If your goal is to sell the things you create, you need an audience. Right? Now I bet you’re thinking ‘yeah if only finding an audience was that easy.’ And you’d be right again; finding an audience who wants to buy what you create is often the biggest hurdle for new and growing creator businesses.
To overcome that hurdle, you need to do a lot of market research around your genre or niche as well as looking at the target market for your book. When you narrow your focus to the audience who wants to buy the kinds of products you offer, you are much more likely to be successful.
What Is Market Research?
Market research involves an organized effort to learn about the specific group of people you want to buy your products or services. As an independent creator, you’ll need to define your target audience.
This is important; market research is a two-part effort for creators. First, you need to find your potential customers and understand what they want. Then you need to find a publisher to help you distribute your products to those customers.
Before you can do either of those research activities, you need to learn about your competition.
Finding And Understanding Your Competition
The easiest way to find an audience is to look at your competitors. If you write serial fiction, you can focus on authors in your genre and the readers or other writers following them. For nonfiction writers, look for the most successful creators and entrepreneurs in your industry and follow them.
I suggest making a list of about 10 creators who are offering products or services similar to you. They are both your peers and your competition. Follow them on their preferred social media platforms, sign up for their email lists, and buy samples of their content.
While you’re researching your competition, you can also learn from them. Watch their webinars, read their blog, and buy their books. You need to know what is working for the audience you’re hoping will buy your own content. As you observe these successful creators, you should begin to understand how they are succeeding and who they are engaging with. And—just as important—you’ll see things that don’t work or that you know won’t work for your audience.
Define Your Target Market
Your marketing strategy should focus on targeting the audience you want to buy your book. This group of consumers will be a smaller group with specialized or specific wants and needs.
For example, creating a pen and marketing it as ‘the pen for anyone’ will fail. You’ll be competing against popular, well-known, and affordable products. We can all find a Bic™, there’s probably one within reach of you right now. Now imagine you design a pen that is stylish, durable, and ergonomic. For creators who like to write longhand, that might make a huge difference.
Your target market segmentation will need to look for those gaps in products or offerings that you can fill. Or an area within that group you’ve identified as a target market that can be further specialized—maybe there’s a demand for stylish and comfortable pens with a stylus on the end. Or in hot pink and orange colors.
The more specific you can get, the more likely you are to be able to build a small but dedicated audience. Rather than trying to create something for everyone, aim for a product you can specifically target to an audience who wants or needs that product.
How To Do Market Research As A Creator
Once you’ve defined your audience and you understand who your competitors are, you need to actually gather details you can use when creating and marketing. Some of the work can be automated, using software like Sparktoro to better understand what your audience does online.
This will help you focus on specific sites or social media platforms to understand what they are doing to encourage customers to keep coming back. Is there a blog or video series that updates regularly? Lots of new content on the homepage? Maybe a thriving forum? Take note and look for ways you can replicate or build on the things that are already working for your competition.
Another option is to use tools like AHREF’s site explorer to learn which sites similar to your own are earning traffic from search engines. This data might be just what you need to implement a new SEO strategy or reimagine your own website to better meet your intended audience’s expectations.
If you’ve already got an audience on social media or you’re sending regular emails to your mailing list, it’s still critical to look for ways to grow.
For example, you can grow your email list with a variety of methods, from offering premium content in exchange for signing up to promoting the added value or content social followers will get when they sign up. To build your social audience, you’ll need to look at each platform to determine what works best. But for all of them, you will need to make your content easy to share and you’ll have to post regularly on that platform to keep followers engaged.
Selecting The Right Publisher
You need to let your audience inform how you publish. That means finding the right platform to create your content and the best means to distribute that content to your fans.
If you have a number of followers on a social media platform, you need to be able to sell through that platform. And if you’ve built your audience through an email list, you have to know how to convert those subscribers to buyers.
For a book, you might publish through three or more sources. Almost all authors of every kind want to be on Amazon. But you’ll also want to leverage your audience to sell direct—earning more and giving you an opportunity to capture valuable customer information.
Again, look to your market research and the audience you’ll be targeting. Once you know what they want and expect, it will inform how you publish your content and make it available to them. This information will be invaluable when you start writing your next book as well!
Using Market Research To Improve Your Book
You can (and should) use your book market research to improve how you write. For nonfiction writers like coaches, marketing experts, or anyone selling their technical skills, the most important thing is for your book to be useful to your audience. One proven way to achieve that is to give them a book that fits their expectations
Once you learn what your fans like, that should inform the tone, pacing, and word count of your work. You can’t try to sell huge novels to an audience who reads short stories. Don’t let other authors change your book idea, but do let them influence how you deliver that book.
Market research is primarily a way to find your audience and your competitors/peers, but don’t overlook the value of learning what your audience wants. Connecting what you learn about your audience with how you create will lead you to offer better products and ultimately grow your business.
Using Market Research To Reach Your Audience
Once you understand the kind of content, social media platforms, and format your intended audience likes, your job gets much easier. You don’t have to guess about these things. Market research will reveal what your audience expects—then it’s on you to give them what they want.
Be aware of what is working within your genre and aim to leverage that while telling your unique stories or sharing your expert insights. No matter what you sell, you can’t hope to be successful as a creator or entrepreneur if you don’t know who you’re selling to and what they are looking to buy.
Paul is the Content Marketing Manager at Lulu. When he's not entrenched in the publishing and print-on-demand world, he likes to hike the scenic North Carolina landscape, read, sample the fanciest micro-brewed beer, and collect fountain pens. Paul is a dog person but considers himself cat tolerant.