Back in the PI (pre-internet) era if you wanted to learn how your market thought, how they made their buying decisions and what they bought you really had little in the way of accurate research tools to draw on. You could set up a focus group and have folks tell you what you wanted to hear, you could crunch numbers based on sales of different things you sold, you could guess. There were also the usual mathematical formulas that could tell you the probability that someone would by one thing over another thing of yours. And then again you could guess or not and just decide you’ll convince your market they need your stuff.
Enter CIE 2.0
Now that we are in the CIE 2.0 (Common Internet Era 2.0) we can pretty much eliminate guess work because now we have the tools to seed our questions to our very own peeps and sit back and listen to what they have to tell us. We can basically ask our peeps what they want and listen to their answers all the time fine tuning our stuff so that it really, really gives our peeps what they want and of course in turn gives us money to continue to give them more and improved stuff.
While the fine art of listening has always been a much coveted skill by sales folks most of the time that fine art ended at the sale. All those clues about what we wanted well… never made it to those cigar smokin’ honchos in the upper levels of the corporate high rise, the current state of our auto industry is a good example.
Now though, we have tools that not only allow us to listen to our peeps but also are contributing to a greater decentralizing force in the biz world. So those biznesses that don’t listen and don’ t decentralize by listening to their buyers will soon be going bye-bye and I doubt you want to be one of those.
Now that we are in the CIE 2.0 we as solo-business folks have the tools to engage with our peeps at much more intimate level .
But, but, but…..
So does this mean that artists must surrender to the whims and taste of the lowest common denominator? Are you thinking I don’t need some stinkin buyer to tell me how to make my art!! Well…not really! You can still make your own art stuff, that reflects your inner vision and now you have to guess a little less and in cases a lot less and that my friend will help you really focus on what works so you can sell a lot of what works so that that special creation you’ve been working on can wait for it’s perfect buyer.
And no I’m not talking about producing 50 bazillion trinkets of the same thing with minor changes just to sell one cool thing. I’m talking about making and selling lots of different things that still fit your vision, still reflect who you are and what you have to say because you have taken the time to listen to what your folks are telling you. They aren’t dictating your creativity they’re just saying “I love your stuff, but what you have shown me won’t work where I need it” and they may go on to say ” if you had more of this or more of that, or this in more colors etc. I would be more than willing to fill that empty purple wall with your stuff”
You could learn all this stuff by just setting up a few listening posts to hear conversations about the kind of stuff you do. Here are a few ways to do it:
This site is kind of a searchable aggregation of feeds floating around the inter-tubes. Enter a search term like “tin glazed pottery” and you can find out the who, where and what that was spoken in blogs, microblogs,social bookmarks, comments,video and audio.
This free service by google allows you to set up custom search terms so that anytime google runs across one of those terms you get an e-mail alerting you. So if you wanted know how frequently folks mentioned your particular style of metal sculpture all you have to do is enter the terms related to it and sit back and wait. This is really a good thing to find out who talks about you and where your name shows up.
Works a lot like Google Alert but is set up for twitter, and just as simple to set up as Google alerts.
This tool really lets you hone in on your market by giving the ability to set up very specific search terms and include geographic details as well. So if our metal lady wants to know who is talking about plasma cutting, 3/4″ steel and using rivets to join pieces in east timbuktu she can enter those terms with the location and receive e-mails every time someone from east Timbuktu mentions her process.
This service drills down to a whole new level..blog comments. After seting up your profile you can see who is talking about you in comments on other blogs and what they are saying. Pretty cool….!
This little ditty opens a whole new search avenue that of on-line discussion boards. Enter your search terms like before and click “search” besides searching forum threads you can also search tags…pretty cool in a geeky sort of way.
So there ya have it.
these are tools for intel gathering and they aren’t by any means secret sauces. They will give some indication as to whether that quad sided, riveted and welded two tone oxidized thing-a-ma-bob will have a snow balls chance in hell of selling…and that’s good because you can then not waste your precious gift on something that won’t get a chance to live in someone else’s house.
Instead you can figure out if a triple sided unoxidized thing might be in demand. Maybe someone, somewhere has talked about always wanting one of those things and suddenly more and more peeps are wondering if somebody has ever made one. You may find out that in East Timbuktu folks are rumbling about a lack of that thing you want to make so now you can make it and head off to East Timbuktu to market it or if E.Timbuktu has an art fair you can set about getting in and then using your conversation channels start to buzz-up the fact that you and only you will be bringing that much coveted and very valuable thing-ama-jig.
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