Artists Need an Offline Strategy

ONLINE OFFLINE DEBATE

You have spent years perfecting your art when you suddenly spot a new online opportunity to sell the works you have lovingly created. The internet has rapidly turned in to a new form of art gallery. No longer do you need to find representation, physical galleries, you can do what writers have been doing for a number of years and self-publish. In fact it is a little easier even than that. You can upload a file with your work, add in a description, some metadata that describes your work, and set your price. You don’t necessarily have to be concerned with printing out your work as long as your images are at the required resolution, and you can even in some cases earn a little extra when pieces are upsold, perhaps when the customer adds in a frame.

Offline strategy
You need an offline strategy too!

 

But that is where the ease stops. Very few of the many online art platforms will promote you as an artist, and even if they eventually do, you will have needed to have been with them for a while and you will need to have had to have made some consistent sales.

The way in which art is now sold has played an important part in how the art market has expanded over recent years. Salons appeared in the 19th Century, followed by commercial art galleries in the 20th Century, and now we are well and truly in to the 21st Century, the internet is the third significant development for the expansion of the art market.

Now we have so many options as artists to sell our work, but the downside is that the internet has made art overly available. I say this because it seems that everyone is now an artist and everyone is selling online, and whilst it is a good thing that so many artists are active, competition within the market is high.

Over the last few months I have been writing about how you can gain an edge over the competition when selling your art with features around blogging, using long-tail keywords in your metadata, and using social media as a platform. As ever there is always a but, and the but here is that a 21st Century artist does have the tools easily at hand to become a seller of art, a 21st Century online artist also needs to be a marketing guru if they are to stand any chance of making a sale.

For those of us who prefer the creative process over having to dream up metadata and constantly engage in social media activities, it is often the most complicated element of creating art to sell. It is though, an essential part of what we have to do as artists if we are unrepresented by galleries and other outlets.

With the move to online art sales becoming an increasing growth area we are not only seeing changes to how art is sold, but also who is buying the art, we are also seeing changes in the type of art that is being purchased. Interestingly this means that traditional art sales are becoming less traditional as the public can more easily see and refine their judgement of art, culture is becoming much more representative of society, not as previously where it was directed more by the curator classes.

Social media is a key tool for artists to get their work known but despite social media channels now offering shopping baskets and interaction with e-commerce sites, social media remains for now at least, less of a sales platform and more a marketing tool. With the many artist websites now on the web, changes to algorithms on the social platforms, artists need to also consider other strategies to get their work sold. In summary, a social network is not a primary sales platform, so if you were wondering why sales seem low and social media is your primary outlet, this could be a factor.

Increasingly we are seeing a move towards e-commerce models that support social media, but at this moment in time, essentially think of them as shop windows, and especially Instagram.

TOP STRATEGIES

So this week I bring you some of the top strategies that you will need to consider to help support your efforts when selling art.

1. Online selling is not a place where you can simply offload inferior work. Your online presence needs to reflect exactly the experience of your offline presence. People like consistency, and a good online offering should work in tandem with offline activity.

 

Gallery
Art Galleries - Traditional offline sales

If you don’t have an offline presence for example in a gallery or retail premises then your online strategy should be as wide as possible. Never be reliant on a single network because if they ever change their terms and conditions you could be stuck with nowhere to go.

2. Remember that your options online are not limited to the main social networks. There are plenty of other places where you can get your work noticed. This is a more complex issue in that whilst you are becoming noticed you will need to ensure that you promote, then promote some more, but know where the line of over promotion sits.

3. A good example of over promotion can be found all over Facebook. Generally when people join art groups and where they are mass producing art quickly to serve the print on demand market, there is a tendency for some to post everything they do within a group.

The Artists Exchange is one of my two Facebook groups, the rules are simple. Artists promote other artists by sharing the other artists work. This does well when taking in to consideration how Facebook algorithms judge great content. If a piece of work is shared by others, not only will that piece of work appear on a new timeline that the original artists didn’t have access to, but the algorithm picks it up as being something worthy of being shared. The possibility of increased likes on the piece becomes more achievable, the algorithm notices and the post becomes more relevant.

Now if someone posts every image uploaded to a print on demand site on the same day in to a single group, the timeline of that group will display maybe as many as 15 or even 20 similar designs from the same artist. People will either scroll down past many of the images, or they will move on to another group where they can see a variety of images and works from different artists. This is why in The Artists Exchange only two self-promotion posts are allowed each week. The upside is that more people will take the time to stop and look, the amount of like’s increases, and the post reaches a wider audience.

4. Offline is currently still the number one way in which people purchase art. Despite services online offering money-back guarantee periods, people still like to engage in visits to galleries and other premises where they are able to see close up the work that they are likely to buy.

Having an offline outlet is a critical strategy, and whilst it can be difficult to get your work in to galleries, you can consider attending art-fairs, even if it is to just hand out an artist business card.

Face to face engagement with your target demographic can never be replicated so well online. Whilst a number of artists are successful online and earn a good living, they are generally more established and have a portfolio of work that stretches back over a number of years. They tend to be known, and most were in at the start of the print on demand era.As an artist and art buyer, when visiting a gallery or art-fair, I like to engage with other artists. Generally art lovers like to feel at least some sort of connection, and has I have written many times before, talking face to face with clients is the best way to increase art sales.

A recent visit to an art exhibition that heavily featured in its advertising, a meet and greet with the artists involved didn’t quite turn out that way. Those artists who did take time out with everyone who came along did much better in terms of sales. Those that spent time with everyone who attended did much better in terms of sales. There were a few that only spoke to known collectors, a few that spent so much time on their phones they didn’t actually greet or meet anyone, and there were even two who sat quietly in the corner of their exhibition stands reading a book.

People like to engage with people. Imagine walking in to Harrods in London only to find that behind the art counter is an inattentive assistant who is more interested in responding to Snap Chat notifications than selling a customer a high-end piece of art. That customer is more likely to move on and the sale is lost. So why is it any different at an art-fair? We might be selling $10 prints, but every $10 print sold is money in the bank, it is all relative to the audience, and the audience deserves to be treated well. One day that $10 print buyer might just decide to come back and buy an original $500 piece, or a $5,000 piece. Or they may buy fifty ten-dollar pieces. These days, you cannot judge the value of a customer easily so all are equally important.

5. I mentioned in my previous blog post about the importance of the artists description and I won’t repeat it again today, except that it really is important. Keeping an artist’s description up to date is critical. Online buyers don’t generally have the option of calling a sales team, so whatever you write has to be relevant.

The quality of the image used online is important, and accurate information that might include colours, size, maybe even an indication of how the piece is best displayed are all factors that will help to increase the chances of a piece selling.

6. Get connected. By this I mean get connected offline. Becoming involved in the local art community is a great way to get known. I was surprised just a few years ago when I learned that even the small community where I live had a vibrant arts scene. You just had to look really hard to find it.

Visiting local galleries, talking to gallery owners, and even talking to local print shops are good ways to start engaging. One of my local printers was going through a testing period a few years ago. He was hit hard by rent increases, higher electricity bills, and having to replace worn out equipment. He had two choices, either close down the business or find new markets.

He decided to invest his savings in buying new printing equipment and he also started to encourage local artists to bring in their work and have it printed and framed. He gave the artists a sample framed print so that they could attend gallery events, in turn the artists collected orders and the local print shop got the business. They now attend some art-fairs to encourage other artists to sign up. The business covers their costs of printing and framing, and the remainder is for the artist. It is a model that works for them. Customers now go in to the shop to buy art and not just to order a hundred A4 leaflets.

Think outside the obvious locations where art is traditionally sold. A local café owner was in the market for artwork to display on their walls but was mindful that he wanted to change the art periodically which could have been expensive.

Now the café owner lets out space on his walls to local artists and whenever a piece sells the café owner gets a small commission from the artist. He also knows everything about every artist and he also knows the story of every piece of art he sells. The multi-tasking café owner who is also the local art broker.

Think of also engaging with your local community on social media. Many groups are not set up to reach a local audience, but imagine if you could sell your art to a neighbour who had no idea you were an artist.

There are local groups set up to offer bargains for free delivery or collection but rarely do we see any art on them. This is a wasted opportunity for local artists and one that could be easily remedied if more groups encouraged local artists to offer their wares.

Soon I will be experimenting with setting up a pop up Facebook group that will allow membership from within a local community only. If it is successful I will set up other groups in the most requested locations, so if you have one in mind, please do leave a comment. To support this further, I will add pages of art for sale in local areas on this site too. The artist will just need to provide details of the art, contact details and a nice image of the work for sale, and then the artist deals with any transactions and shipping. No cut for me unless you are selling an original Matisse!

So please do get in touch if you have any more tips to sell art. Offline is definitely a strategy we need to embrace at least for now, but it’s not always easy.

Next time I'll be taking a look at one particular offline strategy that works really well. In the meantime follow me on Facebook at https://Facebook.com/beechhousemedia

 

Comments

  1. In today’s digital world, marketing experts are always talking about how we can use online or offline marketing strategy to grow the business. Well, I think online marketing efforts are effective, but that doesn't make offline marketing methods obsolete, but you can promote your business through attractive exhibition stand design.

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