Effective Art Marketing is Not About You

By guest blogger Nikolas Allen


Enough about You


When marketing your art, it’s tempting to put the focus solely on you: “Check out my art, my show, my newsletter, my Facebook page.” However, your promotional efforts will become exponentially more effective the minute you understand this fundamental marketing truth: It’s not about YOU, it’s about THEM.

That means every marketing message you send must answer the question residing in the minds of your audience at all times: “What’s in it for me?”

I see repeat offenders sending out email newsletters with banal subject lines such as, “June Newsletter.” So what?! Tell me what’s in your newsletter that’s going to make my life better when I open it!

Many artists mis-use their Twitter feed by simply connecting it to their Facebook stream and uploading photo after photo of their art. This results in a Tweet stream consisting solely of the message, “I uploaded a new photo to Facebook” repeated ad nauseam. Boring! Welcome to UnFollow City, Kid.

Instead, utilize Twitter and Facebook as the separate tools that they are. Play to their individual strengths and craft juicy, descriptive tweets and posts that entice, intrigue and engage. When inviting people to connect, Like, or follow you on any social platform, let them know how your content is going to make their lives more enjoyable.

Writing a press release is the ultimate test of your marketing message. If an editor finds your release to contain even the slightest whiff of self-promotional puffery, it will end up in her circular file before she gets to the second paragraph. Instead, you must craft your release in a way that conveys value to the publication’s community of readers.

The secret to crafting a meaningful marketing message is to truly understand what people are responding to in your work. If you don’t know, then it’s up to you to find out. When a gallery visitor says they like your work, don’t just mumble, “Thanks,” and excuse yourself to the wine bar. Instead, dig, probe and inquire to determine WHY they like it.

Listen for key phrases, cues, adjectives and descriptions that you can adopt and use in your art marketing messages. Try to determine what emotional triggers your work is activating in viewers. It has been proven that people make decisions based on emotions, then use logic to justify their decisions.

Therefore, targeting the emotional buttons of your audience is always going to elicit a far more visceral response than your “Just the facts, Ma’am” announcements, advertisements and promotions.

It’s common to think that your audience wants to hear about you, you, you, just because they like your work. Now, you very well may be a fascinating artist and person. However, no matter how fascinating you are, people find themselves to be even more fascinating! So make sure you let them know how THEY will benefit from attending, reading, viewing, following or purchasing whatever it is you’re promoting.



Nikolas AllenNikolas Allen is a contemporary Pop artist with a background in advertising, music and video production. He is passionate about art and marketing and wrote his first book, Death To The Starving Artist – Art Marketing Strategies for a Killer Creative Career to help ambitious artists reach a wider audience. 


Image: An ArtsyShark exclusive, “Enough About You” © Nikolas Allen.



  1. there’s soo much advice out there about selling your art…but i like this…it’s really a whole different mindset. trying to get people to care about your art as much as you do, isn’t easy…it does take time to understand who your customers are and their wants and needs as well as meeting my own wants and needs with my art.

    • Kathryn, you hit on an essential point: When creating your art – it’s all about YOUR needs and wants. That comes first. When marketing your art – the focus then moves to the needs and wants of your audience. When you strike this perfect balance, you will enjoy not only enjoy an art career, but an art career with integrity! Thanks for chiming in!

    • The Artist’s studio tour, (invitation-only) is cool ideas for exhibiting artworks. Its working for me.
      Along with my Online Gallery:

  2. Interesting article Nikolas!! I know exactly what you mean when you say that people use their Twitter accounts to send up an endless feed of “For Sale”, “I’ve uploaded” etc. messages. I’ve tried to add a personal touch by trying to state what it is about that place/photo that’s special. Maybe this might work in driving traffic to my website; maybe it might not. Its an experiment I’m trying. Let’s see how it goes. I think trying to build up a fan-following is key and i’m working on that as well. Thanks for sharing your insights!


    • Sai, sounds like you’re on the right track! Anything you can do to make your posts more interesting, intriguing, or compelling is going to provide better results in the end. I also like your attitude about experimenting. The more you can determine what’s working – and WHY – the more effective your marketing will be. And, just like creating your art, marketing is something that needs ongoing focus, discipline and improvement. Good luck!

  3. Good advice, but I would love to see a couple of examples of this type of posting. (ie, making it all about the patron, not about you)

    • Hi Joanne, the examples will vary of course, but I’ll give you a couple from my recent experiences:

      Press Release – I wrestled with an appropriate headline to announce the publication of my art marketing book in the local paper. The talking point was really, “Local author publishes art marketing book.” However, that’s about me. A reader might say, “So what?” After more tweaking, I submitted my release. The editor even tweaked it further by adding my name to the title, which I never would have attempted on my own. The final version: “Allen’s marketing book is for artists.” Boom! Any artist reading that is going to perk up their ears because it has become about THEM and how they can benefit. Simple tweak, big difference.

      Art Opening Invite – This is the most common “message” artists send. Many simply state the facts, which is a surefire way to get lost in the multiple Facebook invites people get every day. Instead, craft a dramatic summary of what people can expect. I dubbed my latest exhibit, “The boldest Pop show of the year!” Hyperbole? Perhaps, but in my area of upper NorCal, it happened to be true!

      “Experience Smashing Sensory Stimuli This Friday Night.”
      “Enjoy an evening of creative conversation and community.”
      “Be the first to experience the emotionally charged paintings of…”

      These are dramatic examples, but the idea is to get you out of your own head and into the mindset of someone who has limited time and unlimited options.

      Get their attention, arouse their curiosity, and earn their interest. Then, the rest is up to them.

      Now, try a few that apply to YOUR own scenario. Good luck!

  4. Excellent article. Just what I needed- Thank you!

  5. I agree wholeheartedly. I follow artists on Instagram who post images of their paintings along with text telling all about their battles with depression, etc. I doubt that is going to make a viewer want to buy the artwork.

  6. Hey SZ, thanks for the share! Glad you enjoy mixing business (marketing) with pleasure (art) as much as I do! To Your Success, Nikolas


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