The Inglorious Truth of Mosaic Art Businesses
The inglorious truth of the mosaic art business is that mosaic artists create products. As artists, it is nice to feel like the immense power of our imagination and the skilled application of our craft have created something superior to boring products. Well, here's the unvarnished truth. Many of the mosaic products are created purely to be appreciated for their beauty or emotional power, thus they are art. Some of the products that mosaic artists create are to be beautiful and functional, therefore called crafts. In either case, if it's for sale, it's a product. That includes classes too.
So, to grow a more successful mosaics business, mosaic artists should employ the best practices of product development that other successful businesses use. And, even if you have spent years studying your art and perfecting your craft, you can incorporate these best practices. But first, a warning. Because, in all likelihood, your mosaic art business is made up of you and no one else, so you may need to moderate your expectations of formality and perfection in the product development process. Reasonableness is the test, not perfection.
The best practices are:
- It's about them (the customer). The first rule of business applies to the first steps toward creating revenue, such as product development, just as much as it applies to customer service and retention. It's always about their perceived and real needs.
- Start with marketing. The marketing function of business should be employed in product development just as much as design and engineering. Under the marketer's hat in your business you bring the understanding of the market which includes customers and rivals. It is here that your business is best able to find the unmet needs of the market, estimate their value to potential customers, assess the competition, and meld that information into a successful product.
- Develop hypotheses about product features and their benefits to the customers, who the target customers are, and prices that will best serve the unmet needs. For example: You have noticed that the art & craft fairs and farmers markets in your area have candle makers who are selling a lot of candles. So your hypotheses could include: the candle buyers need candle surrounds that are not being sold at these events; surrounds have to be fire safe; do cool things to the light from the flame; and have a price point below $100.
- Define the product. The product may not be a piece of art, or a craft item as discussed above, it very well may be your ability. There are several customer types that buy your ability, like municipalities who want a mural, mosaic enthusiasts and artists who want a teacher, interior designers and architects who want an installation, and so on. Customers who may buy art at a gallery or art fair may not respond to your ability but rather respond to your style or subject matter. So, define the product by what the customer will respond to.
- Validate a reliable and cost-effective supply. Even if each of your art pieces are made with a one-of-a-kind element and that is your value proposition, you still have to have a supply of appropriate backers, other tesserae, and adhesives. If what is appropriate is neither available or cost-effective, you have a problem. The more you sell, the more important this becomes.
- Target customer pain. People buy solutions to problems. It may not be deemed a problem by everyone, but it does have to be a problem in the mind of the entity spending the money. The problem may be; "I don't know how to cut …" or "I just can't stand this boring drywall backsplash anymore." Find the emotional root and message to it. For the problem "I don't know how to…" the emotional root is being a better mosaic artist and the other is wanting to treat myself better. At Skeew, we don't sell mosaic backers, tools, and tesserae, we sell unleashed creativity.
- Test with customers. Products, like people, are unlikely perfect but can become better. Test them with customers or potential customers. Learn from their feedback and improve the product.
- Outperform the competition. Even if there are no competitors at the launch of the product, its success will breed imitators. If the rivals use plywood backers, put yours on a waterproof, lightweight backer that will last forever. Then sell it like a Patek-Philippe watch "You don't ever really own it, you are just the caretaker for a while."
- Pick a competitive strategy. There are two, and only two, ways to compete. One is discounting and the other is differentiation. To execute the later, you have to be able to show (and maybe prove) the differentiating characteristics of your product. If your product is an ability you have, your resume', references (testimonials), and list of completed projects may do the trick. If your differentiators are based on style, subject matter, or function, then it needs to be obvious in each piece.
Finally, whether your products have been around a long while or are just being developed you can test them against these best practices and find ways to grow your mosaics business even better than you have.