I see a lot of artists today putting all of their marketing eggs in the internet basket. They build a web site or blog and use that as their primary sales tool, while neglecting to grab a piece of a market that is much closer to home and substantially more likely to realize results—their own community.
There are a lot of good reasons to promote yourself as an artist in your own town. Here are seven that I’ve come up with.
1. The local art scene is always a smaller pond.
Rather than competing with thousands of other artists (my Google search for “watercolor artist website” brought 886,000 results) you are competing with a few hundred or less, depending on the size of your community.
2. Buying local is a motivation for many consumers.
People like to buy from someone they know or have a connection with.
I have sold paintings specifically because the buyer was looking for a unique souvenir of their time in my area, or because my client knew me personally and the story behind the painting they were buying.
3. It’s often easier to find your niche.
If your paintings are of local scenes, local buyers may feel just as sentimental about your work as you do. My “Alaska Highway Wildflowers” paintings have always sold well with both the locals and the many tourists who travel through my town to Alaska, and there’s very little competition for such a specific niche.
4. Repeat customers are more likely.
At an marketing workshop I was told that customers who buy one painting from you are seven times more likely to buy from you again. When I think about the art that I own, painted by my favorite artists, I can believe it. . . and keeping your buyers close is a great way to make more sales down the road.
5. Word of mouth marketing is readily available.
Especially in a small town, the grapevine can be a powerful marketing tool. Getting involved in community events gets you in touch with the movers and shakers in the area—people who know everybody. If you can get them to love you and your work, they can be some of your best advertisers.
6. You’ll have more exhibition opportunities.
Everyone has connections in their own community—maybe you know a friend with a restaurant, or a city council member who would get onboard with an artwalk program.
For example, the librarian in my town is a supporter of mine and has given me exhibition space during library events, and my floral paintings have sold well at the annual garden tour & tea put on by the Horticultural Society.
Making these opportunities happen is often just a matter of having a creative sales idea and contacting the right person about it.
7. Valuable peer relationships can be formed.
Do not underestimate the local art societies in your town. Not only does my membership with my local art society give me space in two group exhibitions per year (and the occasional touring show) but the members of the society have become friends who encourage and support me. Some have even purchased paintings from me.
You’ll also get the chance to join in with other artists to collaborate on a project or an exhibition—using one another’s connections to increase your own network.
Once you gain recognition in your own town, you can then broaden your scope and seek out opportunities in neighbouring communities. If you live in a large city, you may want to start with just the part of the city you reside in, or try the niche approach and seek out venues where your art would be a good fit.
Remember, the more you market locally, the better chance you’ll have to show not just the result of your creativity, but also the source of your creation—you.