, and some as a deliberate part of their marketing plan. This is definitely not about copying what they do. It’s about gathering intelligence to use in your own unique way. And through doing this, you learn what tactics other craftspeople are using to survive and prosper. Get out there and get some feedback on your work. Test the market so that you have a chance to adjust things before committing to spending money on marketing or larger production runs. It’s a fatal error to make something in the hope that it will earn you money if it isn’t going to sell. And I fully appreciate that there will be many things you make in your creative career simply for the joy of making. It’s about not confusing the two things. Think about your brand What impression do you want to create? Are you aiming to create something exclusive, a good mid range product, or a tempting bargain? There’s room in the market for all of these, but you need to ask other people what they think to check that your own perception of what you are aiming at is accurate or not. Ask them where they think they might find it on sale, and at what price. Be prepared for a few surprises – this can be revealing.

Be prepared for a few surprises... Do a survey Surveys are a really easy way to get answers to the crucial questions you need to ask. You can survey people face to face (often best), by email, on the telephone, or on your website or blog. If you have a database of existing customers or an email newsletter set up on Mail Chimp or constant contact, you can use a facility called SurveyMonkey to set up your questions and gather the data for you. SurveyMonkey will even analyse the data for you automatically. Show samples to customers Before you start selling a new range, show samples of it to both existing and new customers – see what they think, ask if they think it’s up to

Pete is the clearest thinker I know and the successful direction of my business is all down to him. His advice is worth its weight in gold and a whole book of the stuff is a treasure trove of positivity Rob Glass - Film maker.

scratch and if the price is right. This is much better than meeting an awkward silence if you try to sell it to them and they don’t like it as much as other things that you make. If it’s easier, send out a few samples then ring to get some feedback. Establish a relationship with retailers and galleries Don’t just turn up on someone’s doorstep and ask them if they will sell your work. Good market research is the first step in establishing relationships with new outlets for your work. It’ll help you get more sales in the end. One really effective way to get some feedback is to visit shops and galleries simply to ask a) if your product would sell there and b) whether your estimate of the selling price is close to the mark. This does two things – one, it helps build a relationship and two, it makes any eventual sale easier because it has started with a process of exploration rather than a direct sales proposition. Don’t forget that people are busy, so call ahead to make an appointment. Online research Those of you who use Etsy will know this. If you register for Etsy you can quite easily see what products are selling and at what price. If you register, you can see how many sales individual crafts people have made over what timescale and within what price range. It makes for a fascinating hour or so of research. It’s a really accurate way of getting real time information about the marketplace. The Etsy blog is packed full of useful information. Why? – It’s in their interests to help you sell more. Other online forums are really useful too – many have threads running on a number of topics around sales and marketing as well as the business of making. Just take a little time to find the ones that match up with what you make. Check your findings – and proceed Once you have done all or some of the above, you will have a really clear idea of where your product sits and who is likely to buy. You’ll have avoided cold selling a brand new product and you may well have identified useful improvements or variations – and maybe a few gaps in the market you hadn’t thought of already. .

This has to be the book of the century for all you creative types out there. Enjoy! Rachael Stanleik - New Lifestyle Coaching

Well guys, having been the privileged recipient of the e-book, I can tell you it’s a great read! I am ordering 11 copies for my cohort of young artists on our leadership development programme, as I think it will give them everything they need to think about how they can make a living out of their talent. Go on, buy a copy - it could be the best thing you ever do! Helen - Oxford Youth Arts Partnership

I have perused your book and happy to recommend it to all our emerging artists and makers here. Good luck with your promotion Mir Jansen - Yorkshire Artspace

£11.99 plus £1.25 p&p uk only

Pete’s inspirational new book is published by craft&design magazine. Order your copy online now at or call 01377 255213 with your credit/debit card details, or send a cheque made payable to PSB Design & Print Consultants Ltd to: craft&design, ‘Make Your Creativity Pay’, PO Box 5, Driffield YO25 8JD Also available as a pdf download at just £5.25 craft&design January/February 2012


It's beautiful, but will it sell?  

Am article exploring the need for thorough market research.