There's a lot of crazy marketing advice on the internet! If you hear any of these, run the other way. This is art marketing advice that you won't hear from me!
“There’s one thing that will explode your art sales”
I hate to break it to you, but there really is no one thing that will explode 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, 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 I could say on this topic! To dive deeper, read the outline of my course, Create a Marketing Plan for Your Thriving Art Business.
“Just wing it!”
It takes discipline to be a free spirit.” –Gabrielle Roth
Flying by the seat of your pants sounds kind of fun, but it doesn’t work that well in business. A marketing plan will guide you to make informed, strategic decisions so you don’t waste time and effort or tumble down the rabbit hole of social media.
A plan will help you feel confident about every move you make to market and sell your art—in an authentic way, without feeling pushy.
Plus, when you’ve got marketing goals and you keep track of your results, you will be able look back monthly, quarterly, or annually and know what’s working so you can keep doing it. And you can eliminate things that aren't working.
Creating a marketing plan requires focused thought. Taking the time to consider your business and your audience will help you be strategic rather than reactionary.
When you only take the time to think about marketing when you are in the middle of marketing—or faced with needing to sell some work—you are not giving marketing decisions the energy and clear-headed thinking they deserve.
Plus, having a plan will keep you from walking around in circles when you’re not sure what you should be doing. With a plan, you’ll sit down at your desk and you’ll know what to do—in this moment, today, this week, this month.
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!
“Do what your friends are doing (write a blog, do live video, be on social media …)”
You and your business are unique, so tactics that work for your friends may not work for you.
Authenticity is essential in marketing, so the main thing is to be yourself and don't feel like you have to follow the crowd. Your potential clients want to know who you are and what you stand for, and they'll respond to personal connections.
The way to make personal connections is through storytelling. That involves telling stories about your work, what inspires you, and also telling stories about yourself personally—for example, how you came to be an artist.
Sharing your wins, and even your challenges really helps connect people to you too. And when people are engaged with you, they are more likely to buy your art.
At its core, marketing is about much more than the tools (or tactics) you use.
The tools you use—social media, email, festivals, group shows, a website—are simply a means for you to deliver that unique message to your audience. Without understanding your core message and engaging your audience, your marketing work won’t be as successful as it could be.
For more along these lines, read What Artists Can Learn from My 20 Years of Art Marketing
“Marketing is easy”
You definitely won’t hear this from me! In fact, you may have heard me say that marketing is more like a marathon than a sprint. 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.
Success in marketing comes from doing the work daily, weekly, monthly.
One way to make things easier is to create a marketing calendar for yourself. 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.
You can put other processes in place too, like time blocking, work batching, and goal-setting. Read more about processes in this post: The Key to Marketing and Selling Your Art with Ease
Remember to be consistent, keep your momentum going, and over time you will see your audience (and sales!) grow.
“You can sell your work to everyone”
Don't even try it! The way we’re inundated with information these days, the most important thing you can do is to make personal connections—even if it’s on the internet!
Trying to be everything to everyone is not going to cut it. The more you can narrow down your niche and define your ideal buyer, the more effective your marketing will be.
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.”
Once you develop your ideal buyer profile, you can speak to their interest in your work, their passions, the value your work brings to their life, and more.
When you do that, the people you are trying to reach and attract—your ideal buyers—will feel like you’re speaking directly to them. It will make them feel special, understood, and they'll be interested in learning more.
“It’s hard to know who your ideal buyer is”
Actually, you get to choose who your ideal buyer is! It's up to you to decide who you're going to market your artwork to. When you use my ideal buyer worksheet (above), you'll see what I mean. Your ideal buyer is a target, a starting point—and it can change as your business evolves.
I believe that identifying your ideal buyer 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.
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: How to Attract Your Ideal Art Buyer by Being Specific
“You can’t grow a big audience for free these days”
Yes, you can, actually!
I suggest choosing one social platform at first, learning all the ways you can reach your audience with it. Use live video, which is available on Facebook and Instagram. Use Facebook groups to find niche audiences so you can engage with people who fit your ideal buyer profile.
Learn how to use Instagram Stories, and always use hashtags on Instagram and Twitter. For hashtags, understand your ideal buyer and who they might be connected to (such as interior designers, or architecture firms or galleries), then craft hashtags that will reach those audiences.
One of the best ways to drive organic traffic to your website is to be consistent in your social media efforts.
(Unpaid traffic is referred to as “organic.” If you’re curious about using paid ads to grow your audience, see this post: When and How to Use Advertising to Skyrocket Your Art Sales)
If you want to gain a big audience then you need to go big! Know your ideal buyer and what makes your work unique, and don’t be afraid to put yourself out there.
“Email is dead”
Despite what you may have heard, email is still the best way to communicate with an audience and move them along the spectrum from follower to repeat buyer.
If done right, the emails you send to your list can feel almost like a personal letter, which is refreshing when so much of the communication that comes our way is impersonal.
With email marketing, you can speak to your ideal buyers directly and quite casually. By providing them with links to your latest blog posts, or showing them behind the scenes of the art you’re currently creating, you are deepening their connection to you and your work.
If you’re relying on social media followers as your audience, be warned: it’s like building a house on someone else’s land. You are not in control of the platforms, and the rules of engagement can be changed at any time.
When people opt in to your mailing list, however, they are giving you permission to email them, and now you have your own audience and can reach them regularly on your own terms.
If you aren’t convinced of the benefits of email marketing, watch your website traffic on Google Analytics and I bet you’ll see a spike in your traffic after each email you send.
With email, 100% of the people on your list have the opportunity to get your message, compared to social media where only 10-15% percent of your audience will happen to see what you posted on any given day.
Not convinced? Here are some more reasons why you need to be building your email list now: 6 Important Reasons Why Artists Need an Email List
So, those are some things you WON’T hear from me! Did any of them surprise you? Let me know in the comments. For more advice you WILL hear from me, watch this space!
P.S. In my Create a Marketing Plan for Your Thriving Art Business course, I only give good advice! Add your name to the waitlist and I'll let you know when registration opens.