Why I Hate Marketing

Dear Artist Friends,

I hate marketing.

There, I feel better now that I’ve said it. 

I hate marketing when it’s sleazy. I hate marketing when it’s dishonest. I hate marketing when it exaggerates. I hate marketing when it lies or it misleads.

Most of the artists I know also hate marketing. They think it’s dirty.

In fact, most of the artists I know believe that art should sell itself. That someone should see it, respond to it, and buy it.

I’d like that too.

I’d also like it if I sat down at the counter of a soda fountain in Hollywood and had a producer walk in, discover me, and make me famous. That’s what supposedly happened to Lana Turner, a 1940s Hollywood star. But it turns out it’s a myth — it never happened. It was crafted by a Hollywood PR agent so people would feel more connected to this new star as “one of them.”

Tens of thousands of young wannabe stars show up in Hollywood hoping to be discovered. And those tens of thousands get whittled down to a few hundred who ever get a part, a few who become famous, and a tiny number who stay famous.

Though most in Hollywood want to believe that luck plays a role, most Hollywood agents will tell you that the ones who succeed make their own luck because they outwork everyone else. These “lucky” people do 20 times more auditions, they meet 20 times more people, and they work 20 times as hard. And once they get famous, they keep working 20 times harder because they know that Hollywood is littered with out-of-work “has-been” actors who got lazy once they got famous.

It turns out that marketing your art is similar. The ones who succeed, the ones who get “discovered,” work 20 times harder than most. The ones who succeed continue to market for as long as they plan on selling artwork.

In Hollywood, once you get one part, it helps you to get another and another, if you keep working the system. Art, too, has momentum. Sales lead to sales, as long as you remain visible and continue to get attention.

Marketing is NOT about luck. It’s also not about needing to do anything dirty, sleazy, or dishonest. Most marketing isn’t that.

It’s also not always about talent. There are lots of success stories about people who are not the most talented.

Like the Hollywood actors who are showing up and promoting themselves, it’s the same for artists. Show up and promote yourself. Do it over and over and over.

Showing up in the case of an artist means being seen and finding appropriate and tasteful ways to get noticed. Nothing more.

Showing up can mean mounting an exhibition or show and making sure the world knows about it. It can mean advertising. It can mean social media. It can mean direct mail … postcards, letters, personal notes.

Of course, massive action can work best … doing them all (and more) all at once. 

Luck comes in when you get fast results, which is rare. Most get lucky by building and keeping momentum … showing up again and again, day after day, week after week, year after year.

I watched an artist’s career launched by massive action … showing up constantly and consistently for about five straight years. 

Then I watched that career decline because the artist decided he was famous and known and no longer needed to do all that hard work. Today no one knows his name, and he is broke. We mistakenly believe that we can market till we see success, then stop.

A commitment to marketing is no different than opening the doors of a store. If your doors are open, the store has to work hard to keep people walking in those doors. Than means continuous advertising, creative promotion, and other things to draw attention for as long as you want customers. When you stop, they stop showing up.

Believe it or not, people are not thinking about you or me all the time. In fact, if we’re not visible, we’re out of mind. (We mistakenly think we’re being seen on social media, but social isn’t being seen by everyone, or even everyone on your friend or follower list.) Therefore we have to determine who the buyers are, where they spend time, and that’s where we need to be … constantly. 

In Hollywood it’s considered career death if your face stops appearing in People magazine. As an artist, if they’re not writing about you, if you’re not advertising and not being seen by the people who continually spend on art, if they are not reading about you (people often confuse advertising with editorial, and that makes them feel like they’re reading about you), and if you’re not staying visible and generating publicity with new shows and exhibitions, you can easily be forgotten.

If you’ve ever found yourself confused about marketing or what to do, just know that anything consistent and frequent is better than waiting around doing nothing because you’re not sure what to do. I’ve built entire careers on advertising alone, which is the most powerful form of marketing other than editorial. The difference is that you can’t get publicity consistently and can’t control if or when you get it. But you can control your advertising.

Consider this. If you want to make a living as an artist, you have to open the door to your “business” and continually work to get people to walk in the door. You can do it tastefully or distastefully. You can blend in by being like everyone else, or you can stand out. But if you do it consistently and never stop, you will be the success you’ve always dreamed of.

 

By |2019-07-15T12:06:01-04:00July 15th, 2019|Business, Sales|0 Comments

What One Marketing Method Would You Use If You Were Just Getting Started?

Louise Murphy of Fredericksburg, Texas, asks, “What one marketing method would you use if you were just getting started?”

Well, I know you’re eager to get out and start marketing.

But Louise, before you do anything, before you get your work out there and start selling, you need to know where you want to go — before you go there. You don’t get in your car and start driving before you have a destination in mind. Same for this: Before you start marketing, you need to set your goal. Then you’ll build a strategy and tactics to get you to that goal.

I suggest starting small, and building out from there. When getting started, you just want to focus on a couple of things — the important first steps, so to speak. I’d suggest setting one, maybe two goals for things you’d absolutely die to achieve in the next six months.

For instance, if you haven’t sold any of your paintings before, maybe you’d like to sell your first painting and get some money for it. That’s an admirable and achievable first goal; it’s always a really good starting goal for a painter. Or maybe your goal is to find someone to sell your art for you, like an art gallery, or perhaps you’d like to find a partnership where you could display your art for sale in a local restaurant.

It’s so important that you set some basic goals before you do anything.

Secondly, you need to find three really honest people who are professionals and will tell you the truth. People who will tell you if your art is ready or if it still needs some work before you’re ready to start selling. I don’t recommend asking family or close friends; rather, I suggest that those three people could be fellow artists, art gallery owners, or other professionals who know what makes a market-ready piece of art. It’s critical to know if your work is ready for prime time, so to speak. If all three are saying it’s ready, then you probably should have been selling already. If two out of the three really honest people say it’s ready to go to market, then you should try to fix the problem identified by the person who disagrees, but you should still try to start selling while you work on it.

Once you set a goal, then you start to collect the e-mail addresses and mailing addresses of people interested in your work.

One strategy that will be important for your goal of selling is sending people to a website to view your art, so you’ll need to start building a site to show your finished work. You’ll want to get comfortable talking about your work and telling the stories behind your paintings, and maybe blogging about your work as well. These are all important things for new artists getting started.

Building a website, talking about your art, making e-mail and mailing lists of the names of people who like your work … these can all be goals for an artist who’s just starting out. And they’re all things that other successful artists did at some point in their early career.

There are lots of companies that can build a website for you — you don’t have to become too technical or build something from scratch all on your own. Work with people who work with other artists; you’ll want to be sure you’re showcasing your best work.

Once you’ve got a website and a handful of people who are interested in your work and are on that list of yours, you can start working on getting those people to visit your website, and then, hopefully, getting them to buy your artwork.

To summarize: Set goals. Keep them achievable. Make sure your artwork is good enough. Accumulate and capture a list of people who like your art. Build a website, get comfortable talking about your art, and start directing people who have an interest in your work back to your website.

I hope, Louis, that helps you understand a solid art startup.

Interested in growing your art sales and income? Read my best-selling book Make More Money Selling Your Art: Proven Techniques for Turning Your Passion Into Profit.

 

By |2019-01-24T14:07:06-04:00August 22nd, 2018|Business, Sales|0 Comments

Are First Impressions Killing Your Art Sales?

 

Last week I gathered my family for our annual visit to a local history museum that we love very much. We’ve been members for years. In fact, I’d received a membership renewal e-mail the week before, which is why the museum became top of mind, prompting us to visit. Thinking I’d be at the front desk to check in anyway, I’d simply renew my membership on the spot, which would probably be faster than taking time online. (I know, it sounds backward.)

We arrived, were asked if we were members, and of course I said we were, and that I had just received a renewal notice. “Sir, you’re not a member. You must be mistaken. You don’t show up in our system.” I was frustrated, but I recognize that people often spell my name wrong, or try to use the name on my credit card, which is not what I go by. Still no results. The looking went on for 10 minutes while my family waited impatiently. Finally, the woman at the desk, sounding angry and frustrated herself, said, “You’re not a member, never have been a member. Would you like to become a member? All you need to do is fill out this form.”

Not wanting to take more time, I simply said, “I’d just like to buy tickets.” At which time I was told, “You’ll have to go to that line over there.” I said, “There is no one at that desk.” “Oh, she’s around somewhere, you’ll have to wait.” I waited, the employee returned, and I overpaid for tickets because I didn’t have my membership.

Sadly, when I get frustrated or disquieted, I lose my joy for a few minutes, and I was grumbling under my breath about the museum. And I kept finding problems. Ultimately, though we go there every year, we decided it was not all that great anymore, so we probably won’t return. And I started to question my own memory. Maybe I wasn’t a member. Of course, that changed today, when another membership renewal notice came by e-mail.

What has this got to do with marketing art?

Every first impression matters. It sets the tone.

If someone goes to your website and can’t find what they are looking for, it sets a tone of frustration. They may have gone there looking for a particular painting, or to check you out, and the second they get frustrated, they leave, and they probably won’t come back.

Or you’re in a booth in a tent show. Someone sees something they want to buy, but you’re busy with a line of other customers and they can’t get your attention, or they hear “I’ll be with you in a minute.” They may wait, or they may tell themselves they will come back later, or they could leave in frustration. Maybe they are in a rush and can’t wait. In any case, you may have lost a sale.

Maybe someone sees your work somewhere and sends you an e-mail, but you’re out at a show and not checking your in-box. What you don’t know is that they are having a big party on Friday, they want that big painting on your website, and you’re not responding. Or perhaps they call and get your voicemail and they don’t leave a message, or they find your message box full — or they simply want to talk to you right now.

You may be thinking, “I’m only human. I can only do so much.” True, but customers think differently. And in these days of instant communication and Amazon purchases, they expect what they want, exactly when they want it. Not five days from now.

In person, first impressions matter too. You’re at an art show and the customer doesn’t feel you’re dressed appropriately, doesn’t like the quality of your frames, thinks the lighting in your booth is bad. Little things have a big impact.

Though you can’t please everyone all the time (and some people are just cranky), just remember that first impressions set the tone for your brand in the customer’s mind. You may have spent thousands of dollars over many years building a brand in a customer’s mind, yet once they decide to take action, their impression changes based on their first real encounter. Either it reinforces your reputation and brand, it’s neutral, or it hurts.  

Though you’re “just one person” and “just an artist who can’t do everything and can’t afford help,” know that you could be losing business. If the phone rings three times and isn’t picked up, they may call the next artist on their list. If you answer “Hold, please,” you’ll lose half of the people who call. If the type on your website is too small to read on a phone, they will probably leave.

To solve this, do a first impressions audit. Ask yourself about every customer entry point and if it is customer-friendly and fine-tuned to give customers what they need the moment they need it. Ask some friends to evaluate everything. See if you can improve it. Though it may cost you money to fix any issues, consider it money well spent in order to capture customers.

First impressions matter, and if you’re in the business of selling art, you’re in business — and that means customers expect the same from you as they would any other business. One painting sale lost a year is too many. If you do an audit, you can fix a lot of little things, and that could mean a change in your sales.

By |2019-01-24T14:13:15-04:00July 26th, 2018|Business, Sales|0 Comments

The Empty Building: What You May Be Missing as an Artist

Minutes from my home, in a very popular part of town, I’ve watched a new office building go up as I pass when driving our kids to and from school each day. Now, after months of construction, the building is ready and available for tenants. The sign went up long before the building was finished, and yet today, months after it’s been finished, it sits empty.

Keep in mind that Austin is booming, companies are leasing space like crazy, and all the neighboring buildings are full.

So what’s the problem? And what does this have to do with marketing art?

Several weeks ago when looking for space for a new studio to shoot art instruction films for Streamline Art Video, I decided this would be a great building to lease part of the space. So I decided to call. But driving by the building, I couldn’t read the phone number. My vision isn’t perfect, but it’s not that bad. So I had to drive into the lot, get close, and copy down the number. That’s mistake number one. Designers tend to go for beauty over practicality. Make sure you understand the distance when someone is viewing your ads, website, etc. For instance, on the phone most websites look bad, but they look good on a computer screen. Problem is that 80 percent of all Internet use is on the phone.

The Phone Call

My call went like this…

“XYZ Properties, can I help you?”

“Yes, I’m interested in the building on 123 Street. Can you tell me something about it?”

“Hold, please.”

Ring … Ring … Ring … Ring… “Hi, this is Bob from XYZ Properties. Please leave a message.”

“Bob, my name is Eric and I’m interested in renting your building at 123 Street. Please phone me — I am ready to move in as quickly as possible.”

Bob never called. Not an hour later. Not a day later. Not a month or now, even two months later.

Oh, I may have missed his call. It’s possible it’s in my phone somewhere. But I looked and I didn’t see it there, nor did I see any additional missed calls.

Now perhaps Bob has a deal and has the whole place rented and decided there is no reason to call. Yet there it sits, two months later, with no cars outside and the “Now Leasing” sign still up.

If Bob does have it rented, a call to me is still important because … you should always return calls. Even if you think there is no reason to. What if I wanted to hire the company to manage my real estate? What if they had a space in another building that was perfect for me? What if I wanted to buy their company? What if I wanted to reach Bob to offer him a job? Sometimes the message left is a smokescreen for the real reason behind a call.

The second reason it’s important to return calls? Now his company has a bad reputation in my eyes.

The even bigger issue, and what I suspect is the truth, is that Bob is lazy. Maybe he never heard my message. Maybe he forgot to call. Or maybe he just hasn’t gotten around to it.

In the sales business, we call people like me a “hot lead.” I was interested at that moment. Fact is, I found another building and have since moved in. I’m no longer a hot lead.

How does this apply to art?

Let’s say someone sends you a note, or calls you, and you don’t know why they got in touch. They want to get a birthday painting for their spouse, but they don’t say that because they don’t want to be sold. But 24 hours pass, and you haven’t called back yet because you are busy. Or maybe you left a message and they didn’t call back, and you didn’t try again.

Finally, when you do reach them, you find out the birthday-gift need was that day, last-minute. And you not only lost a sale, you lost a customer for life.

Now you may be thinking, “I don’t want to be too aggressive,” “I don’t want to appear desperate or needy,” or just, “They will call back.” But what if they lost your number? What if they’ve got busy and have been tied up, and forgot to call you back?

When someone calls you, they are giving you permission to reach them, even if you have to call more than once. Your message might simply be, “Your call is important. I want to make sure I follow up with you.” But at least call once.

The key is to call back as quickly as humanly possible. Make them feel important. If you don’t reach them, call a couple more times at least. If you can find them on LinkedIn or Facebook, send them a message.

You never know what is on someone’s mind. Always follow up as fast as possible.

We are living in an e-mail and texting culture, and there is a generation of people who don’t use phones to call, but only text. If this is the case, the text and e-mail information should be on the sign. (Always provide multiple options to reach you on EVERYTHING you do.)

My guess is that Bob is lazy and the building will sit empty till Bob’s boss find someone else to fill it.

Eric

PS: I’m doing a weekly blog called Sunday Coffee, where I talk about art, life and just stuff that interests me. You can subscribe or read it at www.coffeewitheric.com.

By |2019-01-24T14:13:04-04:00February 28th, 2018|Business, Sales|0 Comments

Tattoo This Inside Your Eyelids!

Recently, I was in the market for a product. Once the salesperson got me on the phone, this is what I heard: “Mr. Rhoads, this is the best product on the market, light years ahead of our competition. I can get it for you at a really good price right now. In fact, I can take 20 percent off the top.”

Here’s what went through my head as he spoke:
Salesperson: “Mr. Rhoads…”
My thoughts: I hate to be called Mr. Rhoads: It drives a wedge between us, making the salesperson seem alien.
Salesperson: “This is the best product on the market…”
My thoughts: Says who? Prove it. More important, I want the product that will work for ME. I will determine who has the best product. He’ll say it’s the best, but I can’t believe him: He’s the one selling it.
Salesperson: “Light years ahead of our competition…”
My thoughts: I didn’t know there was another company. I wonder who the competition is? I’ll trick him into telling me their names, then I’ll call them. If this guy feels compelled to mention the competition, he must be losing sales to them. There must be a reason.
Salesperson: “I can get you a really good price right now…”
My thoughts: I was willing to pay the price on the website, and he’s dropping it already. They must be overpriced. I’d better check the competition. Buying one right away from this company would obviously be a mistake.
Salesperson: “I can take 20 percent off the top.”
My thoughts: Something is really wrong here. If he starts with 20 percent, I can probably get 60 percent off, or more. Now that I know he can drop the price, I’ll keep saying no and see how far it comes down.

I called this guy’s competition without mentioning the first company. The competition’s salesperson immediately asked about my needs. She probed, asked questions, established value for her product, and finally got to pricing. When she stated the price, I gasped. (I was trained to do that, weren’t you?) She didn’t flinch or defend, so I asked, “Can you do better on the price?” I tried a couple more times in a couple different ways, but I ended up buying the product at full price. I was happy about the price from the beginning, but I always ask for a better price.

You probably have battle scars from tough clients who beat you up on price. It’s just plain stupid, however, to give in quickly or — heaven forbid — offer deals before establishing value and need. My friend Dave Gifford once told me, “Never, Ever Offer Price Before Value Is Established.” You should tattoo these words inside your eyelids.

Don’t assume your client knows about your competitors. Mentioning your competition only invites your customer to play you against the competition.

If you sell on price from the start, you’ve already lost the game. Word gets around. Get the rate. Be firm. Be willing to walk away. If your customer is haggling on price, 1) you’ve not established value, 2) you’ve failed to fulfill a need, or 3) they’re ready to buy and just fishing for a lower price.

Price is not the most important thing. It’s what’s going on in your customer’s head. Learn their thoughts; then watch your close rate skyrocket.

11/24/03  Radio Ink Magazine. By B.Eric Rhoads

By |2005-02-04T02:56:38-04:00February 4th, 2005|Sales|1 Comment