Guest blogger Gregory Peters shares some thoughts about creating a great web presence and promoting your art online.
I’m always amazed when an artist tells me they don’t have a website. Actually they usually say things like they have “thought about them” or this will be “the year I start looking into it”. It’s as if they acknowledge the fact that they really should have one, but just haven’t gotten around to it. What could they possibly be doing as an artist that is more important than promoting their art? Beats me!
You see, an artist’s website, no matter what it is or is not, is a reflection of the artist. It is your storefront, your image, your gallery, your repository, your go-to place to direct prospective buyers. In short, if you don’t have one in my opinion, these days you’re just not serious about being a professional artist.
Oh, I’ve met artists at festivals and shows of one kind or another who insist they really don’t need a web site, but mercifully they are getting to be a rare bird.
To sell your art, you must first promote it.
I’ve told this phrase to countless artists and I still believe it to be true. What I’m referring to is of course, promotion. “If you build it (a website) they will come” we are told. NOT. You can build the most creative website in the world and it will sit there unwatched for eternity if no one knows of it.
This is why. Let me give you an analogy I heard. If your storefront, whether it be a gallery or a hardware store, were located on a street corner, there’s a pretty good chance some folks would walk or drive by, see it and want to come visit. But the internet is different. There are no street corners. There is no one walking by. Visitors must be told about you and, considering the ocean of information washing up around us, they must be told often, and loudly.
The same can be said for those group gallery websites that promise the moon, but don’t even deliver North Dakota. The reason is simple. The World Wide Web destroyed such things as geographic boundaries and locations. The internet has no roads. No sidewalks either. Just a whole slew of websites sitting on virtual street corners in cyberspace. How on earth are you going to get noticed? You built it and they did not come.
Depressing isn’t it? What will you do? Well, as a visual person, I need you to visualize something. What I need you to do is picture a wagon wheel just like the old pioneers used to traverse great distances. Those wheels had many wooden spokes. Got the idea? Good. Now, I’d like you to draw the hub of that wheel in the middle of a piece of paper. That’s right, it’s a circle. Make it about an inch or so across and write the words my website in the circle you’ve just drawn.
Now I need you to draw a line out from the circle a few inches and draw another circle. Inside that I want you to write Facebook. You’ve just created one spoke of your wheel. This particular wheel will have 10 or so circles surrounding the hub at about equal distance from the center. Your “wheel” may have more spokes on it in time as you will soon see. For now, make about 10 spokes, each with circles on the ends. We’re going to label them next.
Here are the labels I want you to write in each of them:
- Art webs
- Email list
- Business collateral
- Art fair
- Other web sites
Now you have created sources of information that can feed customers to your website hub and get you noticed. The way it works is very simple. Think of the little circles around your hub as meeting places. Much like restaurants, bars, churches and clubs, it’s where people get together to exchange ideas and communicate with one another.
Virtually everything you produce, every person you meet and every site you can connect to should be able to connect the dots and be led back to your website. The way this occurs is by effective use of your URL and its application to tools that people use and respond to. This is called business collateral. Business collateral is a collection of all the business tools that are used by virtually any business. These include business cards, brochures, signs, advertising, etc. Your web site URL should be on every one of the collateral items you use. Every time anyone sees your collateral item, your URL should be on it. People are curious.
Social media marketing is very powerful. Belong to Facebook or Linked-in and share yourself liberally while mentioning your website as often as possible. There are books and tutorials galore all over the web on how to best use social media to link back to your site. Read them and apply their message. People you meet in these places will begin to associate you (and your URL) and want to visit.
Articles about what you do can mention your website actively or in the closing byline that lists your name. There are hundreds of places to put these articles for free. It’s called article marketing and can be very rewarding.
Friends, associations and clubs you belong to are great sources of potential customers. They want to see what you do because they know you. Tell them or show them where to learn more!
Art websites, while great at parking your work in, are no less visible than your website. After all, you’re competing with every other artist in these multiple galleries for the same customers, and no one has your interests in mind but you. Let the site’s post your URL linking viewers back to your personal website and incentivize the offer if you can. Got something free to offer?
Email lists are like gold. Build your list by writing about what you do and asking people to sign up for your newsletter. You can do this several ways to build a list such as make the offer on your site, on your blog or at an event you participate in. Incentivize it with a free giveaway for instance, to sign up for the newsletter.
To blog, to blog. Blogging is a terrific way to keep you interesting to potential customers. Many customers will visit a dozen times before making a buying decision. Make each stop interesting and your URL prominent.
Do you get the idea now? Every one of these spokes is a trail that leads directly back to you. It’s up to you to make the trip eventful. What other spokes can you think of? Art shows? Festivals? Collaborative events? Put your thinking cap on.
Your public wants to be entertained.
Once your visitors arrive on your website, they want to be entertained. No, not with that Flash-driven animation you so often see. That stuff ranges from annoying to really irritating. Don’t piss off your customers! Get to the point. Quickly. You have about 10 seconds to capture their interest or a-d-i-o-s!
One of the best ways to do this is through the use of video. A simple 30 second to 2 minute video clip introducing you and your art can be very compelling. People will watch it. Some of the videos I’ve seen are actually better than the art being presented! Your buying public wants to get to know you so sprinkle your personality liberally around the site. You’re allowed to be weird! You’re an artist. Entertain the troops.
Oh, and another thing, make your images large enough to be seen; none of those tiny thumbnails. Many viewers are in their 50’s and eyesight isn’t what it used to be. They will thank you. Tell a story as to what makes you paint these images. I heard an artist the other day say, “I don’t paint horses. I paint how horses make me feel”. Why do you feel the way you do to create your art? Tell us.
Another suggestion since we’re on a roll is to forget about the traditional galleries you’ve been in or gallery sites you’ve seen on the web. Makes yours a SALES focused web gallery. Put prices on your work and make the buying process easy. Use PayPal or a shopping cart for your customers to help move them to a buying decision. They’re not all looky-loos.
And finally, a magic formula for you:
Promotional Tools + Media use + Marketing exposure = Opportunity.
Create and use promotional tools with the media to generate marketing plans that provide exposure and the net result will be increased opportunities you may never get any other way.
You must, as you can see take your customers by the hand and drive them to your site. They will rarely come on their own.
As I often mention, large multi-galleries such as art.com or fineartamerica.com are great sites to park your art, but (not to say anything disparaging about these sites), do not spend a lot of time and energy on them. The reason is the same as your site on the internet itself. If you don’t call attention to your gallery on these sites, how will anyone ever find you? That’s right. Your art is just one of many thousands of other images buried on a page on a website somewhere in cyberspace. You could do as well and often will, on your own, maintaining your own site and “presence” you can’t get through those multi-galleries. Once again, they are not bad in and of themselves. Put a bit of art there and link to your real gallery so you are using the site like a fishing lure to hopefully get someone who stumbles into it, to go to your other art site. This actually can work.
And now a brief word about the book I wrote to capture some of the great tips I’ve heard of and used over the years to keep myself and my art relevant to my viewers.
101 Tips to Sell More Art (book)
Over 101 tips gained from real world experience are packed into this book to help artists sell their artwork. This book presents a unique formula to follow, a wealth of tips to apply that formula and a truckload of useful internet resource links to provide quick answers for artists.
My book is not intended to be the last word on art promotion. It’s just exactly what it says it is. There are actually more than 101 tips in this simple to read ebook, but more than anything else, it is designed to open hyour eyes to the possibilities there are available to promote your art and yourself. No one can do it better than you. No one will do it cheaper than you. No one will be as effective as you can be because who knows you and your art better than you?
Get your butt onto the web
Whether you choose to build it yourself, use the wizards provided by many site providers (both free and paid), get organized, take some good pictures of your work and get a website that speaks to your public. Even if you slam one together and polish it up as you go, do it. You’ll be glad you did, and wonder what took you so long. Sure it’s scary, but then so is being an artist! It has never been easy to bare your soul to the public, but mercifully, it has never been easier to get noticed. The public needs your art. We’re the only thing keeping the world from looking like it is run by bureaucrats and government accountants. They may just not know it yet.
101 Tips to Sell More Art is available directly from the author at his art gallery web site http://dimensionalcanvas.com or as an Amazon kindle book and smashwords.com.