marketing the artist

Is marketing the artist and their work any different to marketing any other product? I don’t think it is. 

I mean, let’s be frank – art is a business, and artists are the people who create the commodity from which many people earn a living. 

Think about it, recording labels sign acts they know will sell, galleries put on exhibitions to earn money from ticket sales (and possibly a commission from sales made during the exhibit) and movie studios back scripts and actors based on their bankability.  Therefore to be a viable part of this ‘revenue chain’, artists must start thinking of themselves as a small business and start behaving as such.

What does this mean? It means that artists need to act like a small business, and have plans and strategies in place. Without this, an artist like any business will struggle to earn a living from their work, and this will be for exactly the same two reasons any business does:

They don’t understand the market they are participating in or they are targeting the wrong market with the wrong product.

Marketing your arts

Now, more than ever, you as an artist have the ability to market yourselves, via the interwebs and social media, and find the right audience to which you can sell or promote your work – globally. But to do this effectively, it is vital that you approach your work like any successful business would, and develop a marketing plan.

A marketing plan will not only give you focus, it will also keep you on track and help identify who and where your market is.

Here’s a quick guide on what you need to include:

The Executive Summary: Written last, this summary gives an overview of the key points of the marketing plan. It’s called the executive summary as it is often the only page the CEO in a corporation reads. It’s good to write one as it could come in handy one day – you never know when you might need it to woo a bank manager or potential backer.

Background Analysis: Understanding the market you are working in is key to helping you understand where you fit within it. A background analysis will give you insight into what your competitors are doing (yes, you have competitors), who your target market may be (versus who you think it is), how to distribute your work and other factors that may impact on your success, including political, economic, social, technological, legal or environmental (PESTLE). You may be thinking – pfft, none of that relates to me, but break it down and you can see where it does.

  • Political – beauracracy, law making, freedom of speech, tariffs & taxes can all impact your work and how you take it to market
  • Economic – inflation, interest rates, disposable income, recession can all impact your target market and their ability to spend on ‘luxury’ or discretionary items, including art
  • Social – cultural trends and demographics that can influence demand for your work
  • Technological – think internet speed, advances in production technology, e-commerce which could positively or negatively impact how you work (think digital designers) or get it to market
  • Legal – societal laws, consumer laws, employment laws, trade laws can all influence your ability to work and demand for your work
  • Environmental – weather patterns, climate change, natural resources could impact the materials you use or where you do your work

SWOT Analysis: The SWOT analysis covers off the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats relevant to you and the market you are working in. Strengths and weaknesses are inward facing and are all about you as a person/artist. They are tough to do, and funnily enough the strengths are harder than the weaknesses, but it’s a good idea to ask a peer or friend to help you with this.

Opportunities and threats are outward facing and are all about the market you are operating in. Opportunities could be advances in technology if you are a digital artist, a threat could be competitor’s entering the market copying what you do.

Marketing Strategy & Objectives: This section is the engine room of the plan and spells out your ‘game plan’. The objectives and strategy need to relate to your SWOT and background analysis, and because of this they are personal to you and what you are doing.

Here’s a quick example:

  • Strategy – Leader strategy
  • Goal – be the number one steel sculpture in the region/country/world
  • Objectives – secure 5 key exhibits at tier 1 galleries over the next 24 months

The Marketing Mix:  Most people have heard of the P’s of marketing, and this is where they come in. The marketing mix spells out how each of the P’s, such as price, product, place, packaging, people, positioning and promotion will be manipulated to achieve the objectives and strategy. Information you have gathered in the background analysis will help you set your approach here.

For example:

  • Price – you may set a premium price level for your work because you know your target market can and will pay it.
  • Product – This relates to your work, what you are creating and how it can be classified. Many artists struggle with this as they don’t want to ‘commoditise’ their work, however if you are looking to sell your work, you need to be able to classify it. A photographer creates prints for sale. A sculptor may create sculptures suited for the garden so these would be landscape sculptures. If you are a multi-disciplinary artist, classifying by product will help you align product to different target audience segments – giving you more people to sell to (winning).
  • Place – Place is all about where you will sell your work. This must align with where & how your target audience buys your work. Will you sell direct, through commissions or through galleries? Will you create an online shop or go through a broker? Will you sell through etsy or ebay?
  • Promotions – how will you advertise yourself and your work? How will people find out about you? Social media, networking, via collaboration.

The Action Plan: This bit tackles who, when and what needs to be done to ensure your plan can be implemented and importantly to ensure it is successful. If it’s just you, then put some timelines around what needs to be done and prioritise them, so that your plan becomes a bit more manageable.

Budget: Before you switch off and say you have no money, a budget covers off both spend and income. Pull together an outline of what you anticipate spending to ahieve your goals, for example cost to promote yourself, attend an international art festival, submit artwork to exhibitions or create your online shopfront, as well as what you are anticipating earning from your sales. The budget ties in with the action plan and the objectives.

Measurement and Monitoring: In order to know if your marketing plan is successful and your objectives are being met, your plan needs to be measured and monitored. Give some thought into how and when you will check in on your plan, and importantly any back up ideas that may be needed should there be adverse market conditions that could impact you or your target market, such as a recession.

The marketing plan is one of the most important documents you can have and care should be taken when developing it. However whilst a marketing plan can take time to complete, it doesn’t need to consist of tens of pages – it can be one page or a diagram if you can articulate it well enough.

Keep it simple, and make sure it is flexible enough that it can be easily adapted to suit any changes in your market conditions.

Need a hand writing your marketing plan? We can help you or your team get on top of writing a marketing plan, to find out how jump on to the website or contact me direct.

About Zena Churchill

Zena Churchill is a Director at Max & Buddy Consulting. She has worked in senior level business roles across national and multinational corporations, as well as being a small business owner. Zena is a strategic thinker and brings a practical, straight-forward approach to marketing and social media. She has a passion for training & development running practical business workshops for small business. Zena is a Certified Practising Marketer (AMI), sometimes tutors in Marketing at the University of Wollongong and is a Senior Consultant with Trinity P3.

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