Friday, November 4, 2011

:: the other half of the nss story ::


my previous post on nss presented the gut/emotional side of things, because that's kind of what i like to do on this blog. this blog, since it's my personal blog, is the perfect venue for me to talk about - and think through - how intuition, gut reactions, and emotional responses feed into everyday business decisions.

but to be fair - to me and to my business - there is another key factor i'm considering as i ponder nss 2012. a key non-emotional, business-facts kind of factor. 

my ideal customers.

as i've worked through this year with my business, particularly in the months since nss, i've been increasingly aware of the need to get crystal clear on just who i want to be selling to. who i'm focused on attracting, serving, and satisfying.

when you're an artsy-designy type, and when you start out part time and kind of just want to see how and where things go, you don't always spend a lot of time thinking about this part of things. but for me at least, the key to focusing my efforts in a way that will allow me to make this business more sustainable, more profitable, and even more enjoyable is figuring out who i want to work with. who i want to sell to. 

the september experiment was a huge part of this. as i explained in my follow-up post on a practical wedding, i think a big part of the experiment was about nailing down who my ideal customer is and how i can best communicate to her.

there, i wrote this:
"There's sort of a business adage (adage? rule of thumb? bit of advice? moral? truism?) that says you should price for the customer you want. If you want a high-end customer, you need a high-end price. If you want a bargain shopper, you need a bargain price. 
I actually just gave this advice to two separate individuals in the last 48 hours.
At some point early on in this experiment, it occurred to me that at least in part, my goal for this experiment was to do this the other way around: find the customer I wanted and then let that customer set the price. And who was that customer? She was the kind of person who believes in the power of her voice and her dollar; the sort of person who would think carefully before naming a price. She was thoughtful, maybe a little bit rebellious. 
I agonized over my so-called pitch. I worked so hard on the video, on the FAQs. I was selective in which blogs I contacted. I wanted to make this an experiment about ideas more than it was an experiment about how many customers I could bring through the door. I wanted to focus on finding the right name-your-price customers. 
After all, it's just me here. Me and an ex-intern (back to school in September) and a very pregnant sister and a husband neck-deep in prosecuting bad guys. And two young kids in just-part-time daycare. So it's not like I wanted an onslaught. But I did want participation. I told Meg that my biggest fear was that no one would participate."
and the thing is, attending nss really in no way, shape, or form fits into a marketing strategy that speaks to the customer i'm trying to engage. i know it's a big part of becoming a serious and enduring stationery brand, which is why i was so excited to go this year, why i'm glad i went this year, and why i'm still slightly on the fence about attending next year. 

but as i hone my business objectives and focus my efforts, it's pretty clear to me that the six grand i spent on attending this past year could be put to much better use if what i want to do is attract the kinds of customers i want to attract. customers who want to do things their way. young people who seek their inspiration and information online and who haven't stepped foot in a boutique since their moms dragged them there to buy presents for their great aunts. people who want input in the process. people who want to be reassured that their way is the right way, even if its not the traditional way.

so yeah. there's the emotional part. there's the frustration i feel, and the resentment. there's my inclination towards being contrary and stubbornly striking out in my own direction. but there are also solid, logical, intentional reasons that attending nss may not be the best choice for up up creative in 2012, much as attending again would be fun.

i just had to put that out there because i felt like my other post only covered half the story.

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