Recommended: Small Business + Small Marketing = Really Big Losses an article by Danny Iny
Most of the advice I’ve seen on marketing for artists has been the “market plumbing” and narrowly tactical variety. (The link goes to an excellent article by Dov Gordon).
When the tactic doesn’t work for the majority of people, you see lots of folks questioning the value of marketing art or of an artist’s “brand” etc. But marketing starts from a strategy, especially for artists. After all, our work and “product” is all about identity. I’d argue that identity is a cornerstone of marketing strategy for artists.
So the linked articles may not be “marketing for artists”, but they are good marketing advice and very relevant to artists.
Let’s dissect these bits of advice and see how all the items mesh up with an artist’s image and practice. I’ll use Danny’s headers from the article so we can all navigate.
Alignment: Start-up people and high risk entrepreneurs are always looking for a pain point. What frustrates whom and how can I fix it? If there’s a point at which consumers waste time and become frustrated, businesses leak money and resources, industries accumulate risks; these are opportunities for big “hockey stick” growth.
Many artists just want to be fairly compensated for their skill and labor, make a decent living off their art, and just possibly to leave the door open for fame and fortune. We’re not building the next Google. Our collectors are purchasing luxuries – things they want – and not necessarily needs.
For artists “alignment” is less focused on problem solving or driving someone else’s profits, and more about identity – your collector’s identity.
Who are your collectors? Are they the people you think they are? (Don’t assume – get some data!). Who do you think your ideal collector is? Why do they purchase art? Why do they choose you?
Why do they purchase art? What does it deliver for them? Is it collectable, an investment, a decoration, a marker of an event or timepoint, an expression their taste, a way to communicate and share their world view, a desire to be surrounded by beauty, a desire to own something moving? If you look at these “whys” and try to imagine the collector behind each impetus, you should begin to discern different collecting behaviors.
Once you understand who your collectors are and what drives them, you can look at how you present your art, your vision, and your “you, the artist”. Are you a match for your collectors? Are you even a match for your ideal collectors?
At this point you may have to stop and decide where to focus. Perhaps you have a solid stream of existing collectors and you want to present your artistic identity to them and people like them and grow your audience. Perhaps you have aspirations that don’t match your existing collector base and you need to tune your message for that ideal audience.
Align your artistic identity with either the collector base you want to grow or the one you want to discover. (Or align your strategy for pursuing collectors with your artistic identity, yes?)
Attraction: You know who you are, you know who you want to reach, and your website, blog, image presentation, descriptions, etc. are all a perfect match for your potential fans. Now you have to go out and find them. More importantly, you need to discover the most effective way to portray your artistic identity and grab and hold their attention.
For most businesses this would involve terse yet catchy descriptions paired with delivery methods that target both their ideal audience and the way that the audience is engaged. How much of somebody’s attention do you get from Twitter versus a local newspaper write-up? Twitter may have a larger potential audience and be more targeted by interests, but the paper receives more focused attention and provides the advantage of locality.
Artists have an advantage. We create compelling imagery. The product is much more the message for us. However not all of the compelling, beautiful, unique work you create is an iconic representation of your artistic identity. And … not all of your iconic work translates well into every marketing tool. Some gorgeous subtle works just do not thumbnail well on the internet, others do not print well in the limited color space of a newspaper. Lovely muted works may not work well on a poster or postcard. The work that gets you the most attention from internet viewers may not translate into a growing collector base, nor does it necessarily mesh with your most collectable work. Popular does not always equal iconic.
In addition to iconic imagery that represents you, you will want to use your words. Do you have a long artist’s statement detailing your every inspiration, your relationship with Jupiter’s moons, and your prodigal preschool achievements? Edit it and focus on your work – how does your work express your identity and audience? How is it made? You get the idea.
Now take your statement and pare it down even further. How would you describe your art to someone sharing an elevator for 3 floors. You have less than a minute – is your elevator pitch effective? What would you say over a handshake? See if any of these really short succinct introductions can translate into a bit of text to use in your marketing.
And don’t forget that exhibits and networking can be part of a marketing strategy. Networking is a tool that requires tactics – be polite, let an opening develop before diving in and talking about your art, don’t glom attention at someone else’s show, do build meaningful connections with other artists, and all the obvious niceties of networking. Networking, as opposed to just making friends, also has a strategic element. Cast your “net” to a network of people who can actually impact your marketing and professional development goals.
Finally, keep track of which marketing tools and tactics actually work for you and what they deliver. Which tools are most useful? Do they deliver a dedicated fan base? sales? web hits? valuable networking contacts? How much of your time does it cost to get something valuable from a particular tool?
Engagement: In his article, Danny describes engagement as a process of getting a series of small commitments and returning a series of desirable rewards. Most of us aren’t going to give away prints or originals in return for a facebook page “like”, and we have to be careful about diluting the value and perceived quality of our work. Low res screensavers and printable copies are also questionable ideas as potential “give aways”.
We can try things like exclusive content on the Facebook page, blog or newsletter. How cool would it be if new signups for your newsletter received an article showing the steps in your latest work in progress? Or if your blog subscribers received your guide to the best related blogs you’ve found on the net, … or?
Providing added value without giving away your work hinges on that classic start-up advice about fixing a pain point. The offline art world can be frustrating to navigate. The online art world takes it past frustrating into overwhelming. As a dedicated artist you’re a bit of an insider. You’ve already navigated paths through the chaos. Lead an interested party down a path you’ve discovered and you’ve cured some frustration and pain.
I really urge you to read both the articles linked above, then think about all of the art marketing advice you’ve seen focused on specific tools and busywork. Now breathe, consider, and strategize.
- Know Your Audience (marketingbasics411.wordpress.com)
- To Get Content Marketing Strategy – Marketing Saviour (themarketingnetwork.com.au)
- 7 B2B Content Marketing Gems (B2C Can Also Use!) (heidicohen.com)
- Adapt a Top-Tier Content Strategy and Make It Your Own: 3 Key Ideas (business2community.com)
- Facebook as a Marketing Tool – Everyone Else Does It (news.olsenmobilemarketing.com)
- Social Media Leads B2B Content Marketing Strategies (business2community.com)