For Artists | Maximizing your Marketing Opportunity at a Show

Artist, Sunny Raschke, at an Art and Coffee Event
Sunny Raschke

A core mission for ArtLoveMagic is to create economic opportunities for artists.  And while the shows are structured to give the artists as much exposure as possible, there are things you can do at ArtLoveMagic events to maximize your marketing.

 1) Think like a merchandizer. Retailers have developed the art of positioning products to maximize sales. And while all of the abilities that make you an artist (sense of color, balance, etc.) probably mean that your table is set up well aesthetically, you may not be taking advantage of your position in the context of the whole show.  Follow the path that participants will take in passing you.  Is your display oriented so that there is maximum view? 
2) Can people pick up on your “brand” with a glance? Consider that people’s eyes will scan the show and seek out what appeals to them. A mix of styles won’t pull people to you as well as a clearly defined brand.  People are much more likely to flow toward a space that has multiple pieces in a style that appeals to them than to seek one out of many.  Again, walk the path of the participants.  In looking across a sea of people, are you more likely to be drawn by a large grouping of similar things or a grouping of unrelated disparate pieces? Consider what your work looks like as a whole.  If you haven’t yet established a brand for yourself as an artist, this may mean that you focus a particular show on a section of your work rather than pulling from across your portfolio.  Your “brand” is what gives people the opportunity to see a piece and say, “that’s a Picasso” or “that’s a Monet” rather than that is “like a Picasso” or “like a Monet.”  (Note that branding isn’t the main goal of  artistry, but it is important in selling art.)
3) People buy stories.  Why do people pay big bucks for elephant paintings?  Because it is a great story.  Telling the story of your pieces isn’t about deconstructing what they mean, but about telling the story of how they came to be.  What inspired you to create that?  People will also buy your story. Craft your “2 minute elevator speech” about who you are as an artist.  (Note that stories are just that….stories.  You don’t have to tell the sum total of who you are. Just the parts that make a good story.)  At ArtLoveMagic’s Reach show, James O’ Barr (creator of The Crow) had a sign at his table that read something like, “Artist is not arrogant. Just shy.”  That is story.
4) Few people will buy your work the first time they see it.  So make sure they see it ahead of time or make it easy to find you later to purchase it. Major pieces are a significant investment.  And often the idea has to hang around in a potential buyer’s head for awhile before they make the decision.  Both of the pieces I purchased at GirlShow, I had seen before.  Amanda Mack’s work was photographed and posted to Facebook.  I was intrigued and knew I wanted to find her at the show.  The piece I purchased from Sunny Raschke, I had seen her create at a previous ArtLoveMagic show.
5) Set yourself up for after-the-show sales.  Having a website allows people who engaged with your work the opportunity to explore it further. (Not only that but even if they can’t quite remember your name, they will remember ArtLoveMagic which posts links to its artists sites.)  If the very thought of setting up a site makes you break out in a cold sweat, take heart.  You don’t need web development software or anything elaborate.  Simply set up a blog. and make it simple, and you can easily upload photos of your work.  (You can also utilize the “tagging” feature to create quick navigation to different types of works.)  While a blog isn’t ideal for an e-commerce site, it is a simple way to get exposure for your work (and your story).  For ease of online sales, consider setting up your blog then utilizing an store or an store to actually sell your work.  Best of all, blogs are free and Etsy stores simply take a cut of sales. 
–Cathy Hutchison

6 Responses to “For Artists | Maximizing your Marketing Opportunity at a Show”

  1. Carris Adams Says:

    Do you think work that is very personal hinders an artist from selling? All work is personal, but work that explores memories or childhood experiences, adult experiences etc.?

  2. great information Cathy! thanks for posting!

    Carris: I don’t think personal work has to be unsellable. our DNA and the totality of our experience is unique, but individual each detail and experience is shared by others. understanding how others share your experience can contribute to the sale of the art. plus, anyone can relate to the sheer virtuosity of how a piece is executed.

    for you, positioning your set up so people feel comfortable getting at your work, and learning to share the story behind the piece is especially important. it’s all about finding and capturing your niche!

  3. Good question Carris! (and I definitely invite others to join in the conversation…)

    My opinion is there are three things at work: 1) the public who buys art; 2) being true to yourself as an artist; and 3) art as catharsis.

    Starting with number 3, art can be very healing. Writers often pour out painful experiences and are healed in the act of writing them down. And some of it even makes it to the marketplace; however, before it makes it there most writers have editors who adjust the work to make it marketable.

    There is always a tension between marketability (ie. what will make you enough money to do this full time) and artistic inspiration (that thing inside you that drives you to create and to enjoy creating). In the end, people buy art they connect with. If you create something personal and it strikes a chord in someone else, then the piece will sell. (Maybe by someone who shares your experience and is healed by it too.)

  4. Carris Adams Says:

    That makes perfect sense! Thanks so much for responding.

  5. Carris Adams Says:

    I’m not sure if you’re on facebook or not, but feel free to look me up and check out my work. I am an open book and I would love to hear or read, what you think about it.

  6. Thank You Cathy! This is invaluable! – Melody Hay

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