by Carolyn Edlund
Do you currently have a marketing plan? Is it working for you?
Why are you marketing your art? Your answer might be “To make sales of my work.” And that is definitely a goal that can spur you into marketing activities.
But closing a sale is often the culmination of ongoing marketing efforts. Very few sales are made on the first contact with a prospective buyer, unless you are selling a lower-priced or impulse item. For most artists, this means that your work has to be seen over and over again by the potential customer. And, the timing has to be right; they need to be ready to make a purchase.
Perhaps you’ve had the experience of making a sale to someone who has admired your artwork for months, or even years. I recently bought a sculpture from an artist I’ve known about for quite a long time, and seeing a wonderful new piece of her work inspired me to pull out my wallet and buy. That didn’t happen overnight. It took a lot of marketing efforts on her part to reach out to me (and other prospects) to create the right environment and opportunity for a “yes” from a customer.
Your marketing strategy as an artist should include three “shorter term” objectives that will help promote your work on an ongoing basis and lead to those eventual sales you are seeking. These objectives are:
1. To Gain Exposure. First, your art needs to be seen. This could be in-person at an event such as an exhibition, art festival, or open studio. It could be through professionally presented images of your work that represent your portfolio effectively. Those images might be on your art website, on postcards or direct mail, a brochure, on social media, in advertisements, or shared in publications or blogs.
The more exposure you can get in this world of information overload, the better. Seek out those places where your ideal customer will be. What magazines or blogs do they read? What organizations do they belong to? If your work fits into a niche, then it’s even easier to identify your perfect customer and what they value.
If you aren’t making persistent efforts to have your work seen, it is essentially invisible. So, if you are still considering whether to create an art website or get involved with social media, pull the trigger now and get some eyeballs on your art.
2. To Build Your Authority and Credibility. People want to buy from experts. Naturally, they want to own work that is of excellent quality made by an artist who knows what they are doing. And you just happen to be the expert on your own work! That puts you in a position to share information that shows your expertise and makes your work more desirable.
Have you written a book, taught a course, or developed a new technique? Do you work with unusual materials? Have you exhibited your art in a number of shows or won awards? Have you been featured in a magazine or blog, or have you written an article that got published? All of this adds to your authority, which is a good stepping stone to building credibility with your potential collectors. List those accomplishments and others on your website and use them in your marketing materials.
Testimonials are a great way to share what other people think of you, and your work. They provide “social proof” that enhances your credibility, because word of mouth recommendation is very powerful. If you have satisfied customers, ask for a testimonial – they will probably be happy to provide one!
3. To Identify Prospective Collectors. Meeting those people who are interested in your work, and following up with them is critical to maximizing your sales. After all, if you have spoken with someone who loves what you make, why would you just let them go? Stay in touch on a regular basis, and you may end up with a new collector. Email marketing is one of the best ways to do this. Follow them on social media, keep them on your mailing list and invite them to events. As an artist, you are very interesting to others, who can express their own creative side by owning and displaying your artwork.
So, if you’ve been thinking that all you have to do is list your artwork somewhere online, and it will sell itself, you might want to think again. The “making sales” part of your job means that you need to think like a salesperson. Good salespeople know the value of proactive marketing, collecting leads and working to establish a relationship through regular contact. That’s a proven formula to grow your sales.