Marketing your art business can be a challenge. You don’t know whether you should commit to a festival or to an art sales website. You’re not sure whether you should spend your time writing an email newsletter or posting on social media. And everyone you talk to seems to have their own opinion about what you should be doing with your marketing. That's why you need a strong art marketing plan!
Here are the 8 key steps to creating your own plan:
1 | Setting goals and tracking metrics
For a strong marketing plan you need to set goals. We all set “goals” in our heads, but writing them down and making them official gives you a destination; the rest of your marketing plan is the map for how you’ll get from here to there.
You may have heard me say that marketing is more like a marathon than a sprint—that is, you need to put in consistent effort over a period of time to see results, rather than putting in bursts of marketing effort and then moving on to other things.
To keep yourself focused and motivated during the marathon (sorry—it's really not that bad!), you need data that shows how your marketing efforts are paying off, especially if you've been putting in the effort for a long time and you have the impression that you’re not making any headway. The numbers may tell a different story.
Here are some marketing metrics you can easily track: website visitors, email subscribers, the number of buyers you have, how much engagement you have on your social media platforms, and how much your total audience has grown. Even if you can see a little bit of forward movement, it will help keep you motivated.
2 | Understanding your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats
If you go into marketing assuming that you have to do it all yourself, or that you have to be good at everything, you might become discouraged. Not everyone is good at everything that relates to marketing.
Understanding your strengths and weaknesses helps you figure out which tasks come naturally to you, and where you might consider bringing somebody in to help you.
It’s also a good idea to look at what opportunities there are in the market, whether they’re local, national, or international, and examine any possible threats—what could be coming that could hurt your business. Again, you want to be proactive rather than reactive.
Your art business is unique, and your marketing plan will be too. Once you’ve become familiar with some of your possible marketing tactics and have laid out your strategy (see below), you might find that there are things that you don’t really need to do, and you can delete them from your list—or perhaps these are tasks that you can afford to allocate to specialists who can do them more efficiently than you can, leaving you more time to work in your studio!
For more on hiring help, read this post.
Don’t be hard on yourself if there are aspects of marketing that you can’t or don’t want to do—you don’t have to do it all!
3 | Getting clear on your artist’s brand
By “brand,” I don’t mean your logo or tagline. In this case, “brand” is an umbrella term that describes the personality of your business.
Your brand is made up of the personal and professional values that are at the foundation of your business. You’ve been making business decisions based on these values whether you’re aware of them or not.
Taking the time to understand this foundation will help you make business and marketing decisions that are authentic to you and will help you identify your ideal buyer (see below).
In a way, you’re building a personal brand, because as an artist, your business is designed around who you are as an artist and as a person. Kind of the way Oprah—the person and her business—are tied together. But don’t worry; you don’t have to go that big to be successful at selling your art!
Knowing your brand helps you tell your story effectively, and it gives you a structure for your marketing. Once you’re clear on the personality you want to put out in the world and the core messages that go with that, you’ll know what you want to say in your artist’s bio and statement, your website copy, your newsletter, and your social media posts.
Speaking about yourself and your work in a clearly defined and consistent way helps you attract the people most likely to connect with you and eventually buy your art. And that leads us to . . .
4 | Identifying your ideal buyer
I believe this is the crux of a strong marketing plan. Identifying your ideal buyer helps you focus on speaking to one person rather than trying to speak to a vague “target market” that could be intimidating.
Think of your ideal buyer as one person, a person who best represents someone who would buy your work. Then write a profile for that person. Need help writing your ideal buyer profile? Download my free Ideal Buyer Worksheet.
Once you've defined your brand, thought about who would be attracted to that brand, and written your ideal buyer profile, you’ve got real clarity about what to say in your marketing.
This makes the rest of your marketing decisions so much easier, because you can think of your ideal buyer and ask yourself, would that person buy from me at a festival in Asheville, North Carolina? Would they come across my work at a tourist store as they're traveling? Or would they find me on Facebook, Instagram or LinkedIn?
You can use your ideal buyer profile to make clearer, more concrete marketing decisions. Not convinced that it’s a good idea to narrow down your ideal buyer? Read this post.
5 | Creating a marketing strategy
There is no one thing that will skyrocket your sales. Marketing requires a system that works to attract your audience, get them engaged, make sales, and build ongoing relationships with your customers.
You need a strategy for your marketing work, because without a clear approach with all the steps laid out, how do you know what tactics (or tools) you need to use? Should you focus on social media (which platform?), building an email list, improving your website? How will you know which tactics will work together for your art business?
Without a strategy, it's easy to make the mistake of focusing all of your efforts on one area and ignoring the rest. You could find yourself gaining a ton of awareness for your art, for example, without a system in place to capture potential sales generated from that awareness.
You need all the pieces in place, working together like a well-oiled machine.
There’s so much to say on this topic! To dive deeper, read about my course, Create a Marketing Plan for Your Thriving Art Business.
6 | Choosing the right tactics for you and your ideal buyer
The marketing questions I receive from artists typically sound like this:
“How can I get better at Facebook?”
“How can I sell my work online?”
“What website platform should I use?”
My response is to take a few steps back and ask you about yourself and your work (your brand) and your ideal buyer. After that, we come up with a strategy designed for your unique business. That’s when we choose which tactics will work for you and your ideal buyer.
For example, say you’re comfortable with a certain social media platform, so you want to focus your marketing efforts there. But what if your audience doesn’t spend time there? They’re never going to come across your work.
Or the opposite: you’ve heard that a certain social media platform is the best place to find art clients. But what if you can’t stand that platform? That’s not going to work either. For help choosing the right social media platforms for your business, download my free worksheets, Choose Your Social Media Outlets.
Read more on this topic in this post.
One last note: make sure that the tactics that you're choosing are ones that you are willing and able to do. If you're not, don't include them your marketing plan. Or, if you do decide to include them, hire help so you don’t spin your wheels trying to do tasks that don't come naturally to you.
7 | Creating a marketing and promotions calendar
Having your tasks written down in a calendar will keep you from wondering what you should be doing. With your calendar in hand, you’ll sit down at your desk and you’ll know what to do—in this moment, today, this week, this month.
I’ve been working in marketing for decades, and I still have days where I don’t feel like doing my own marketing work. But marketing needs to be consistent if it’s going to pay off, so I keep at it. And my calendar gives me structure and helps me stay on track.
A side benefit of keeping all your tasks on a calendar: it makes it easier to hand tasks off to an assistant if you decide to go that route.
In addition to regular marketing tasks, I suggest that you plan two to four different promotion periods during the year and put them in your calendar. These could include offering a discount or participating in hashtag projects such as #100daysof or #MarchMeetTheMaker. Promotions give you specific reasons to engage with your audience, whether it’s around a set time period, a specific topic, or a holiday sale.
8 | Putting processes in place to support you in getting the work done
Without processes in place, it's easy to get sidetracked, distracted, or just “decide” that there are more important things to do than your marketing work.
So, beyond my marketing calendar, I have processes in place that keep me doing the work week-to-week, and I plan my work in six-week increments. This keeps me marching toward the goals that I've set, six weeks at a time.
In addition to working in six-week increments, I use time blocking. There are things that I know I need to do every week. This list includes financial management, creating social media posts, and working on my blog content. To accomplish these things, I schedule large blocks of uninterrupted time in my calendar for those tasks. Every Monday I move those blocks of time around to suit that particular week.
A related system is work batching. I’ve found that it is easier to spend focused time than to spread it out daily or weekly. Instead of approaching certain tasks (keeping up with social media, for example) over and over again during the week, I work on them in batches. This is a more efficient use of my time—and it prevents me from going down the internet rabbit-hole too often!
For more details on setting up processes to help you succeed with your marketing, see this post.
With the clarity and the confidence that comes from knowing that you’re following a plan, you’ll be more likely to take action—and enjoy the process while you’re at it! Here's to your success!
P.S. In my Create a Marketing Plan for Your Thriving Art Business course, I teach you how to build a marketing plan that works for you and your unique art business. Add your name to the waitlist and I'll let you know when registration opens.