What’s the best way to approach art marketing?
That’s an excellent question! Too many artists like to make the work but they stop there. They don’t want to delve into the world of art marketing because it can be overwhelming and confusing
Allow me to break it down and show you the ins and outs of art marketing.
FIND YOUR BRAND
When it comes to art marketing, the best place to start is to get a sense of your brand. This is where a lot of artists immediately start to panic.
Maybe you can’t place your finger on what your style is? Maybe you play in more than one medium? How can I know what my brand is?
It’s difficult to package something that feels so elusive – yet so close to you as art does.
I tell artists that before they make an investment in art marketing, it’s important to look at all of their work, really spend time with it, and find that golden thread that ties it all together.
It’s in your heart. It’s those things that your art is about. It’s those things that people respond to most in your work. It’s those things you could talk about all day long. It’s the “why” of why you make art.
This is how you find your “brand.” You live it. And from here, from this place of authenticity, driven by your creativity, you do the work and attract an audience.
This is where the best art marketing comes from too. It’s from your heart, from offering the gift you have to the world. But doing it strategically and with passion. It’s about sharing your vision and not apologizing or playing small.
So when you use social media, when you build your website, when you send out your newsletters, when you promote an exhibition, everything you do says to the world, “This is who I am.”
Does that sound scary? It should. Because vulnerability is scary. But it’s also what makes people connect with your brand. As an artist, authenticity is your strength, not something to hide.
The way to success in the art world is to master your craft, to do good work, but even then, talent isn’t enough. I know that’s difficult to hear, but it’s true.
You also need to understand art marketing. You need to know how to get your message across to an audience. And identifying your brand is the best first step I can recommend.
CREATE PROFESSIONAL PRESENTATION MATERIALS
It’s super-important to make sure your presentation is always professional. First impressions can’t be erased.
Have high-quality, cropped images that include the work’s title and dimensions. Have your biography, CV, and artist statement polished and ready to share. Opportunities often arrive as a surprise and they don’t wait for you to get your act together.
Do you have published articles about your work? Make clear copies so that you can include them in your Working Artist Marketing Kit. Do you have postcards or other art marketing materials? Ensure that the quality is high with true colors and include those in your Kit as well.
(And if the words presentation materials, biography, website and CV have got your head spinning in a panic, don’t worry! I can help. The Working Artist Masterclass covers all these topics and more so that you can apply to a gallery with confidence that you’re putting your best foot forward)
SOCIAL MEDIA AND ART MARKETING
Artists are always asking me about social media as a tool for art marketing.
Well, it’s like this… you might sell your art from posting on Facebook or Instagram or Twitter. But probably not, because most artists aren’t able to build a career around it.
But you can do something even better with social media, even more powerful than the odd sale here and there. You can build a following.
Yes, a following: a tribe, a community, a group of people who know and follow your work. And from there, from your following, will come opportunities for showing and selling your work. So unless you have a very specific sales plan with a very specific offering, don’t use social media as a sales platform. Don’t just plop your latest work up there and get disappointed if no one bites.
Think of social media instead as a part of your art marketing plan – a place to engage, inform, tease, reveal, inspire, and to stand out as the working artist you are. Think about the voice you use when you post or pin or tweet or link. What does it say about you and your work? Remember, this is your brand!
Use social media as a place to be as generous and giving and authentic as you can because having followers makes you a leader. Where are you taking your followers? How can you best engage them? What can you offer them?
Never forget that having followers is an honor, so lead honorably and without expectations. And watch the difference in this makes in your art marketing.
OTHER WAYS TO PURSUE ART MARKETING ONLINE
There’s a variety of ways beyond social media to market your work and yourself as an artist. Some artists blog and send out newsletters. Other artists host podcasts. And some artists create Youtube videos.
If you’re comfortable putting yourself out there, these can be really powerful art marketing tools. IF you’re comfortable! If you’re not, if you absolutely hate writing blog posts or seeing yourself on video, then I give you permission not to do it. There are enough other ways to market your art in the world that it’s just not worth the pain.
But if any of these avenues intrigue you, I urge you to go back to your brand. What are those things you can talk about all day long that connect with your work?
Some artists teach technique, others talk about history, some interview other artists. Don’t be afraid to venture outside of art either; for example, if your work is about the environment, you can blog about environmental issues and use your work to illustrate.
The point is that each artist’s work is personal and unique, and so are the ways of sharing it. Don’t be afraid of art marketing, be inspired!
ARTISTS NEED WEBSITES
It’s true. Having a website is a sign of professionalism in the art business and nothing is more important when it comes to art marketing.
And no, your Facebook page doesn’t count. Your Saatchi page doesn’t count either. Not that there’s anything wrong with sharing your work on outside platforms, but they don’t replace the need for your very own professional website.
You can use those platforms to attract new audiences for your work but what if you meet a collector or curator or gallerist? Why would you want to send them to a site where they can easily become distracted by someone else’s work?
Websites are not expensive, and they don’t have to be complex. They also don’t have to be a “Museum to You,” showing everything you’ve ever created since 3rd grade. They can be simple, in fact, the simpler the better.
Don’t expect your site to sell for you, that’s not its purpose. But think of it as your portfolio. Use your website to invite people into your creative world and share your story. It’s also a powerful place to build your mailing list of contacts, so make sure that visitors can leave their contact details on your website.
Some artists think that if they build a website, their art marketing is done and dusted, and they can tick ‘art marketing’ off their list. It’s not that easy.
But by having a website, you’re telling the world that you take your work seriously, and that you’re current. That’s an important ingredient in art marketing but it’s not where you stop.
ART MARKETING MEANS BUILDING YOUR MAILING LIST
I mentioned mailing lists above and that’s because I’m a big believer in mailing lists as the central component of art marketing. Who’s on your mailing list? The people who buy from you, attend your shows, or simply follow you.
This is your audience. And by having their contact details organized and in one place, you have true power over your art marketing.
And no, your Instagram following doesn’t count. Why? Because you don’t control who sees what you post, you don’t know if or when Instagram might disappear, taking your audience with them. That’s why, in The Working Artist Masterclass I recommend that you use your social media to drive people to your website where you can capture their contact details.
You always want to be building your mailing list, not just online. Whether you’re collecting contact information at an art fair, an exhibition or even through networking; it’s important to be consistently building your list of contacts and keeping it organized.
Your art marketing is based upon how you build a relationship with the people on your mailing list. So this step can’t be emphasized enough. Build that mailing list and keep it safe!
NETWORKING IS ART MARKETING
We can spend hours staring at screens trying to make connections, but it’s important not to forget that real magic happens in real life. Nothing is more important than your real-life relationships.
So nurture your relationships, professional and otherwise. Go to the events and the openings and the exhibitions. Support those people who you want to support you. The best art marketing begins with giving.
And one of the most important places to give is to your artist community. Other artists are not your competition. Other artists are your colleagues. By supporting other artists, by being active in your arts community, you will lift your profile (and your karma!) higher than any form of art marketing that you can invest in.
OTHER ART MARKETING OPPORTUNITIES
The opportunities for marketing your art are limited only by your imagination. Don’t be afraid to be bold! Pop up shops, open studio events, lectures, demonstrations, online videos, the list goes on and on…
Some tried and true ways of art marketing include participating in art fairs. I recommend using art fairs as a long term art marketing plan. Do your research, find a fair that suits your work and price range, and commit to returning to that fair for at least three years. (unless it’s a disaster of course!) But if you do your research, you’ll have an idea of the quality of the promotional efforts, audience size, and number of buyers.
The mistake that most artists make is that they expect to find success the first time they show. Sometimes that happens, and when it does, it’s wonderful. But often it takes time to build your audience, make connections, and become a known entity before your investment pays off.
So yes, I do believe in art fairs as part of an art marketing plan, but you must have the patience, focus and budget for it. (FYI: I do teach an intensive called Art Fair Essentials as part of The Working Artist Masterclass)
Remember: the most important factor in art marketing through fairs and open studio events is capturing email addresses to build your mailing list.
Whether in person or online, the best art marketing is built upon relationship building and presenting yourself as the professional you are.
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