Build-a-Bear Marketing

With your book or your business, you absolutely must know who you’re selling to, or else you won’t get anywhere.  My good friend, Shannon Cherry, shared with me a marketing tactic for nailing down my target audience and readers. It involves one of my favorite things – stuffed animals – so you know I just had to try it!

Build-a-Bear is one of the most fun retail stores for kids (and I must admit, adults) and can be a huge asset to determining your target market. Here are the steps for Build-a-Bear marketing:

Step 1: Choose your animal

I’ll admit it, I initially went to Build-a-Bear planning to choose a normal cute, fuzzy bear. Something that appealed to my tastes. However, this exercise was not about me, it was about my audience. So I had to go beyond that and decide, “What does my target client look like?”

Note: If you’re having trouble determining your target client or reader, think back on someone you enjoyed working with and model your bear after them.

As I looked at the options, a blue bear stuck out to me. Not your typical brown or tan variety, but a bit “off color.” And it dawned on me — I love working with “off color” entrepreneurs, those who not only think outside the box, but even insist there is no box. The type who were the geeks, nerds, not necessarily popular in school, but were not afraid (and are still not afraid) to be their own person and most of all use their gifts and talents to change the world. So I picked the blue bear.

Ask yourself, what does your client look like? Are they male, female, “off color,” ethnic, goofy, serious… think about it. And then pick out an animal to match.

Step 2: Stuff & love your bear

If you’ve ever been to Build-a-Bear you know they make you go through a ritual with a little stuffed heart while they stuff your bear. You have to do things with the heart like rub it on your heart so it feels your love, pat it on you knee to remind you your bear “needs” you, etc. It seems silly, but take a moment and think about it. Do you really believe your clients and readers need you? Do they need to hear what you have to say? Is your message important enough to scream it from the highest mountaintops? If you’re not that passionate about what you do, find another line of work you are passionate about.

If you’re passionate about your clients and readers, you’ll naturally go the extra mile for them. You’ll send them cards on their birthdays, add a free gift bonus in the back of your book and stay in touch with them regularly just to ask how they’re doing or to give them good content and tips that can make them better at what they do (not just selling to them). Take this moment in giving your new target-audience bear love and each time you see it you’ll remember what you should be doing for your clients and readers.

Step 3: Outfits & Accessories

This is probably the most fun and thought-provoking part of Build-a-Bear marketing. It makes you think hard about what your client or reader needs, what they like, the lifestyle they live, and more. For my bear, I chose jeans and a t-shirt for her outfit because my target client primarily works at home. Those who work at home like being comfortable. I also gave her a pair of sunglasses because she has a lifestyle that lets her enjoy the outdoors when she wants, whether at home or on the beach. Then I got her a “bear-pad” (iPad) because I enjoy working with people who know something about technology since my entire business model relies on using the internet and computers. And because they didn’t have a bear laptop computer. 😉

Then I chose a second outfit (optional). My target client is a professional international speaker, so she also has a nice dress to wear on stage while speaking, high heels and a passport. I also chose to make her female because despite many of my clients being male, most of my clients are currently female.

Now think about your audience – what do they wear? What do they like? What accessories do they use? Where do they hang out? Browse around the store to get ideas. Look at all the accessories and answer these questions.

How to use your animal:

Yes, I expect you to build your animal and take it home with you!

When you’re doing anything for your marketing, whether it’s writing blog posts, creating workshops, or writing more books, keep your animal in front of you. Create your marketing materials for the person that animal represents. It sounds silly, but it works! And you’re going to see a difference in my marketing this year since I did this exercise.

The most important thing to remember at Build-a-Bear (besides heading there with a budget) is that your target audience is extremely specific. The more specific you can make it, the better! Other people who don’t fit that exact mold will still become your readers and clients, but the more you niche down to a specific person, the  more targeted your posts will be, and the more you’ll attract the types of people you enjoy working with the most.

Photo courtesy Shutterstock, MSharova

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