Monday, October 06, 2008

Self-Marketing as an Artist

Waiting for a Crew
original oil on canvas board, 10 x 8 inch, framed
Price: $150 plus shipping
copyright 2008 MaryAnn Cleary

This week as I read an article about self-marketing from a corporate perspective, I realized that these marketing strategies could easily apply to the self-marketing of an artist. In the article, "The Art of Self-Marketing", the author, Kerris Harris, evaluated several strategies that could easily apply to the self-marketing artist: branding, SWOT analysis, an Elevator speech, and coaching. Each of these marketing ploys is easily applied to the marketing strategy for the artist.
  • Branding or Self-Image
During these economic times, it is important to set yourself apart from the competition. What makes you better than another artist? Why should a customer want to do business with you? How is this accomplished?

Recently, I purchased some oil canvas from Signature Canvas. They were recommended to me by someone at a recent workshop that I took. I placed an order online for a roll of primed cotton canvas. It arrived safely. About a week after my shipment arrived, I received a thank you card in the mail personally handwritten thanking me for my order. A couple days later, I also received a phone call from Signature Canvas, thanking me again for my order and asking if there were any issues with the order and did it arrive safely. Finally, about a week ago, I received another courtesy call asking me how I liked the canvas and if everything was ok with it. Signature wanted to verify that I had no issues with the quality of their product. I have never received such service or follow-up from any other art supplier that I have ordered from in the past. Will I order from them again. Yes. They have distinguished themselves from the other suppliers that I have dealt with.

When someone purchases a painting from me, I always include a thank you note along with one of my business cards. To distinguish myself further, I might also add a coupon for a discount on the next purchase or a "freebie" such as one of my small prints or note cards.

Be original. Distinguish yourself. The marketing world calls this "branding". Have a product that a customer will think of you first to fulfill their needs. When someone brings up art in a conversation, you want to be the person that comes to their mind automatically. Brand yourself.

  • Analysis of Strengths and Weaknesses (SWOT)
What does SWOT stand for? S for strengths, W for weakenesses, O for opportunities, and T for threats. Read the comments below and then make your own list for your self-improvement as well as a plan to accomplish it. Revisit the list after every few weeks to see what has been accomplished. Revise and revisit it again for future improvement.

Strengths - what area as an artist do your skills shine? What sets you apart from others? What do others have to say? Look to those who will give you honest feedback.

An area that is one of my strengths are my charcoal drawings. When I am in the process of creating one, I typically ask my wonderful daughter for feedback. I can trust her intuition and judgement to hit on the troublesome areas every time. If something is good, she says so. If an area needs improvement, she says so. I can trust her judgment.

Find someone who you can trust for feedback Listen to it. Be open.

Weaknesses - what area do you as an artist need to improve? Identify the shortcomings and find a way to improve. If more training is needed there are a variety of ways to seek improvement. This could be made by taking a workshop, reading books on the subject or watching the many DVDs available for art techniques. Look for ways to improve. What will make you a better artist? How can you become better at your profession?

For me, I chose to enter this field full time during the start of a recession. What a crazy time to do this!! My plan included supplementing my income for the next couple of years, but how do I get to where I want to be. Since I am not recognized nationally, I plan on entering local competitions to gain local recognition as well as entering national/international competitions. This will assist with giving my name credibility with my customers who will be investing in my paintings.

Some of my better works are my charcoal drawings, but my love is oil. There are times that I really could use some help with better light and color techniques in my paintings. This summer I attended a plein air workshop, and I continue to read and explore new techniques. All of this helps to strengthen my weak areas.

Opportunities - know your market. Be on the lookout for those areas where your art will be a good fit. Since I live in a small town, I am looking for a place where I can gain exposure for myself as an artist and show my paintings. My art needs to be able to connect with them on an emotional level. I plan on painting a small series of local landmarks of the surrounding area. Something that people can easily identify with and a subject that I, too, will enjoy. If I can find an emotional connection, I know that my audience will too.

Possible areas to have a showing of my work are the local banks (the one where I bank has no artwork hanging), the local used bookstore and coffee shop, and the local frame shop. My town is small with only a few thousand people and no art gallery nearby.

Threats - what roadblocks are in my way as an artist. What can be done about it?

This summer I identified a couple of outdoor shows to exhibit my art. To tell you the truth, I did terribly at both. However, I had to look at them as a market strategy. I did make many contacts. Those who did well with just "artwork" at these shows offered more kitschy type articles for sale or who had a strong following. Fine art did not sell well for those who were not established. Establishing yourself as an artist takes time. This is my biggest threat...being a non-established artist.

What can be done about this threat? Have a professional website, have a working blog, join forums and contribute, focus your energy on the things that will benefit you as an artist the most. Stay focused with your time and energy. Try not to get side-tracked with things that will contribute little to becoming an established artist.
  • 30 Second "Infomercial" or the "Elevator Speech"
After attending a job placement agency, I received training in how to "market" myself. Every time a person meets someone new, they usually have a few seconds to sell themselves and make an impression. What you think of someone that you had just met and they said, "I am an artist" after being asked what they did. They said it with little enthusiasm or passion.

Learn to sell yourself as an artist. Prepare a 30-second commercial on you and your art. Say it with passion. Practice it. Tell people what you are working on and why you are interested in it. What the emotional connection is. When giving your infomercial, have a business card ready to hand out. Make an impression so that people will remember you. (When giving out business cards, make sure they are not those cards printed out with perforated edges that you printed out on your computer. If you want to portray a professional image, have professional business cards printed by a professional! Nice colors and a good, quality card stock.)
  • Mentoring or Coaching - share what you know with others.
A good or successful leader in the professional world is always teaching others what they know.

Sharing or mentoring could be accomplished by giving classes or volunteering at the local grade school or high school. Giving classes through the local continuing education group is another way. They are always looking for folks to teach locally. Usually they are held at a local college or high school and no accreditation is required. This is an excellent way of sharing your knowledge with others as well as developing your market for your art. Typically, students will be your greatest fans.

In summary, your self-marketing strategy should include: branding your image, doing a SWOT analysis so that one knows their strengths/weaknesses and opportunities/threats, preparing an infomercial, and finally, consider teaching and mentoring others. All of this will take time, but in the end when someone mentions your name, that person will have an artistic image of you in their mind.

In the future, I hope to write more of my struggles of being an artist and the self-marketing road.

What have you as an artist found successful or unsuccessful? Please feel free to comment.


Katherine Tyrrell said...

Great article Mary Ann - well done! I'll highlight it next Sunday on my blog and add it into my new information site Art and the Economy - Resources for Artists

It's always been very apparent to me that the principles, approaches and techniques which I learned 20 years ago when doing my MBA - and have applied many times since - are very applicable to the business of being an artist. A business is a business. What you have to be sensitive too is how the business practice you adopt need to be tweaked for the type of business you are in (art), the art you sell and the clients you can reasonably aim to interest. However the basic underlying principles for building a sound business are the same the world over.

With the coming recession, I'd suggest you add one more. Look at the businesses in your town which continue to do well and see if you can work out why that is. What makes a business, any business, resilient in the face of the economic gale which we are currently facing? You may learn something which helps your own business.

MaryAnn Cleary said...

Thank you, Katherine.

What a great idea to look at the thriving local businesses. My neighbor actually owns a bar and grill in town. The increase in gas prices and the no smoking ordinance passed earlier this year actually helped his business. It definitely surprised him as other pub/food establishments in town seemed to be suffering a business decline. More families opted to eat out at the local pub (no smoke) instead of traveling too far from home. He also cares about his customers. If he is at his business, he always stops at each table to make sure all is ok or just to visit. Developing a strong relationship with customers is imperative to keep in touch with their needs.

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