Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Business Chat - market research

Fingers crossed everyone, and cross those toes too. Dance on one leg, light a candle, do whatever you do to make a wish and wish for nice weekend weather for the next 3 months. Yes, it’s time to pray to the weather gods for nice weekend weather not just because it’s summer and because you want to go out and play after a long workweek. It’s craft show season and weekends are the time for crafters to make money at craft shows. You are, I assume, a crafter. (I assume that because you are reading this blog and because I am very good at deductive logic.)

If you have a booth at the next show in your neighbourhood, good luck! If you don’t then you absolutely must make a day of visiting the show. Either way, I will now assume that you’re going to a craft show in the next few weeks. This is an excellent idea because a craft show is the best place for a crafter to conduct market research.

Market research is any organised effort to gather information about markets or customers. Market research is for discovering what people want, need, or believe. It can also involve discovering how they act. Once that research is completed, it can be used to determine how to market your product. In it’s simplest form market research means watching people. First and foremost, to make people watching into an effective form of market research, you have to have great observation skills and an eye for detail. You can pick up lots of useful information by watching people but you have to know what to look for and where to look.

Every now and then on sunny afternoons I conduct “market research” in a fun part of the city by sitting on a patio and having a lovely beverage. I take a notebook and look. As a jeweler I am looking at what people are wearing. Just because the magazines tell me something is a trend doesn’t mean that I believe it. Go to a busy coffee shop and count how many women are wearing earrings, necklaces, bracelets etc. Check out how many bracelets they’re wearing. It’s a fun exercise. This can also be repeated in malls, libraries, shops and movie theaters, any public place is a possibility. None however are as good as conducting this research at a craft show.

Malls will not give me the sort of information I need because my customers aren’t mall people. My customers buy my work because they choose to buy handmade. That is why they go to craft shows. From previous observation I have learnt that you sell to who you are. Your work reflects your age, education, experience, travel, lifestyle, you. Knowing this, hanging out observing people in a coffee shop near a high school isn’t going to tell me much about my target customer as my target customer is not in high school.

When I go to a craft show here’s some things that I am looking for. I look at the age of people, gender, if they have kids, if they have dogs, if they shop alone or with friends. I check out how they’re dressed (then go hang out in those shops and observe them). If I’m in my own booth I watch how they shop, do they stand in the aisles and just stare or do they come in. If they’re just staring what can I do to entice them in. I check out what items people pick up, what they try on, what they actually purchase.

Interesting sidenote: one of the first things in my booth that gets noticed is my black and white sets. “Oh look at that! I wear so much black!” It’s the first to be seen, it’s the first to be touched, it never sells. Although it doesn’t sell it gets a prominent place up front because it’s an attention getter. They move on to buy colour.

If I’m walking around a show I take time to notice the people who are visiting my competitors’ booths. Are they the same people who come by my booth? I try to listen in to conversations and find out if people are shopping for themselves or if they are buying gifts. I watch to see if people prefer to pick up business cards or postcards when given a choice. With my eagle eye, brilliant observational skills and handy notebook what I am watching for is a pattern to people’s behaviour, or at least a vague clue. By knowing who my customer is and what they like I am in a much better position of making a sale because I can make something that my customer actually wants.

This week I want you to conduct some market research of your own. Go to a really busy coffee shop, order the beverage of your choice and pull out your notebook. Now watch the people. Practice your observational skills before the next craft show.

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