Asked in a online forum recently:
I am thinking about what I could do differently for the next year for my shows and I am thinking about whether involving a marketing company to do some marketing in the city where the show is held would make a large enough difference to sales to cover the costs. […] Not sure how much the cost would be, but my thoughts are to do a test with a local show, use a marketing company to work on a solid branding as well as get an article in the paper as well as give me a couple of ads to run, that I could then in other towns/cities in advance of shows there. Has anyone had any experiences with this to say that the increase in sales outweighs the cost for the kind of business we do.
Based on my experience in agencies as a creative director, you may find it difficult to find a full-service marketing company affordable enough to make it cost-effective. It sounds like what you may need is a freelance public relations person, who can get you placements with the local media. Buying ads is probably not going to help you as much as personalized appearances and mentions in the news. Think about your audience. Do they read the newspaper? Is there a local magazine? Will they see your ad and remember it when the show comes around? Radio and television advertising is too scattershot to do you much good, except as news.
If you can get interviewed a day before the show, or during the show on the local news, that’s always good. Free publicity will work better than paid advertising IMHO. Even advertising in the local show program is not generally as effective as you might think. Sure, you’ve got targeted eyeballs in the show program, but most people spend a few seconds at most with each page, often scanning the information, and saving it for when they get home.
Develop Your Own Brand
You might be better off hiring an artist consultant rather than an agency to help you define what differentiates you from similar artists. If you’re creative (and what artist isn’t?), you can do a lot of the marketing part yourself. Especially the branding and design of your materials. (See http://www.wishfulthinking.co.uk/2010/06/07/artists-creatives-internet-marketing/)
Most importantly, you want your brand to reflect your work and your personality as an artist.You may want to hire a designer to help you work on your branding, if you feel that you can’t handle it on your own. Designers, while good at working with the look and content of your materials, may not be the best fit for ad placement and media advice however. It should start with a logo that clearly defines you as an artist, and extends to the look and feel of all of your marketing materials. This includes your business card, letterhead and envelope, your artist statement, booth signage, price tags, your postcards, leave-behinds, portfolio, web site — anything that finds its way into your customer’s hands. Separate your branding assignment from your advertising needs. Once you have a solid brand, then think about how best to increase awareness of it. Is advertising the best vehicle? or should you spend more time working on direct marketing? What about social networking?
Advertise Only as a Last Resort
If you do decide that you want to run some advertising, make sure that it matches the rest of your branding. Developing ads takes a while — there is a systematic process that you go through to determine what you need, how to get there and how to execute. Many marketing companies do this in a similar fashion, but call it different things. Essentially: Discover, Define, Design, Develop, Deploy. If you shortcut the process, especially the first two, you may not get what you need. The main thing to remember in advertising that multiple impressions is what usually drives traffic (and sales). And for art show artists, that’s difficult to do on a limited budget.
Focus on Public Relations
My suggestion is to work on your brand, and focus your attention on public relations & networking activities in those cities that you want to target, rather than spending your hard-earned money on fleeting media placements. Work on getting in front of your target audience through local appearances, interviews, speaking engagements and social networking.
For more advice on marketing, check out Alyson Stanfield’s web sites, or sign up for Ariane Goodwin’s Smartist Summit 2011:
Alyson’s book “I’d Rather be in the Studio” is also a good read and well worth the money.
Ariane Goodwin’s blog can be found at:
I love that you are steering artists away from advertising. There are so many “nearly” free ways to get the word out these days that self-promotion is the way to go – esp. for artists who are unsure of themselves.
Having to self-promote pretty much guarantees that you will start to pay attention to the details of presentation that set you and your art apart.
I have one thought about branding. Because of the social media paradigm, branding is as much about the artist as the art – though if you look at some of the greats, i.e., O’Keeffe, who she was as an artist had as much appeal as her art. So, in some ways, the story never changes, just the scenery and the players.
I’m really excited to have artist Lori McNee coming to speak at the smARTist conference this year because she’s discovered ways to brand using social media – the new kid on the block! (And of course, I discovered her on Twitter!).
Thanks for your comments, Ariane! The thing about marketing and promotion is that it does take time. Advertising seems like a good way to let lots of people know about your work, but the end result is just too scattershot to be effective. And it’s very expensive compared to the alternatives.
And it’s great that Lori will be at your conference. I’ve followed her on Twitter for a while now. Good stuff. (@lorimcneeartist on twitter)