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Get Clear About the Purpose Behind Marketing Your Art

Chances are good you’re already using the right tools to promote yourself and market your work. But are you using them as effectively as you could be? Do you have some doubts? Let’s explore three guiding principles that will clarify the purpose behind various marketing activities and help you maximize the effort you put into them.

To understand these principles, let’s begin by looking at the flip side of marketing, which is buying. These days most people go through a three-stage process whenever they’re buying something that costs more than $100 or $200. If you’ve bought a big-ticket item in the last couple of years—a smartphone, a laptop, a refrigerator, a car—you probably went through these stages yourself.

In the first stage, you open your mind to all of the different options available to you. Basically, you start gathering data or factual information about all of these options. You’re looking at things like size, capacity, and cost so that you can start ruling out the options that don’t fit your needs. Where do you go for this information? Some people still go straight to the stores where these products are sold, but many others begin their quest for info online. You can find information on the manufacturers’ websites (Honda, Apple, etc.), the retailers’ websites (Home Depot, Best Buy, Amazon, etc.), and on social media pages dedicated to the products you’re exploring.

By the time you’ve completed the first phase, you’ve narrowed down your list of options, so now you dig deeper on the options that are left. In the second phase, you start looking for opinions from other people who may have had some experience with the options you’re considering. There’s always the tried-and-true method of asking friends, family members, neighbors, and colleagues, but today we can also seek opinions—what marketers call “social proof”—online. Think about going to Amazon and looking at the reviews, just to offer one example. The best thing about these is that you get an aggregate opinion, right? If a product has 142 reviews and an average score of 4.1 out of 5 stars, that’s looking good. But if the product has 142 reviews and an average score of 1.9 out of 5, you’re probably crossing that option off your list.

Finally, you’re left with just a couple of options, and now you make a transition from choosing based on fact to choosing based on feeling. Sometimes you’ll make a connection with a product itself while other times you’ll connect with the brand. Either way, the emotion you get from the product is probably going to be the deciding factor in your purchasing decision. This explains why one person will pick the car that makes her feel like a good parent because it’s safe for her kids, while another person will pick the best deal because she loves the sensation of being a savvy shopper, and yet another person will pick the car that makes her look hot! These are the types of emotions that drive the ultimate choice.

Now let’s look at this exact same process from the marketer’s side. At every phase, you can see how marketers engage people and technology to facilitate this three-stage process. They use lots of tools to disseminate information, provide social proof, and enable emotional connections with the brand and its products. Guess what? You can do the same as the marketer of your artwork! In other words, these three phases translate directly into the three guiding principles that I think result in effective marketing.

What specifically can you do to disseminate information, provide social proof, and enable emotional connections with your brand and your artwork? Here are some ideas:

  • On your website, provide as much factual information as you can, including the prices of your work.
  • In the description of each piece, tell a story that provides factual information while revealing the emotional inspiration behind the work.
  • If you are blessed with gallery representation, provide your gallery reps with information about you as well. A well-written one-page bio is a great place to start.
  • Include testimonials and media reviews on your website as a form of social proof.
  • Build up your following on social media so that when you post your artwork, you get lots of likes and comments for others to see.
  • In everything you write, share who you are—your life, your interests, your hobbies, and your art-making practices—so that people can connect with you on an emotional level. It is through the average, mundane aspects of your life (kids, pets, places you’ve lived) that you’re most likely to connect with others.

These are just a few of many possibilities. In the future, as you set out to write a post or update your website or whatever, ask yourself, How can I do this better? Is there a way for me to incorporate a little info? Is there a way to provide some social proof? And most important, how can I share something about myself that will help me connect with potential buyers?

The funny thing is that these principles will probably result in small tweaks to what you’re already doing, not massive changes. But by facilitating the buying process, your small tweaks just may make all the difference in influencing a collector to purchase your work.


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