Identifying Customer Problems and Product Benefits

Identifying Customer Problems and Product Benefits

In my previous marketing post, I asked, “Who Are Your customers?”  We had a nice discussion on the forum about customers and how some of the members found their markets.  Some of the members who are selling products that responded had to think hard about it.  But once they did give it some thought, they had a good idea of who their customers are.  Of course, those people selling multiple types of products had a broader range of customers depending on the giver

As a summary, I’ve compiled a very general profile:

  • Women were the primary market
  • Ages 25-65
  • Who have disposable income
  • Who value handmade goods and specialized services

There were several common threads in the development of an art business, whether it was intended to start a business or not.

  • Product appeal and uniqueness
  • Seeing the product as a gift for oneself or someone else
  • Word of mouth

Leonor (Felt Buddies) and Carole aka craftywoman each experienced the building of a potential or actual business through word of mouth.  It doesn’t just happen to artists. It can happen on a major scale in the corporate world as well.

word of mouthI worked for one company that did not have a sales force, did no advertising and at the time were in 18 states with their own warehousing and distribution systems.  All of the growth was due to word of mouth.  What they had was a unique concept that was appealing to parents at schools who did fundraising to help the school support special programs.  No door to door selling required!  Products were ordered ahead of time and delivered once a month to the school.  Volunteers ran the sale. This all evolved because one woman provided something other than baked goods for her child’s fundraising program at school.  Word spread quickly and a business was born!

The customers (parents who convinced school officials to use the program) were the company’s best salespeople!  But that doesn’t mean a business can always depend on that.  It’s up to the business owner to know their customers, the problem being solved and the benefit to the customer.  For this company, it was parents and administrators who needed to raise funds.  The benefit was the school being able to raise funds without sending children door to door and excellent products being delivered to the school.  Parents and teachers felt good to help out, keep the programs running and still benefit by obtaining excellent and unique products for their families.  Win, win for everyone.

For your business, it may mean a customer needing to find a unique gift (problem).  When they purchase one of your items, they feel good about finding something meaningful and/or unique (benefit.)

Let’s look at a few examples from my perspective:

Ann (Shepardess) makes fingerless mitts that are popular with young women.  Problem:  The women like to text, but find it too hard to do with traditional gloves.  Benefit:  They can keep their hands warm and text to their hearts content while making a fashion statement.

Ann's fingerless mitts
Ann’s fingerless mitts

Leonor makes custom felted animals.  Problem:  Pet owners want a remembrance of their beloved animals or a unique gift resembling a favorite pet for a family member or friend.   Benefit: The lifelike miniature brings joy and sometimes comfort to the recipient. The gift giver feels good about giving a special gift.

Worrying about capturing this pet's personality
Worrying about capturing this pet’s personality

Carole has been making flower brooches and hair clips for her friend’s craft fair this summer.  Problem:  Her friend needed inexpensive items to sell.  Benefit:  Fun, bright, inexpensive items customers will feel good about purchasing and using and will help fair sales.

Carole's Flower Pins
Carole’s Flower Pins

What problems can you solve for your customers and what benefits can you provide for them?  You may be thinking  “problem,” my customers don’t have problems to solve.  Maybe they just like to buy pretty, artsy things, then switch the word problem to goal if that helps you to understand your buyers needs better.

Food for thought:  Are you a loyal customer?  What are the attributes about those businesses you frequent that makes it appealing for you to keep going back? What are the benefits you get from shopping there?  How can you use this information to understand your buyers better?

photo 1

Thank you to everyone who shared their experience with me on the forum and gave me permission to use that information and pictures.

Watch the Marketing section on the forum for more discussion.





19 thoughts on “Identifying Customer Problems and Product Benefits

  1. You have pointed out some key issues here, Marilyn. One that must be kept in the foreground is benefit to the customer, and I wonder how many of us actually consider that? Aren’t we usually thinking of the benefit to ourselves to sell? Great topic for further exploration. Hope we hear from other folks who sell their handmade felt objects.

    1. Thanks Cathy! I hope we do get some more conversation going, too! I think we can all learn from each other.

  2. Thanks Marilyn – It is good to think about your products from the customer’s perspective and figuring out what the benefit to them is. It seems like extra work but if you have a good understanding of the benefits of your products, you will be able to sell them more easily.

    1. Thanks Ruth! I think you’re right. It’s an extra step, but I personally think when the seller considers the benefits it’s easier to sell especially when you have a good idea who your customer is.

  3. Thanks Marilyn, I confess I make things “for myself” even though I have no intention of keeping them, do you think most artists think of a problem and then solve it or make something and then find it solves a problem for someone?

  4. You’re welcome Teri! I think most artists are like you and make things for themselves even when they intend to sell them. But I think it’s valuable to know who the end buyer may be. After all art isn’t creating what other people want. It’s your vision, your creation. As you create and sell, you can observe the generalities and hopefully talk to customers to find out what makes it attractive to them.

    1. Thanks Ann! I imagine it’s like fine art. It takes a like mindedness and appreciation for what the buyer sees in it.

  5. Really interesting article Marilyn, I must ditto what Teri said, I always make for myself firstly, I have found that my process is to enjoy what I am doing and if others like it too then all the better, I have tried in the past to make what I thought others would like and nothing happened, for me it’s the magic of felting alchemy. Which in reality means I sell very little 🙁 I need to move one to the next step of promoting my work 🙂

    1. Thanks Carole! As I mentioned to Teri, there is nothing wrong with making things you enjoy. That’s what artists do. That’s not to say there isn’t a market for your work. There is. You just need to find it. Before promoting your work, it’s good to find out where and who those potential customers are so that you can target the right market and make your efforts worthwhile. We’ll be talking about that soon. 🙂

  6. It’s interesting reading the post and looking at the replies. From the discussions we’ve had on the forum, I’m the only one who’s ‘failed’ and I think I have put a lot of thought into what people might want, based on what actually has sold and things people most often say to me. Most comments over the years have been about how really good my tutorials are, how great my notebook covers are and that I should sell them and that people would try different fibres/fabric if they were more affordable. Taking those things into consideration and trying to provide what people seem to want hasn’t worked. So, I’m going back to making things that make me happy, not miserable at the fruitless time and effort wasted on them. Maybe that’s really the secret, the happiness from making stuff shows through?

    1. Bingo Zed! Passion for what you do shows through in your work but only when you’re doing something you love. You haven’t failed! You’ve been trying different things to try to bring in some extra money. Failing is not trying. BTW, you’re work is great and shows through whether it’s a tutorials, book cover or a pod. You haven’t found the market yet. It’s frustrating I’m sure. Just enjoy yourself and hopefully this series will help find that market.

    2. Loving what you do is important. it is hard to sell things you don’t really like. You need someone like my mom to sell for you she could sell ice cubes to polar bears. You seem to like gathering fibers together maybe you could sell kits with tutorials. Get them into a locally owned shop that sells roving perhaps or sell at some local craft markets or farm markets.

    3. If we had anything like that here, I’d be tempted, Ann. I did plan on selling kits to go with the notebook tutorial, but since no one’s buying it, I don’t feel like spending 4 hours carding wool and putting together fibre kits for no one to buy either 🙂

  7. I loved this post! Lots to think about here. I think most small businesses don’t spend enough time thinking about their ideal (target) customer and try too hard to appeal to a too broad an audience… This is spot on, regarding identifying a general “handmade customer” and the benefits of word of mouth.

    And I definitely agree with Shepherdessann here, one needs to love what one does in order to keep going and thrive, whichever the market.

    Thanks for using my images, I had a laugh with the giraffe peeking out of the computer 😀

    1. Thanks Leonor. I wondered who would notice the giraffe. Haha. I couldn’t help myself. He just looked he belonged there listening in. I’m glad you found the information useful. We’re going to continue to build on that target market concept.

      You and Ann are right you have to love what you’re doing. I love the way you talk about your creations.

      Thanks again for the use of your ideas, pictures and for reblogging the post.

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