Ceramic Studio Marketing, Part 4: Your Blueprint

Looking back at the previous three chapters on marketing, you can now embark on a most productive journey – on how you build into your system, (including the time to create and follow) a blueprint for marketing success. We discussed in the first three parts of this 4-part section of marketing:

a. How to determine the product or service you should be selling
b. How to price this product or service for profit, and
c. To determine “who is your customer”, “where are your customers” and “how do you reach them?”

The above becomes your business’ blueprint. It’s up to you to find the answers. The answers come from two sources:

  • Your internal source – by analyzing your sales. To analyze your sales, you need to have the right information built into your business system.
  • Your external source to finding out what your customers want. Be direct and keep it simple – but find a way to ask them (see below).

This should be your guide for all your marketing activities in the future. Running a business is a dynamic activity – customers change, products change, techniques change, suppliers change, your basic cost structure changes when you employ an additional individual etc. All of the above should be checked off against your marketing blue print.

Example: You own a contemporary ceramic studio. You have approximately 75 active customers. Your profits are ok, but not great. You want more business, which you can only get with more customers. Selecting which general type of customers you want is relatively easy, since you can at least cater to one or more of many needs – recognition, self-gratification, social contact, creativity, entertainment and fun.

Your first impulse tells you to use your existing marketing tools to reach them. This means that you can use the same advertising in the form of local fliers, ads in your local newspaper, same radio advertising and same call to action on your website and in your e-mails, right?  Well, there is rub – you used that twice before and the results were minimal – just enough to maintain the same number of customers, i.e. replenish those customers that you have lost with new ones, but not adding to the total number.

What does your blueprint tell you? Analyze your customer base and see which type has

      1. Remained with you the longest and hence are the ones that contribute the most to your income and your bottom line.  In this case, customers that originally came to your studio as a result of your attractive storefront with its call to action: Paint your own pottery! Discover yourself! Be creative! Have fun!2. Stayed with you very intermittently and show little loyalty to your business.

3. Have shown serious interest in understanding ceramics, such as about learning to paint, to decorate, and the process of glazing and firing.

4. Have children that love to come to your studio. This category is your largest percentage of customers and the group that spends the most money with you.

Conclusion: You should look for category 1, 3 and 4.  Note: In order to determine the above, you have to have access to information about each customer. A good accounting system, say Quickbooks or Peachtree, can give you a read-out of what each customer spends, which category they belong to, when they joined your circle of customers and how often they buy from you. However, without critical information from your accounting system, you cannot draw significant conclusions.

Your internal source of information

As a new customer joins you, fill in a customer profile card. This card should be as simple as possible so that it does not take long to fill out, yet detailed enough to “code” the customer right. The code should be entered into your customer base information from the very start.

Here is a sample of a customer profile card. The card’s code should be entered into your computer system. It should contain:

1. The customer’s name and address. Assign a simple code to the address. The computer can then classify the customer by geographic area.

2. The date the customer first joined you. You can then rank your customers by loyalty, if defined as how long he/she has stayed with you.

3. A code for how the customer discovered your business. Your computer can then sort by the most effective way to attract a customer – from word of mouth through all different ways of reaching her/him, such as ad in the paper, an open house, your website, a flier distributed in your neighborhood, a recommendation from an existing customer or other. The computer can sort by theses codes and you will then know the most effective source for customer recruitment.

4. Finally a code for which need the customer is looking to satisfy. This will be the hardest space to fill in. The best way is to have the customer check off a list of needs you can think of, such as:

  • creativity
  • social contact
  • creative outlet for my children
  • fun and relaxation
  • learn about ceramics

You may have more needs to list, or you could have your own list in regards to a particular customer. You don’t want to be too openly intrusive.

Select the customer’s most dominant need, in your opinion, and enter that into the customer’s computer record.

This internal source for guiding your marketing should be a dynamic process. Do not hesitate to change your codes when you learn more about a customer. You need to adjust what was initially the best you could get and discern. Again, marketing means being open to changes, even your internal ones.
Your external source

Regardless of how well thought-through your internal source will be, you will still need feedback from your customers. This is what I call the external source.

Make up a standard questionnaire for your customers to fill out at intervals, for example after the first three months and thereafter as you perceive you need updates from your customers. Do not be shy about this. Although sometimes the customer may not be too happy to fill in more paper work, you can work around this by stating on the questionnaire that, by filling it out, the customer feels you do this to serve them better.

Chances are you will be surprised by the customers’ honesty and openness. And there is no better way for you to get the pulse of your business.

Limit the form to one page or less. Make your questions as direct and to the point as you can. This feedback is essential to your business – and to the customer as well. If you can get the information you seek with fewer questions, all the better.

Split the questions in two categories –


  • What do you like best about our business? (General statement)
  • The customer service/li>
  • The broad offering of ceramic designs
  • The quality of teaching you offer
  • The cleanliness of your studio
  • The caring attitude
  • The proximity to my home
  • Your open-hours
  • The overall quality of your products
  • The overall quality of your services

You can go on and work up the questions you really want to have answered.

Then you go on to list which improvements the customers would like to see, such as:

  • Change in the bisque offering (specify)
  • More training by the owner or by the staff
  • Different open hours, state
  • Lower prices, which products
  • Other, etc.

With the questionnaire in hand – take it home, keep the content confidential and take your time to really think about the answers.

Leave it open to the customer whether or not to sign his/her name to the questionnaire. (Write “optional” under the signature line). You might be pleasantly surprised to see how forthcoming this critique (it’s not criticism) can be. Whether the customer signs or not, the information is worth gold.

Being ready for intelligent, fact-based decisions

Now you are on your way to structure your action plan in regards to which customer you wish to attract. You will not cast your net out helter skelter, but specifically select which customers are the most likely to stay with you. You will also look at your business from their viewpoint and improve what makes them stay.

This approach is in marketing jargon called the “rifle approach” – you aim at specific customers – versus the “shotgun approach” – shooting randomly hoping to hit as many as possible. Needless to say most successful marketers use the rifle approach.

The better you get at it, the smarter decisions you will make. You will spend time analyzing, but gain more by taking the time and getting a good return on your actions.

Other types of Ceramic Studios

I selected the Contemporary Ceramic Studio as an example for how to create a blueprint for marketing. However, the principles and rules apply to all ceramic studio businesses. Create your own blueprint based on the above – add and deduct as your particular niche demands, in your opinion.

You will never regret the efforts you have to spend to think this through for your particular business. And remember, the project is dynamic, meaning that you have to go back and check your blueprint – and possibly change and update it based on your e experience – from time to time.

Make this process part of your role as the CEO of your business.

My personal experience in this is that such analysis, planning and reviewing create energy. When things in my career brought problems, I would retreat to my home office during the weekend and analyze, think and decide on where I was going and compare with my blueprint.  Most times this exercise paid off and I started next week with new determination.

The effect on your Ceramic Studio business

As you keep analyzing and adjusting your business to the types of customers that bring the best return on your marketing activities, your business will gradually change. Your layout might be changed to accommodate them. Certainly your product offering will change to better suit your preferred customers’ needs.

And your marketing efforts, which you always should be able to measure, will be focused and improved. Your customer service, the training of your employees, the look of your shop may change. And, for sure, the wording at your website, in your ads, flyers, bulletins, emails and other ways to communicate will change.

You might be able to increase your prices, because you will find that if you please your core clientele, they are less reactive to price increases than those that do not have a strong affinity to who you are and what you do. In marketing terms, this pricing effect is called elasticity – low elasticity means that your customers will stay with you even after a price increase, while high elasticity means that even a small price increase may send your customers chasing other, less expensive pursuits.

You should build your business to have as low price elasticity as possible.

Successful marketing is all about change, being flexible, analyze and adjust to the world around. The studio owner who does this as a sustained and disciplined effort will survive very well. Those who do not will be left behind and may eventually go out of business.

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© 2011 by Rolf E. Ericson, Oneonta, New York, publisher. All rights reserved. Photocopying, reproduction , copying, or redistribution of any kind in printed or electronic form is strictly prohibited without written permission from the publisher.