Adapt and Sell More Art in 2012, by Lori McNee

Since 1975, Artist’s & Graphic Designer’s Market has been a must-have reference guide for  emerging artists who want to establish a successful career in fine art, illustration, cartooning or graphic design. Beyond up-to-date contact and submission information for more than 1,700 art markets, AGDM includes informative articles and interviews with successful artists and art buyers. Read on for a 2012 AGDM article by Lori McNee, a professional artist and art-marketing expert. Also, be sure to check out, the new online version of AGDM—you can try it for free with the 7-day risk-free trial.

“Enjoying success requires the ability to adapt.
Only by being open to change will you have a true opportunity to get the most from your talent.”
—Nolan Ryan
Most likely if you are reading this article right now, you are interested in selling more art in 2012. There is no magic bullet or quick way to success; however, artists who are open to new ideas and have a willingness to adapt to the ever-changing marketplace will have a head start over their peers and competitors. It is time for you to take charge of your art career.
In this challenging economy, being a successful artist not only consists of creating great art, but is also about building a strong business. The small businesses that have succeeded over the past few years have been based on adaptability, trust, longevity and personal branding.
As an artist myself, I understand that artisans tend to be frugal. Nevertheless, it does take some money to make money. The good news is, many of the ideas listed below can be accomplished with little or no monetary investment other than good ol’ sweat equity. ­Implementing the following marketing tips into your art business plan will lead you toward more art sales.
Determine Your Goals
Goal setting is important, because once you have your goals in place it is easier to achieve them. Goals are much like a road map with mile-markers along the way. They give you a clear plan that details where you are going and how you are going to get there.
To begin, you need to determine what you want. Identify your short-term and long-term goals. Goals do not have to be overwhelming. For instance, let’s say you are an amateur artist, but you dream of having your work represented by a top gallery in New York City. Most likely that goal would be unrealistic and difficult to achieve in one step. It is easier and more realistic to set your goal within workable units, like mile-markers:

  1. A short-term and reachable goal would be to first start perfecting your craft.
  2. The next goal would be to develop a cohesive and consistent body of work.
  3. Then, progress into building your collector base by selling your photographs in a co-op gallery or coffee shop, or from your studio.
  4. The next goal would be to enter a juried exhibition, arts and crafts show, or local gallery for representation.
  5. A fifth goal might be attained once you have consistently sold your art, gained the respect of your fellow art peers, been solicited by galleries, and had your art published in ­national magazines.
  6. The long-term goal would be to approach that top New York gallery for representation.
  7. Visualize where you would like to see yourself and your art career in one year, then in five years. Do you understand your potential market? Where does your work belong? Your potential market might include commercial galleries, university galleries, art fairs, art salons, juried exhibitions, public art projects, co-op galleries, museums, and more. Write them down and tack a list of goals next to your computer or bathroom mirror. Think big, but start small. Small decisions are important for your long-term success. Be patient and reward yourself when you meet each goal or mile-­marker along the way.

Sell Yourself
Years ago, while working in retail, I learned this valuable lesson: The number one ingredient to successful sales in any business is to know how to sell yourself. If you can sell yourself, you can sell anything.
Build Your Brand
A great way to begin “selling yourself” is to build your brand identity. A strong brand is invaluable and serves to communicate credibility to your prospective customers and ­colleagues.
This is equally important for all fine ­artists, designers, crafters, photographers, illustrators and freelance artists and more. You want your brand to reside in the hearts and minds of your clients, collectors, prospective customers and competitors.
For example, famous artists such as Georgia O’Keeffe, Madonna, Marilyn Monroe, Andy Warhol, Michael Jackson, Claude Monet and Frida Kahlo’s ­distinctive “brands” are forever etched in our minds. Your brand identity will help set you apart from the pack.
Start a Facebook fan page for your art business. With a fan page you can ­promote your art and products and share your portfolio and videos. This is a great way to build your fan and collector base. Use the other social media sites such as Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube to build your brand and to promote yourself and your art business. (See “Secrets to Social Media Success” later in this section.)
Be sure to personalize your online image and brand with your picture or avatar. Using the same recognizable image on all your online sites will further promote your brand.
Deliver what you promise. Primary motivators of brand loyalty are trust and a consistent experience. If you say you’re going to have the proofs ready by Friday, make sure they are ready. A reputation takes a lifetime to build and an instant to destroy. ­Protect your brand.
Update Your Website and Start a Blog
Most likely you have a website with information about your art and pricing, bio and résumé, and maybe a cool video or two. You might be wondering why no one is visiting your website.
The easiest way for people to discover your website is to start a blog.
On your blog, write about things your fans, artists and collectors care about. Encourage feedback on your blog and be sure to personally answer all incoming comments and questions. Customers will enjoy the extra information and personal touch. Potential collectors will have reasons to choose you.
Technology is increasing in importance in your client’s life, so you need to stay current. There are many free ­business-marketing tools that can be used to promote your site. For example, you can easily embed video, audio podcasts or images in your posts. Be sure to integrate widgets and your social media channels, including Facebook “like” buttons, Tweet This and Share, to drive traffic to your site and make it easy for your readers to share your interesting content.
Blogs are far more versatile than traditional websites and are one of the best ways for small businesses to gain exposure, especially if you are an artist, photographer or crafter.
Focus on Customer Commitment and Relationships
With the onslaught of social media, customer intimacy is easy to provide and is expected more than ever. It is not uncommon for customers, collectors and potential clients to engage with each other on sites such as Facebook and Twitter before they engage with you.
The Internet has changed the way we do business. Everything happens so quickly and the competition is increasing. A client’s continuing patronage is no longer guaranteed. Artists must encourage their customer’s loyalty and advocacy through word of mouth. As a result, artists have to find a way to quickly respond to their customer’s wants and needs because consumer loyalty is a thing of the past.
If you do not react quickly, your client will find another artist who will. Stop thinking of your potential clients as dollar bills and understand them as real people whose lives are positively affected by what you can do and provide for them.
Provide top-drawer service, and do not neglect repeat customers. It takes five times the effort to acquire new clients than to repeat a sale to an existing customer. Keep the Pareto principle or 80/20 rule in mind: 20 percent of your collectors will produce 80 percent of your sales.
Direct Marketing
Direct marketing is being revolutionized by commingling old-world direct marketing techniques and mediums with current methods of the new digital marketing tools. This new “hybrid marketing” is a blend of online and offline methods. Direct marketing now consists of the Internet, mobile and direct mail.
The experts say you will find your marketing power double by simply diverting your traditional advertising dollars into direct marketing, and that will drive better return on investment for your art brand and business. This is good news considering many artists have drastically reduced their marketing budgets. Nevertheless, competition increases during a recession, which generates new talent and innovation. It is not a time for you to lay low.
Return to the marketplace
Marketing began hundreds of years ago by literally going to a marketplace to sell a good or service. Artisans and craftsmen would engage buyers face to face. Today, people still want to buy from those they know, like and trust—gallery receptions, arts and crafts shows, ­social media and blogging helps make this possible. It is important to think of your product as an extension of yourself.

Get online
Consider art registries and websites like deviantART, Flickr, Etsy and eBay. Many of these sites allow individuals to sell arts and crafts without having to operate a storefront business of their own. Market your art business and product via social media such as ­Twitter, ­Facebook and YouTube, and remember to start a blog.

Business cards
Be prepared. It’s a good idea to have a professional stack of business cards on hand. In this day and age, be sure to include your name, e-mail address, website/blog URL address as well as any social media handles, and your cell phone number. Add a logo or an image of your art to further your brand identity. *Tip: Print up bookmarks with the same information and leave a stack at your local bookstore and coffee shop!
Business relationships
Don’t forget to nurture your existing relationships with your galleries and their employees. Reach out to interior decorators, real estate agents, house stagers, restaurant owners, corporate art buyers and private art dealers, and let them bring the clients.
Artists have a tendency to concentrate on personal excellence, career achievement and individual sales. However, there are wonderful rewards to be made from ­building alliances amongst your peers. These mutually beneficial friendships help to facilitate an environment filled with inspiration and abundance, rather than an environment of isolation and competition.
Create a simple system to manage your new friends and contacts. There is software available to help you with these tasks and to record new contacts in a database, phone book, or whatever works best for you. After you exchange cards with a new friend or prospective client, jot down where you met, what you discussed and how and when you should follow up as a reminder.

Send out a newsletter
Once you have your blog up and running, be sure to send out a newsletter. Dollar for dollar, newsletters are one of the most effective ways to reach your targeted market. Creating newsletters can be hard work. Decide on the number of newsletters you will be able to produce each year and stick to it.
Use your newsletter to further build your credibility, brand and professionalism. The newsletter will inform your subscribers and prospective collectors of special announcements, offers and coming events. Make sure it is unique and reflects your brand.
Of course you want to sell your product, but you can’t ask subscribers to “buy” all at once. If you spam your readers, they will unsubscribe to your newsletter. Instead, try including just one call to action in each individual newsletter. Focus on just one promotion and your customers will likely pay better attention.
Note: E-mail is not for everyone. Although most people prefer e-mail, there are those who still prefer getting their mail the old-fashioned way. Consider sending a postcard or paper newsletter from time to time.
Mobile Marketing
Mobile marketing describes marketing with a mobile device, such as a cell phone. This has exploded with Apple’s iPhone, Google’s Android operating system, the iPad and smart phones. In fact, as of 2011, over 50 percent of all U.S. homes owned at least one smart phone.
Mobile devices are redefining the shopping habits of customers. Smart phones and other mobile devices act as research and shopping tools.
Today, more and more artists, galleries and museums are using smart phones for marketing. For instance, imagine a slide show of your photographs, a video demo, or your website being instantly delivered to a potential collector’s smart phone. By using a tag you can make that vision a reality.
A tag is a barcode that can be placed in magazines, on business cards, brochures or postcards, or can even hang next to your photographs in a gallery. After the tag reader application is downloaded onto a smart phone, the phone’s camera becomes a “scanner.” The lens will detect the code that will trigger the information to be displayed on your client’s phone. Keep in mind, to be successful, the mobile activity must be engaging and relevant, and there must be a call to action. Tag readers have helped to revive the print marketing industry!
Social Media
Over the years, “social media” has become a buzzword. Wikipedia’s definition of social media is “a blending of technology and social interaction for the co-creation of value driven content.” The “co-creation of content” means that social media is about we, not about me.
Social media is a fundamental shift in the way we communicate. Artists should embrace the free marketing power of social media. Millions of people could possibly become customers. This is not possible in the off-line world.
Build your brand
Social media is the quickest way to build brand recognition for you and your art business. A strong brand is invaluable and serves to communicate credibility to your prospective customers and business associates.
Social media is already changing the rules of the marketplace across the globe. We now have access to literally millions of potential customers. These prospective buyers feel more comfortable about a brand if they can interact with it via social media. Use social media channels to send out videos, images of your photographs and links to your latest blog post, and to share interesting content. You can easily drive huge amounts of traffic to your website or blog using social media. Utilize social media to get the word out about your art business in a way that promotes conversation and leads to sales.
Being an artist can be a solitary occupation, but with social networking, you’re not alone! Use social media to get instant feedback on your latest painting or blog post, or ask for a critique on your work. You will learn from other artists and business leaders, gain inspiration from others and build lasting relationships.
Keep your finger on the pulse
Remember, creatives are the movers and shakers of the world. We need to stay informed and on the cutting edge. Artists should be aware of new trends in design, decorating, fashion and technology and how it influences art and sales.
Take Calculated Risks
People like to stay with what is familiar and safe. But, if we eliminate calculated risks, we remove the opportunity for growth in business and in our craft. As a small business entrepreneur, if you try something new and it doesn’t work, you can easily change your strategy. But, you need to be accountable for the inherent risks and the outcome.
Go where the action is. Visit gallery receptions and rub elbows with successful artists and gallery owners. Attend lectures, symposiums and events held in museums and art centers. Enter juried exhibitions, art fairs, local art contests and competitions.
Send press releases to local newspapers. Call the editor of the art magazines within your niche and request an interview. Contact a popular art blog and submit a guest article. Network outside your circle. Think creatively. Talk to your banker, ­accountant, dentist, florist and doorman. Ask them for business referrals and do a favor for them in return.
During these uncertain times of economic challenges it is tempting to escape into a creative safe haven in your studio and withdraw from extra challenges. But ­remember Neil Simon’s words of wisdom, “If no one ever took risks, Michelangelo would have painted the Sistine floor.”
Don’t Be Afraid to Fail
There is no real secret to success. In order to succeed, you must challenge yourself, be passionate about your craft, perfect your skill as a artist, and learn from your mistakes along the way.
The greatest barrier to success is the fear of failure and an inability to adapt to change. Some of the ideas listed in this article might seem unconventional and intimidating. But, if you adapt just a few of these new ideas into your art marketing strategy, you will begin to see favorable results, which will lead to more sales in 2012. Good luck and I hope to see you on Twitter!

Lori McNee is an internationally recognized professional artist and art-marketing expert, who writes about art and marketing tips on her blog Lori is an exhibiting member of Oil Painters of America and ranks as one of the most influential artists and powerful women on Twitter. She was named a Twitter Powerhouse by The Huffington Post

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