I know that you really, really want your art business to be successful. But what do you do if it's just not getting there? You could be sabotaging yourself without even knowing it. There are a few art marketing mistakes that are easy to make; when you turn things around, it can really help your success.
Here's how to avoid 5 big art marketing mistakes that may be derailing your success:
Mistake #1: Trying to be everything to everyone
If you try to appeal to everyone, you will appeal to no one. I understand the resistance to narrowing down your art marketing to a specific niche. Artists say to me, “I don't want to get that specific because I don't want to ignore people.”
And my answer?
Focusing on a niche rather than trying to appeal to everyone is actually going to make your marketing more appealing and interesting to the right people. If you’ve done your market research and know who your ideal clients are, you know who you need to be talking to.
There will be people outside your niche who stumble across your work and your business, and don’t worry—you don’t have to send them away! You’re definitely going to sell work to anyone who wants to buy it. And still, the way to attract most of those people is to identify who your best buyers are and speak to them rather than trying to appeal to the masses.
Mistake #2: Offering everything you have to your audience
Think of the difference between Wal-Mart and your boutique local store. At Wal-Mart you can walk into a massive store that is national in scope and buy just about anything, but the problem with big box stores is that if you're looking for something specific, you might have a hard time finding it among all the stuff. There's so much available it can be overwhelming.
Some people prefer to shop at smaller stores in their own neighborhoods, where they can walk in and enjoy the selection that the owner has specially curated to appeal to the locals who shop in her store.
Be like the boutique business owner. Carefully curate what you make available for your audience so that when they “walk in,” whether it's into an actual gallery, or whether they’re arriving at your website, they’ll like what they see, and they won’t be overwhelmed by all the choices. You don’t want them to turn around and walk out, saying, “I just can't choose.”
Curate what you offer to your audience based on what sells best—or at least what you think will sell best. If you don't yet know what that is because you haven’t got data from past sales, make your best guess and then adjust as you go.
Displaying everything you've ever created in big, broad categories on your website is not going to help you sell your art. Start by making sure that your homepage and portfolio page are carefully curated to appeal to your ideal buyer. Then, if you like, you can include links to other work for people who want to explore everything you have to offer.
That way you're not overwhelming the folks who would rather walk into a boutique than a Wal-Mart.
Mistake #3: Being inconsistent in your marketing work
Marketing is a marathon, not a sprint, and to succeed, you’ve got to keep at it—daily, weekly, monthly. You won't finish a marathon if you stop for coffee every mile or so! If you’re inconsistent, it’s going to take you a long time to get to the finish line, and you may not ever even make it because you’ll be distracted and off track.
Success in marketing comes from doing the work regularly, especially these days on social media where your audience expects to hear from you on a regular basis—and they may forget you if they don’t.
Remember to be consistent, keep your momentum going, and your audience will build over time.
Mistake #4: Not selling consistently
I’ve heard it before: “I don’t want to be pushy. I don't like sales. I don't like the whole idea of it.”
Well, if you want to have a successful art business, you're going to have to sell art. Of course you don't want to be a pushy salesperson, but you do need to tell people how they can buy from you. If you avoid this, you'll sell very little. Remember: the main goal of marketing is sales. You need to consistently sell your work in social media posts, on your website, at festivals, and whenever you're talking to people about your business.
I'm not saying that selling should be all you do, but you do need to be regular and consistent about it. Tell people what you’ve got for sale. Tell them the price, the dimensions, how many you have for sale. If this is last one or the only one, make sure people understand that few are available so they won’t miss out on something. Then let them know how they can purchase from you.
Be really clear about it. Think of it this way: you’re not being pushy; you’re simply giving people the information they want. They're following you because they like your artwork, and the end result could be that everyone gets to own a piece of your work that they love. It's your job to help them get from interest to purchase in a polite and authentic way.
Last word: make sure that you're not sharing all the fun things you're doing on social media and “forgetting” to mention how people can buy from you.
Mistake #5: Letting fear drive the bus
I know this is very common for business owners of all stripes, but I think for artists it can be even more intense. It's easy to let fear take control. To do marketing well, you need to develop your ability to put fear aside and move ahead anyway. Creating more awareness of your art business, bigger opportunities, significant partnerships, all of these things require you to put fear in the back seat and just go for it.
Do as Liz Gilbert suggests in her book Big Magic: acknowledge fear, accept that it might always be there, but relegate it to the back seat. Tell it that it’s not in charge here. You drive the bus, not fear.
Have you been making any of these marketing mistakes? Don't worry. Just change what you do going forward.