Target Markets and The Market Bug

I’ve got the taste for markets!

I never thought it would happen.

Actually, that’s not true. I’m lying there.

Two years ago, when all of  S2 launched, I was dreaming about tabling. To be specific, I was dreaming of having a table set up in Union Square. Clearly, I was not envisioning a glamorous tabling atmosphere to begin with, just me and my product on a folding table out with the other artists in the square. However, now thanks to the wonderful NewNew Team that I’m part of, I see lots of tabling events in my future. LOTS!

This enthusiasm for tabling comes from Celebrate Brooklyn!. I know, I know. You’re going to hate hearing about Celebrate Brooklyn! by the time August rolls around, but alas, that’s what you are going to hear me talk/blog about until August 11th.

Last week was my first two shifts as part of the team and my first two times interacting with customers in person. In my area, my customers are in two camps: The customized order customers and the customers who buy “already” produced items.  I separate the two because customized order customers interact with me quite a bit, where as a customer purchasing a “mass-produced” item does not.

Leading up to my shifts, I had been told that stationery had been a hard sell and wasn’t doing so well, but that can be expected. Let me state now that I didn’t go into Celebrate Brooklyn! with high expectations. I’d be lying if I said that I had no expectations, but I am definitely not lying by admitting that I just didn’t/don’t have high expectations. The main reason being that I’ve never produced large quantities of anything other than an invitation and those were specifically tailored and created to fit a need. Which means that my “target market” was not really not my focus in designing and creating for Celebrate Brooklyn!.

My items at Celebrate Brooklyn! reflect what I think might be good items for the attendees of the concerts, but I pretty much made things I liked and prayed that others would like them, too.  But not everything was newly created, instead a few pieces were altered/recreated from an older piece in my established collections. There are a lot of pieces that I didn’t know what I was doing until two weeks before my deadline.  There are also the projects that I had envisioned from the beginning, but I either ran out of time on or they didn’t turn out as I wanted them to so I moved beyond them. Lastly, there are the designs that I thought would take no time and in fact took more time and maxed me out for days.

All of these scenarios were learning lessons for me. Lessons in how better to budget time, how to create more aligned pieces and more importantly, how not to get too emotionally invested in an idea if it can’t be constructed in the time frame I’ve created. Sometimes things just don’t work out as desired. However, from the ashes good opportunities do come about.

What this all points to is that while I did keep my target market somewhat in mind, I also kept in mind that my target market does not exclusively cater to Brooklynites and/or New Yorkers. That doesn’t mean that I don’t expect New Yorkers to like my stuff, I do, I really do, actually, but this Mid-Western girl also wants to appeal to the people of her background and roots. This also means that I want anyone who has wit and an appreciation for language to find my products appealing. Again, the clientele for Celebrate Brooklyn! is so varying in backgrounds-sexuality, gender and economic- that creating solely for my target market would alienate a lot of people.

I realize that I need to have a target market and that I should focus on them, but at an event like Celebrate Brooklyn! or any tabling event, you never know what your mix is going to be. Which makes it potentially worth your while to create things that might not be for your target, but gets you noticed. At the end of the day, I don’t want to appeal to everyone, but I wouldn’t mind at least attracting the attention of a potential client.

Friday the 17th,  the music was sort of electronic-heavy on instruments and keyboards, low on vocals, high in the  mellow category, and  kind of dance inspiring. That night I swayed to the music. Saturday night however, was Salsa night and the energy was livelier than the night before. The night also was packed. I’d say there were almost as many people there Saturday night as there were the opening night when Andrew Bird was the performer. The only difference is that the people attending the Salsa concert were not any of the Etsy vendor’s target market. As a matter of fact, they were interested and we did make some sales, including myself (more on that below), but the gaps in sales were long and you could tell that many thought our items were cute, but not enough to really delve into them, or talk to any of us on the sales floor.

Our booth is full of jewelry and t-shirts which makes the shop sparkle and grab attention, but I’ve found that once you step inside, there’s a lot of things trying to grab your attention, which makes it easy to miss any of the stationery products for sale. I’m not bitter or upset about this at all, I just learned important lessons about merchandising in my first two shifts. Which is why on my shift Saturday night, we went a different direction…

Since all four of us Saturday night were new to working, we all worked merchandising a little bit different, but still  followed the guidelines (photos) of how things were set up.  What resulted was a good thing where all the ladies working were pleased, but we missed a few areas that made me feel bad later. It was purely accidental, but even still I never want another vendor to lose sales because of a mistake on my part.

For my products I simply moved my cards in more prominent positions, but made sure that everyone was fairly represented on the card wall.  I didn’t want the other vendor’s cards to not be successful, instead I wanted to give the cards a chance at rotating. For the three shifts before Saturday, the cards had been displayed in the same manner, which is fine, but when items aren’t selling then maybe that’s a sign to try something new and different, right? Right.

In all of our cases, doing something new and different definitely paid off.

I sold a set of my assorted postcards and almost squealed in happiness! It’s such an amazing feeling when someone who you don’t know sees your product and tells you that you have talent. Actually, it’s quite validating to hear those words!  And those were the customer’s exact words.  Honestly, it was like having amazing sex, or gelato while walking the streets of a city in Italy, or the rush of energy and confidence you get after a good run.

What I also loved was being able to actually engage with my customer as she made her purchase. I was able to give her my card and tell her about my customized business.  She talked the entire time not just giving me compliments, although there were a few, but talked about design and the actual language used on my cards. The other good thing was that she didn’t balk at the $24 price tag. It was in that moment that I realized THIS is what I love doing – I love making people happy.

However, it doesn’t just stop at making people happy.  I love making things, honing in on my skills and creating. And THEN I love making people happy.  Even more, I like knowing that my products can make or have made someone happy.  All I can keep doing now is doing what I’m doing because it’s working–it makes me and others happy.  As my friend Erin and I discussed several nights ago, I’m not saving the world, yet, but making people happy is a form of saving the world. I’ll totally take that. For now.

Which leads me back to markets and tabling. After last Saturday, even in my feelings of exhaustion and the knowledge that I need to change some aspects of my schedule, I want to do more events like this. I am aware that I won’t always have the extra income that I have now because I won’t always have a paycheck to fall back on, but I want to get my products into the hands of people who love my stuff. I want people to be inspired after meeting me and seeing my items. More importantly, I want to reach out and hear stories and learn from the people telling those stories.  This is the stuff that fuels me and if selling in booths with fellow {NewNew}ers and even on my own is how I have to do it, I will.

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s2 stationery & designs

A rule-breaking designer, artist & entrepreneur who's passionate about paper and handcrafting stationery. I also write, travel, and focus on eco + social good.

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