Brandy Davis of Pigsey Art, a lasercut wood journals and home goods shop, shares with us today her experience with finding her niche audience via an invitation to a niche craft show she had never considered before. She explains how participating in a craft show gave her brand new perspective on who her audience was and how she could appeal to and pursue her ideal customers. Thank you, Brandy!
Q: Please introduce yourself, share what you do and how long you’ve been doing it.
A: My name is Brandy Davis; I am the owner of Pigsey Art in Austin, Texas. I lasercut wood journals and home goods with geeky and literary themes. Pigsey Art has been around since 2007 making journals in all forms, and I began using a laser cutter for my creations three years ago. It’s been a long road (with two babies along the way!), but I’m fortunate that Pigsey Art is my full-time job, and I love it despite the dizzying ups and downs. After years of working at a co-op, I just purchased my very own laser cutter that will be in my workroom by the end of March.
Q: What do you consider the biggest or most important tip for running your own handmade business?
A: I would say absolutely you have to find your niche market. My business didn’t really start to take shape till I identified who I was creating for, what was lacking in their market and what those markets were. It is crucial to target your customers and find their markets, virtual and physical, that other similar businesses aren’t utilizing. There are so many general craft shows and boutiques that it's easy to overlook the events and stores that are smaller but hit your target audience much more reliably. Finding your niche market is a multi-step process that starts with first determining who your products are for.
If you ever find yourself answering the question “Who is your product for?” with “Everyone,” or the similar “Everyone with a baby/wedding/skeleton.” Full Stop. Aside from Death and Taxes, nothing is for everyone. I make lasercut wood journals and home goods. And sure, anyone can use a wood product, and it seems tempting to try and make something for everyone because then I’d have more customers, right? But having a generic product that targets broadly not only has a much harder time landing a dedicated niche, it doesn’t develop a style or brand that will make your goods desired and recognizable. Customers who feel like your product is for just anyone don’t feel the urgency to purchase. They need it to feel that this wood journal was MADE for their lifestyle, as if I was in their head giving them something they didn’t even know they needed or wanted but by hell if they’re not gonna have it.
So I don’t make wood goods for everyone. I make geeky and literary wood journals and home goods. Right there I’ve helped narrow down my target audience to people who enjoy geeky and literary products. By deciding who my target audience is, I’ve actually expanded where I can be successful. Now instead of wood goods for everyone, I have a distinctive brand and a niche market to seek out.
Q: So how does narrowing your brand appeal down to your targeted audience help you find niche markets?
A: For me, I learned this lesson at my first book festival.
Q: What helped you learn this particular lesson/tip?
A: I learned how many customers I was missing out on by not pursuing my niche market when I was invited to sell at a book festival. The coordinator had seen my product at other events and fell in love with my literary themes and quality materials. It seems obvious in retrospect: I've been selling journals for over 7 years, but I've always had such good success at general events, I hadn't really thought about a niche market such as a book festival. I always knew my target audience was heavily composed of dorky women who love to read and write (like me!), but I hadn’t really considered other events my target audience might be attending. I wish I had been the mastermind to figure this out, but I was handed this golden lesson by a complete stranger who just wanted my literary designs at the festival. Sometimes, your customers are your best resources for opportunities so listen to them. Take what they say with a grain of salt as you know your business best, but research well.
Q: What effect did this have on how you approach and run your business? What have been the results?
A: Let’s just say, I do a lot more book festivals now. I am a huge bibliophile, and I hadn’t focused on that aspect as much before because I felt it was more for me instead of my customers. Turns out, I just hadn’t sought out enough of the right customers. I was completely unprepared for that book festival. My table was swarmed, I had a constant line and sold out of almost every single literary design I brought. I had become so accustomed to having to explain some of the poetry quotes and references that it was very exciting to be able to discuss them with others equally excited about books.
I had established a good geeky customer base with my science and space journals, but finally I had found the obvious audience for my literary and pun pieces. I love puns, readers love puns, huzzah! After that first festival, I greatly expanded my designs so that my geeky designs weren’t the dominant product. And of course there is a great crossover in that audience, and I still sell tons of my geek designs at my reader-targeted events.
It definitely helped shape my new product launches as well. I’m launching a new line of wood coasters at the end of the month, and my first set in that product line will be a set of Shakespeare Insult coasters. I’m doing two book festivals for my spring events, so I know that niche market will appreciate them.
Not only did I discover a great niche market, I felt free to do more designs based on things I love, and that has made me even happier at work which is always a nice bonus.
Q: How did the book festival differ from events you’ve participated in previously?
A: Customers at a general craft show will look at your products differently than customers at a niche market. These customers are already at an event that is targeted at something they are passionate about, whether it be books, drinking, fashion or gardening. At a more general craft show, I have to use my pitch and my display more aggressively to prove to a potential customer that my brand fits their lifestyle before I can interest them in a particular product. At a niche market or website, my product is already interesting to a much higher percentage of the crowd, usually at least 75%. So instead of persuading them that my brand will appeal to them, I’m spending way more time pitching individual products. Pitching a specific product will more likely result in a sale than trying to sell customers on an entire concept that is not familiar to them. At my niche markets, it’s usually less a question of will a customer buy than what will they buy. It’s almost like pitching your product to experts as opposed to amateurs.
A good example would be at a typical show: I might get someone looking at a Robert Frost journal who thinks, “Oh that’s a lovely quote, will look good on Instagram. I’ll get that for lists and writing.” At a niche market, I will get a customer quoting the entire poem to me verbatim, ask what other Frost quotes I have available and try to figure out if the paper is good enough quality. You don’t have to sell people as much on the concept as you do the quality and the idea that, “I totally get you.” I hear frequently at book festivals that people believe I have been inside their head while picking my designs. I can’t imagine a better compliment.
Q: How do you decide if an event or market is right for you?
A: Any market, fair, or business venture is a gamble, so there is always an element of risk when exploring new venues and markets. A good way to start is to look at any social media from the event. Look at the customers in pictures and who have posted at the event or using the hashtag; look at the pictures the event put on their website. Do the styles shown and people posting look like your target audience? Having a large crowd or presence means nothing if they’re not in your target audience. You’ll be wasting extra time and energy to make fewer sales than you would at a better niche market. Look at past vendors and see not only if their products seem to aim at your audience but does anyone have what you are doing? Really consider if your style or product has already been represented. If they already have 2-3 people who were doing literary-themed journals, I wouldn’t attend that book festival. But since I have created a strong brand identity with targeted products, I never run across anyone with exactly my products and target audience. That makes niche markets all the more valuable and rewarding for me.
Q: What advice do you want to share with other handmade businesses?
A: Everyone has a niche market they can find find for their product; it might take some serious time and research as well as trial and error. This could be a specialized physical store, an online community or targeted website.
Don’t get so caught up in trends that you lose your brand identity. But don’t get so caught up in defining your brand as different that you ignore trends. It’s a delicate dance of building brand loyalty while keeping in mind what the current style is.
Q: Where can people find you online?
A: You can find my products online on my website at www.PigseyArt.com or follow me on the following social media accounts: