The Lucky Thirteen C’s (Components) for Promoting, Marketing and Selling Your Artwork

One of the best things I have come across to help business owners to understand the differences between promoting, marketing and selling is the following quote from an unknown author.

“If the circus is coming to town and you paint a sign saying “Circus Coming to the Fairground Saturday,” that’s advertising. If you put the sign on the back of an elephant and walk it into town, that’s promotion. If the elephant walks through the mayor’s flower bed, that’s publicity. And if you get the mayor to laugh about it, that’s public relations. If the town’s citizens go the circus, you show them the many entertainment booths, explain how much fun they’ll have spending money at the booths, answer their questions and ultimately, they spend a lot at the circus, that’s sales.”

In a nutshell that should give you a clear visual description of the important aspects of being in business and making a success of it. To consider promotion, marketing and selling all at once is a tall order. However, I have developed a checklist approach that I call, The Lucky Thirteen C’s (Components) for Promoting, Marketing and Selling Your Artwork.

1) Career Commitment

It is important with any career, but especially crucial for a professional artist, to achieve a level of commitment and purpose that supersedes most all the other aspects of his or her life. Making an all out commitment to having your sole income be derived from producing and selling artwork is a risk, much like any other business. However, it is a risk that you must be willing to take on with eyes wide open and with some minimal financial reserves to see you through the start up phase of your business.

2) Creative Spirit

It should probably go without saying that an artist needs to be a creative, open-minded individual who has a sense of beauty and the stamina to sustain a life of ups and down and good times and bad times. Not all artists can ride the wave of success to the degree they desire. Creative spirits must know themselves well and be in touch with their inner child who delights in the wonderful things life has to offer.

3) Character Development

People perceive a person’s character through the actions and deeds of that person. If a person demonstrates that he or she is honest, forthright, and caring, the vast majority of people will be won over. Most people are in tune with who has integrity in business dealings and who does not. Don’t use deceptive tactics or hidden agendas in the business relationships that you develop, or you will soon find yourself standing alone.

4) Confidence

There is a difference between confidence and arrogance. There can be a fine line between the two. It would be worth your while to have someone be brutally honest with you when you cross that line from confidence to arrogance. Many times a person that is more quiet and shy comes off as arrogant because he or she is not the demonstrative type. People may take that more inward person the wrong way. Work on being able to confidently talk about your work in a professional manner.

5) Communicate

Communication skills are a premium in any business. Being able to address small or large groups of people to tell a story about your art techniques or a specific piece of artwork is a skill that is so valuable. People want to hear about what inspired your creative spirit and what the significance of certain symbols are. They also will know if you are genuine or are just saying things to impress them. Brush up on your skills and be sincere in your dealings with people. Remember that communication is two-way, and you must also be an active, attentive listener.

6) Create a Website

Yes, it is the technology age. A few years ago people were not asking, “Do you have a website? What’s the address?” A web presence is becoming more and more important. You could use some of the basic website builders and do your own. However, a better idea might be to leave it to the professionals, providing you have the resources to make that happen.

7) Community Involvement

Getting involved in your community and local events may not be as applicable to artists who have already achieved a national level, but it is a must for local artists who are looking to expand their following. There are many ways to become involved, and there are many organizations that could use help or donations of any kind. Get your name out there, and at the same time feel good about what you are contributing to your hometown.

8) Collect Contacts

As a person goes through life there are a myriad of ways to meet people. If you are looking to meet people who are potential customers, you must be at events that art buyers attend. This may not be an event where you are able to directly sell something on the spot, but you can certainly meet people who may be potential buyers. Events such as Chamber of Commerce Mixers is an example of one of many opportunities to establish business relationships.

9) Consider Commissions

Many artists are vehemently opposed to doing commissions. Some feel that a commissioned work may have too many strings attached and may stifle the creative spirit. Others welcome working with an individual customer who has specific needs for such things as decorating purposes. It’s one of those things that can be labeled, “Take or Leave It.” But think about the cost in the long run.

10) Charitable

Throughout a community there are numerous fund-raisers always going on that requires solicitations of donations for this cause and that. Most are very deserving and are very needy. One way of contributing to the community and also a good way to get your name out in the public eye is to be an eager contributor to it. If you decide to donate a piece of artwork, don’t give them something that you consider a reject. Offer them a substantial piece that will give you the attention you deserve.

11) Converse with Consultants

Talking with a professional consultant or art agent may be just what you need to help with promotions and public relations. The cost of contracting this kind of assistance could more than pay for itself in the long run. Make sure any relationships you establish with a consultant are based on his past performance and on a like-minded plan on which you can both agree.

12) Consistent Pricing

The kiss of death for any artist might come about if you are not aware of inconsistencies in your pricing structure. Buyers do notice those kinds of things. Everything that you put up for sale should be kept in a log with specific descriptions that can be used for a reference in pricing future pieces. Yes, it is okay if your prices go up, but there should not be significant discrepancies in what appear to be like items that are selling at the same time.

13) Customer Satisfaction

Always follow up on sales. You don’t want an unhappy buyer bad-mouthing your work or your sales pitch. If someone isn’t happy with their purchase, think about the damage that you can cause by digging your heals in. Be liberal with your thinking in terms of returns or trades. You want happy customers because they could be return customers. Never forget that unhappy customers have big mouths.

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