Demographics for Professional Tarotists
Demographics: the statistical characteristics of human populations (as age or income) used especially to identify markets (Merriam-Webster)
A recent online conversation in a group for tarot pros got me thinking about demographics. Specifically, how the cards speak to one demographic, versus another.
The conversation caused a little heat. There was one person who found the whole concept of referring to clients in regards to their economic demographic highly offensive. In fact, she called the practice “unprofessional”. That made me laugh, because I really can’t think of an industry or profession that doesn’t rely on demographics for product development and marketing.
I thought about this person’s ire for a while. If I stretched I could see that, when viewed a certain way, quantifying the economic and cultural traits of a particular group of tarot clients could, from the outside, seem a bit like the racial profiling that makes driving while black, or flying while Muslim, feel so dangerous in certain places.
The important difference between profiling and demographics is this. Profiling involves making a judgement about someone based on their presentation. Demographics help us understand a person’s environment. In tarot, this helps us interpret the cards, and word our interpretations, in ways our clients can hear and understand. Profiling is negative judging, while demographics offers us the opportunity to more clearly sympathize with our clients.
When reading for an individual in a private reading setting, I have no need or desire to know about their culture of origin or economic status; what is pertinent to our discussion will show up in the reading. I have at least half an hour to spend with the person, so I am confident I have time to delve in and discover who this person is.
For me, demographics become helpful when I am hired to entertain a particular group of people. Schools, corporations, small businesses, chambers of commerce, military organizations, nightclubs, casinos and other groups commonly hire tarot readers to entertain at various functions, from retreats to proms to appreciation days.
These events are a fast-paced cattle-call; doing 5-minute readings for many people who have never had readings, or who have no real interest in readings, but will do it because it’s part of the party. To succeed in this sort of environment, you must be quick, you must be on-point, you must be funny, gracious and thick-skinned.
Because the audience is not bought in to your process, each sitter is a potential skeptic who will delight in proving you wrong. This makes reading in this environment very different from psychic fairs and festivals where all things esoteric and metaphysical are revered, and your client wants you to succeed.
It is in this environment where understanding your demographics pays off. Many times, whether your reading is considered “on” or “off” will be determined, not by the quality of your information, but by the way you present it. For example, you may understand your client’s relationship dynamic perfectly, but if you use the wrong gender pronoun when referring to the partner, your reading will be considered “off”. That person leaves your table shaking their head, everyone else in line sees that, and the rest of your night becomes more difficult. Once you have lost the crowd, it’s hard to win them back. This has never happened to me, but I have seen it happen to a few of my reading partners at large events.
Early into the event, you may notice the same cards coming up for everyone in your group. This may give you a clue as to the nature of your group. This is helpful, because, many times, the agent who books you knows very little, other than when you should show up, what you should wear, and when you’ll get paid. It’s also true that you can’t ask too many questions in an environment like this, without some wise-ass saying “You’re the psychic, you tell me!” In this sort of environment, your cards will give you straight answers – the people around you may not.
I’ve seen a group of lawyers and their spouses all receive the Justice card. I’ve seen a group of college loan officials each receive the Six of Pentacles. By paying attention to trends from reading to reading, you can often get a handle on the demographics of your group quite early on in the process.
When it comes to economic demographics, your interpretation of the cards can change significantly. When reading for folks who are not very wealthy, it’s easy to spot financial difficulties, and they will be plentiful in the room. When reading for the wealthy, the same cards will come up to indicate the need to make different business decisions, rather than a worry about paying the rent.
The key is to understand your crowd well enough, though intuition, observation and the cards, to make sure you interpret the cards from a perspective that makes sense to them.
When reading for an individual, I think it is best to never make assumptions based on what a person presents visually. The couple holding hands may or may not be an actual couple. The woman with very short spiky hair may or may not be a lesbian. The person dress in rags may be a billionaire. I find I do better when I rely more on what I see in the cards, and less on what people show me. This is one reason I like telephone readings so much!
At the same time, effective tarot work with large audiences requires a sensitivity to the demographics of the group.
There are other ways that demographics impact your tarot business. One, of course, is the nature of the community to which you market, and their relative openness to tarot in general. The other is about advertising. That is, how you can appeal to your target market, or how you can attract your neighbors to your local practice.
The more you understand the nature of the group of people to whom you are marketing, the more effectively you can share you message with them.
Social media offers us many opportunities to market and advertise. This is different than the print ads I used to purchase when I first started. However, the key concepts are the same. You need images and copy that appeal to the right people. Without that, you have wasted time and money.
I remember my first successful ad campaign. It was in Putnam, CT, in the early 1990s. The paper was the “Putnam Shopper”, a free weekly ads-only rag. If you wanted to buy, rent, promote or sell something in Putnam, you put it in the Shopper.
I had run a few ads with limited results. Then, my manager created an ad that made the phone ring all day, every day. The add was a picture of a Victorian-era woman in a dramatic woe-is-me position on a sofa. The copy read, “Thinking about calling a psychic hotline? Call Christiana instead!”
With that image, and with that copy, I had managed to tap into the current mood of Putnam. It made sense. Putnam was a lovely New England mill town filled with Victorian architecture, and filled with woes due to the closing of many factories. With a picture and a few words, I had identified their style, their heartache, and their need for a bargain.
Had I thought about the demographics of the town when I first started advertising, I may have more quickly and cheaply hit on the ad that worked.
Fast forward twenty years, and the premise is still the same. When we run an ad on a social media platform, we have the opportunity to fine-tune the demographics. That is, to choose who will see the ad.
When we consider demographics in our marketing, we are abler to identify our best clients, and draw them to us.
When we consider demographics in a group entertainment situation, we are abler to provide the tarot experience that will leave our clients calling back for more.