I don’t know what it is about creative people, but we are ALL OVER THE PLACE. One great idea leads to another. We’re excited. Then we’re confused. Then we see another idea and we are excited all over again. Being inside our wild and crazy minds means we are big thinkers and can receive all kinds of input. But of course, what is a blessing is also a curse.

We often find ourselves without a clear strategy about what we’re doing and when that happens, we just stop doing anything at all. I recently discovered a way to help bring clarity to our creative business strategy. It’s not with corn, in case you were wondering.

This week, I was in this classic creative lost-and-confused state. I had a lot of input from very interested parties (my husband who likes to get our bills paid), and input from gurus who’s success I want to emulate, and input from eager friends and family who just love what I do. But nothing was really clicking for me and I couldn’t get the traction I wanted. I was throwing money at the problem without any kind of strategy or plan. I was a mess. Finally, in a fit of frustration, I *very politely* asked my husband to stop offering more solutions, and sent myself to my room to think. After a few minutes, I asked myself these questions.

What do people actually buy?
Not, what do I think they will pay for, or what do I want them to pay for, but what are they actually paying for now? This was helpful because no matter what I think customers want, the dollars ultimately speak the truth. Do you love to paint landscapes but clients continue to purchase your commissioned pet portraits? Do you love making custom dolls that use every ounce of your skill and heart, but people are buying your 2-minute fairies? You may want people to really love your custom dolls, and to pay the price they’re worth, but that’s not necessarily where your business is going to be. It’s difficult not to confuse the two, but it’s a critical distinction if you want to make money.

Your business is where the money is. Your hobby is where your heart is. In a creative business, you must balance the two.

How do I know what to promote?
This is the “sticky wicket”, as my English-born dad would say.* There are a lot of out-reach opportunities with social media these days and it’s overwhelming to know what to do, short of screaming, “Buy my stuff!”. This was my particular problem last week. What do people want to grab for free, what will they want enough to give me a little for (like an email address), and in the end, what will they be willing to buy?

Fact: If your product is a higher priced item, it will take longer for a customer to purchase it.
That means your “business work” is in the deliberate, strategic, helpful path that guides a potential customer to your final purchased product. But how the heck do we do that?! I’ve never moved in a straight line all my life! But then I realized…

The business strategy “path” is actually not linear. It’s circular!

Sketch of a targetActually, it’s more like a multi-layered target. The inside of the target is the stuff people will pay cold, hard cash for. The next layer out of that is what people will give a little something for (maybe a small amount of cash, or an email address). Then the outer most layer is simply what attracts their attention. Each ring of the target needs to lead to the next inner ring, which leads to the final purchase. That’s the strategy, and you can use it in all your client communications in a relaxed and non-pressured kind of way.

Here is an example:
You want to sell your in-person art classes.

Outer Ring Strategy
The outer-most ring strategy attracts new and potential customers. The action you want them to encourage, is to simply follow you for more. You might use posts of helpful art tips, product recommendations, descriptions of the kinds of classes you teach, process shots of the art techniques you teach, etc. Stuff that someone who is interested in making art will be curious about. You’re grabbing their attention, and you’re subtly proving to them that you’re an expert. You’re starting to build a little relationship. It’s like luring in a stray cat. Just sit where you are and offer kindness so they know you are safe to approach and not going to slam a net over their heads.

Middle Ring Strategy
The next layer of your target is meant to give interested, potential clients a reason to want and get more. For this, you barter: You something of value to them in exchange for something of value to you. This is not necessarily cash. Perhaps you offer a discount on your next class, or a free supplies list or sample of the paint you use in exchange for their email address. Or a first-timer discount for your next class. Not a huge commitment for your stray cat—I mean, customer. Just a little rub on the neck and chin so they know you’re safe and trustworthy.

Hitting the Bullseye
Now that they’re close enough to catch, you are ready to offer the really good stuff and if you did some research (or soul searching as it is for some of us) you know what your customers want to buy. Tell them about your art classes, where and when they are, and how to sign up. Give them the chance to go all in, and reward them for doing so. Congratulations! You’ve got a loyal pet cat! :oD

The next “sticky wicket”
The trick is not to get impatient! Business is a long process of building relationships and responding to what is really going on (not what you wish was happening). Start by making your target map today. Here is one you can download or you can draw some circles on paper, whatever works for you. Remember to start with the center (what people pay for) and move to the outer rings.

P.S. If you want more ear scratches, little kitty, then sign up for our newsletter. MORE Creative Juice is a great home for stray creative entrepreneurs. :o)

Talk to you soon,


*I do not know what a “sticky wicket” actually is. It might have something to do with cricket.