As a woodworker you know what you love to do and you know what you love to create.
Everyone wants to make a living at something they love, but oftentimes our dreams are never fully realized due to various pitfalls that ultimately could have been avoided. Affirming that you want to pursue woodworking, as a full-time job, is a crucial first step for your future as a woodworker. Indecisiveness is an enemy of productivity and can add unnecessary stress to our lives. If you want to create without deadlines, not have to please customers and keep financial records, I recommend keeping woodworking as a hobby. If you have the passion for business and love to create, pursuing woodworking as a profession might be for you. However, one issue I commonly see is that we as creative people have the tendency to become so focused on creating that we forget to focus on the business; then when things don’t work out, we conjure circumstances to place the blame. We make statements like, “the support wasn’t there”, or “if I just would have been able to get that financing I applied for.” Truthfully, the success of our dreams relies on us, and our ability to adapt. I heard it said before, “you don’t need more money, you need a better strategy.” If you need more customers, then you need a strategy to reach and engage those customers. If you need equipment, then you need a strategy to either get or use that equipment. It’s not so much the end game that you should be focused on rather the daily steps that will ultimately lead you to success, and that requires a plan. We believe the first step to starting any business is to identify your market.
Identifying Your Woodworking Market
Will your product or service really sell? This is the big question you need to honestly ask yourself. The answer can often be obtained by identifying your market and potential customers with thorough research and unbiased opinion. During this research we must remove emotion and simply look at data as our guide. Over the years I have heard many musicians discuss how their least favorite song on a recently recorded album is the fan favorite, and the song they love, the fans seem to overlook. This paradigm shows that what we hold close to our hearts and value the most may not always resonate with the general public. There are three questions we are looking to answer that will ultimately answer the big question of if your product will really sell.
1. Is there a Market for Your Woodworking Services and Wood Products?
If we were talking about innovative technology instead of wood products, then I would have a different course of action for market research. However, most every type of wood product has been already been created and can easily be researched to see if a market still exists. If you design and create live edge tables for example, a simple Google search will show you that live edge tables are very much in style and therefore a market for them has been created. You can read through blogs such as our recent blog on interior design trends woodworkers should know of to brush up on what’s trending. At the core of every successful business is supply and demand. If there is a demand that you can fulfill at a fair price, then you have a business – it’s really that simple. If there is not a market, then you either need to convince people that there is one, or move on to something else. In this stage of research it would also be wise to look at your cost of production versus what people are buying finished products for to make sure there is profit potential before researching further. There are ways of researching the average dollar transaction per customer, or the frequency of purchases for your type of product. Will there be enough customers, making frequent enough purchases, and coming back to purchase again to hit and sustain your financial objectives?
2. Who is the Market for Your Woodworking Services and Wood Products?
Once it has been determined that there is a market, we need to find out specifically who our target market is. We need to determine through research what the primary characteristics of our target market are. Since we used live edge tables as our example above, let’s continue on that thought. A purchaser of a live edge table would most likely have a certain level of income and lifestyle due to the price of most tables. Also, depending on the geographic location of the potential purchaser, they might favor a specific type of wood. California Black Walnut may fetch a higher price in New York where the wood is more rare than on the US’s west coast. Each product you produce needs to be specifically looked at and the potential market determined. Find out exactly who would buy your product, or better yet, who already is. Create a spreadsheet or list of the characteristics your target market possesses. This might include income level, lifestyle, interests and hobbies, education level, gender, geographic locations, seasonal activities, etc. One way to get income information is by visiting www.city-data.com/income. We want to understand as thoroughly as possible who our market is, and what they generally gravitate towards.
3. How do I Reach the Market?
Once your market has been identified, it is good to look at the final consumer and who that might be, not just who will buy directly from you. For example, maybe your goal is to sell handmade wood sculptures through local art galleries and furniture stores. Now, not only are you taking into consideration the characteristics of the person you want to buy your product, buy you are also taking into consideration the geographic location where you’re trying to sell your product. It would be advised to look at what items previously sold through the galleries and stores to determine whether their customers would be a sustaining market. Even though it may be exciting to have your product accepted in a store, if it doesn’t sell, the relationship might be short-lived. Coming up with an effective strategy to reach your target market is not always easy and requires thinking outside of the box. We have to determine what is wishful thinking and what will really work. Other poor strategies besides wishful thinking include thinking your customers will just fall out of the sky or going with only hoping and praying. We have to be really nitty gritty here. Maybe your plan is to reach your market online. A common mistake is thinking that putting product on a website is enough, and that somehow people are going to stumble across your product and not be able to live without hitting the purchase button. This unfortunately is not the case. You need to think about SEO, social media marketing, photography, graphic design, video content, etc. It is a competitive world out there and reaching your target market is going to take honest planning and strategy.
A good starting place for identifying your market is to take a trip out of town. Find a person who is doing exactly what you wish to be doing and pick their brain. Usually you can get a lot of questions answered just by having a light conversation and asking, “So, how’s business?” Also research your competitors and potential competitors. Look at their marketing strategies, look at their online presence. Examine how they engage with customers and the quality of engagement they provide. Find out what makes them successful and how they reach their target audience. You may find some golden ideas to apply to your own woodworking business.