Choosing Customers

Choosing Customers is all about finding the right customers to fit with your creativity, ambitions and values.

Remember: Not all customers are good customers.

Oscar Wilde wrote: “The play was a great success but the audience was a total failure”. There was obviously a mis-match between the play and the audience!

So what should you do if your performance, product or service doesn’t sell? Change the offering or change the audience? This question takes us straight to the problem creative people often have with marketing – the fear that a marketing approach will lead to a market-led enterprise, an appeal to the ‘lowest common denominator’ in order to maximise sales, and a ‘dumbing down’ of the product or service. In other words, it will lead to ‘selling out’ our creative principles.

In my view the greatest danger is that by rejecting marketing, market research and market segmentation in a wholesale fashion, the creative entrepreneur is discarding very useful tools. Surely what we must do is adapt these techniques to our own purposes, to achieve success in our own terms.

So the first thing we must do is to be clear about our purpose – then we can select the most appropriate audience, clients or customers to suit our objectives. The first stage of any effective marketing strategy is to choose the right customers – the people and organisations that fit with our objectives, creativity, values and economics. Devising a unique business formula that connects our best creativity with the right customers is at the core of any successful creative enterprise.

Not all customers are good customers! Some customers are more trouble than they are worth. Some people won’t like what we do, won’t pay enough, or won’t share our values. We must ignore theses people and find better customers around which to build our creative enterprise. In short, marketing is about actively selecting and targeting the right kind of customers.

Trying to sell to anyone and everyone is not good marketing. Worse, it smacks of laziness and/or desperation, when what is needed is intelligent and creative thinking. It is when creative people in business choose the wrong kind of customers that they are faced with the choice of “selling cheap or selling out”. Trying to build a feasible business around the wrong type of customers is doomed to failure.

Much of what we see and hear about marketing is about ‘mass marketing’ – the glitzy adverts for big companies that need to sell to the mass market. But the vast majority of creative enterprises don’t need or want a mass market and so need to play a different game.

Market segmentation involves differentiating between different groups and types of customers so that we can select the right ones to approach and to deal with. By implication, it also means we can identify those segments of the market not to deal with.

So instead of thinking of the market as one mass, it’s much more useful to think of it as a “mass of niches”. The key marketing question is then: “Which market niches best fit our products/services, our values and our financial needs?”

Help with business strategies involving market segmentation should be available from Business Link, the business support department of your local authority and specialist creative industries support organisations for your own sub-sector or locality.

Don’t just think local though, when selecting customers. Sometimes the best customers are not necessarily close by. In fact, the more specialist your products or services, the more likely it is you will have to go further to find enough of the right kinds of customers. This strategy can be described as “narrow niche plus global reach”.

UK artist Sharon Mutch deliberately targeted the Viridian Artists Gallery in New York and was successful with the help of the Passport to Export scheme from UK Trade and Investment (UKTI).

Galleries, bookshops, theatres and other venues might best be viewed as channels to customers rather than customers in their own right. Nevertheless they too should be chosen carefully in the same way and for the same reasons – to avoid the “sell cheap or sell out” trap.

Choosing customers is essentially about being both active and discerning in relation to markets rather than passively responding to whomever shows up, or trying to sell to the most convenient people. Advertising agency Peppered Sprout took an active stance towards marketing, inspired by David Ogilvy’s book ‘Confessions of an Advertising Man’. Instead of responding to local enquiries as many firms in their position do, they ambitiously selected their ideal customer, Puma UK, and then devised a strategy to win them – and succeeded.

Choosing the right customers is an essential part of marketing strategy for any creative enterprise. Just as important is the other side of the other side of the same coin – saying no to the wrong types of customer.

Choosing customers

There is more information about choosing customers in David’s books, other publications, videos and free resources.

choosing customers

choosing customers

David Parrish inspires and empowers creative entrepreneurs world-wide as an international creative industries speaker, consultant, trainer and author.

Business Adviser – Creative and Digital Industries

Creative and digital businesses grow with the help of David’s expertise in creative entrepreneurship. He shares his expertise through his speeches, training workshops, coaching and books on business growth.

David advises businesses on strategic development, marketing, leadership and growth in his capacity as a qualified and experienced business adviser and management consultant, working world-wide.

He helps clients by drawing on his own direct experience as an entrepreneur as well as his work helping hundreds of creative, digital, cultural and arts businesses around the world. His direct experience is backed up by academic qualifications and professional accreditations in business strategy, marketing and leadership. He is a Chartered Institute of Marketing ‘Chartered Marketer’. David has an MBA (with distinction). In addition, he is a Fellow of the Institute of Leadership and Management (FInstLM). He is also honoured to be a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.

David is a UK expert and international creative industries speaker. He has helped hundreds of businesses in more than 60 countries to achieve greater success on their own terms. This is achieved by using smart business development techniques that fit with their creativity, ambitions and values. His creative industries consulting focuses on the needs of creative industries businesses, cultural enterprises and arts organisations.

Successful creative enterprises integrate creativity and business. David’s T-Shirts and Suits® approach helps creative people (‘T-Shirts’) use smart business thinking (‘Suits’). His entertaining and inspirational speeches illustrate ways in which businesses can use creative business models and powerful business techniques to achieve greater success. His creative industries consulting with individual businesses guides them to success by combining their creative passion, strengths and goals with a winning business strategy tailored to their own needs, values and circumstances.

Creative Business Books, eBooks and Audiobooks

David has written two books and several other publications especially for creative businesses. He brings his own experience of setting up and growing businesses in the creative and cultural industries. David is actively involved in the creative and digital industries as a company director and management consultant. He also shares the learning he has gained from working with hundreds of successful creative enterprises around the world. His books are available in paperback, eBook and Audiobook formats. They have been translated into several languages and published in various countries in several continents.

What they say about David Parrish…

Here are a few examples of what people say about David Parrish. His clients worldwide say how they have benefited from David’s creative industries keynote speeches. They also recommend his business advice, training, presentations, lectures and books:

“It was a pleasure to invite David to give the keynote speech at the Third International Creative Industries Conference in Novi Sad, Serbia. His speech about ‘Creative Business in the Digital Economy’ was enlightening. It was ideal for our audience that included startups, government officials, investors and agencies from Serbia and other countries. David’s speech was also broadcast on TV to reach an even wider audience. We were delighted with the positive impact that David made on the creative industries here in Serbia.”
Tatjana Kalezic. Creative Industries Cluster of Vojvodina KVIK.

“The choice to work with David was definitely the right one. In less than two days time we had crafted a cohesive short term and long term strategy that provides for desired growth, protects our IP, enables investment, and allows us to retain creative control of our technology. David’s ability to listen to your situation, to understand it, and then determine a course of action based on your specific needs and goals is rare and a makes David a joy to work with.”
– Aric Wanveer. Zero Gravity Creations LLC, Baltimore, USA

“David Parrish was a special guest of Creative Industries Summer School held in Moscow. Creative entrepreneurs from all over Russia said that David’s presentation was very inspiring, entertaining and very useful for them. His presentation “Creativity and Business: How to Succeed as a Creative Entrepreneur” was amazing and I am sure it will help develop creative entrepreneurship in Russia. David is a very bright and powerful expert.”
– Olga Kizina. Director. Creative Industries Agency. Moscow. Russia.

“Workshop participants were very impressed and inspired by David’s speech and book because he avoided using jargon, gave clear illustrations to describe what creative business is about and explained the general principles of running a creative business. He talked about some important issues, such as intellectual property, business formulas, knowing your competitors, knowing your market, and being prepared to say No.”
– HsinYi Ku. British Council, Taiwan

“David writes about creative business better than anyone I know.”

– Wayne Morris. The Creative Edge. New Zealand.

“David Parrish is a very inspirational speaker. The way he illustrates his points is excellent. He makes you laugh and instantly you start to think about your own ideas and projects.”
– Eli Folkestadaas. British-Norwegian Chamber of Commerce. Oslo, Norway.

Read more testimonials about David’s work as an international creative industries speaker, consultant, adviser, trainer and author of two books, other publications and many articles.

David Parrish international creative industries speaker, creative economy expert and author

David Parrish. (Photo: Cristina Poncu)

David’s Background, Experience and Expertise

Dave Parrish has been directly involved in the creative economy and cultural economy for more than 20 years, as an entrepreneur, manager, company director, management consultant, business adviser, coach, mentor, trainer, writer, and international creative industries speaker. For an insight into his personal background, business experience, values and his own perspective on creativity and business, read his story.