How do you sell more art? To start with, you need more people to be aware of your work. One of the best tools for building awareness is paid online advertising. Once your website is set up to take advantage of new traffic, start small with advertising, take a testing approach, and build gradually until you skyrocket your art sales!
What is advertising?
Before we get started, let’s define what I mean by “advertising.” It’s easy to get confused about advertising, marketing, and public relations, as they are sometimes used interchangeably.
Marketing is an umbrella term, under which you’ll find advertising, PR, and media relations.
Whenever you spend money to get your name in front of people, that's advertising.
What we’re talking about here is “paid visibility”—that is, you’re using advertising anytime you pay to get your business in front of an audience. The opposite is “earned visibility,” which is what public relations (PR) and media relations can do for your business.
Why should you use advertising to skyrocket your art sales?
Artists need to take the reins
Remember the good old days, when all you had to do was find a couple of galleries that were willing to sell your work? They’d take care of all the promotion and sales and they'd retain a commission? Well, sorry to say, that’s not working so well anymore.
More and more, artists need to take control of their own marketing because gallery representation is not so easy to find. It has become necessary to promote yourself and sell your own work.
Art marketing has moved online in a big way, so it’s a good idea to be savvy about promoting and selling your work online.
Advertising will grow your audience
One benefit of online advertising is that it will grow your following, leading to future sales. When you run Facebook or Instagram ads, more people will follow you and share your content, increasing your exposure to a new audience.
And, as long as you’ve got a subscription form on your website, you’ll gain email subscribers. The bigger your email audience, the more sales you’ll get over time.
Say that approximately five percent of your email list purchases from you when you make an offer. If you have 1000 people in your audience, that’s 50 buyers. If that number grows to 10,000 people over time, you’ve now got 500 buyers!
You never know when people are going to buy from you. It takes time. You want to be bringing people into your audience continually so they can get to know, like, and trust you—and eventually purchase your art.
Not sure whether your website is ready to take on a flood of new traffic? Snag my Artist's Website Self-Review Checklist.
When is it time to use advertising to sell your art?
If you’ve got a clear idea of a style that sells and you’ve got some popular work, but you just can’t seem to get the traction you need through organic (unpaid) marketing, it’s time to try advertising.
If you have a few pieces of work that consistently sell (at festivals, in coffee shops, online) or ones that people rave about, those are the pieces that you should consider advertising.
Or, if your audience hasn't grown much recently, you may have reached the limit of your organic growth at the moment. Spend some money on advertising to get a boost that will push your business beyond that plateau.
How to use advertising to sell your art
Old school versus online
You can go old school and pay for ads in your local newspaper, your local city magazine, or in national magazines. You can pay for visibility at conferences or in festival brochures.
Or—you can pay for online advertising.
I recommend that artists start online. Why? Online advertising is trackable. It's affordable for everyone. And you can set exactly how much you want to spend per day or per campaign.
Test the waters
Online advertising can cost you as little as $5 a day, whereas an ad in a city magazine could cost you around $2,000 for a quarter page ad. That's a large chunk of change to risk on something you haven't tested—and it’s not easy to track results.
With online ads, you can test the waters for $5 a day, track the results, and see what works for you and your business.
You can also set exactly how much you want to spend per day on each of the campaigns that you run online.
I recommend using Facebook ads because they are visual. They also give you the opportunity to tell your story along with the ad. (By Facebook ads, I mean Facebook and Instagram, because Facebook owns Instagram. Through Facebook, you can advertise on both of these platforms.)
Step by step
1 | Before you begin, set up a Facebook pixel on your website. It's a code that allows you to track actions that visitors take in response to your ads. See this Hootsuite article for more.
2 | Choose one or two pieces of your artwork, or a series, that sell well.
3 | Start small. Create two different Facebook ads so that you can use split-testing. Spend about $10 a day for 5 days, noticing each day which of ads/audiences sells the best.
4 | Look at how much you spent overall, and how many people saw the ad. Even if most people didn’t subscribe to your email list or buy anything, they saw your ad, and that's an increase in your visibility. It could be as many as 50,000 people. Also look at the number of click-throughs from the ads, and the number of new followers on Facebook or Instagram.
5 | Track how many sales came from the ad and total up the revenue from your sales. Now, take those numbers and extrapolate. If you spent $50 the first time and made $200 from those ads, you profited $150. Not bad. You tripled your investment.
6 | Extrapolating, if you increase your expenditure to $500, then in theory you could expect to bring in $1,500. Now you’re ready to take the next step, spend more advertising dollars, and see if those numbers hold.
7 | Keep taking those small steps until you get your ad to cruising altitude, and then let the ad run for up to six weeks.
8 | Pull your ad down and plan to run it again in the next quarter or three or four months later. If it’s for a different piece of artwork next time, or for a promotion that you’re running, you might need to test again to make sure that the new ad is going to give you a good return on investment. I recommend running ads three to four times a year.
You can run online ads for promotions you're doing, whether you're selling work around the holidays, or you’re doing a studio clean-out sale with 20% off—or maybe you're participating in one of the hashtag promotions like #100daysof (where you’re creating 100 pieces of work), or #MarchMeetTheMaker. With promotions like this you can grow your audience with advertising while at the same time re-engaging your existing audience.
Bonus: Here's a tip from another post, How to Spend Less Time Promoting Your Art on Social Media with Better Results:
If you use Facebook for your business, take a minute right now to visit business.facebook.com and set up Facebook Business Manager. For a quick tutorial on how to set up an account, see How do I Sign Up for Business Manager and Set up People, Pages & Ad Accounts in Business Manager.
Using Facebook Business Manager will allow you to see how well your page and ads are doing, as well as receive notifications for your business page without having to visit your personal Facebook page. Trust me, it’s awesome.
To skyrocket your art sales, use Facebook ads: Take a testing approach, spend a little, then a little more, find a cruising altitude, run it for a while, and then repeat the process each time you have a promotion.
P.S. In my Create a Marketing Plan for Your Thriving Art Business course, we do a marketing tactics deep dive, where you can explore the pros and cons of paid advertising and make informed decisions about marketing your business. Add your name to the waitlist and I'll let you know when registration opens.