This post is Part 1 of a multi-part series about marketing. Subscribe to our Business of Art newsletter to receive notification when additional posts are published.
One of the most common questions I hear is “How can I sell my art?” And while that’s an important question that every artist needs to find a way to answer, I find the more appropriate place to start is, “How should I market my art?”
“Marketing” is a nebulous topic that frequently isn’t taught in school. And while some may be naturally gifted at drawing attention to their work on social media channels, those activities don’t always equate to actually marketing their work. In fact, being good at social media is just one aspect of marketing and sometimes may not even lead to sales.
In order to successfully sell your art, you need to approach marketing strategically.
What does that mean? Marketing requires critical thinking about who your audience is, the best ways to reach them, and all the steps they will go through to become customers. Good marketing is a series of activities that are part of the pathway to transaction.
Let’s take a closer look at the framework that supports an effective marketing plan. In future posts, we will look at actionable steps to implement a marketing plan.
A MARKETING PLAN FRAMEWORK:
Before we get into “how to build a marketing plan,” it’s important to understand the parts that make up a marketing strategy. While there are many different approaches to building a marketing strategy, here are the critical pieces that I’ve found are invaluable for artists to include.
Goals: What are you trying to accomplish?
Yes, you want to sell more art. And that’s a fine goal to have. But it’s not enough for a marketing strategy. Goals should be both specific about what you want and measurable.
To define goals, think both about the steps needed to achieve those sales (drive more traffic to your website, have X number of gallery showings, etc.).
As you see above, there is a link that flows from your goals all the way to your action and outcome (more sales).
Audience: Who is your artwork for?
Often when I ask an artist this question, many will gleefully respond, “Everybody!”
Yes, artwork can be enjoyed by all people, but not everyone will value it. Nor do you want everyone to value it, as that likely means it is too average and does not transcend as great art.
Furthermore, it is impossible to market to everyone. There is no message that will speak to every person the globe over, and there is no place–physical or digital–that could put your work in front of the entire world population. Your audience is a group of people who recognize the value of your work.
More particularly your customers are those who value it AND are willing to pay for it. Keep in mind that some audiences may not be direct buyers, but rather people who can help you get in front of buyers, such as galleries.
When defining your audiences, include things like age, gender, geographical location (if applicable), other artists they like, and other activities they enjoy. Income level is also good to include when building audience profiles, particularly if you have a desired price point for your work in mind. With clarity on who your audience is, the rest of marketing becomes easier.
Messaging: What do you want to say and how do you want to say it to your audience? There are key things your audience wants to know about your artwork. There is context you can you provide to your audience that invites their engagement with your work. What details about materials, process and your philosophies add value to the experience of your work? Messaging is where you can, and frankly where you will need to differentiate yourself from other artists.
Channels: Where do your audiences hang out, both literally and figuratively?
Hint: Social media is not the right answer. That is akin to saying my audience hangs out in the ocean, and if I start swimming I will probably find them.
Channels need to be tangible places to connect with your audience. What social media platforms do they prefer? What hashtags do they follow? Do they visit any particular art venues on a regular basis? What publications do they read? Where am I likely to personally, in physical or digital form, encounter my audience?
Market Conditions: What are people who are purchasing artistic experiences looking for?
This can include information about what type(s) of art your ideal customers like, but it should also include general market conditions that may affect your ability to sell art. For example, when there is an economic downtown, art purchases tend to drop. You don’t have to be an economist, but a general awareness of market conditions will help you to properly communicate with your audience.
Strategies: How will you reach your audience?
Marketing strategies define your approaches to growing your audience and increasing your sales. This includes things like developing a stronger online presence, building relationships with more galleries, participating in online art forums, developing an email list, creating stronger visual assets to communicate your values (brand) etc. Strategies, although large in scope, should be very specific and should directly support your goals.
Tactics: What work do you need to do today to move towards your goal?
Often confused with Strategies, tactics are the specific steps you need to take to put your strategies into place. That might be “Create a daily Instagram post” or “Send a monthly newsletter.”
Measurement: How do you know if you are getting closer to your goals?
Good goals are measurable, but you also need to know what to measure. For example, if I’m driving from Baltimore to San Francisco, I know the route is going to be about 3,000 miles. Throughout my journey, I can easily glance at a number of mile markers, but that will only tell me how far I’ve gone on a specific highway.
A better method would be to note down my odometer’s starting point and estimate the number it will be when I arrive in San Francisco. That way I know how far I’ve traveled at any time and can estimate how much further I have to go.
Measuring your marketing is similar. You need to know what you want to measure and how you will measure it. For example, if one of your goals is to grow online sales by X percent, you will need a way to track all your online sales, AND to measure its growth over time. Good analysis doesn’t cause paralysis, good analysis enables good growth.
This is the framework for any good marketing plan. Check out future posts for an overview of how to put these together to form a single, cohesive plan that gets results!
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