Patricia van den Akker is the director of The Design Trust, an online business school for designers and makers. She has worked with 100s of creative sole traders, freelancers and small business owners as a creative business adviser, coach and trainer. She regularly runs webinars, workshops and training for Craft Central UK, Space Studios, and a wide variety of organisations and universities across the UK. She is a regular contributor to Crafts Magazine, as the Design Doctor giving business advice to reader’s questions.
Here she looks at the tricky question of identifying who you should be targeting your jewellery at.
What comes first: the product or the client? Many graduate jewellers were taught great technical and conceptual skills at university and encouraged to create and develop their own style. When they leave university they continue developing their work, and then try to find a client who is interested in buying from them.
That’s hard work.
It’s a lot easier to identify a potential client and then start creating jewellery specifically for them. Having a potential client in mind can hugely influence what you will design: from the type of product, the materials, the style, the price and where you will show and sell your work. These ‘restrictions’ can be really useful and creative, and the chances of selling your jewellery will be much higher.
I am a big fan of so called ‘niche marketing’ – especially for the crowded jewellery design market. Your niche is the combination of your best skills, talents and interests with your ideal clients. Instead of competing with many other jewellers you focus on your own strengths and combine them with your dream clients, and what they want to wear and buy. It’s far easier to get known and to stand out from the crowd. You need to really get to know your ideal clients in depth, and then develop the right jewellery for them.
Before you know it they will come back again and again, and will tell their friends about your amazing jewellery too.
How do you get to find and know your ideal customer?
If you are already selling to clients then start thinking about your dream clients. Who are the people who you love creating for and selling to? Who inspires you the most? Who do you want to do your best work for?
If you have got 3 or 4 specific customers in mind, then start to analyse a little further who they are. What gender and age are they? Where do they live? Are they based in a city or countryside? In the UK or overseas? What job do they have? What lifestyle?
Where do they buy your jewellery? Do they buy from you directly or via galleries or jewellery shows? Which specific galleries or shows? Which magazines or blogs do they read? How much do they spend on your jewellery? And do you know how much they spend on jewellery each year in total?
Do you know why they buy jewellery? Is it for themselves or a gift? Is it for a special occasion such as an anniversary or to celebrate a bonus? Do they wear statement jewellery or more day-to-day? What other jewellery do they wear? What type of clothing and fashion brands do they wear with your jewellery?
Do you know why they buy jewellery specifically from you? Have they given you specific feedback or complimented you?
Why do you love working with them? What is it about them that makes them a dream client? What kind of values have they got? Is elegant luxury important, bold statements, their future heirlooms or your ethical stance?
Commissioning and buying jewellery is very personal, and often emotional. What’s the emotion they express when they buy from you? Or when they receive or wear your jewellery?
Loads of questions to work on!
The next stage is to pull all this information together, and create one collage for each of your dream client types. Collect images of your dream clients and create mood boards (or a private Pinterest board!). Add statements and quotes, answering the questions above.
You can give each ‘client type’ a name and write a little biography about them. You will soon get a very clear picture of who your ideal clients are, and ‘Claire’ and ‘James’ will soon come very alive for you!
You also need to research your potential trade clients. In which shops, galleries or trade shows do you want to sell your work? Make a list of at least 20 wholesalers and start doing some research. Have you recently visited their shop or website? Do you know who else they are stocking? How they present work and individual jewellery brands? How educated their staff is? What price level most of the jewellery is? What commission they charge? Do you know the name of the buyer and what the best way is to approach them?
If you haven’t sold any work yet then these questions and exercises can still be really useful, but it will be more based on your imagination than on reality, so you might need to check some of your assumptions with more established colleagues.
If you don’t know why your clients are buying from you, then you will need to do some research into their motivations. If you sell directly then ask them if it is for themselves or a gift, or if it is for a special occasion. You can ask these questions also online if you sell through Etsy or another online platform. It will give you great insight in the motivations of why your clients are buying from you and when, which can help you to start creating and launching new collections they will simply love at the right time of the year.
You can use your mood boards to start creating a new collection of jewellery for your specific client groups. Do they want earrings, brooches, necklaces or something very different? What style and materials do they want? What price would they pay? When would they buy or commission you? Where would they buy from or commission you?
You can start identifying your positioning and create a brand based on your and your ideal client’s values. Create a website in attractive colours, with stunning images and an identity that attracts your dream client.
Your mood boards and research can help you to write a short intro text for your home page or ‘About me’ page which will be much more focused and effective. Don’t just write down what you do (e.g. bold jewellery for men, luxurious engagement rings) but why you do jewellery and how you work. Share your story as this will give your potential clients a far better insight and more personal connection before they decide to buy from you.
Your chances of getting repeat business and more referrals will increase fast. A good sign of a thriving jewellery business.
Patricia van den Akker, 2 February 2014 ©
During business week, London Jewellery School is offering 20% off all day and taster business courses plus the Business Bookcamp if you book between 2 and 9 February 2014. To get your discount call 020 3176 0345 and book your class quoting BIZWEEK20. Find out more here.
And don’t forget you can get advice this evening from multi-award winning business woman and London Jewellery School founder Jessica Rose as part of Jewellery Business Week. Jessica will be answering your questions live on our Facebook page between 6 and 8pm Thursday 6 February. All you have to do is click on the Facebook link, here, and add your question to the post for the event.