- by Barney Davey
Do this right though and you will have others clamoring to participate when they see the success you are enjoying. Tie-in with an established local charity to create a win-win for it and your group.
Here it is: Create your own viable sustainable distribution channel in the form of a referral network. You start it and you will be king or queen at least long enough to mould it to your needs and desires.
In another career, unrelated to the art business, I was involved in a Business Networking International (BNI) group. BNI has more than 4,000 chapters worldwide. Each chapter consists of local business owners seeking use a strong referral market to grow their business.
BNI is successful because it monitors the level of participation from each member. It has a motto, "Givers Gain." The idea is to meet for breakfast or lunch weekly and exchanges referrals among the members. Each meeting, one member gives a presentation on his her business. The other members give a clocked one-minute presentation. I'm here to tell you it works although the monitoring can be somewhat onerous at times. And, the pressure to produce quality referrals can be difficult.
Create Your Own Power Marketing Partners
Within each BNI group, there are Power Marketing Partners. These are mini-groups comprised of professions that have a natural affinity to each other. For example, an insurance agent, a financial planner, a real estate agent and mortgage broker all have clientele in various stages of need that should allow easy referrals. This is especially true when you have gotten to know someone and have had positive feedback on how they conduct themselves.
My thought here is to start an Art Marketing Group based on BNI's Power Partner theory. As a local artist, who would be your best candidates for such a group? I think it would be a picture framer, an interior designer, an art gallery, an upscale home furnishings, decorative accessory boutique or high-end gift shop. It might also include a home builder, or a local hip coffee shop or restaurant that likes to support the arts.
I used to get my haircut at a salon that has a gallery and supports local artists. (She's closed on my current days off.) The wife of one of the members of my former BNI group runs a day spa and also does shows and uses her walls to support local galleries. If you have a winery, or even a local brewery, you might include them.
Begin with a Core Group of Your Best Prospects
Start small. Get a core group of three or four like minded promotional marketing oriented members together to hammer out some details. There is lots of information on running referral groups to be found on the Internet. I suggest making yours less demanding than the typical BNI group. Instead, make it more toward planning joint ventures and events that would benefit all the members. Putting lots of restrictions and "must do" on creative types would probably fail anyway.
Decide what you want to do. Have a semi-annual or quarterly event. Have monthly meetings to exchange ideas and referrals. Figure out how to pool marketing dollars and create interest with the local media by doing something extraordinary. Decide how much work, effort and expense will be required. There is no point in recruiting a great prospect if she or he is not capable of making the full commitment to the success of the group. Meet regularly to keep up enthusiasm and to encourage or help anyone struggling to stay on board.
Don't Let Anyone Struggling to Keep Up Let You Down
Keep tabs on the strugglers, but don't let anyone take the group down. Be firm they have to produce or they will have to be replaced. If you get the right people to start, this will be far less of a problem. That means being tough and smart enough to not include friends who fit the description, but whom you already know to be over involved or incapable of making the necessary contribution.
This is not a quick fix suggestion. It will take some time, leadership and organizational skills to get an idea like this off the ground. Do it right though and you will have others clamoring to participate when they see the success you are enjoying. Tie-in with an established local charity to create a win-win for it and your group. You will be able to tap its membership and visibility with local and regional media to add more buzz to your events.