Rarely can we go a day without creation. In many ways this is the true nature of our species. The act of making something out of nothing has little to do with idle hands. After all, creation is the mother of all invention.
Can you imagine the millions of minds it took over thousands of years strung together to put the device in your hands you are reading on right now? Every single aspect was an inspiration somewhere in someone’s head that later got remastered and remixed until it got put in the order that makes this possible.
There are two types of creation—well, probably more, but I’m going to talk about these two. There is artistic expression and designed intention. These two aren’t interchangeable but come from similar motivations to create. The key difference is functionality.
As designers we must audit ourselves continually. When it comes to logo design we diligently ensure that all of our creative serves a functional design purpose for our clients. When we started a little Etsy shop that sells products, the lines blurred a little.
We were selling graphics online that we created for a niche market. Our customers could download these products and print them at home or use them how they like. We did patterns and clip-art type items for scrapbookers. Scrapbooks are more a labour of love than anything else (while still functioning as a memory keepsake).
Every scrapbook is different, so creating items with a clear functional purpose was tricky. None of our customers would be the same and have the same needs exactly. Their tastes are all different.
Finding your niche of course helps narrow it down. And we did, it was scrapbooking types based on the West Coast, between the ages of 20 and 30 and were predominantly women. Our items still didn’t sell like hot cakes despite having a target.
We were still making a mistake somewhere down the line. The designs we created were fun, colourful, and unique. Favourites came regularly (favourites on Etsy are like “Likes” on Facebook). Still sales were trickling in and a much lower rate than we’d hoped.
We knew that people were enjoying and liking the ideas behind our products but not enough to need them—to purchase them.
Our mistake was two fold. One, our target market wasn’t nearly as granular in detail as it should be. The target’s music, favourite tv shows and stores would have been instrumental in guiding our product creation. Secondly, because of mistake number one, we weren’t necessarily creating products that they had to have.
And that’s really the crux of the issue. As much as we’d like to just sell products we like making, customers have to want to buy them. By the looks of the Etsy landscape, I quickly realized we weren’t the only ones slightly off the mark.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of making everything you like and assuming that you are the the target market. Admittedly, it would make things a lot easier if you were your own target market. You know yourself pretty intimately—your likes, dislikes and favourite Doritos flavour. The important stuff.
Being a sample size of one doesn’t help. Also, there is always the conflict within yourself of producing what you would be happy with and what your customers would want to buy (studies show that we always like what we create more than things we don’t). There is one other glaring caveat.
If you make things for your target market, you and everyone like you, they won’t need it. They will have no desire for the products you create because they are just like you—they will or have made them themselves. Would you pay for something you can make better as a professional in the same field?
The target market has to be outside of yourself. The menu items or products you create should be targeted to those that can enjoy and appreciate your product but can’t make themselves.
Odds are you know people like this already. Think about your friends or family that want what you create. These are people you can start drawing on to develop your target market. Knowing people personally that can represent your audience will make your products that much stronger and sell more successfully. You know what they want and need and can create those items precisely for them without being swayed by personal preference.
Sell what people must have.