Quilts are not only decorative; they can be cherished gifts and investments in artwork. Sew Distinct will target two separate groups - gift buyers, particularly people buying quilts for new children and grandchildren, and art buyers, who are looking for a piece of usable art which they can keep and pass on to later generations or sell in the future as an antique. Because such high quality quilts are more labor and time intensive to make, they are more expensive than ordinary crib or bed coverlets. The market most interested in my products will, therefore, be people with an above average level of disposable income, who value quality workmanship and original - even custom - design work in the gifts and decorations they choose to purchase. The Pacific Northwest has a high percentage of such consumers who support a number of craftsmen and women, but very few of these crafts involve high quality textile work other than clothing. This is a market niche that can and should be tapped.
Art World News noted in a September, 2000 article on Seattle's art galleries that the Pacific Northwest high-end art and gift buying population, in particular, places a high value on supporting local artists. According to the 2000 census, the Pacific Northwest has almost 1 and a half million residents with incomes over $50,000, including 326,142 residents with incomes over $100,000 per year, who would easily be able to afford my products. Within the Pacific Northwest, the vast majority of high-income residents are clustered in urban areas such as the Nicetown and Seattle metropolitan areas, and larger college cities like Sweetville. As these also tend to contain more liberal populations who express interest in issues such as art, I am focusing my initial local marketing on the Sweetville and Nicetown metro areas, rather than traveling to more rural towns.
A recent study by the Pew Center reported that nationally, 43% of all Internet users had household incomes of at least $50,000. This means that almost half of the people with access to my website are in the target demographic of wealthy surfers who would be able to afford one of my products. In the Pacific Northwest, an internet-savvy area, only 38% of all Internet users had such high incomes, meaning that my marketing strategy locally needs to focus on areas where I can guarantee I will be contacting a high percentage of my Bourgeoise Bohemian customers.
A Wordtracker search on "gifts" reveals that approximately 8,000 people per month are looking for "gifts," "personalized gifts," "unique gift ideas," and "baby gifts." By including the right keywords in my website, and promoting the idea of custom quilts as a personalized gift idea, I can make my services more visible to these potential customers.
The following table is a conservative estimate of the numbers of potential customers in my two market approaches - local, wealthy Pacific Northwest clients and Internet clients.
The first row shows the number of Pacific Northwest residents with an income greater than $100,000, who would be easily able to afford my products, and be more likely to seek out personalized, high-end gifts and artwork. While I do not believe that only such wealthy clients will purchase my products, I am planning very conservatively here. The second row shows the number of Internet users searching for "gifts," "unique "gifts," and so on, at two popular search engines. This population, at least 25% of which is likely to have an income greater than $75,000 per year, is seeking products like ours. A further analysis of these groups follows below.
My market, aside from geographical divisions (ie., Pacific Northwest versus Internet customers), is generally divisible into two main categories: people who are buying gifts for others, and those who are buying a quilt as a "gift" to themselves or an investment in heirloom-quality quilt art.
I hope that many of my customers, having purchased one quilt from me, will come back to me for more unique gifts; I expect that my long-term customers will thus move back and forth customers the two categories. Customers will generally encounter me with only one of the two agendas in mind, and I have developed different strategies to appeal to these different needs.
Potential customers seeking to buy a gift are looking for something that speaks of their own taste, but more than that, of their intimate knowledge of, and thoughtfulness toward, the gift recipient. For my customers, Sew Distinct becomes the magic medium by which their caring feelings towards the recipient are made manifest in a tactile, tangible object, which can then be passed on to a friend or family member who will cherish it (and the giver) forever. The key to this transformation is the design process. My customers give me as much or as little information about themselves and the gift recipient as they wish - the more detail, the better the quilt can reflect the unique personalities, wishes, and love of both people. I have created basic forms and questions for all my prospective customers to consider, but in-person consultations, supplemented by email and telephone conversations with the designer for my website customers, will be the selling point. My customers are getting personalized services, and they will feel pampered and catered to.
These customers are buying my quilts to display in their homes and offices, to declare to their guests, their clients, and their colleagues that they value high-quality, original art with a hand-made feel. These clients may send me photographs of the locations in which they would like to hang their quilts, and consult with me about their taste in subjects, colors, and styles. My design services for art-buyers are more akin to interior designing than to gift-making, as I will try to make quilts that both co-ordinate with, and yet stand out from, their surroundings. These quilts require the same sort of consulting as gift quilts, but with a focus on the buyer only, and not a recipient. These quilts may depict aspects of the buyer's hobbies or occupation. They may incorporate meaningful elements from the buyer's family history or professional journeys. They may depict treasured pets or family members, living or passed. These customers are commissioning artworks that will beautifully represent some aspect of their lives of which they are proud.
By focusing on gift-givers and art-buyers within the Bourgeoise Bohemian market, I am remedying a major paradox these clients face, and taking advantage of my unique market niche.
Both segments require some level of input into the design phase of the product in order to obtain the kind of personalized feel they are looking for, and my expertise in translating their ideas and feelings into images fits this need perfectly. In addition, the personalization services add value to the product far beyond the high quality of my workmanship by making my customers - and the quilt recipients - feel special and unique. Market research into Bo-bo trends identifies this need to feel unique as a highly motivating factor in buying choices.
Because these two different segments of the customer base may approach their initial searches via different routes, I am locating brochures and advertisements (locally) in three places:
To target both segments on my website, I will include searchable keywords such as "personalized gifts," "baby gifts," "custom artwork," and "gift ideas."
"Do you believe that spending $15,000 on a media center is vulgar, but that spending $15,000 on a slate shower stall is a sign that you are at one with the Zen-like rhythms of nature?" In his book on the new counterculture-as-mainstream elite, David Brooks describes a typical grocery store catering to discriminating Bourgeoise Bohemians: "The visitor to Fresh Fields is confronted with a big sign that says 'Organic Items today: 130.' This is like a barometer of virtue. If you came in on a day when only 60 items were organic, you'd feel cheated. But when the number hits the three figures, you can walk through the aisles with moral confidence." In Sweetville and Nicetown, this scene takes place daily in stores like Oasis, Market of Choice, and Trader Joe's.
These sorts of consumers abound in the Pacific Northwest, and as Brooks points out, their wealth and status are based on education, brains, and merit, rather than on inherited wealth. This new elite values high-quality, time-intensive products that are visibly non-mass-produced, and this value is understood as a moral, not just political, calculation. While such consumers have numerous options for high-end foods, bath products, furniture, and so on, they do not have a great deal of free time, because their wealth and their lifestyles involve the full-time work of all adult members of the family (preferably in some socially-conscious or technologically advanced field).
I am offering these kinds of consumers access to individually crafted, locally made, unique, high-quality quilt art. In buying my product, my customers get the kind of personalized gift they want, and can pay someone else to invest the time needed to make the item, since their own time is already full. Quilts, in particular, speak to their ideas about tradition and slow, time-intensive labors of love that these customers may associate with their own mothers and grandmothers, and which the women in particular may feel guilty for not being involved in themselves. For a price premium, I will make an original, usable work of art that they can be proud to give to their discriminating friends and families, from its all-cotton fabric and batting to the brochure which describes my small, local artisan business.
Quilting used to be seen as an old-fashioned, rather fuddy-duddy kind of endeavor. Recent exposure to issues in the historical aspects of quilting as a forum for women's expression has begun transforming this thinking, and quilting is on the way to being recognized as a valuable (and occasionally subversive) form of mostly-female art. This kind of countercultural interpretation will, of course, appeal to my market segment.
In addition, Bo-bo's such as those I am targeting are beginning more and more to identify their socially-conscious consumerism as rooted in local buying, which is an advantage when selling in the Pacific Northwest market. I anticipate that some of my local customers will initially encounter me online at my website when searching for locally made gift products, and will only then come to visit me in person.
With the increasing use of technology in everyday business endeavors, there is expected to be an ongoing growth in the number of good-paying jobs utilizing creative and critical thinking skills, the characteristics that define my target market (the bourgeoise bohemians). I also expect that as the economy continues to recover, high-income consumers will feel more and more confident about placing some of their disposable income into more decorative and luxury items, such as the custom quilts I am offering. Since the income of many of the urban elite residents of the Pacific bourgeoise bohemians is tied directly or indirectly to the technology sector, improvements in revenue among high-tech industries in the next 5 years will increase my market segment, as well as their comfort level concerning large purchases. Art-buying in the Pacific Northwest, in particular, seems tied to the fates of technology firms, according to Seattle art gallery owners. When stock goes up, the young, high-tech employees there seem more willing to invest in items like artwork, rather than hanging onto their cash in case of hard times.
Sew Distinct is part of the handicrafts industry, in which product manufacturers work directly with individual consumers to create custom goods from a set of pre-determined materials (in this case, fabric, thread, and batting). I will not distribute through retailers, since that would not allow for the custom design process that is the heart of my business, but I will network with handicrafts retailers to enhance advertising (for example, joining local artisan co-ops). As a business offering custom-designed, high-end, usable artworks, I am competing not only with other quilt makers, but with all other artisans producing high-quality gift items. The advantages my product offers over my competitors include the personalized design process, and the nature of the product itself - would you rather give a gift the recipient can wear or look at, or one that she can snuggle up under and feel as warm as when she hugged you to thank you for the gift? Sew Distinct quilts are tangible, huggable love.
The market segments I am targeting are clearly defined above, in the Market Analysis sections. Such customers shop for items such as mine primarily by word of mouth, although they do buy from galleries and are influenced by ads in magazines with a upscale, socially-responsible edge.