Knowing your Target Market


How to Develop and Market your Brand


Lesson Info

Knowing your Target Market

You do that by figuring out and knowing who your people are. Now, we talk about who your people are. This goes by a lot of different names in the marketing world, in the business world: ideal client avatar, or your target market, or whenever you see that or you read that we're all talking about the same thing. I call it, just, knowing your people, because I like to keep things a little more personal, which is part of my brand (laughs). I was going to say, just kidding, but I'm like, actually, it's not, I'm not just kidding. (laughing) It's actually true. But knowing who your people are, you guys, is just as important to building your brand as knowing what you do. They are two pieces of the puzzle, it's extremely important. I always like to tell people that what you do, that's your story, and who your people are, that's your audience. And you can't tell your story to everybody 'cause not everybody cares, so you don't want to just be out there screaming on the street corner at people as ...

they walk by, which I see a lot of marketing equivalents of that, you don't want to do that. You want to know who your people are so you can directly talk to them, tell them your story. When you know who your people are you can create products that are just for them. You can create experience that is just for them. And, again, we know that a good brand is connected to their client base, makes people feel something, and inspires loyalty, and this is how you do that. Just to give you a quick example of the power of this I want to talk to you for one second about one of my favorite brands, which is Anthropologie. How many of you have ever been in an Anthropologie store? Okay, so all the men in the audience are like, nope! (laughing) You should check it out, though. What's interesting about Anthropologie is that they have all that stuff that makes a great brand. You walk into their store, for those of you who've never been in there before, it's kind of an experience. They all smell really good, you walk in they have this kind of exotic feel, they're super cool. It's not just rows and rows of clothes. They'll have a little pile of jeans, and then, next to some really cute plates, and some pretty jewelry. It gives you this feeling of almost like a marketplace, where you're walking around, and you're browsing, and you're looking, super fun, you should totally check it out. But okay, think about that for a second, and now, I want to read to you what their CEO says about their ideal client, 'cause I think it's the best thing I've ever read. They say, our client is a female, about 30 to 45 years old, college or post-college graduate, or, post-graduate educated, married with kids, or in a committed relationship, professional or ex-professional, with an annual household income of 150 to $200,000. Okay, that's pretty standard, who's your client base, but wait. She's well-read, well-traveled. She's very aware, she gets our references, whether it's to a town in Europe, or a book, or a movie. She's urban-minded. She's into cooking, gardening, and wine. She has a natural curiosity about the world. She's relatively fit. Her identity is a tangle of connections to activities, places, interests, values, and aspirations. Here's my favorite part, are you ready? She's a yoga-practicing film maker with an organic garden, a collection of antique musical instruments, and an abiding interest in Chinese culture. (laughing) I think it's like art, right there. And it goes on, I mean, that's just a little piece of it. Now think about that person that they just described and think about every Anthropologie store you've ever been in, and can't you see it? Right? That's the power of knowing who your people are because they have created a shopping experience that resonates just for her, or those of us who would like to be her, 'cause she sounds kind of awesome. (laughs) We should all be doing that for our clients on some level. How do you do that, how do you figure out who your people are? There's a lot of different theories around this. Some people believe that you can just kind of write out a narrative like this, imagine who's your perfect person, you write it out, create a brand story around them. An ideal client avatar is what they call it. And that can be really powerful, especially if you've never been in business and you don't have any clients to base anything off of, but the way I like to do it, and I tell people to do it, is if you have been in business long enough that you even have three, or four, or five clients, a handful of clients, go back and look at some real people. Look at three or four of your five favorite clients and pull their contracts, pull their emails, or whatever, and look at the similarities between them, because they will be there. If they resonated with you, if you loved them, there's going to be similarities. Go in and figure out, what is their age? That's a great place to start. What's their gender? Income level, really important. Now, I know you can't just email somebody and be like, hey, friend, so, what do you make a year, 'cause I'm trying to work on my customer avatar. But you get an idea of where your clients are at with income level, you can guess on that one. Do they work? If they do work, where do they work? Get all this down. What is their style? What is their personal style, what are they interested in? Honestly, the more information you can get about these people the better. What happens is when you can go and you can look at three to five real people and write all this stuff down for them and then you look at it, you're going to see similarities. You're going to see some crossover. What you do at that point is then you take that crossover and then you turn that into your profile. I really recommend, you guys, when you're first starting to do this, write it out, write it out in a narrative form like we see that they did in Anthropologie. Now, first question that always comes up around this is, well, what if I have two different business models, is it okay to have more than one customer avatar? Absolutely. I have a client customer avatar for Sandra Coan Photography, which is my bread and butter portrait business. I do mini sessions in the fall, just one time a year. I have a different client avatar for my mini session people 'cause it's a different client. I teach, I do education, so I have a different client avatar for that. And even within that I teach film and I teach business, so, different client avatars. But just really make sure that you have a good understanding of who your people are so that you can talk to them. And we're going to start on that in just a second. Just to share with you, my clients, my Sandra Coan Photography clients, are women. They're in their late 30s, early 40s. They're professionals, I always call these my Microsoft moms or my Amazon moms, I'm in Seattle. So, a lot of women who are in high-pressure jobs, they're traveling a lot, they're busy, they've waited later to have children, these are my people. They make a six-figure income on their own, but they are also either, married, or in a committed relationship. They have kind of an easy-going attitude, they like that, but they're also very classic. These are people who love a real, just, clean, classic look. My clients constantly show up to their sessions wearing beige or gray, which I love, 'cause, also that. (laughs) I don't ask them what to wear, they just show up like that. Their style is very simplistic, it's very classic. So it's really easy to see how that thing that I do, what I'm drawn to do, what I love to do, really resonates with them. And that's that crossover that starts really building that strong brand, which is amazing. You can take what you know about your client and you start building it into your brand. A good brand knows if it's connected to their client base. You communicate that to your ideal client by creating experiences just for them. Client experience, this is a big part of your brand, big part. How do you communicate that you know and you understand your client and you can provide for them what they need from you? Example, my clients are working moms, they're super duper duper busy, so they don't have time to be coming back in all the time, to be hunting me down, they're busy. A big part of my brand and my client experience is easy, easy-peasy, so I make everything as easy and as no-brainer for my clients as possible. Every interaction that they have with me and my brand, from the minute they find me, the minute they get to my website, is designed with their needs in mind. It's designed to be fast and easy, and kind of a no-brainer. And I build that in. An example is with my packages, and this is weird, I'm going to tell you exactly what I do, and everybody's going to think I'm crazy, but it works for me. I don't have my clients come back in for an ordering session. I don't do a traditional in-person sales session afterwards 'cause my people are really busy. They travel a lot, when they're not traveling they don't want to be coming in hanging out with me, they want to be with their family, I get that. We have really bad traffic here, I'm not going to ask people to be driving all over Seattle 'cause it's horrible. What I do is, they come in, they book their session, we do the session. At the end of the session I sit down and I say, okay, friend, while you're here, 'cause I don't want to ask you to come back in, I know you're busy, this is what I have, these are the products. I have albums, they're super classic, clean, sophisticated albums that appeal to my client. I have prints and I have a digital package, some of the albums include digital packages. So I say, what would you like to add to your session while we're here? They look at it, they look at the albums, and everybody, you guys, everybody adds something to their package. I think that I love telling this story because, remember, I'm a film photographer, so at the time we're ordering product none of us, myself included, has seen their images. And that works for me, why does that work for me? 'Cause I have a solid brand. Because my brand is consistent and is trustworthy. They know what the images that they see on Instagram or on my portfolio is what they're photos are going to look like, that's a given. It's, you know, they know that, they trust it, so they know they can order a bunch of albums, or whatever, without even seeing. It also works for me because it communicates to my client that I get them and I understand their needs and I'm communicating to their needs. I know they're busy, I know what they're lifestyle is like, so I'm making it easy for them. And to take it one step further, not only do I do that while they're right there so they don't have to come back in, the next thing I say is, awesome, I see you ordered an album and three prints. Do you want to choose the photos, or do you want to do it? Most of them want me to do it. (laughs) They're like, no, just do it, and then they say, do I have to come back in, and I say, no, friend, I'm just going to send it all to you in the mail, and they're like, hallelujah, awesome, thank you. Their photos come in, I cull their photos, I build their albums, and then they just get this pretty package, so it works with their lifestyle, it works with what they want, and they love it, they love it. I actually even had one client I've worked with for years, a couple of years ago, call me, and she was like, Sandra, it's my mom's birthday, totally blew it, will you print and frame an image from our last shoot and send it to her in New Jersey? Here's her address and here's my credit card. And I was like, okay, do you want me to, do you want to choose the photo, she was like, no, I don't care, something cute of the kids, I don't need to be on it. I was like, okay, do you want to choose the framing, do you want to talk about that, she was like, no, I don't care, just do it, just do it. And I was like, okay, so I did, and I sent it to her and a couple of weeks later she was like, oh my god, I love you, my mom loved the photo. (laughing) But that's just part of building that into your brand. What do your clients need from you? How can you create an experience for them? You can do it with your pricing, too. People think that you have to be super high-end pricing, super expensive to make it, not true. My sister-in-law is a photographer in a small college town in Virginia. She realized right away, 'cause I said, when she started, I was like, take my packages, they sell like hot cakes, people love it, and it was crickets, she couldn't get anybody to book. Then she realized, oh, I don't have Microsoft moms in Charlottesville, I have grad students. And it's not that they don't value my work, she didn't go into that negative spiral, nobody values my work, nobody appreciates what I work, it's that they legit have no money, they're living on grants. And so, she actually did something what was ingenious where she took what she knew about her clients, built it into her pricing, so she created this whole system around a super low price experience, it was a five-minute session, I told her she was crazy, but it worked. Five-minute session for $85, and she'd just do events, she'd book them back to back, it was this huge event, she had people come in. And then, so it met that price point for the clients and then they could buy a print or two if they wanted it, or send it to grandma, or whatever, and it totally worked. It's all about knowing what your client, who your client is, what they need from you, and creating an experience that works specifically for them. It has nothing to do what your competition is doing, or what's on trend, or what people tell you they think you should do, okay?

Class Description

There is no denying that a strong brand is key to building a strong business. But developing a brand is often confusing and hard. And knowing how to use it in your marketing is trickier still.

In this class, Sandra Coan will break it all down and show you how easy and powerful brand building can be. You will learn:

  • What a brand is and what a brand isn’t
  • The one thing you need to know to build a unique and instantly recognizable brand
  • How to use your brand to connect to clients, establish trust and build loyalty
  • How to build a solid marketing strategy that will set you apart


Sarit Krupka

Marketing and so much more! Sandra is an exceptionally talented and inspirational photographer. She puts herself and her experience out there to truly help you understand the market and succeed. In 90 minutes, she took me on a journey. I had a few "aha" moments. Thank you!

a Creativelive Student

This is one of my favourite classes of PhotoWeek 2017 where Sandra gives the reason 'why' we should pursue our passion, photography in this case, but otherwise too, a well-presented, highly motivating class that would leave most wanting to go out and do it.