There is a huge difference between marketing and selling art? But what is the difference? And why does it matter?
The Difference Between Marketing and Selling Art
I see a lot of artists who seem to use the words ‘marketing’ and ‘selling’ almost as if they mean the same thing. They don’t! Basically you market in order to sell. Unless you are very lucky, without putting effort into marketing no-one will ever see your beautiful artwork.
‘Marketing’ covers a broad range of activities which are all about building a recognizable brand and attracting customers. The aim of marketing is to boost your name, linked to certain products and instill customer loyalty so they come back time and again.
Customers may not buy a piece of art from you immediately, but marketing creates a potential sales situation. For example, someone is redecorating and wants a piece of floral art for their bedroom. Through your marketing activities that customer remembers that you sell floral art (for example) and that they liked what they had seen. That customer then, hopefully, will look to see what you have available and find something they like and purchase it. But it takes time to build a brand and get that response from customers. Regretfully things don’t happen overnight.
How do you market your art?
The million dollar question! Actually this should read ‘how do you market your art when you are competing with thousands of other artists trying to do the same thing?’. Marketing in a saturated market in other words.
There is no simple answer. Artists with a unique subject or perspective can carve a niche for themselves by emphasizing that uniqueness. For others it is about starting slowly and giving a consistent message. A marketing plan helps to focus time and effort effectively. Otherwise you can spend a lot time putting ‘buy my stuff’ posts on social media and see little or no return. You can read more about developing an art marketing plan here.
Some artists do well with blogs and present them well to their readership. Other artists take a lot of time to design the posts they will put on social media. Yet others have a devoted group of followers that they have built up with continuous personal interaction over time. Each artist has to find the marketing approaches they feel comfortable with.
Take Time To Look And Learn
Have you ever sat and really looked through your Twitter or other social media feed? I think most of us have a quick look, click like on a few things, make the odd comment and that is it. But artists follow a lot of other artists in my experience. The time spent just looking at what others do can be enlightening and is not time wasted.
What catches your eye when you look through the social media feed? Is it the ‘buy my work’, ‘buy my work’ posts? I very much doubt it as they just get lost in the feed. Take some time to look at what other artists post across social media and see what you can learn from them. What approach are they taking? Is there a ‘feel’ to their feed, do you feel a connection with them. Are their followers talking to them? What creates that feeling of connection?
No-one can tell you how to market your art, though they can give you tips on where to start. You have to find your own way that represents you and your art to your own potential customers.
As I mention above, a sale is the end goal of marketing but it may take some time to get there. Let’s assume your marketing is starting to produce responses from potential buyers.
With the advent of Print on Demand (POD) services, good old fashioned face-to-face selling has become something of a lost skill. But outside of POD sales, developing a customer relationship involves communication, discussing what the customer is looking for and providing what the customer needs at a price point you are both happy with.
But are you ready to sell?
Let’s assume that you have been marketing your work and approached by a buyer. Are you ready to sell your art? For example, looking at these examples, how would you respond?
What Is Your Elevator Pitch?
Someone asks you about your work as an artist. How do you reply? What is your ‘elevator pitch’? See mine here. Practice your response out loud so it sounds easy and smooth when you say it. A lot of sales come from face-to-face encounters with friends and buyers.
This is where your website portfolio or POD storefront can really work for you, actually showing people what you do. My starting point in face-to-face or when giving public presentations is to use my portfolio on Pixels. Oh, and remember to give that person asking questions a business card (you do have a business card don’t you?).
Responding To A Licensing Request
A customer may ask you about licensing an image, how will you handle that? What prices are you going to charge under what circumstances? Do you have a contract available you could use with that customer? If you don’t know the answers take time to find out. Hesitating or sounding like you haven’t got a clue when responding to customers could kill a great deal.
I Only Buy If I Get A Discount
When a customer wants a discount what is your response? What is your policy on discounts, something you offer regularly or rarely? Are there criteria where you would offer a discount (bulk purchases for example)? Be clear how you would respond.
Let Me Use Your Image For Free
If you get a request to use a piece of your art without charge how will you respond? Again, do you have a policy on this, when it would be acceptable and when it wouldn’t. Is this a marketing opportunity that could lead to sales?
Do You Accept Commissions?
Well do you? How much do you charge? Is there an upfront deposit? What time period do you need for a commission? There are more questions about commissions but these are a good start.
Can I Buy Your Art Where I Live?
I live in Australia/UK/Singapore/Canada/ano where can I buy your work? Do you know the limitations on sales if you sell from a POD? Can you advise a customer on the best place to buy your work to take advantage of shipping costs and avoiding additional customs and delivery charges if possible? Could you arrange to make your work available quickly to someone who is not currently served by your sales sites?
Sound Confident and Professional
By having thought all these things (and more) through, you will be well prepared to respond to customer queries and hopefully close a sale. You will sound professional and confident in your dealings with your buyers.
One observation though. Customers do contact artists by email and through messages on, for example, Facebook. Speaking as a former administrator of a Facebook group, I am amazed how many artists never seem to look at, or respond to, their messages! Are you checking yours? Yes, there are scams that you have to watch out for. But you know real people contact you too!
What About My Sales?
Do I practice what I preach? How do I do on marketing and selling art? As I mention above I have a marketing plan and plans for different social and other media sites. I write blogs and guest blog too as I enjoy writing. I took a lot of time to figure out what I liked doing and spent hours looking at what other people were doing. But do I make sales?
Yes I do. I couldn’t make a living from what I earn. But then I am not trying to. I work part-time as an artist and aim to enjoy what I am doing. If something doesn’t make me happy I don’t do it, or I find a way to do it that makes me happy. I sell several things each week, sometimes a print, sometimes a throw pillow, t-shirt or a greeting card. Sometimes I sell every day for a couple of weeks then absolutely nothing for a couple of weeks or more. There is no real pattern. I have a lot of local sales as I have made the effort to make contacts and have smaller size prints easily available. I take every opportunity for face-to-face interaction that often lead to sales. Basically, I follow my marketing plan and have fun doing it.
Before you go
My name is Dorothy Berry-Lound, an artist and writer. You can find out more about my art and writing at https://dorothyberryloundart.com.
Thank you for reading!