When it comes to art marketing, there can be a lot of confusion about what works, what doesn't and where to start. Whether you're a seasoned, experienced artist who's been creating for many years or a hobbyist just trying to take it to the next level, knowing how to sell your art is of primo importance!
Art Marketing is about the "Special Factor"
I've had the privilege of creating sculpture both part-time and full-time for almost 25 years. After moving to Asheville, North Carolina in 2009, I opened a studio in the River Arts District and began selling my work full-time. Like a lot of artists, I did the typical things like running around to craft shows, selling wholesale to shops and "hoping" for customers. For me - and remember, everyone's different - that kind of selling drove me crazy! Shows were fickle, my work didn't sell great in stores or galleries because I wasn't there to talk about it and the hope strategy... well, let's just say that doesn't work. Hope is not a viable strategy for how to sell your art.
Thankfully, because of my background in marketing and the fact that I am a people person, I recognized early on in my full-time art career that people pay top dollar for 2 things: special and connection. What does that mean, you ask?
First of all, people are willing to pay a premium for things they feel are out of the ordinary, unique or special, especially if they align with their values. Now keep in mind, we're not talking about your average Wal-mart shopper here. I'm talking about people who are genuinely interested in your art and have the means to pay for it. When your work and your reputation is seen as something to be noticed, something to be valued, not ordinary or run-of-the-mill, all of a sudden, people start to take notice. That's what happened to me. I create sculpture primarily for luxury mountain homes and I love it. One of the things I did to help leverage the "special factor" of my work was to make a decision to install all my own work (when possible) and ask if I could take pictures once installed. Consequently, I have tons of gorgeous images of my work in multi-million dollar homes. Now, when prospective buyers are considering my work, they immediately see "Wow, this guy's work is special... look at who's buying his work." It lets my customers know that I'm someone to be collected and considered worthy of a significant investment.
Art Marketing is about Authentic Connection
The other huge concept I employ in my business naturally, because I enjoy building relationships with people, is connection. I've found over the years that people who are making a significant investment in a piece of art want more than just a commoditized retail experience. They want a relationship. By and large, whether it's buying my work or the work of friends of mine who are painters, sculptors, ceramicists, jewelers or whatever, clients who are serious about purchasing hand-made, original art really enjoy building relationships with the artists from whom they purchase. It's fun for them and for us to get to know them, what they like, what they like about our work and deepen that relationship over time through multiple purchases and referrals to their friends.
I have a studio here in Asheville's River Arts District which is open 6 days a week to the public. Nothing gives me more pleasure than to hear one of my clients coming through the door with a friend or out of town visitor saying something like "Oh, this is the guy I was telling you about..." All of a sudden, they've become my marketing department and a genuine friend.
This same kind of connection is very important even if you're selling through strategic partners like interior designers or gallery / shop owners. Take time to go visit them, learn what sells in their stores, understand their clientele and then work to make them look great! I have a friend up who has a beautiful furniture store in a very wealthy area and she has a trunk show for me every couple of years. That one relationships has produced more than any other relationship in my art career simply because every time I go to that area, I stop by and say hello. I send flowers after a referral. I treat her customers very well. Yes, you guessed it: I'm building connection.
3 Tips for Your Art Marketing
If you're wanting to employ the special factor and connection into your art marketing strategy, I'd recommend starting with the following:
Art Marketing is Much More Than Selling
Listen, marketing your art and yourself is much more than simply learning how to sell your art. It's about creating an image that reflects your uniqueness in the niche you're targeting and then working to build authentic connections within that niche of clients, partners and prospects. Learn to do that well and you'll never struggle to sell your artwork. If you don't, you'll be reduced to doing what everyone else does, shlepping around your stuff to every art or craft show that will let you in, wondering who's going to buy your widget this time. You can thrive if you'll focus on the special factor and on building connection.
My absolute favorite marketing video that exemplifies this way of selling is below called "A Tour Guide to the Two Plants: NEO & Traditional." Do yourself a favor and watch it. Then comment below to let me know your thoughts. Also, for more strategies on how to sell your art, check out my artist mentorship program called "Created to Thrive". Tons of teaching videos, activities and a private Facebook community as well as live q/a sessions with me to help you thrive as an artist.
Matt Tommey is an artist, author and mentor who is passionate about empowering artists to thrive spiritually, artistically and in business.