Go the extra mile to learn what you want

Diane StewartI’ve been running my own graphic design business for almost 10 years. After attending my first CFC this past summer, I learned I could be doing so much more, and I learned feast or famine doesn’t have to be a way of life for freelancers.

So, after talking with a few of my new friends about how they run their businesses, I decided to follow their lead and take Ilise Benun’s 6-month Marketing Group.

Our first assignment was to decide on a target market. Easy, right? I started with my existing clients, which are mainly healthcare, financial services and high-tech organizations. I’m thinking to myself, “I’ve got this down. I’m set.”

Sure, all of these industries are pretty solid in the marketplace, and I’ve been making a pretty good living with them over the past several years. But, something was missing. It was passion. I kept talking with my classmates about my passion for animals, my passion for working with animal shelters, but I kept struggling with the fact there wasn’t much money in that market, and I was used to large corporation-type fees.

After several discussions with my classmates about what I like, what I don’t like, and the type of work I’m really good at and enjoy, one commented on the fact I love to do event and tradeshow work. From there, I thought about how to parlay that into a passionate target market. To make a long story short, I decided on trade associations.

Here’s an industry that needs help getting their messages out to their members, creating awareness, and raising funds. This was really starting to make sense to me. So it was set: I’d start researching more about trade associations and seeing if this would be a viable market for me.

Behind the scenes, while all this was going on, I happened to mention to one my financial services clients that I was looking to build my business in a specific target market. Immediately she thought it would be a good idea for me to come to their largest financial event of the year to network and explore the possibility of financial services becoming my target market. Well, I already had them as a client, and I loved what I did for them (designing trade show booths and supporting marcom materials), so I thought, “This is great, I’ll have two target markets, financial services and trade associations.”

After spending a day in the expo hall talking with vendors and financial experts, I learned that there are mounds of national and state regulations that a designer needs to know in order to stay within the legal boundaries of what you can and cannot say. It was suggested that you need an attorney to help you decipher all the legalese because of the ever-changing laws.

Now, keep in mind, I don’t mind hard work. But it was clear to me, this wasn’t an avenue I wanted to explore. The more I thought about my financial services client, the more I realized that even though they are in the financial industry, they are really a trade association. Score! They are, in fact, my target market!

The moral of the story? Sometimes you have to go the extra mile to learn what you don’t want in order to find what you DO want. I’ve settled on my new target market with trade associations and non-profits. Yes, it is a big jump from finance, high-tech and health care. But I’m very excited and passionate about my new direction.

What have you learned along the way to help you get what you want in a target market?

One thought on “Go the extra mile to learn what you want

  1. Di

    Your story sounds very much like mine. This fall I’m celebrating five years in business so as a gift to myself I signed up for Ilise’s Advanced Marketing Group. I chose the advanced group simply because as an established business I already had a website, was marketing myself, etc. I also had a target market, sort of, but it’s one I fell into.

    My goal, as I move into my next five years, is to pursue a new target market. After a lot of research and self-examination I chose one that fits me to a T. It’s kind of like “duh, why didn’t I think of this before?”

    Because it’s something I know so well and something I love, it’s very easy to market myself (I’m actually enjoying Marketing Mondays, if you can imagine that:-). I can talk the language. I know the industry and its people. I’m not putting on a forced salesmanship. As one of my group members said, I not only am designing for this industry, I actually live it.

    I still have a lot of work ahead of me. I’m in the process of revising my online and print promotions to reflect my new target. And, of course, I need to get those new customers! But I’ve gotten my first one already and I’m confident there will be more.

    Best wishes as you move in your new direction!