Most advice on finding customers is focused on defining an ideal customer; the type of person who is most likely to buy your products.
The way place a business can get off track is by creating products based on what the business owner wants to make, instead of what a target market wants to buy.
When you make a product and then look for customers, it’s putting the cart before the horse.
Let’s say I love pizza and make it whenever friends & family come over. They always tell me how good it is, so I start a pizza business.
I know who my customers are; they’re people who love pizza. They live in the same city as my pizza shop and I may even have a general idea of their age.
But how does that information help me find more customers?
Where do I reach people who like pizza?
>> Are people who like pizza having pizza Meetups?
>> Are they following pizza influencers on social media?
>> Are they reading Modern Pizza magazine?
These aren’t marketing platforms that exist…as far as I know.
Even if I defined that I was targeting male customers in their 40’s who are married with kids, have graduated from post-secondary school, and are earning 200,000+ a year, would those demographics help me find more customers?
Demographics are helpful when fine-tuning your business, but they don’t necessarily help you find customers in settings that are conducive to marketing and selling.
Because let’s say I did find a way to reach hundreds of men in their 40’s, married, etc. Are they going to be interested in trying my pizza? They’ll likely stick with their favorite pizza joint, unless I’m offering something they want that their regular pizzeria doesn’t offer.
THINK ABOUT YOUR BUSINESS
Did you start your business with a product and then go looking for customers?
How would you define your customers and where would you go to find hundreds of them at a time that are guaranteed to love your products?
Let’s say I sell one-of-a-kind jewelry. Where would I find people who love “one-of-a-kind jewelry”?
>> Which blogs are they reading?
>> How would I target them through a Facebook ad?
>> Which boards do they follow on Pinterest?
The key isn’t to find people who might be a match; it’s to know where to find people who are definitely a match for your products.
I may target women in their 30’s when I run a Facebook ad. Sure, some of those women may like my one-of-a-kind jewelry, but not every woman in her 30’s is guaranteed to be a match for my jewelry.
THE RIGHT WAY TO FIND NEW CUSTOMERS FOR YOUR HANDMADE BUSINESS
You must define information that helps you find customers.
When you can’t find customers, it doesn’t matter what type of products you sell, how great your marketing message is, or if you’ve crafted the perfect sales pitch.
If you can’t find the people who will buy your products, you can’t sell to them.
Instead of looking at your products and defining customers around them (e.g. I sell quirky jewelry so my customers have a quirky sense of style), start by looking for existing target markets, and then adjusting your business and products to suit them.
What type of criteria is dividing people into groups when it comes to your products?
For example, if I’ve started a pizza shop, people who eat pizza may be divided into groups based on:
- Diet (e.g. vegan)
- Budget (e.g. are they college students who want cheap pizza late at night)
- Location (e.g. restaurants that are close to their home)
- Preferences (e.g. ethically sourced ingredients)
These are the reasons people might choose one pizza business over another.
Let’s say I target people who are on a strict diet. That’s a good target market because it helps me find customers. I know that people who are conscious about what they eat might:
- Go to the gym or other fitness centers
- Read blogs on eating healthy
- Read Health magazines
- Follow Instagram accounts that share healthy recipes
- Create Pinterest boards full of recipes and tips for eating healthy
These are all places I could market my business and reach customers who are a perfect fit for health-conscious pizza.
I could cross-promote with local gyms, or find local health bloggers and pitch a story idea about my pizza restaurant or advertise on their website. I might reach out to local Instagram influencers who focus on healthy eating and offer them a free meal if they share a post about my pizza. Or I could use some of the same hashtags they use.
Targeting health-conscious customers is a good start, but I may want to get even more specific since the health/diet industry is big and competitive.
I might look at the specific diets people follow such as:
Let’s say I decide to focus on people following a Keto diet. I now have an even better idea of where to find those people:
- Reading Keto blogs
- Reading “Keto Diet” Magazine
- Following Keto Instagram accounts and hashtags (#ketorecipes or #ketorestaurant)
- Looking up Keto recipes on Pinterest
- Asking questions in Keto Facebook groups, etc.
Now I can get to know my customers and create a business that’s perfect for them.
People on Keto diets keep their carb intake to a minimum, so flour pizza dough is a no-no. Simply changing my pizza’s crust to cauliflower crust or a fat-head dough (basically dough made of cheese and egg) would make it perfect for Keto dieters.
For toppings, I would offer a variety of low-carb, high-fat options that fit within the Keto diet.
I have the perfect product for my target market (Keto dieters).
I can look for local options to market my pizza through:
- Keto blogs and recipe sites
- Use my location (e.g. #california) with #ketomeals or #ketorestaurants on Instagram
- Join local Keto diet groups on Facebook
- Post articles on my website about Keto-friendly foods and Keto tips to gain organic search traffic.
- Cross-promote with other Keto-focused businesses in my city (e.g. Keto dieticians, Keto grocery stores, etc.)
I have lots of places to reach new potential customers.
I know which benefits to point out to make someone on Keto pay attention and be more likely to buy. For example, in ads or social media posts I may use the keywords/statements:
- “Keto-friendly pizza delivered to your door.”
- “Keto take-out food”
- “Skip the work of making your own Keto pizza; we’ll make it for you.”
- “Low carb, fathead pizza, delivered right to your door.”
- “Keto food for cheat nights”
Most people aren’t familiar with “fathead pizza” and might scroll past my Instagram post mentioning it, but those aren’t my customers.
Keto dieters have heard of fathead pizza and will know, as soon as they see those words, that the post, account, and products are for them.
>> I found a target market: Keto dieters
>> Determined a product they would buy: fathead pizza
>> Adjusted my business: be the only all-keto-friendly pizza restaurant offering keto-friendly toppings on fathead crust, keto-friendly sides, and keto-friendly drinks.
HOW A TARGET MARKET HELPS WITH FINDING MORE CUSTOMERS
If I were to market my regular pizza to anyone and everyone, I’m wasting a lot of marketing dollars reaching people who aren’t interested in my pizza for one reason or another (e.g. they’re gluten-free, can’t afford my higher prices, already have a favorite pizza restaurant, etc.).
When I market my pizza to people who follow healthy diets, I’m getting closer, but there will still be people within that group my pizza isn’t a fit for. I’ll find more customers in that group, but I’m still wasting time and money marketing to people who aren’t a fit.
When I market my Keto pizza to Keto dieters, I’ve hit the nail on the head. Everyone in that group is a perfect match for my pizza.
*You’ll never have a 100% conversion rate (i.e. 100% of people you market to buy your product) but you’ll have a much higher conversion rate when you target the right people.
I can now use my defined demographics (male, 40’s, married, kids, 200,000+ income) to further tweak my business and stand out from the hundreds of other pizza restaurants in my city.
Although you’re likely not selling pizza, your business also must have a profitable target market.
If you don’t have one yet, it’s never too late to find one.
WHY YOUR CRAFT BUSINESS NEEDS A TARGET MARKET
Simply put, a target market helps you find more customers.
Which means more sales.
Using my pizza example, people who like pizza already have hundreds of options to choose from. They might buy frozen pizza from the grocery store, have pizza delivered by a big chain (e.g. Pizza Hut) or have a favorite pizza restaurant they like to dine-in with.
Opening a pizza shop means those customers could also be my customers.
But it takes a lot of work to convince a consumer to give up what they know and love, to try something new but similar (just another pizza shop).
When I offer Keto pizza, I’m offering something different and they must come to me to get it. More sales for me 🙂
THINK ABOUT YOUR BUSINESS
If I told you to place an ad somewhere that reaches people who are guaranteed to be interested in your product, where would you place that ad?
If I sell jewelry, I may think: well women wear jewelry so I could place an ad anywhere that reaches women and find customers.
The problem with that is, all women won’t be interested in my jewelry.
We each have unique tastes when it comes to the jewelry we wear.
Preferences may be:
- High-end jewelry
- Brand name jewelry
- Fashion-forward jewelry
- 24k jewelry that won’t tarnish
- Jewelry a teething baby can chew on
Unless my jewelry business offers something for every preference, it does not appeal to all women.
So I can place my jewelry in front of women, but they’re not guaranteed to be interested in it.
If instead, I create teething jewelry for moms to wear and teething babies to chew on, I could create a Facebook ad targeting women who are new parents and I’d be reaching people who are guaranteed to be interested in my product.
Knowing your business’s target market helps you target the right people when creating products, marketing, and selling.
When you target the right people, you make more sales.
WHAT IS A TARGET MARKET?
A target market is a group of consumers that have something in common.
That “something in common” is what makes them all great candidates for your products.
In my pizza example, my target market had the Keto diet in common.
- A jewelry business may sell chewable teething jewelry to women who have teething babies.
- Target market: mom’s of newborns
- A stationery business may sell stationery to brides planning a wedding.
- Target market: brides
- An art business may sell art to men who are car enthusiasts.
- Target market: car enthusiasts
- A soap business may sell soap for wine lovers/connoisseurs
- Target market: wine lovers
You can see how a target market can help develop a brand and products, as well as help a business owner find potential customers and determine how to market and sell their products.
Let’s take a closer look at one of those examples…
Let’s say I have a soap business. I sell regular bars of soap in a variety of scents, mainly targeting women. It’s hard to create the perfect soap, brand, and business for women, because women’s tastes, preferences, needs, etc. vary so much.
If I set up at a craft shows or list my soaps on Etsy, the people I reach may or may not need a bar of soap, or like the scents I offer, the ingredients I use, or my branding. It’s hit or miss with each shopper.
If I’m selling soap to wine lovers, I know they like wine and would:
- PRODUCTS – Focus on wine scented soaps, use wine as my unique ingredient, color my soaps in wine colors (deep reds, soft yellow, rose) create wine-inspired labels, etc.
- MARKETING – Target Facebook ads towards wine lovers, use #winelover in my Instagram posts, send a press release to Wine Enthusiast magazine, photograph my soaps with a glass of wine and grapes, etc.
- SELLING – Look for wine tasting events to set up a booth at, approach wineries about carrying my soaps in their stores, pitch my soaps as the perfect gift for wine lovers, etc.
The people I attract or target are guaranteed to be a fit for my soaps.
It’s not hard to find a target market. It may require you to make a few changes to your business, but the boost in sales you can get from targeting the right market, is worth the work.
WHAT IS A PROFITABLE TARGET MARKET?
A profitable target market is a group of people who share something in common and buy products related to that commonality.
For example, a group of people may have age in common, but they probably aren’t buying a product simply because it was made with a specific age in mind; there’s typically another driving factor.
Although a business may make jewelry for teens, being a teenager isn’t what drives their customers to buy the jewelry. It’s more likely they have an interest in fashion (if the jewelry is fashion-forward), or their interest in unicorns (if the jewelry is unicorn-themed), etc. A business would start with the factor that drives purchases (e.g. unicorns) and then take the demographic (e.g. age) to fine-tune their business. They may make low-priced unicorn-themed jewelry to make it more suitable for teens.
Targeting customers based on age isn’t a profitable target marketing in this scenario, because it’s not what drives purchases.
Another example would be a business designing high-end jewelry for university students. University students make for a good target market, but they’re spending most of their money on tuition, rent, and groceries. They probably don’t have the disposable income to buy expensive jewelry.
In this scenario, the commonality (university students) can be profitable, but the product (high-end jewelry) isn’t a profitable match.
If we stuck with the same target market (university students) but changed the product to cheap pizza with late-night delivery, now we have a better match.
The commonality (university students) and the product (cheap pizza) create a profitable target market.
The pizza business is easily able to find potential customers (e.g. set up a pizzeria close to campus, put up posters around campus, put flyers on cars in the campus parking lot, advertise in the University paper, etc.) and people who fit within that target market will be interested in cheap pizza that can be delivered to their late-night study sessions.
You shouldn’t have to convince your target market that your products are right for them.
HOW TO FIND A PROFITABLE TARGET MARKET FOR YOUR CRAFT BUSINESS
Finding the right group of people to target is your path to more sales.
But there’s a system to follow.
If you target the wrong market, by either grouping people by factors that aren’t important or realistic, or by offering the wrong product, it can be a costly mistake.
In most cases, your business will require a few changes, which requires time and money. So you want to be sure those changes are worthwhile and will give you a return on investment.
Here’s a brief overview of how you can find your profitable target market (More detailed steps can be found in HOW TO FIND A GOLDMINE OF CUSTOMERS).
STEP 1 – CHOOSE A TARGET MARKET
Your small business does not have the time or budget to encourage people to form new groups.
For example, women aren’t forming groups based on loving quirky, fun products. If you wanted to target those women, you’d have to put the work in to build a blog, Facebook group, or get a new hashtag trending so they start coming together to learn about, talk about, discover, etc. quirky products.
Instead of trying to form new groups around your products, look at existing groups.
What’s bringing people together in places you can market and sell your products to them?
In my soap example, wine is what’s already bringing people together through:
- Wine tastings
- Wine festivals
- Wine blogs
- Wine magazines
- Wine stores
Determine what’s bringing people together so you can find your customers in large groups.
An easy way to find groups of people ready to buy, is covered in HOW TO FIND A GOLDMINE OF CUSTOMERS.
STEP 2 – CHECK FOR PROFITABILITY
You may have found a good target market, but you want to be sure it’s a profitable one for your business, based on the products you sell.
You have to look for facts that provide proof your target market will buy your products.
For example, when it comes to wine-themed soap, there are hundreds of articles sharing gift ideas for wine lovers. These lists include everything from wine glasses & charms to wine-themed tea towels and wine-infused tea; wine soaps would fit right in. I’ve also been to several wineries and know their gift shops stock a wide variety of wine-related products.
I have enough proof that people spend money on almost anything wine-related.
Find proof of your target market spending money on products similar to yours.
I share ways to check for profitability in HOW TO FIND A GOLDMINE OF CUSTOMERS.
STEP 3 – ADJUST YOUR BUSINESS
It’s not enough to simply find a profitable target market and put your products in front of them.
Your products, brand, and every element of your business should appeal to your target market.
For example, I wouldn’t take my existing lavender, mint, and lemon scented soaps at a wine event. I would alter my soap colors, scents, ingredients, and packaging to follow a wine theme.
There are many touchpoints that will require adjustments once you find your profitable target market.
Every aspect of your business must speak to your target market so they feel a strong connection to it.
We’re not very enthusiastic about businesses that are “kind of” a fit for our needs.
When everything about a business feels right, we feel more compelled to buy and become loyal customers.
HOW TO FIND A GOLDMINE OF CUSTOMERS explains where to find valuable information about your target market and which areas of your business that information should be applied to.
Finding a profitable target market is just the start.
Once you find one, there are many small improvements you can make to your business to get your target market to notice your business, shop with it, and buy.
Hey, I’m Erin 🙂 I write about small business and craft show techniques I’ve learned from being a small business owner for almost 2 decades, selling at dozens of craft shows, and earning a diploma in Visual Communication Design. I hope you find my advice helpful!