Let me first say that I love artists because they are interesting to talk to, passionate about their art and genuinely friendly people. On the flip side their divergent thinking style which helps them be so creative, can be a hinderance when it comes to the discipline of internet marketing, business and time management and sales and marketing. I have found that artists either live off the smell of an oily rag or are supported by their wonderful partners. There is often little money to spend developing their business and most would rather spend their time creating and practicing their art than wasting time on sales and marketing. Because there is often extra disposable income, artist tend to try to do everything themselves from building a website to organising markets and places to sell their artwork. They are a one man or one woman band, spread too thin and in a vicious cycle of not having enough time, money, expertise or resources to promote their business yet needing to become known and to sell in order to live. In addition to this I have found that the artists I have met are not great self-promoters which makes them wonderfully beautiful humble people but does not help to make them become well known and make money. So in an effort to short circuit years of university learning and industry experience, I am writing this article which should give artists the basics of marketing and a blueprint for promotion.
Define You Buyer(s)
The first thing you need to do is identify your buyers or target market(s). Who are the people that have brought from you in the past? What are their characteristics?
Please don’t tell me that everyone buys from you and that you have no typical buyer. It’s just not true. As a starting point your buyer is probably someone that appreciates art, colour, texture, and originality. They like unique hand made things. They are people who appreciate quality, maybe they are people with a certain income who have disposable income to afford what you are selling. So you see, not everyone is a buyer.
Are your buyers local, national or international?
Are they individuals or businesses?
What are their characteristics? (eg looking for art for their home, looking for a present for someone, they are flamboyant or serious and contemplative…)
What do you think their income bracket would be?
What types of art do they like to buy? (large pieces, small pieces, colourful…) ect
How do they find out about you?
Make up a visual and mental picture of your buyer.
The reason you want to define who your buyers are is so that you can work out WHERE they are, how much money they have to spend and what marketing message and promotion will best resonate with them.
For example if you are a ceramist, then some of your buyers would be ceramic collectors and you therefore want to make sure you are part of ceramic appreciation groups either physically or online in facebook groups or forums.
If you are an artist, you would want to connect with galleries, art shows, artisanal markets and online platforms that showcase and sell art such as Etsy…
If you make wooden sculptures then you may want to focus your sales and marketing efforts on interior designers, garden landscapers or upmarket boutiques.
Knowing who your buyer is will inform and drive all your other marketing activity.
You might find that you have a few types of buyers, those that have lots of money, buy large pieces and are maybe tourists or not local and those that can afford smaller pieces, like your work but don’t have the means to buy your larger pieces. So knowing this you can either continue as you are with a feast or famine cash flow or you can choose to make products suitable for different budgets. We call these “bread and butter” product, ie those products that are quick and easy to make, at a lower price point which will allow you to sell a higher quality and give you the cashflow to work on larger pieces which sell less often. For example you could sell limited edition smaller prints of your most popular work or create smaller items at a cheaper price point to capture a different market eg the Christmas Present market. The trick here is to not have all your time taken up on smaller projects but have enough money coming in to pay for living expenses. Time spent vs expected revenue or ROI – return on investment (in this case time and materials).
I have found that artists often run workshops or teach people how to do a simplified version of their art in order to make ends meet. This is just another product offering to a different market. See what make sense for your business. Some of you love to teach and share whilst others find it’s a distraction from the creative process. You are all unique and you know how long things take to do and where you can sell so you are the best person to work out your product mix.
An entrepreneur and traditional marketer would find a need in the market place and create a product for it. Arists on the other hand want to create and hope that someone will like the work enough to pay for it. Artistic integrity and is very noble but if you are in the situation where you need money to put food on the table and pay bills, you may have to look at what you are producing and able to sell, at what price and to whom.
OK so price is a hard one because you are an artist and what you do does take time and you do need to make a living. But unless you are really well known already, you do need to have a look around at other artists selling similar things and price yourself accordingly. You do need to look around at what you would consider your competition or colleagues and price yourself slightly above if you have a valid reason (ie the piece takes longer to make or the materials used are more expensive) or within a ball park range. With pricing you can always start high and bring it down if needed or offer payment plans or instalments or to create an artwork that fits within the budget. For example, if you know the canvas makes up half the cost, get the prospective client to buy the canvas or the materials so as to reduce the price you charge them.
Most artists will say that no one else is doing what they do, that they are unique, but customers have a budget / a specific amount of disposable income, even the very rich people. Economic theory states that we are constantly making choices around value (utility) and comparing what we can buy with that same amount of money. So if your work is not selling then it’s one of three things – either people don’t like it in which case you can either find people that do like it or change what you do. Or people love it but can’t afford it, in which case you can either decrease the price or make similar products in a smaller version or different version that people can afford. Or lastly you are not selling your items in the right location ie not selling in a place where people have money or where there are people that like what you are doing. In this case find new distribution channels – new places to sell.
Sales & Distribution
Your distribution channels are so important. As an artist think outside the box.
Where can your artwork or piece be seen by the most number of people?
Can you put your artwork in a local café on consignment?
Are you selling in your own shop or gallery?
Can you sell in local market places or national art show and markets?
Can you sell online on your website?
Does your artwork sell on Etsy or facebook or even ebay?
Think about partnerships you can make with other artists or complimentary products and services (for examples can you share the cost and time of a market stall with someone else?)
You are an artist, you are creative and you are great with people so use those skills to create opportunities for yourself.
The best promotion is word of mouth but you need to nudge that along. People need to know who you are, where you are, what’s your story – being shut up in your studio will not help you be known so you do need to get out there and meet people and talk about your art. People are going to buy into you personally as an artist so educating the buyer on the value of what you do is half the battle. Tell the story of what inspired each piece, show and talk about what materials and processes you use (quality paints and dyes, quality fabrics and canvases, unique wood or clay). The important thing is for the potential buyer to understand, appreciate and value your unique piece. Think of yourself as a real estate agent, at first the person is attracted to the house but in order to buy, the real estate agents points out the history of the house, all the details, what it’s made of ect. You need to read your customer, some will be interested to hear the detail and ask questions whilst others won’t. Get the customer to talk about where they would hang your piece or where they see your ceramic bowel in their house.
Try to go on radio or get stories written about you and your work. What makes you unique? What is your story? That is what people want to hear.
Lastly promotion is about spreading the word and showcasing your work in as many places as possible to that you collect a tribe or fanbase around you that will buy your work and support you. So as an artist become familiar with your iphone and its camera !
Post on visual platforms like pinterest and Instagram and do have a facebook page and group where you can interact with your fans.
A quick note about online marketing…
You should definitely have an online presence. Ideally you would have a website which includes your bio and a gallery of your work. If possible you would have the ability to sell directly from your website but if that is all to technical for you, just keep it simple and ask people to call you if they want to buy a piece.
Just because you have a website does not mean that people will find you. This is where social media comes in. Social media augments / shares your message and artwork to more people. The aim of social media is to get yourself and your work known and to drive people back to your website or shop where they can buy. Online marketing is a skill and something that takes time and needs to be done on a regular basis. This is where many artist fail in that their social media efforts tend to be sporadic at best and mostly unplanned. In the real world it is the equivalent of having a shop and a shop window and choosing not to be open or not to change the display. If your window display does not change, people stop seeing you and stop thinking about you. Posting on social media is like changing your gallery or shop window, it talks time, planning and needs to be done regularly to retain interest.
That is the basics of marketing – know your buyer, find out where they are (in real life and online) and what price they are willing to pay and make products and distribute your products where they are or use promotion (traditional and online) to have them come to you and use social media to build your tribe (followers) and to maintain interest in what you are doing so you can sell and make money from what you do.
If you need help with developing your marketing strategy,
planning or implementing it, send me an email or give me a call and we can