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The Bigger Picture

March 11, 2011

In this Thursday night insight Cristin Malone, helps fine art photographer Joy Malone, discover that market research is truly a work of art.

A few weeks ago I was pleasantly surprised when my older sister Joy asked me – her younger sister- for advice. Maybe it’s the fact I spent my undergraduate career studying to be a psychologist, or the fact that I love to hear myself talk, or the fact that I have been waiting for my sister to ask me about anything, but eagerly I jumped at the opportunity. Before she could get the words out of her mouth, my mind raced as I began to think of what she needed advice on. I conjured up insights on my specialties: love, men, how to find happiness in life, the best places to shop for clothes or furniture… and all of this came to a dead halt when she asked, “Cristin, you’re in market research. What would be the best way for me to market myself?”

For the first time in a long time, I was silent for more than a minute. My sister is a fine art photographer and in all fairness to myself, I am not entirely familiar with the photography industry. However, I did have ample time to prepare for this question. For the past 4 years she has completed her MFA in fine art photography and for months now she has been talking about starting her own business and selling more of her art – nonetheless I was ill-prepared. The only advantage I did have was that I am just as immersed in her art as she is and so I truly understand her goals on how she would like to position herself.

She really has developed a unique style; check out some of her work:(click picture to enlarge)

I remained silent for a few more minutes. Then finally the researcher inside of me shined through. I was puzzled about where she should start to market herself because I didn’t have any information about the kind of prospective buyers she could target. Even prior to gallery representation, my sister has had much success in winning art shows, photography contests, and selling some pieces of her art. So I suggested that she work harder to understand the people that have expressed an interest, judged her pieces, or have purchased her art. I advised (yes I advised!!!) that she develop a loosely structured questionnaire that would fit easily into a normal conversation, but yet pull out key information that would help her to better market herself.

The loosely structured questionnaire included these themes:(click picture to enlarge)

Together my sister and I thought these themes would help her to position herself or create messaging, by determining the feelings that resonated the most with her existing and potential customers. In addition, these themes would help her determine what type of customer she has and the best ways to reach them. Furthermore, it would provide information on the other artists out there and if they are creating art similar to her style. Most importantly, the answers to these questions would also indicate ways she could improve her style and encourage ideas for new pieces of works.

The reality is that market research is needed in any phase of business development – whether it is a sole proprietor taking his or her first big step or a long established company embarking on a new endeavor. Receiving just a few answers to some key questions on: how the product is used; by whom it is used; where it is used; why it is used; the perception of the product; the perception of the company; and the value of the product, can lead to some of the best marketing strategies. That is why taking the time to research is so critical for any company. I hope that my sister continues to work these questions into the conversations she has about her art, as each snap shot of information she gets will help her understand the bigger picture (pun intended).

Hey Joy, here is some free marketing for you!
Interested in her works? Check out her website: http://joymalonephotography.zenfolio.com/
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