Welcome to “The ABC’s of Art Marketing”—an alphabet guide to marketing your art, from A to Z.
I wanted a new take on writing tips for art marketing, so I decided to go through the alphabet, one letter at a time, and come up with new perspectives on tried-and-true marketing basics for artist-entrepreneurs at any career stage.
(So far it’s making the writing process more enjoyable, and I hope it helps you market your art more creatively, too!)
I’ll start with one post per letter for now. . . I’m still working on ideas for some of the tougher Scrabble letters like K, Q, X, Y, Z—so send me your ideas!
A – Appreciate your Audience
There’s a wonderful line in Pink Floyd’s song, The Wall. It goes, “If you don’t eat yer meat, you won’t get yer pudding.”
Pink Floyd knew what every artist needs to understand: hard work yields great results.
When you fully engage in marketing your art as a main course of action to get exposure for your art, your just desserts are audience attention and appreciation.
Nurture relationships with your audience and your marketing will yield fame, followers, and fortune. (Besides, it feels good—it breaks the isolation of long hours slaving over your art, and helps you to keep the faith in yourself and your work!)
Why is “Appreciation” important to success?
If you dismiss or ignore your audience—even with the best art in the world—you don’t have an art business. You have an expensive hobby.
Right after I ask artists about their signature body of work and what they want from their art career, I ask how they describe their audience. Surprisingly, I’ve found that there are many artists (some who have been at this career for many years) who consider this an unusual question.
When I probe further, artists often raise the same objections to knowing and appreciating their audiences:
“I am an introvert, so I have trouble talking to people about my art.”
“My work speaks for itself, so I don’t need to know who buys it. As long as it sells. I’m happy.”
“People don’t like to give out their e-mail because they are afraid of spam.”
“I don’t have time to collect all this information and I wouldn’t know what to do with it anyway.”
The first three are myths and require a change in mindset:
• You can, in fact, communicate with others in a style that suits your preference for introversion or extroversion. (Building an email newsletter list versus having an open studio event, for example.)
• You must speak for your work if you want to create marketing messages and promotional campaigns that establish your brand in the minds of your viewers. Great branding does not just spring up organically. It is always created and nurtured.
• If you offer people interesting information about your art and your accomplishments in a way that provides them with education, enjoyment, or inspiration, they will freely share their contact information with you.
The last obstacle is the “meat” that Pink Floyd was talking about. Yes, it is work to collect information and use it—but it’s certainly not impossible.
You simply need to keep track of your audience in a way that works best for you, find out how to delight them, and then set aside some time to appreciate them.
How to know and love your audience
Here’s the good news: YOU are the best possible person to reach people who will be most receptive to the work you create.
Your preferred art market lies at the intersection of your audience—the people who like your work enough to buy it or tell others about it—and the places (or ways) they like to view and buy art.
Understanding your audience begins with getting to know individuals and creating a profile for each person who expresses interest in your art. Keep track of everything you know about the people you meet. Anything you talk about or observe may be important later on, so don’t edit.
The more you know, the more effectively and efficiently you can market your art—not just to them, but also to more people who are LIKE them.
Specifically, look for information in the following three areas:
These are demographic facts like age, race, sex, economic status, level of education, income level, employment, art preferences, and budget.
Characteristics of your audience will include their attitudes, values, lifestyle, interests, community involvement, why they like and buy art, and where they do so.
Information media preferences & technological skills
Take notes on their use of (and familiarity with) computers, internet access, mobile devices, social media, surface mail, and in-person handouts. This will determine how you communicate with them.
Once you’ve asked enough of your audience, you’ll have an aggregate “profile” of the type of person that you should be marketing your art to.
It’s also possible that there will be several different “profiles” within your data. You can market to each of these profiles in a different way.
For example, one profile might be art lovers who will buy your work and tell others about it. Another profile would be art professionals (like gallery managers) who will display and market your work for you. A third profile would be professional or semi-professional art world insiders (like writers and bloggers) who would be likely to spread the word about your art through print and on the Internet.
Appreciation starts and ends with good manners
Some of the best advice I had from a mentor about appreciation was to treat everyone as if it is the first time you are meeting them and the last time you will see them. With this mindset, you will naturally tend to communication that fosters appreciation:
• Say hello and use their name
• Ask how they are and pay close attention to the meaning behind their answer
• Find out what’s important to them and what you can do for them
• Listen twice as much as you talk
• Let them know what you will do, when and how
• Say thank you and use their name again
How THEY feel is more important than how you feel. This is the basis of good manners, and also the basis of developing mutual appreciation in any kind of relationship.
Mutual appreciation is a gateway to a bigger audience
True fans who appreciate your art are worth their weight in gold.
Sure, fan appreciation alone won’t pay your bills, but it will warm your heart and it may lead to other sales opportunities down the road. Someone who likes your art, or even just enjoys having conversations with you, will probably purchase at some point, or at least refer someone to you who will.
Always remember that how your audience feels about you is probably even more important than the words you say to them. Art is an emotional purchase, so you want to create a positive emotional climate through your conversations. If they feel good about you and the relationship, they can justify any art purchase with facts later.
Next time in the ABC’s of Art Marketing: Building your Business Base.