Finding Your People and Knowing Your Tribe

Know Your Tribe...

finding a business market, finding your market, selling my art, Beechhouse Media,
Finding Your People and Knowing Your Tribe!

Every week, I write a brand new article for members of our four wonderful art groups on Facebook, The Artists Exchange, The Artists Directory, The Artists Lounge, and The Artist Hangout. This week we take a dive into the world of working out who our people are, the people who will regularly buy our work and who will in time become our tribe.

As I have often been doing lately, I will be casting aside the usual images I once displayed on this blog and will continue my practice of abundant self-promotion and posting pretty pictures of my latest works instead. 

Firstly, I do not believe anyone reads an article like this only for the jovial and inspirational and sometimes cheesy quotes that they so often contain, but because every sale I make through my Fine Art America and Pixels stores contribute to the costs of keeping this site alive and ensures that I can consistently create new articles sharing both what I have got wrong over the years and hopefully more of what I have got right. So here's a cheesy quote that also seems rather relevant for today...

choose people who choose you, Beechhouse Media, Words to live by, Mark Taylor,
Words to Live By... cheesy images that inspire... but relevant!

Also because my kidney stone needs removing soon and post-op I will probably get through a mountain of coffee beans in order to help speed up my recovery. The link is here, which you can click now or click later, hey, there's no pressure to click it at all! Don’t worry, I will remind you at the end too but if you don’t click, a share or two is fine as well and coffee beans are always welcome! 

I am though eternally grateful to one of my collectors who last year sent me a flat pack wooden fish pond water feature complete with a fountain pump. Oh, how we laughed because I had once mentioned how difficult the one I had purchased was to build and how I then spent weeks re-landscaping the entire garden, so she sent me another one, exactly the same. A bit random, but thanks, took me three months to figure out who had sent it. Only when I finally lifted the lid of the box did I see a note saying "Just in case you get bored", I really don't need another pond.

Just one more thing, you might have already noticed that I have stopped serving ads at the moment, with the exception of one small ad in the sidebar which will also be removed very soon. That's something I have wanted to do for a long time now, but it will mean that any donations and art sales will now be the sole way I will be continuing my work on this site. Hopefully, it will give you a much better experience and you will enjoy what I bring you even more without the intrusive ads that no one ever clicks!

Finding The Target Market or Finding the Target Audience…

No matter what anyone says, the hardest part of being an artist who sells their artwork is figuring out just who will buy it. It’s no easy feat and when you don’t have a consistent sales history or you are just starting out, figuring what any market will pay and who will buy what you create is an art form as old as the trade of selling art, and sometimes it takes a very long time to work it all out.

Just to add to the confusion, target audiences and target markets are two entirely different things although the terms are often used interchangeably. The target market is the population of potential buyers, the target audience is more granular and describes the population within the target market. That’s the level of detail you eventually want to figure out. I call them my tribe and my people, it’s less confusing!

I bumbled around for a few years before I realised that the people who purchased my art generally all came from similar backgrounds, lived in a similar area, and mostly had a few bucks leftover at the end of the month to spend on art. Back when I was at the foothills of my art career my perfect buyer was often around 25-years old, and they were looking for art to hang in their first apartment or house. Economies changed, people changed, people stopped moving out of their parent's house so young, and eventually, my entire market drifted somewhere else. I had to find a new audience and every few years and even now, that’s something that still happens. People change as do their tastes in art, and artists and their art can change too.

Finding an audience is in the main, about working out permutations of variables and there are a heap of them. My market today is about a million miles away from my market at the age of 16, but back then I didn’t recognise who my market really was because I really hadn’t got the first clue about running a business, I just sold art as and when I could. It was some years later when I finally sat down and looked back that I began to pick up on certain traits and characteristics of those who did buy. Until then I was blissfully unaware that the word, demographic even existed.  

I’m now fast approaching a half-century and the world is very different today. When I was 16 we never had the internet, we didn’t have print on demand, the audience were usually local, and there were nowhere near as many places to buy art from outside of the galleries. I remember there were way more galleries though. But what has changed more significantly since then is how people now consume art.

Some buy it out of love for the work, others to collect it or to use it to decorate a space and some foolish or very brave people buy it as an investment. I say foolish in a good way, art is no longer a commodity guaranteed to increase in value if indeed it ever was. Only a very tiny number of artworks ever created have that real investment potential that many artworks seemed to have once had and it is questionable if quite so many really did have it in the first place. My one piece of advice to any art buyer is to buy only what you can live with for a very long time if your plan is to eventually flip it.

One of my biggest mistakes as a youngster was that I tried to target everyone. The problem with doing that is that I spread the net too far and too wide and my catch was way less than the effort and the expense expended. For a few years, I carried on targeting those who I thought were my audience and noticed that my sales were going down year on year. What I hadn’t realised is that people had become more socially mobile, more affluent, less affluent, and a hundred and one other things, I certainly hadn’t noticed that a few who were getting on in years were no longer around at all.

Sometimes I think of target audiences a little like the items you place on a conveyor belt heading towards the checkout. Some goods we will buy again just as some people will come back to us, but others we never see beyond that first sale, they become unavailable. When this happens we need to find a suitable replacement and add that replacement onto the conveyor. In short, target audiences change, they’re agile, they constantly evolve, it’s our job to work out who fits the profile of our buyer and see if our work carries any truck with them. If it does, those people become our people, eventually, they might even join our tribe but it is equally just as important to know who your target audience isn’t, because very few of those will turn into your people, but there may be clues left by the ones that may flip over and become your people, especially if they notice the positive impression you are making on your current tribe.

Targeting a specific market doesn’t necessarily exclude people who don’t quite fit the perceived demographics, there will always be buyers who find you but don’t quite fit the known criteria of who you think your people are. Instead, targeting a narrower customer profile extends the potential to find new buyers who might be significantly more interested in what you have on offer. Focussing on these people although they might be fewer in number means that you can be more effective at meeting their needs and you are not wasting copious amounts of energy and often the expense for little to no return. Let's grab a coffee right here, there's more!

Adrift under a neon sky, mark taylor, landscape art, adrift collection, beechhouse Media,
Adrift Under A Neon Sky by Mark Taylor

Having said that, there will be certain people and markets that really are unreachable and the last thing you want to be doing is expending a lot of energy with a zero guarantee of any return, we don’t have the time for that. The business of business becomes a lot easier at the point where you can work out who will and who might not, and who definitely won’t buy your art too. It is at this moment when you can really start to enjoy what you do a lot more.  

I think one of my biggest mistakes back in the days when I didn’t have quite so many aches and fewer grey hairs was that I was trying to be a global brand without the benefit of having a global brand behind me. It was me, alone, pretty much out in the business wilderness and trying to reach 7-billion people almost unintentionally. I couldn’t have been more out of my depth had I have been thrown in a bottomless pit. I definitely didn’t know who my people were or why I would even need people, all I needed was buyers who would buy my work.

Looking back, I should have focussed on the few hundred or so that would have been not only more achievable but would have given my plans back then some sustainability. Instead, I achieved nothing with the exception of a few sales probably more by chance than from any solid marketing skills, and I became exhausted, burning the candle at both ends and trying to hawk my work pretty much anywhere and everywhere to anyone.

Today my focus is absolutely fixed on the revolving door of current, past, and potential future customers and each are way fewer in number than I first started to focus on all those years ago. Life today is much easier, but that doesn’t mean that you should ever become complacent.

Having a sustainable base of core customers who buy into what you do is certainly something that I have found more sustainable than anything else over the past decade but it took me a long time to realise that I didn’t need the massive volumes of customers that I once thought I did to provide me with a sustainable business model. That’s not to say that there is no room for new customers, I welcome all with open arms, but I am now much more focused on the people who are more likely to make a purchase of either my art or the services I offer. Using this approach I have just over a hundred regular buyers and collectors and those really are my very special people, they even have their own space on my portfolio website which you can find right here

The crux of this is that before you go out to find your market it is best to have a plan in mind of what you want to achieve, you need to decide what you want to give in terms of time, and ultimately how much money you need to earn to live and cover the bills and working out from that how many pieces of art you need to sell to cover it all.

It is about having a plan for now and a plan for later when the time comes that you decide that you need a little bit more to live or when the inevitable happens and you hit a dry sales period or the bills start to increase or your people fall away because inevitably they occasionally will. Or it could be that suddenly you become recognised for what you do and you find yourself in more demand, it is then about being able to recognise when the time is right to increase your prices without alienating your entire market, and to do that effectively you have to know who they are. But we can’t answer some questions until we have the answers to others.

Too many brand new artists seem to fall into camps of either asking nowhere near enough to cover their costs, instead, woefully underestimating how much work they would need to sell at that price point, or they fall into the camp that asks way too much in relation to the artist's experience, skill and demand. This isn’t necessarily a pricing problem, it is a problem that suggests you possibly don’t have a clue who your people are.

Very few new artists get the pricing right from the off, and to be totally honest, some artists who have been grinding away for years still find it can be a problem to set realistic pricing on their work. The ultimate confirmation that you have your pricing set at the right level can only come from your sales history. Once you have one of those, it is then you can ask the questions like would my people pay a little more. If they’re not paying then there could be a pricing problem but of course, we are talking about the art world, so any problem could also be something else entirely. Most likely, you need to find new people or adjust prices accordingly and revisit your business plan.

The problem for many artists is that we will struggle to figure any of this stuff out easily, let alone being able to factor in the variables so we can come up with a coherent strategy for marketing and selling. Or rather, the two strategies which we need because marketing and selling are entirely different things.  Not knowing who your tribe is or at least not having a clue about the kind of person who is most likely to join your tribe is, is the single biggest issue I have ever come across with maybe the exception of the question of why are good art supplies always so dang expensive?

Adrift Under A Fading Sun by Mark Taylor, artwork for sale, Mark Taylor artist, Beechhouse Media,
Adrift Under A Fading Sun by Mark Taylor

So who makes up your tribe?

Along with pricing, this is the single most difficult question that any artist has to face. Perhaps it is bigger than the question of what price do we charge for our work because without having any sort of clue as to the type of person you are creating your art for, you will never be able to come up with an informed strategy for pricing that works consistently.

Sure you might get the odd sale, but what I am talking about having is a strategy that ensures that you are at least ticking pricing off the issue list for reasons why your art doesn’t sell. You need to find your tribe because only they have the legitimate answers you are really looking for.

Just to confuse things a little more, you may have more than one tribe. You might have a cohort of people who support you on social media but rarely if ever buy, and you might then have another tribe of people who do the buying. Some of these might even have a foot in both tribes but you do have to recognise that both tribes are equally as important. So this week we need to figure out who your buying tribe are because they’re the ones who will put the food on the table, and your social sharing tribe will help you.

First it is worth knowing where we need to start looking. This is when the artist has to take on the role of a forensic scientist as if we didn’t already have enough to do. We need to be able to crunch the numbers, but not just any numbers. We need to find out where those numbers are and chances are, you already have access to them.

Analytics platforms…

I have lost count of the number of times I have written about using business profiles on social media. Sure they look more professional and certainly using a personal profile to market anything is often outside of the social media platforms community standards. I have known artists in the past who have inadvertently and sometimes intentionally used their personal profile solely as the single point of doing any business on social media and they have seen their accounts closed down for breaching the community standards. Those are the same standards which appear in the small print before you sign up, that no one in the history of ever reads before they click on I agree.

But my reasoning for always recommending that you always use a business profile on social media goes beyond that, it is because they give you the tools and the data that will also give you an insight into the people who are, and who aren’t engaging with you. There’s another reason too, your personal profile on Facebook is limited to 5,000 friends and if you only have a few hundred Facebook friends right now, what happens when you do get to the point of reaching 5,000 Facebook friends and none of them is in a buying mood at all? Well, you have essentially just wiped out any hope of ever using Facebook as a professional platform for marketing. At that point, your only option will be to build a page and hope that your 5000 friends follow you on there. This thinking should also give you your first clue about where many of the problems begin.

If you’re not taking business decisions such as, do I, or do I not set up a business account on social media, then it begs the question of just how serious are you about wanting to have a sustainable business model that supports your art practice. It’s fine and dandy running a personal profile if your Facebook friends are regularly buying from you as long as you don’t get caught by the social media police or you don’t get reported by some internet troll with nothing better to do. But, if this is the case then you have limited your audience to those five thousand friends and experience will probably already tell you that not all of your five thousand friends will be making a purchase and fewer still will be making a repeat purchase.

I wrote an article a few weeks ago that resonates here too, in that article we discussed the importance of not focussing on the wrong numbers and you can read it right here if you missed it. If you do have 5,000 friends then how many are currently buying? If only a few are or none at all, that can become a problem. If you have a good collector base from those 5,000 friends, then you are one of the very few lucky ones but I hope you have a plan B. As harsh as this sounds, having a business profile ensures that:

  • You have the potential for social media and business growth.
  • You have a professional presence.
  • You have more control over your brand image.
  • You have a place to direct people to.
  • You run a lower risk of compromising community standards and not just on Facebook.
  • You have marketing tools at your fingertips.
  • You can link your website and in some cases, shopping cart widgets from print on demand services or use platforms such as Shopify and you can link the groups you create that raise the profile of you and your brand.
  • You do have the option to pay to play and extend your reach – being mindful that this really isn’t something you should be doing unless you categorically know what you are doing, and you absolutely know who your people are.
  • You have access to the all-important data that will begin to tell you the story of your tribe.

That last point is important because finding your people is the key to unlocking your business. Only once you begin to get an idea about who your people are can you can then begin to plan for the future. If you have the energy and the passion, you can begin to plan to take your business to the next level and maybe even plan on making a few sales. Energy and passion being the two traits that you also need in buckets to embark on serious social media marketing and running your art practice as a business. But be warned, it’s not going to be a walk in the park, Jurassic Park maybe, but not your run of the mill everyday filled-with-flowers type park.

adrift on a silent ocean by Mark Taylor, landscape art, seascape art, Fine art, Mark Taylor artist,
Adrift on a Silent Ocean by Mark Taylor

These insights are not just the reserve of Facebook, having a business presence on Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter and many of the other platforms will give you broadly similar benefits. As different as all of the social media platforms are, there are some similarities that make it a tad easier to learn the tools across them all. Analytics platforms across social are all much of a muchness, they give you the basics but the basics are better than the nothing you had before you looked.

We will come onto what you need to find out to work out exactly who your people are in a moment but right now we need to take a light stroll around the analytics platforms because eventually, you will need to make sense of all that data. A business account on social media will give you some analytics, they will tell you what people are saying, how they’re engaging and what content is performing better, but that kind of data is only the barest of entry prices to the world of fully understanding who your people truly are.

Remember, those platforms, are designed to demonstrate how your social media presence is growing or not growing, they’re not specific to your business which is selling art. So it is inevitable that you will need to look elsewhere for the data that supports the rest of your business practice beyond social media. These platforms are absolutely where you need to begin to look, and from the data, you will know which demographic your work resonates with, at least to an extent anyway. I say that because social media is often biased, or rather its users are. If they like you then they’re more likely to react positively to every post you make, that though skews the numbers but equally helps with organic reach and that is way more important on social media.

In an ideal world all of your customers old and new will be on social media and following you, if they are then the social analytics become increasingly useful for your business more widely but if they’re not, then your social media analytics are going to only be a good measure of how well you are doing on social media, but still very relevant to the overall picture of analytics that you need to build up that bigger picture.

So you have a business account on each of the social channels, you ideally have at least a few months’ worth of data, but there is a real risk that so much data will be confusing. What you might find is that initially treating each as different potential markets are the easiest ways to begin understanding who engages most on social, remembering that your twitter followers might be a very different bunch of people to those on Pinterest or Facebook.

On one hand, having different potential markets isn’t a bad thing, but on another hand, you might have to be different things to very different sets of people. Fine and dandy if you can do this and continue being everything to everyone, but ultimately, if you want to minimise the workload on social, the goal should be to consolidate all three markets so that with only a few minor aspect-ratio and character length changes between the different platforms, you can essentially post very similar content and standardise a consistent marketing approach across each channel if you find that underneath they all fit within your buyer persona, otherwise you might need to change the message and the optics.

Once we begin absorbing and actioning the data we get from the social channels we should have a clearer idea of the types of people who engage with us. The question at this point is, are they buying. They might not be, but remember that these are the people who are going online and they are your advocates. If your content is suddenly sticking, a few might even begin buying because you are now creating much more relevant content that resonates with them.

But what about all of the millions, even billions of people who never go on Facebook or Twitter, and yes they do outnumber those who do. It is here where having online-only strategies fall down. There’s a potentially huge number of people who don’t have the first clue about who you are and who have never seen your work. Within that population of people, there will be people who are looking everywhere except online for exactly what you have to offer. Your mission is to join the dots which let’s face it, shouldn’t be too difficult because you are an artist.

Adrift on the Mouth of the Sea by Mark Taylor, artist, art for sale, landscape art,
Adrift on the Mouth of the Sea by Mark Taylor

Have an offline strategy too…

Here’s where you have to be brave because it involves tearing yourself away from the screen and going outside, but before you do that, you will need to ensure that you have some goals set for what you want to achieve.

These goals should include all the reasons why you want to reach your offline people and must include things like, that you want to increase sales locally, improve awareness of your business, you want to build leads through networking and you want to meet people, and to establish yourself as the authority in you and what you do. Online or offline, those goals are useful but when you break down the reasons why you want to reach your people it makes it exponentially easier to figure out where those people might be hiding.

If you don’t have a regular sales history, you might want to start working out the ideal buyer persona. I did this and it worked just as well online as it did offline. Today, I have a few buyer personas. I have the one that perfectly fits who my buyers are right now, that tells me that my regular buyers are this or that, earn this much or that much, like this particular colour palette and subject, and a multitude of other things. But I also have a buyer persona where my buyers are all billionaires who will love everything I do and will buy anything I make available. Those people have an excess of cash that they are eager to be parted with, they range from the age of toddler to 99 and they live all over the world. They all make the extra effort to come to me because they spent three years searching for me and my work.

My second buyer persona is one that I will never use, it is everyone’s ideal buyer persona, but it is also unrealistic and yet, that’s the exact buyer persona most people who haven’t dug into their analytics and find it hard to make any or many sales have to work with. Or their buyer persona is the complete opposite and is as far away from being a billionaire as is possible. Never assume your buyer is another you either financially or by personality, they could be but they could be entirely the opposite. You have to be realistic about who you think your buyers might be, and assume absolutely nothing. You have to know the reality if any of this is going to work.

Be realistic, and narrow your focus. If you sell artwork for fifty bucks or five million bucks, your people will be hidden amongst the people who can spend fifty bucks or five million bucks. Narrow it down a little further. You create animal portraits so it is reasonable to assume that the most likely people who should be your people will have X amount of money to spend, and they will love their animals. Let’s narrow it down again, you specialise in portraits of parrots, so your people need to at least like parrots, have enough cash, and because you paint your parrots on huge canvases they will undoubtedly need a bit of space to hang the work.  Maybe they will own their own home, maybe they will attend the national parrot show twice a year, you begin to get a picture of your ideal people’s persona the more you break it down. Once you have the buyer persona nailed, it is time to validate it and revaluate it if it doesn’t quite fit.

This seems like common sense, but I know that it is something that many new and even not so new artists forget to do because for years I forgot too and so did many of my artist friends and other friends who run businesses away from the arts. Truth is, we didn’t forget, we most likely ignored the fact that we had to do it.

Some artists don’t work in such a defined niche as parrot portraits. That’s fine too because not everyone likes to be artistically confined to a single subject. But whatever the subject is, the same rules will apply. Those people who love parrots might not be the same people who love your typographic designs that are totally unrelated to parrots, it just means that there are more people you could appeal to with the caveat that you should clearly define each niche and not confuse the market, and not forgetting that you might have to work a little harder.

There is nothing written in stone that says you will forever work in one niche and will never diversify, but the art world has changed and so has the way that people consume and buy art. It’s fine to be able to pay the bills and buy food but your job is to make everything less confusing for buyers. That means that having a good insight into your market and analytics to back it all up becomes even more important. Are parrots really more popular than typography, who knows without crunching the numbers but to the parrot lovers who live in Parrotsville they probably are!

Once you have an idea about who your ideal persona is, and, or, you have poured through your sales history and any other data you have, you should be able to begin picking out correlations such as if I post on a Friday at this time my posts do better, or if I target parrot lovers who have signed up for a Facebook Parrot Event called let’s storm the pet shop, they can’t stop all of us, then I know my people will be signing up.

If they’re attending a physical space then turn up there and build relationships because one thing is for sure, had I have been able to visit Area 51 recently I would have taken a supply of my previous sci-fi themed works and a stock of tin foil hats and perhaps, more importantly, a notebook and pen and a supply of business cards.

Once you have found your people or built a realistic people persona you can then begin to start looking at the data that goes beyond the social media post. Data that is related to the business of selling a physical product such as an artwork, and then you will begin to form a dataset that becomes infinitely more useful.

Adrift Under a Galaxy by Mark Taylor, landscape art, Fine art america, pixels art, Mark Taylor artist,
Adrift Under a Galaxy by Mark Taylor

Practical ways to get the data…

Without at least a small sales history or a few months’ worth of data, analytics is kind of pointless. The more data you have, the better the prognosis for getting it right. If you have at least some rudimentary data from Facebook Insights or from the other social networks then that is a great start. If you haven’t got enough data yet, then it’s probably worth learning more about analytics over the next few months while you wait for the data sets to build up a reasonable picture. It’s probably worth doing that even if you do have enough data right now because everyone knows that if you torture the numbers enough they will tell you exactly what you want to hear, but what you need to be hearing is the one single version of the same truth as hard as that might be.

There are other ways of grabbing data that will form the basis of your voyage into the world of analytics. Perhaps the most underutilised way is something as simple as a survey. If you have an existing customer base then start there with something very simple and quick, but you do have to ask relevant questions that do not lead to any generic answers.
Avoid surveys that ask for a rating between one and whatever. Everyone will tick that they are super-happy or super-tired and super-sad. A Few will be different and will say that they are neither happy nor sad but none of this is useful. None of your questions should require the person taking the survey to write war and peace either because no one has the time for that.

Asking what the pain points are in buying your work, how much people feel comfortable in paying, where they hang out online, where they live, and giving people the option to tell you anything about your business that you might have missed or avoided asking are questions that will give you the best insights  into what your customers or potential customers expect or need, or want to see.

Interacting with your audience is the best way to get direct insight and listening to what your audience is saying and more importantly what your audience isn’t saying can pay dividends and can give you the kind of insight you just wouldn’t get anywhere else. This can either be done in person or online, and it reinforces the fact that you are the authority on your work and this can do wonders for engagement. If people know you are listening, they are much more likely to talk, if they know you are talking, they are much more likely to listen.

If you have a social media channel then answering comments is essential to driving engagement, if you have a website or a blog, the same is true there too. If people stop getting a response from you or that you don’t at least acknowledge them, they will simply tire and move on and it becomes really difficult to get them back. Pay attention in particular to any criticisms and anecdotes because these can give you an insight into what your people are thinking and what pain points they have.

As I said just now, what’s not said that is often as important as what is said, and it is the same with actions. Take notice of the actions your audience are taking, are they sharing your posts or you website links, are they enthused enough by your social posts, do they want to share that with others, and if not, why not. These are the sorts of inactions that you need to figure out the why for.

But there are other actions that they will be taking that you cannot immediately see, like how are they navigating your website, are users bouncing off to other sites, where do your regular viewers live, can they understand your text, how far down the page do your viewers read, and how many of your website viewers are clicking on the call to action. Again, these are other data points that you can add to your overall data sets to provide you with evidence that you have your buyer persona on the right track. I always say that anyone who is taking market data seriously should know almost as much about their customers as they do about themselves.

Crunching the numbers…

At some point you will have so much data that all you will see are numbers. Using a platform built to crunch data is going to be instrumental in bringing everything together. If you have a website then it makes sense to use platforms such a Google Analytics and pointing it towards each of your sites. You can find out more about Google Analytics here, and my advice for anyone intending to get the most out of it is to first take a look at the huge number of tutorials on the Google Academy site here.  The Google Academy is the official Google resource and this is the one you need to look at if you want to keep up to date with the latest features. This is the one area I would be more cautious about turning to YouTube on because features go out of date very quickly.

There are plenty of other analytics platforms around, some for social media that go beyond the core tools provided by social media platforms, some for web sites, some that perform a hybrid of both, but most of them will be restricted by the type of account you use to sign up.
Free plans often have limitations and sometimes offer only similar results to the official social media platforms tools, others go a little further, but if you want to dig down and get into the real detail, then you are going to end up paying anywhere between a hundred and a thousand bucks a month. Not practical at all and unless you are a truly global brand or have millions of subscribers and a steady revenue stream, not necessary either.

You could mix and match free plans, or use combinations of the tools you do have access to, along with something like Google Analytics, well, at least until you become a world leader in doing what you do, in which case you can buy me a coffee.

I utilise a hybrid of analytics platforms made up of the official analytics tools, and a couple of free plans along with Google Analytics. In addition, I run the numbers I collect manually from my offline buyers and visualise it all in Microsoft’s Power BI which is a business analytics solution that allows you to visualise your data and see everything in your own dashboards.
I also, use link analysis software for research so that should give you a better understanding as to why Power BI appears in my toolbox, I correlate lots of data sources when carrying out any research and much of my day job revolves around using big data. The problem with Power BI is that it doesn’t come cheap, but if you are serious about analytics then you are going to need another way of crunching those numbers and pulling data in or having somewhere to export all the data to so that you can make sense of it all.

Using Excel or Google Sheets is perfectly adequate, to begin with, and as most people will already have access to a spreadsheet, even something like Open Office which is freely available will make life so much easier. There is a downside which is that you are going to need to watch a few tutorials on the Academy of YouTube if you are not already overly familiar with spreadsheets and formulas.

When you have a large amount of data it is also possible that fairly early on you will find limitations with standard spreadsheet programs. They just can’t compete with the data visualisers that allow you to create practical dashboards showing you the most important data at a glance, and if you ever want to run off reports, they can turn out quite messy. There is another option and one that I frequently used before I used Power BI which is Google’s Data Studio.

You can find details of Data Studio right here,  and the best news is that it’s not just free, it is phenomenally powerful and should suit most artists for some time to come.  There is also a great set of official Google resources to learn the intricacies of using such a powerful platform which is one more reason why you should approach any analytics by being well prepared.

Before you begin to analyse and visualise large data sets, the data will often need to be cleaned. Sadly, it’s not a case of leaving it to soak in hot water, you have to make sure you have a standardised and consistent data set across all of your data sources. This is especially the case if you use a hybrid of platforms that pull different data sets into your visualiser tool.

What tends to happen with multiple data sources is that they present data slightly differently. You might have some geographic data from one source which names New England as New England but other data sources might tag that location data with NE, or they might break the locale down further and include references to places rather than State. My tip here is to use Google Maps to pinpoint data so that you can work out the exact regions and states and again, there are plenty of online tutorials that will show you how to do this. You may have to clean up misspelt words and numerical errors, any of which have the potential to seriously disrupt the validity of your final data set. Remember, only consistent data will give you consistent results.

Is it worth going this deep into the analytics? No pain, no gain as they say, and yes, it can be worth it if you have a lot of data. Initially you will just want to pick out the basic data sets that you need which will make the process much simpler to perform and will give you insights that will certainly give you a helping hand when it comes to figuring out who your people are, and it will begin to fill in the blanks you have around the buyer persona. In time you can extend the data sets and visualisations to give you richer insights but if you are only just starting out, go slowly, learn the basic tools and skills, and work on from there because anything is better than the nothing you had.

Just to set expectations a little, learning the skills for the basics will take a few hours a week for a couple of months but by around twelve-months later you should be in a position to start thinking about crunching more numbers. The alternative is to take a formal class in data science but be warned, they can be a little on the dry side and there aren’t many that only cover the bare basics. Yes, this isn’t something that you can pick up and by the weekend you will suddenly become a fully-fledged data scientist, but you might be feeling a little more confident by next weekend and that confidence in your ability to crunch the numbers will grow even more over time. When you begin to get results as well, and you begin to make multiple sales, the only question you are likely to ask is why didn’t I learn these skills sooner.

Adrift Under The Northern Lights by Mark Taylor, northern lights art, landscape art, fine art america,
Adrift Under The Northern Lights by Mark Taylor

Defining Useful Data…

The art of analytics can only ever be touched on even in a deep-dive article such as this. There are so many different ways to analyse data and even more ways to interpret it. The absolute truth is the absolute baseline when it comes to data and whilst the numbers might be telling you one thing, you also have to make sure that they are telling you the right thing. If the data is skewed any way other than the right way, there’s no point at all in even trying.

The real issue with analysing and finding your target market is that so many people who need to find their target market never spend anywhere near enough time learning how to do it. For others, it is often a case of just keeping an eye on the number of website visits, or the number of likes on a social media post, anything beyond is in the realm of being too difficult and so inevitably they take a chance and make a lot of assumptions.

Technically we call it winging it and winging it is okay because the law of averages suggests that at some point you will hit the sweet spot. But if you aren’t properly deconstructing who the target market is and who the target audience is, that spot will only ever occasionally happen or most likely it will never happen at all.

There’s also something around expectations. Just because you finally have data it sadly won’t suddenly turn your small business into a global empire overnight. The data has to be looked at, actioned, and you still have to do a heap of work, but with the right data you will be more assured that you are expending that all-important energy and time in the right places and on your tribe.

In terms of setting realistic expectations, I cannot reinforce enough that this is going to take some time and if you are serious about knowing your tribe, there are absolutely no short cuts, believe me, I spent the best part of two-decades looking for them or two-thirds of my art career to date and I wish I had started sooner. Ultimately the difference between not doing this and doing it is massively limiting your business potential even at the most basic of levels.

There are some basic things that you should be looking out for though, forget the visualisations and the fancier stuff for a moment if you only want to start dipping your toes in the cold waters of analytics, and instead, spend a little of your spare time gathering a basket full of confidence in how the basics work and working out exactly what the basics are that you can work with.

We spoke earlier about breaking down information and once you have some general ideas about where to look for your data and what you should be looking for, you can begin at that point to break it down some more. But what are the basics?

Basic data that will begin to have the biggest impact on reaching your tribe includes things like knowing the age group, location, gender, occupation, education levels, ethnicity, whether they are married or in a relationship, if they have children or if you were to try and sell the hypothetical parrot portrait, do they have pets. Each of these data points can be probed and broken down even further but never be tempted to break them down to the really insignificant details.

Once you have some of the basic data you should be thinking more about exactly which of the data points bears more fruit for your business. If you are thinking about selling the hypothetical pet portrait then knowing that your people own pets and ideally parrots would be a critical data point, and there will be, from any data set some specific data points that are more valuable. Once you identify those you can add a few more data points into the mix to flesh the persona of your people out a little more. To begin with, the small dataset is going to be much easier to work with and there is less chance of becoming confused by too many datapoints.

When you do start to see general patterns and correlations in your data you can then begin to take affirmative actions. Maybe hang out in the same places online and offline, share your experiences, schmoozing the clientele before you make the leap to outright marketing and selling and more importantly, you can work on building up trust and a rapport.

What tends to happen is that there are a lot of people who run businesses who have a penchant for jumping right in from the off without first building up any level of trust. I have seen many businesses of all descriptions fail when they do that. It’s something that you might have noticed in social groups where the new member gets approved to join by the admin and within 30-seconds has made half a dozen posts showcasing their product or artwork or service along with the barest of details.

There is no hello, my name is, I am a, and this is an example of my work, product, service, and instead will put the barest details in the post and a call to action that shouts buy, buy, buy, not knowing what people, let alone if their people are in the group already. As a group admin for many years now, this still bemuses me especially when three weeks in they start to complain that there are no buyers. There are, you just need to find them and they probably aren’t in here my friend.

But having the basic insight into your tribe and your people within that tribe will tell you where they are. Once you have established those kinds of baselines you can start to create lists, you can even do this on platforms such as twitter. There is a heap of research around demographics that might match your demographics which can be found online. Some of this research even provides the links to twitter lists that you can follow so that you see the streams of those who might turn out to be your people.

These are the kinds of snippets that can provide insight into what people are doing, what they are reading and what they are tweeting or posting online and who they are following, and yes it does sound a little weird and creepy to think that you are trying to figure out exactly who people are, but that’s what every successful retailer is already doing with you and often with a greater degree of intrusion. The best retailers are master stalkers, think loyalty cards! You don't really think they're giving you them out of loyalty, do you? They are tools to collate business intelligence and most are dressed up in beautiful offers to attract you. You sign up because you want the value they bring you, but they bring value to the retailer too.

It’s worth mentioning the laws surrounding collecting and using data at this point. You categorically have to comply with any countries data laws regardless of the laws where you live. In Europe, and for European residents, that means complying with things like GDPR (General Data Protection Regulations) and in the UK, the Data Protection Act and GDPR, and in the US and every other country there will be other relevant laws. Making people aware of your intent to collate data, why you collect it, and how you use it are often the most basic things that you have to provide to anyone who provides you with data, and in most cases you also have to request that they give explicit consent.

Online it can be a minefield and the subject of data protection is far too big to unpack in a single article, except to say that you absolutely must be aware that there is a need to protect data. Mostly, the data you will be getting will be relatively non-personal, you might know that your client base is between the ages of 25 and 40 and they generally live in the Arctic Circle, but you wouldn’t be able to identify individuals for the most part unless they have explicitly told you who they are. Social media platforms will hold that data but over the past few years with all of the issues around data and privacy, what you will see might only be a very small subset of that data. Personally, I avoid gathering or using anything that looks like it could remotely identify anyone because it can become a major headache if anything goes wrong, just ask Facebook! If you are ever unsure, check the legalities first.

The other useful snippets you might find useful to know about who your people are, are things like their personality types, do they like humour, are they more serious, perhaps what their attitudes are on certain topics so that you can avoid certain topics in your marketing, and what values do they hold. You might have a customer base who will only buy products from sustainable sources, and you might find information about their interests and hobbies is useful too.

These are what are known as Psychographic traits in marketing terms and it describes a methodology used to figure out a customer's psychological attributes, It is all very useful data and again, there is a tonne of research online that goes into way more detail than I can give here with the exception of saying that the factors picked up through analysing psychographics can really push your marketing to the next level. If there was ever an element of art within marketing, this particular marketing practice is probably it.  

There are other factors that can sway your people and taking a look inwardly at things like your own brand personality can influence how you approach the market. If you are a happy go lucky jovial person you might be better suited to people who are of a similar nature but again there are many resources online which delve into the inner workings of things like this and they explain it way better than I ever could.

I guess the true art of finding your people and your tribe is to first find out about yourself. Maybe I should have opened this article with that statement but you have to know you before you can truly know someone else. Maybe I will add my name to that statement though and will one day see it on a meme!

And then you need to consolidate and evaluate…

You now have the business basics for finding your people, you now have something ythou can work with, but there will come a time as I intimated earlier, where you have to revaluate, in fact, there will be many times when you need to pour over the data and find your people and your tribe again.

Will, there be enough of my people in three years’ time, will my work fall out of fashion in six-months, what factors are affecting my customer's buying decisions, what happens if the UK leaves the EU without a deal, what happens if trade tariffs increase, these are all questions that are too difficult to always answer but knowing a little more about your tribe will certainly prepare you a little better for whatever markets, politics, and life throw at you in the future.

The information you are looking for, to begin with, is already either right in front of you right now or it is within your grasp. When I started out I was soaking everything up like the proverbial sponge and I probably soaked up a little way too much at times. There were times when it felt like my head would explode with information overload. Before that, I was trying to reach everyone with the exact same message and it really didn’t work. 

Where I really started to break ground was when I began to take notice of things like commercial poll results, the Mori and Ipsos type polls that are frequently conducted by researchers who know what they are doing. This kind of research is research that is being professionally carried out from commissions and if the results are made public then they are fair game to look at for business intelligence.

Polls that are geared towards the art market or peoples attitudes to art can often tell you ahead of the big galleries about the state of the art nation, and they are often available in global markets. I remember one such poll that was conducted in around 1998 which found that the peoples painting was as big as a dishwasher and preferably blue. It was a light-hearted poll at the time and the outcome was to paint a painting based on peoples wants that had been identified from the survey. You can find out more right here, but these kinds of organisations are always running a poll about something and often there is something that will be relevant to your business.

You can search for the various organisations who conduct polls using Google or any other search engines. Some polls will, however, be a little more biased than others so you have to get into the habit of asking what is the purpose of the poll, who funded it, how long ago was it, is it still current, and is the information relevant to my own buyer's persona. I can’t overstate that there is already a lot of data out there that can give you more of an insight, you are not the only person who will have a particular buyer persona and if the work has already been done, why reinvent the wheel, use what’s already to complement and validate your own findings and research.

Here’s a link to a report from The American Art Society where they found that three-quarters of Americans (72%) attended and arts event in 2017, so it is an almost certainty that some of your people did too, but where did they go? Click here to find out and add those places to the list of places you need to reach.

Adrift On Still Waters by Mark Taylor, landscape art, Mark Taylor artist, fine art america, pixels art,
Adrift On Still Waters by Mark Taylor

Still hard work…

No one ever said that selling art professionally was ever going to be easy, but there are ways that make it slightly easier. Knowing or at least having an idea about the type of person you want to engage with, interact with and who will fall in love with what you do is worth every second you spend working it out. As I have said throughout this article, even some data is better than none, but yes, it is without any doubt, hard work, more work, and work that many will just ignore and never do. But that is exactly why you should be doing it, setting yourself apart and being just 1% better than everybody else. Now go find your tribe and then you will find your people!

Crib Sheet...

I’m really conscious that today’s article might be information overload and you will no doubt need to refer back to it as you begin to work out your people and analytics strategies, so I thought it might be a good idea to add some of the most poignant tips to a crib sheet.

  • List all of the data sources you already have and split the data sources into two lists, one for social media and one for any historic sales.
  • Create your ideal buyer persona, think about who you create you are for, how much the average cost is, and where the ideal buyer lives, which might be globally and not just locally.
  • Check out sources of business intelligence such as the formal polls created by research organisations, and search for any existing and current research that dives into the market of your ideal buyer persona.
  • If you already have notes on paper, recreate them on digital so that you can add those notes as a data source which you can use in your data visualisations.
  • Think about how you will keep notes on future clients and consider using some customer relationship software instead of spreadsheets. There are some free open source CRM packages available that offer features like contact management, marketing automation, sales automation, and tools to collect business leads. Search for CRM free open source, and you should see quite a few options.
  • Go to the official tutorial websites from Google to learn about Google Analytics, this will give you a great grounding to use any analytics platform.
  • While you are waiting for your data to build up, use the time to refine your ideal buyer persona and  carry out as much online or classroom-based learning as you can comfortably fit into your schedule.
  • Use a free data visualiser, to begin with, or use your regular spreadsheet program before you make any investment in higher-end packages. Learn everything you can about building reports and creating templates you can continue to use in the future.
  • Don’t get disheartened because it’s all taking too long to get results. Learning how to collect, analyse and interpret data isn’t a five-minute job, but it odd so worth it.
  • If you get stuck, ask the question! The Artists Lounge Facebook group is a great place to ask too and that’s exactly why that group exists! But ask questions of your clients, friends, and people who are already finding out who their tribe is. 

About Mark…

I am an artist and blogger and live in Staffordshire, England. You can purchase my art through my Fine Art America store or my Pixels site here:   

Any art sold through Fine Art America and Pixels contributes towards the ongoing costs of running and developing this website. You can also view my portfolio website at

You can also follow me on Facebook at where you will also find regular free reference photos of interesting subjects and places I visit. You can also follow me on Twitter @beechhouseart and on Pinterest at

If you would like to support the upkeep of this site or maybe just buy me a coffee, you can do so right here


  1. Another post with valuable information Mark. Love all your new works, so outstanding!

    1. Thank you so very much Colleen, deeply appreciated and congrats on your recent sales! You definitely have a tribe! X


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