The Real Art Of Marketing Visual Art

A Marketing Masterclass for Visual Artists


the Real Art Of Marketing Visual Art

The Pre-Christmas Edition – It is a big one! The Real Art Of Marketing Visual Art

Every year I write an article on marketing your art during the lead up to the Christmas period and this year is no different, except that you will notice I have written it even earlier than usual. That said, you know that from today we have only 100-Days until Christmas right?

Last week we looked at setting Up Seasonal marketing campaigns so this week we need to have a little think about how we market our art during any campaign. In simple terms, your Christmas marketing campaigns should be starting way earlier than you usually start them. 

The retail industry trend has historically been to start stocking Christmas gift ideas from around mid-September, but when I paid a visit to my local supermarket at the beginning of September I witnessed a buying frenzy of Christmas goods.

I stood back for a moment and watched people who were eagerly awaiting the selves to be re-stacked and as soon as the young gentleman with the cage like trolley full of chocolate Santa’s and gift ideas under ten pounds arrived to replace what had already been sold, people flocked to see what other festive goodies were going to end up on the shelves. This was September 1st, there’s years until Christmas Day I thought.

I don’t think I have seen this level of frenzy in a long time, at least not since Christmas Eve last year when the world turned up at the same supermarket as I did, to buy fresh food and bread because the shops would be closed for the next 24-hours. I could only think what these people would be like if a three-minute warning bell signalled the end of the world.  

What I witnessed back then was akin to a YouTube video of a Walmart Black Friday fight. Suddenly there was no bread left on the shelves and a bunch of people gave me the impression that if I decided to pick up the last remaining bag of six jam-filled donuts, I would be hung, drawn, and quartered in public and if not I would be humiliated. 

And so I would remain donut-less on Christmas Day in the interests of personal preservation, and it wasn’t as if they were good donuts either, they were supermarket own brand Krispy Kreme knock-offs, but to be fair they were a tenth of the price but also still not worth being lynched over, and also I don’t really like donuts that much.

What struck me the most and more so than any of the displayed behaviours was that the Chocolate Santa’s each had a use by date of the 18th December 2017. These things would be pure poison come Christmas Day although I am sure there is a bit of leeway on these dates in the interests of turning a profit, or maybe I just remember as a child eating anything made from chocolate despite the fact that it had been hiding behind the sofa for the past three years. 

Supermarkets and retailers love a short-term sales boost to bump up profits from quarter four, but is this a strategy that visual artists should use to market their art? Perhaps there is a lot we can learn from retailers. This time next year we will all be millionaires, maybe.

This is a complicated question because for the most part, artists are often not marketing experts and we very often don’t have the budgets available for marketing that we think we need. We don’t always need a lot, but I have witnessed ad campaigns that would make Russia weep... ok, maybe a bit too soon and we don’t know it was Russia either. Also I like Russia, I’ve visited, they have nice Vodka and The Hermitage and the people were lovely. 

Anyway I digress. Neither do we really understand the very different aspects of marketing that we need to use in the present day. We all too often take a spray and pray approach. We post our wares everywhere online and with no clear strategy other than hoping that our efforts will be rewarded with sales. Then if we are lucky, we will make $3.04 in commission and think we have hit the big time. Honestly there are times when I wish we could all make that much on print on demand. 

Understanding marketing is a vital skill to learn as we move forward into a completely new era of social media and we all have an ever growing online presence, so this week I will be going through a few of the basics that we might want to take note of when marketing our art and I will be explaining various forms of marketing and how we might be able to utilise them.

Over the summer and beyond I have been writing articles on getting the most out of Facebook as a tool for marketing visual art. Now we have a social media strategy, we are aware of seasonal campaigns, so we need to start working on the sales and marketing strategy which all of those shiny new posts you have been creating will fit into. So to start, let’s take a look at the different marketing strategies we need to be aware of so that we can chose the right approach.



digital marketing for visual artists

It’s a common mistake to see what we do on social media in marketing terms as pure digital marketing when in fact that is a broad-brush statement that encompasses elements of marketing that for now we don’t necessarily need, and pure digital marketing often also requires big budgets.

So let’s break digital marketing down into something we can more easily relate with:


popular marketing for visual artists

There are two other forms of marketing we might wish to also use alongside our traditional internet marketing and those are:



SEO Marketing for Visual Artists

The reason that you need to be aware of how these elements are split is because each marketing method works in a different way, and some have dependencies on having other marketing strategies in place too. Essentially you can focus on one form of marketing but it also sometimes needs another form of marketing in place too, they can be dependent on each other for success.

Now before we go any further, let’s break down the marketing strategies a little more so that we know what we should be doing.

Social Media marketing shouldn’t be confused with social marketing. More general marketing also shouldn’t be confused with commercial marketing. They are all very different forms of marketing that we occasionally need to intermix. 

Let’s run through some of the different marketing types because a confused approach to marketing is going to lead to less sales as clients become confused. People like simple things and if marketing campaigns aren’t properly managed and planned they become confusing which can ultimately turn people away.

Social (Cause) Marketing

Many people think of posting on Facebook or Twitter when they hear the phrase social marketing but as I said just now, there is a difference between social marketing and social media marketing. 

Social is also known as cause marketing. This drives responses to a chosen cause, so for example if you decided that for every painting sold you would donate $10 of art supplies to a local children’s art group, this would be something which you could use in a marketing campaign that serves two purposes. 

The first purpose is to raise awareness of the cause, and the second is that people will get to know that your art is available and if they buy it they will be focussing on the cause as much as the art. 

Can artists use this method?

Yes, as long as the focus of the marketing is on the cause. This could be creating a special edition series of paintings that support or raise awareness of a cause such as mental health or little known about diseases such as Crohn’s Disease, to dispel a stigma associated with such conditions, or it could be that the local school are raising funds for a new project. 

This also gives you the opportunity to raise your local profile too. Many artists I know sell more internationally than they do locally so raising local awareness is a key strategy to use if you want to include locals amongst your collectors. This also has the knock on effect that local advertising can be much cheaper and easier than marketing internationally. Your audience is right on your doorstep it is just that they don’t know who you are.

Proximity Marketing

Geo location tagging is becoming more and more available and if you have a physical gallery or studio space that you want to encourage those in the vicinity to visit. Proximity marketing or geo-tagging can work well but it is not without its downsides.

Can artists use this method?

Yes, and no. The technology needed to set up geo-tagging relies on having a space which people can physically come and visit. If you have a gallery you might want to offer free access to Wi-Fi for example and take them through an offer screen before they log on, but if you are waiting on passers-by to receive a notification on their phones showing your latest offer as they pass your door, then the technology isn’t quite there yet to make doing so simple.

Having said that, we now know that Augmented Reality is gaining traction and I would expect to see services from the likes of Google and their ‘Google My Business’ service to pick up on this. At that point adding your business details to their service could potentially open up access to any possible future AR platform so that when people are in your location they will be able to see a range of businesses in the area just by using the camera built into their smartphone. As your business is listed, when they focus the lens on your premises, your details will pop up on screen. Well, that is the theory but it is all very new in practice. Apple are now taking a lead in the emergence of AR so it will probably happen sooner rather than later. 

Transaction Marketing

Transaction or transactional marketing is based on the four traditional elements of marketing, otherwise known as the four P’s. 

  • Product – have you got a product that meets a buyer’s needs?
  • Pricing – Does your product have a price point that buyers will pay and is attractive to them?
  • Placement – Do you have an appropriate distribution channel such as a gallery, printer, or print on demand service?
  • Promotion – Creating a profile for the product that customers find appealing

Transactional marketing is at the point of sale and maximising the efficiency and volume of individual sales.

Can artists use this method?

For years this method of marketing is pretty much all that anyone really understood. All that changed in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s when it started to get used less and less and relationship marketing started to become the norm.

Transactional marketing is marketing for a very short-term, selling single items with little perception of value to the customer. As long as the four principles are covered and you have a great value item with a high profile that customers need or want, transactional marketing has a place but with high value items such as art, not so much.

I would always take a hundred collectors over a thousand buyers any day of the week. Marketing art needs a much longer term strategy, as does anything with higher values. Transactional marketing and selling is brief, and there is little that you can then do to influence future loyalty or influence buying decisions. For this you need something that will build the volume of collectors.

Relationship Marketing

Where transactional marketing focusses on selling a product that everyone needs or wants without too much effort on the part of the seller, relationship marketing is what we as artists need to focus more on.

Relationship marketing is the approach we have to take to maintain and enhance our customer relationships. This kind of marketing inevitably takes time as new relationships and levels of trust between parties has to be established, but longer-term, the customers who are most loyal will be the ones you have nurtured the relationship with. These are your collectors.

Can artists use this method?

This is our most valuable tool! Building on the relationships that we already have is something that we always have to strive to excel at. Strategically it offers the ability to retain existing customers and build up a loyal following making sure that their needs are met. The focus is less about attracting new customers, but having a relationship first approach will work symbiotically with other marketing methods where you can start to build new relationships.

Scarcity 

Knowing that you have only produced one or a limited number of the artworks that you have produced introduces something that has been used in the art world for millennia. 

The opening days following a new iPhone release is perhaps an obvious example. Initially certain colours will be more popular than others, or certain components might suddenly be in short supply, this raises the scarcity of the available devices and we often see iPhones go on the resale market for many times their original price.

Knowing that an artist only produced a single work or limited edition also provides scarcity, but also offering something at an unusually lower price can introduce scarcity too. Scarcity drives desire to own something, and introducing an offer for a limited time can also trigger a response from customers to make a purchase.

Can artists use this method?

They can and we all use this from time to time. If you are an artist who sells prints on a print on demand site, scarcity is not really something that we can apply quite so easily. As soon as a print is ordered it gets printed and shipped, and then it might be another year before that work sells again, or within a day. It doesn’t matter because scarcity is not an issue. The prints are available on demand.

However, there is a tool that we can use. In fact there are a few tools we can use. If you have a loyal band of collectors, offering your next original to those collectors first will create scarcity. 

If you sell prints then the option with some POD sites is to set the number of prints that will be sold. The problem here is that many of the larger POD sites do not give you the option of limiting the number of prints. Of course you have to also stick with the number of prints that will be made available, never just think that adding them to another POD site will get around the issue, if only ten are available, that means only ten are available.

What many of those POD sites do offer you though is the ability to set a time-limited discount on a carefully selected work or offer a limited time voucher code to be used against any of your works or products.


setting up events and marketing on Facebook

This is where we never really strategise though. We create a voucher code which can be used and we just place it in a social media post for the world to see. There is a better way though and that is to not offer codes and discounts so openly.  For one thing, you do not want to create a system which is predictable as many customers will just wait for the next offer, or for the same or a better offer to come around again. Here is how we might want to consider letting people gain access to those codes.

Step One: Generate a code with a future start date with an end date on your print on demand site if this option is available to you. On Fine Art America, this option can be found under limited time promotions and under offers. Create an offer. 

Step Two: Create a Facebook event on your business page covering the entire duration that the code will be active for. 

Step Three: Those who are interested in the event will be reminded by Facebook periodically on the run up to the event. 

Step Four: Go to the create an offer setting on your Facebook business page, enter the promotion code, number of codes available, and any specific terms and conditions needed for the offer. 

Step Five: Schedule this to coincide with the offer campaign and buyers will be able to claim the code from Facebook. 

Step Six: Be available on the day, make it known when you will be around to answer any questions though!

What we have done here is to wrap the code up in a professional looking wrapper and tie it into an event. This would work particularly well if we also add in a few other marketing strategies too. We might for example know that at the end of the month we will have a new artwork ready for release, and our usual spray and pray approach might or might not work. The end of the month is also when many people receive a paycheque. 

This strategy might or might not work either, but what you are introducing is some scarcity in that the voucher will only last between certain dates, building up some interest around your new artwork, and at a Facebook event where you will of course be on hand by making sure you are available to answer questions. 

It also looks a whole heap more professional than just posting the same photo in twenty different groups, and you can use the time beforehand to build up that scarcity, and build up a buzz about your new work. 

Ask yourself this, how many times leading up to the release of a new artwork do you ever see anything about it online, maybe not much at all apart from a few works in progress, and where’s the story?

Now ask yourself what you do to keep that new piece of artwork in people’s minds a day after, or a week after, or a month after release?

The answer is going to be very different to the one I would expect from somewhere like Christie’s or any of the major art galleries. They plan releases months ahead of the release date, and they do a great job of keeping it on the surface of people’s minds and building up some excitement, well most of them do anyway. 

So how do you expect to sell your latest art work if your strategy is to post in 20-Facebook Groups at 2pm on a Saturday afternoon and then walk away? This is where the strategy comes in, or more specifically, the pre-release, and post-release marketing strategies come in to play.

Getting this bit right means we can move on to the next marketing strategy which is:

Word of Mouth Marketing

Word of mouth marketing is one of the best strategies any artist or brand has when it comes to marketing. You build the relationships using your relationship marketing techniques to build loyalty, and those customers in turn start to recommend you to their friends. 

There is much being said about the emergence of influencers and micro-influencers in the marketing world and in the world of social media too at the moment. Essentially these influencers and micro-influencers will be using a couple of their own strategies to evangelise you and your art or your brand. They will be talking about you as will those loyal clients you have nurtured.

They will be telling people verbally and online about you and your art in this case, and they will be doing the hardest part of marketing for you. They become brand ambassadors, and you are the brand. 

Whilst you create the scarcity and buzz, those people are often even sub-consciously extolling the virtues of owning a piece of art from you to others they know who might be interested. 

Can artists use this method?

Of course we can, and we can tie it into our other marketing efforts too and in particular, our call to action (CTA).

Call to Action

Whilst you are creating the campaign to launch your next piece of art and you are generating buzz, you can start to include calls to action. 

This is just web speak for asking people to do something which could be as simple as asking them to share the link to your site, forwarding the event and discount codes on, which in turn can create leads generated from the traffic each of your posts gets.

CTA is a difficult one to pull off if the rest of your marketing strategy is not coherent. Few people will want to share content that isn’t valuable in some way. But if your content has a purpose and meaning which resonates with people, a CTA is something else that we have in the marketing toolbox.

Can artists use this method?

You should be using a CTA in some of your posts, but not all. Not every post on your Facebook Business page should be direct marketing. You need to post regularly but you also need to give people a reason to visit your business page. If you are not getting visitors on your page already, then it will be one of three things.

  1. No one knows you are there
  2. The content is not what they want to see
  3. They are reliant on the algorithm to show new posts in their newsfeed and you are seen as irrelevant and not showing up. Don’t worry, it’s not you, it happens to all of us. 

But when the content is what people want to see, and it is not all about you, you, and you, it becomes a different story altogether. This is when we start to explore…

Viral Marketing

Out of all of the social media marketing campaigns I have seen over the past few years from the big brands, only a tiny amount have related to a particular product. 

Many have been a series of posts which tell a story. Red Letter Days was inspiring as it introduced the world to the hashtag #MumsDayOff over a series of emotive posts. The UK retailer John Lewis never seems to fail as people eagerly anticipate the next John Lewis advert. Just last year my wife told me that we wouldn’t be going out for the evening until the next day. When I asked why, she replied that the new John Lewis advert is on at 9pm, and worryingly I have heard that from others too. A night out ruined by the announcement of an advert which for 364 Days in the year we would skip. 

You will have noticed that not one of those promoted in the true sense, a physical product. They marketed a brand which then raised awareness of a product through a story. It was the same with the telekinetic coffee shop stunt back in 2013, just before the cinema release of the horror movie Carrie.

Can artists use this method?

Yes, but be cautious. Viral marketing unless you are a seasoned pro, is more often about luck over imagining or dreaming up a viral campaign. They tend to organically grain traction, but this is where as artists I feel we could all do much better. We are after all creatives, we just need to be edgy enough to be able to do something a little different. 

Of course there is a risk that it will be a little too different and may upset or offend someone, that’s the reason why I started providing consultancy for social faux pas to corporate clients a few years back, some of them went a tad too far. If you get it wrong, it is painful, but if you get it right, you will be known and your post will be seen by many. Well at least for a little while anyway. In fact either way you will be known, but trust me that getting it right is far better than getting it wrong.

Seasonal Marketing

I covered this in depth in last weeks post, and we discussed how as artists we need to plan seasonal marketing campaigns and our art in advance of the big days such as Christmas. 

For those of us who have accounts with the major POD sites, why don’t we ever seem to start marketing our greetings cards ahead of events? Because we are too focused on big ticket items, yet a small ticket item sold in higher volumes is just as lucrative.

Getting our timing right is the key here, so take a look at my post on seasonal marketing which can be found here.  

Can artists use this method?

Yes, there is no excuse at all if your art is available on greetings cards already. But it is not just greetings cards where the opportunities reside, a nice festive painting might do well at Christmas, and before you know it we’re all painting rabbits at Easter, but why not add the design to any of the other products available through the POD sites too? Stickers and coasters are popular and is it not worth selling if it adds a little extra on the 15th of the month?

Keep an eye on the trends, I noticed that recently it seems trendy to own a good acrylic flow painting, now it seems as if every artist is giving it a go and I have to say I am really impressed with some of the works I have seen even this week.

Just as there are seasons, in the art world there are also trends which align in a similar way. Take heed of the big ticket items at Art Basel, or even appearing in the prints aisle of your local IKEA. There are seasonal trends and fashion trends, you need to be aware of them so look them up, go out and see what people are buying, then do that. 

Recap

There were a few not so obvious marketing methods involved in some of the above too, but I purposely didn’t identify them! The Facebook event also used event marketing, and everything we have been through so far has been a form of online marketing but with some offline marketing in parts too. We also delved into outbound marketing when we looked at social (cause) marketing by letting local people know that we exist.

Offline Marketing is just as important as online marketing. Always keep in mind that just because the internet is down doesn’t necessarily mean that people stop buying. You can read about why you need an offline strategy too in one of my previous articles which you can find here

Inbound Marketing

Most of my business comes via inbound marketing, and this is when a client reaches out to you. In my case it is usually for book covers and surprisingly more and more restaurant menus recently, but also for commissions from time to time. Inbound marketing is generally as a result of all of your other marketing efforts combined, and especially word of mouth marketing.

How to use inbound marketing and the upsell

Inbound marketing gives you many opportunities to clinch a sale. Its greatest opportunity comes from the later upsells that you can make. An example might be that you get a commission, but you haven’t got to stop there, because this is an opportunity to then sell the client a frame, hanging kits, or in the case of restaurant menus, a completely different type of paper or binding. Paper type in restaurant menus can affect sales, as does where the food options are placed. 

Upselling all too often seems to be a dirty word, but if you are upselling correctly and legitimately offering the client an option that would make the project even better and the client sees that as added value, this can help with the relationship marketing because you pointed out something that made the product better that the client didn’t think about but now wants. 

What you need to do to have a good inbound upsell strategy is to provide the clients with expertise and knowledge. Clients often need to be educated (but never in a condescending manner), and with this comes trust. If you advise them correctly they won’t regret the purchase, but bad advice will lead to them never coming back to you. 

One thing about the upsell is that you should never be pushy, ultimately the client should decide for themselves what added value they will get and whether or not they think the upsell adds that value and is worth the extra.

Equally you might need to apply the down-sell. Often clients want X which costs Y, but in reality they could get away with paying half the price if they chose Z, and they wouldn’t know the difference. If you demonstrate to them that you have this kind of expertise, it is extremely valuable in building an ongoing relationship with that client which brings me on to the next tactic.

Offering Added Value for Free

Before we continue I must point out that I would never recommend giving away your art for free and especially never in return for great exposure because that will never come.

I could write a series of posts on the million plus reasons why you should never give away your art (it devalues what you and other artists do for a start), but equally there are times when free can be a useful marketing tool.

Giving away something free doesn’t mean that it has to be your art. My restaurant menu designs usually come with two revisions or menu changes included in the initial price, but occasionally I might decide to give a restaurant a few more design changes if they change their menu within a certain time. 

My direct commissions might occasionally be given a free frame or hanging kit, and if someone needs a new logo it could be that they get six designs instead of three to choose from. 

Sometimes it might be that you advertise a free e-book, but in return the customer needs to sign up for something and provide an email address for marketing. We all know the value of email lists so I never see this as being completely free but it is still a tactic you might want to use. Talking of email lists, that brings us to the next marketing skill.

Newsletter and Email Marketing

These two can be combined if you have a mailing list or you can create a physical newsletter which is great if you have a physical space to hand them out in. 

Where newsletter marketing really comes in to its own is when it is combined with your email list. However, never just create a newsletter (they take time), unless there is a quantifiable impact on your business. 

With most email marketing tools you will be able to keep track of the number of subscribers, check open message rates, and see how many convert into sales. If the answer to any of those is zero or you send a lot out but no one reads them, stop and rethink the strategy.

It might be that the content just isn’t that great or that the newsletter is nothing more than an advert dressed up as a newsletter. The most effective newsletters are informal and not entirely sales driven. 

Can artists use this method?

Yes, but only if you have an email list to send them out to. Last year I signed up (using a specific email address in case any of them became too spammy), and the ones I found most interesting were the ones that offered me the greatest value in terms of knowledge and insight. 

The real problem for most of us is that we are bombarded with marketing emails by the truck load all offering a glimpse into the sender’s latest sale or offer or promotion. The first couple might be seen as useful, but there comes a time when we become desensitised to the message and we forward them to a junk folder and unsubscribe.

Here are a few things you should consider doing with email newsletters:

  • Send out information on the creative process for your current work
  • Provide an in depth tutorial on techniques
  • Show behind the scenes photos of your studio space
  • Become an authority and show expertise with in-depth articles 
  • Stick to the 90/10 rule. 90% information, 10% sales and marketing information
  • Provide a discount code for new releases at the foot of the newsletter
  • Target the audience using tools like Google Analytics and Facebook’s Insights tool and write for that audience.
  • Never send out too many but keep a regular schedule
  • Make sure the format is uncluttered
  • Add in a call to action within the 10% of the content available for marketing purposes
  • Make sure that the email can be viewed on mobile devices – Many of the email systems for marketing campaigns will automatically sort this out for you, and there are free options too for email campaigns and list management. 
  • Always give the reader an opportunity to unsubscribe and make sure the mechanism for unsubscribing works. There is nothing more frustrating than receiving a ton of spam, unsubscribing, and then receiving even more.
  • Include some simple terms and conditions particularly if you are promoting any offers and include a link to your privacy policy which provides reassurance that the customers email address and any data held are safe and that information won’t be shared. You are in the art business, you are not a data miner.

Again we are now starting to use other marketing methods too. For our newsletter we have used content marketing and we might have provided articles on using different art mediums for example, and that feeds into another marketing strategy which is affiliate marketing.

Affiliate Marketing

This is an arrangement whereby a business pays commission to the affiliate marketer in return for traffic to a website or for goods sold.

Can artists use this method?

Some affiliate marketing platforms of which there are many, are very specific about how you go about affiliate marketing. Some will only allow you to market online, so sending links via email might not be ok because they can be read offline. 

But if you have a website or social media account, generally most of the big players such as the Amazon Affiliate Program are fine for you to use those tools. The big question is, does it make you any money?

There is a perceived reality that you can turn affiliate marketing into a full-time business and earn enough to live on. There is also a more realistic reality which suggests that you won’t make much at all.

However, not all affiliate programs are equal and some will have a much better fit with your business than others. If you post a piece of art from some POD sites with an affiliate link and the viewer ends up buying it, this will see you get a small commission in return for providing the link. 

I signed up to the Amazon Affiliate program last year and the returns to date have been overwhelmingly disappointing. That is not to say that they will be for you, but affiliate marketing takes considerable effort, and you have to have an existing marketing presence and the trust of your readers.

If I did nothing other than affiliate marketing I would probably scratch an almost living at it, for others who are more experienced and have an existing base of potential clients who want what is available elsewhere, well they are the ones who will make the real money. 

Most affiliate programs are free (I would never join an affiliate program where I would have to pay to join it), so you might as well sign up for it. Just remember to only market products that you believe in and that have a link with what it is you do on social media or online. 

Only ever affiliate from trusted businesses, promoting bad quality can ruin your affiliate and general reputation, and if you find the next big thing to market, know that there will be others who have found it too. 

The POD affiliate programmes though are for the most part going to be your best bet but do not relay on social media posts as being your only strategy. If the social media channels rules ever change to not allow affiliate marketing, then you are left high and dry.

Which brings me onto another marketing strategy we can use.

Search Engine Marketing

This strategy really needs its own feature written because there is a lot of information that you will need for it to be used successfully. 

If you have a question, who is the first person you usually turn to? The answer is that it is probably not a person at all, it will be a search engine and most likely that engine will be Google.

Search engine marketing is essentially the process of getting ranked higher in the results either through paid or unpaid methods. 

Unpaid efforts require considerable effort and a knowledge of SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) and paid efforts just need a healthy bank balance. 

Search Engine Marketing though is old hat these days as we no longer use the term SEM. Instead it fits under the umbrella of SEO. 

Can artists use this method?

Yes, artists can use either paid for or unpaid SEO to drive traffic. However, as I said just now, the way you do this depends on how much effort you can sink into doing it, or how much money you can throw at it. 

There are some things that you can do which will provide you with quick wins, but remember that SEO changes by the second so what works today might not be a guarantee that the same thing will work tomorrow.

In fact the way SEO works is currently going through a transitionary phase, but in the interim here are a couple of things you can do to boost up the SERP (Search Engine Page Results) a little.

  1. Add your business to Google My Business. The process is straightforward and within a couple of days you will receive a postcard from Google with a code on it. Revisit the Google my business page, enter the code, and your business is then validated. 
  2. If you have a website make sure that meta-data tags are included and that you keep reviewing them to make them relevant. Check out tools such as Google’s keyword planner for the most recent tags and go with the ones that aren’t overly popular (too much competition) and not the ones which are least popular (hardly anyone will enter those into a search engine), pick the ones in the middle.
  3. Check back on this site for my upcoming feature on the changing face of SEO for artists – I promise I will finish it off soon!
  4. Make sure that your sites robot text is viewable by the search engines and submit your site to be crawled by the search engines whenever you make changes.

I know what you are thinking, when is he ever going to stop! There is so much more to learn and I was originally going to split this post across three weeks, but then I thought no, people probably need to know sooner rather than later so I apologise. Grab a coffee, sit back, and take it all in because we both want you to sell your art.

We have kind of covered promotional marketing because it overlaps with event marketing and newsletter marketing to an extent. What we need to cover next is the part of marketing not too many artists seem to want to engage with but trust me it is worth having a go at. 

Business 2 Business (B2B) Marketing

The whole of the above is focussed on B2C (Business to Consumer) marketing, so now we can try out B2B. This is when businesses sell to other businesses. 

This could be selling ingredients to a bakery to bake bread, or selling metals to industry to build cars, or selling a product at a wholesale cost so that another business can sell on to customers for a profit. 

The skills for B2B marketing are no different to the skills you need for B2C marketing, only the audience is different. It will also require your relationship marketing skills to build up trust and confidence with businesses, and usually it is the reserve of companies who make the raw materials. 

Can artists use this method?

Yes, but it takes a lot of getting used to. My B2B sales as I mentioned earlier are for things like logo creation and restaurant menus, but there are some other quite lucrative markets that as an artist you might want to also consider.

  • Logos – but bear in mind that businesses who need logos, need those logos to be their corporate face. Offering a $20 logo service is not good for the business, and it is no good for you either. 

Instead offer a complete service using non-generic images. Anyone can design a logo with online tools in around five minutes, but creating a corporate image has to be done by someone who understands design and user perception and marketing.

Instead offer research into the market as an upsell, those who just want something quick will find your $20 effort good enough, but those who need a branding package design service will find it no use at all. If you haven’t got the range of experience required, partner up with someone who has. They may not have the design skills. 

  • If you are a member of a print on demand service such as Fine Art America, then enrol in the other programs such as the Disney/ABC program, and offer your work through their corporate sites too such as Designer Prints. 
  • Consider selling your prints to hotels, cafés and restaurants, where you will also gain a guaranteed footfall in front of your art. Also consider renting out those prints that haven’t sold, one of the services I offer is in cooperation with other artists and businesses change the art in their receptions frequently, it can be lucrative if you have a cohort of artists willing to do the same. 
  • Approach construction companies who often need art for display in show homes, even renting it out to them instead of selling it to them is a viable option.

If you are only chasing a consumer market, you are missing the best bits. B2B can be lucrative but the downside is it can also add to the workload.

There are many other forms of marketing but most of them will be of little use at all to the artist. Some of them involve not quite so ethical approaches so I won’t go into those because as an artist you want people to connect with you and you need  to build up a trusting relationship. 

There is one form of marketing which we haven’t covered so far though and it is one of the bolts that hold your other marketing efforts together, and that is niche marketing.


perspective if you change your view

Niche Marketing

In short this is the selling of a product or service to a specialised segment of a market. It is as though this is the marketing that art was made for, or the marketing made for art. Everyone has varying tastes when it comes to art. 

Also known as micro-marketing the audience is much smaller. It is about finding a gap in the market that no one else fills, and if you find your niche and do it right, it can be huge.

It is not always easy to find your niche in the art world though, after 30-odd years I think I only recently found it, but for others they will be focused on one thing and will have a pre-defined niche audience.

The benefit of finding a niche is that the audience is inherently smaller and often but not always easier to work with. That makes targeting ad campaigns and marketing a little easier, and it becomes a little easier to stand out too.

The art world is full of competition. Paint a picture of a flower and your competition increases exponentially. Paint a picture of screws and bolts, well your audience is going to be far fewer than for the painting of the flower.

Niche marketing also helps you to win repeat business. If only two other people on your print on demand site are painting screws and bolts, then it tells you that either they are the only two that have an interest in the art of screws and bolts, or that it is a niche market. 

If they are selling more than you then it is a fair bet to say that a little competition in the area might be justified, if they’re not selling it tells you that either their work isn’t very good, or that this is a niche you need to avoid.

Can artists use this method?

You can’t be everything to everyone. When you create art you should do so out of passion for the subject rather than producing solely as a commercial opportunity, but not everyone paints out of passion and that’s kind of fine too. We all need to eat. 

But not showing passion for the subject in your work will show through in your paintings, and whilst it might work for some, it’s not so good for others. Maybe you have a niche market now but you cannot find the people within that niche to buy your work. Here are a few tips.

  • If you paint dogs, consider displaying the work where dog lovers meet. Dog shows and countryside events might bring the market to you. If you haven’t got a breed of dog available, offer to paint it as a commission.
  • When picking out the event that you will be displaying your art at, take into account any themes. If it is an abstract event and you only create portraits, look for an event where portraits are the focus.
  • Join the niche groups on Facebook and don’t be shy about letting people know what you do. But before you post anything you need to have a strategy which covers building up relationships and trust in the group first. Never just randomly join a dog owners group to promote your art with a spray and pray approach, other members will tire very quickly and the practice will most likely result in you being removed from the group.

Engage with others, build up a rapport and trust, get to know the community and then ease into the occasional marketing post but never make it too obvious to start with. Eventually people will come to you. 

This is how one of my friends built his business up, he engaged with the group and came up with an answer that everyone was asking. He now builds 3D printed cases for Raspberry Pi computers in the shape of old retro computers. Best of all he sends retro computer art commissions over to me. I will tell you all about that in another article – the art of 8-bit art coming soon!

Practice

None of these marketing methods are easy by any stretch. This is why marketing professionals and marketing departments exist, because they understand how each marketing methodology works and fits in to their business and how each strand of marketing can work with another.  

Knowing the differences though will give you an edge over everyone else who is spraying and praying across social media and then fizzling out. Sustaining marketing campaigns can really take it out of you but not as much as it does when the marketing you think you are doing doesn’t work.

Don’t be afraid to get things wrong. We have all made mistakes and hey, I still make them too, but persistence and practice are the keys to upping your marketing efforts and beginning to see results.

Use these skills in conjunction with my series of articles on using Facebook to market your visual art, and start to formulate a marketing strategy. As I said earlier, not every post should be about marketing at all, but those posts that are not direct marketing should be being considered in the overall marketing strategy.

What works for some people might not work for others, and what works today might not work tomorrow. But if we recognise that there are more tools than the spray and pray tool we have all relied on for too long also exist in the same toolbox we can start to really drive engagement, build up our portfolio, and increase sales. 

That my dear friends is the reality and it is not an easy one to work with, but even applying a slight edge over millions of other people who will be going about marketing blindly will definitely pay off in time.

ABOUT M.A

Mark A. Taylor is a British artist and blogger who specialises in abstract and landscape work and also produces art to be used within TV and film, and book covers. You can see and purchase Mark’s artwork on a wide range of print mediums and other products right here, and you can follow Mark on Facebook here

Remember to come back to this site as every week and if there is anything that you want me to cover from the art world and supporting visual artists, let me know!


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