These art marketing tools are like building blocks. Learning to use them and interweave them with each other is how you can efficiently grow your art business. They are not the be all to end all. You still need great, desirable work, finely tuned artist’s statement and bio, online galleries and more. Those are for another conversation or post.
Lists like this one are by nature arguable. I agree some useful tools may not be included. Feel free to add your comments below. What I will strenuously argue is if visual artists incorporate these tools and their suggested use is that their careers will benefit, hugely.
For visual artists, there are tons of art marketing tools available. Sometimes, it is a matter of choosing which ones are best for your situation. Check out your best competition, and you will find these top ten tools nearly universally in use.
Today, if you don’t have a presence on the Internet, you are mired way back in the 20th Century and going nowhere fast. Your most basic building block and your most valuable online tool is a domain name. A meaningful domain name lays the foundation for Internet marketing, and it has bottom line intellectual property value. Try searching for “GoDaddy or Namecheap $.99 domains” to find a low starting price for your domain.
With you, the artist, being a brand, it is preferable you have your name as part of your domain name. Your name is the most searchable term relating to your business and your brand. It makes sense to include it in your domain name. Never, ever, ever let anyone own your domain name for you in their account. If you are in such an arrangement, open an account at a registrar and get your domain transferred to your account, immediately!
You do not want to be in the position of asking for access to your domain or scrambling to gain control of your domain because a well-meaning family member or flaky web dev crapped out on you. Even it is your name in the domain, if you are not the registrant and account owner, you can lose your domain and be powerless to do anything about it.
You need your own piece of internet real estate; something that is exclusively yours. It is a common view for many people that if you do not have a website, you don’t exist, or at least are not a viable, real business. Domain and website go hand in glove. Don’t go cheap on your website and make it look amateurish. It needs to be equal to the care and value you place on making your art. If you are not up to the task, hire a competent professional to help you.
There are all kinds of solutions. Some cookie cutter deals, some templates that you cannot download and move to another host, and others where you own the hosting account. The latter is preferable as it gives you the most control over your website. There are circumstances where this is not practical, but I believe you should strive to make it happen for you if you can. WordPress is a viable solution for artists who have some tech skills or can get reliable help from someone who does.
Websites built for artists are another option. ArtStoreFronts and FASO are two excellent examples, although there are more if you spend time researching for them. Both offers features such as blogs, email marketing, and marketing advice. ArtStoreFronts gives artists the option to sell framed digital fine art prints from their websites. The marketing help on both is excellent. A difference is ASF puts more emphasis on with specific help on how to succeed using its platform. FASO taps the advice of staffers and top artists to provide useful, but more generic information.
You own a domain name, right? Then get an email address to use with it. Gmail, AOL, Yahoo, Hotmail, and anything from an ISP, such as Comcast, Cox are not professional. This is a minor cost to upgrade and add to your online Internet presence. Get weaned off these kinds of addresses as soon as possible. Don’t forward your personalized email to your Gmail and then reply from Gmail. That is confusing, bad form, and a waste of energy tracking your mail across multiple providers.
Get setup on IMAP instead of POP so you can sync your email across your all the devices you use to access it. Or, get a Google Suites paid account or Microsoft Office 365. Zoho.com/mail offers a free option. Taking the easy way by using a freebie email account is not the way to save time or money. It is the way to look cheap, and less professional than you could be. Save on something else and invest in the best you can afford for hosting and email. These are your long-term bread and butter tools. Go first class with them.
I keep an eye open for what I believe is the best email service provider for artists. My current favorite is Mailerlite. It is free for up to the first 1,000 subscribers. The free service includes access to all its features, including marketing automation, which is something you should know more about. I cover it in my How to Market Art Online book. Basically, with marketing automation, you send a subscriber a pre-set number of emails separated by pre-set intervals. The emails are controlled by triggers, such as a purchase, an anniversary or other dates, or inquiry, or opt-in. This kind of marketing gives you more ways to promote and sell your art. Mailchimp offers free as well. But you don’t have full use of useful applications such as the ability to send a drip campaign. Plus, I find it to be the most confusing ESP I’ve ever used.
You need to start collecting email addresses everywhere you can.These email marketing programs provide opt-in forms and links to use on your website, in your email, and on your blog. Don’t stop there. Be active when in public to get permission to add emails addresses to your list. Make sure to get authorization to keep within the Can-Spam Laws. Some providers have an app for a tablet, such as an iPad, that you can use at shows to gather email addresses. Make use of your list to keep it current. Send to it at least monthly, if not more often.
A blog can be an incredible art marketing tool for you. I have published many about posts about the inherent value that blogging offers artists. Jason Horejs and I have devoted two of our monthly free broadcasts to blogging for artists. If you are intimidated by the idea or feel like you don’t have enough time, you should get over your misconceptions, because that is what they are.
Start by following the artists you admire who have blogs. Narrow it down to the best and study what they do. You will find rhythms and patterns in what they do. That is what you want for your blog. It is the single best way for you to expand your voice, become more attractive and personal with your followers than anything else you do. It is a marketing tool, a communication tool, an e-commerce tool, an email gathering tool, and more. You can’t get all that from any other art marketing tool in one place.
This is an online program that allows you to aggregate all your social marketing in a single location. I use HootSuite and Buffer. There is also TweetDeck and Social Oomph. There may be more, let us know in the comments if you use something else. These programs give you the ability to schedule posts and tweets at the best times for your audience. You can follow your social media streams within the programs as well. Look into using Shortstack for getting more from your Facebook pages. It has free and premium sources, tools, and programs, like contests, and so forth that you can use to entice your Facebook followers.
Ideally, you already have some kind of e-commerce solution that allows your collectors to buy directly from you. At the least, that is offering PayPal links on your site for immediate purchase from you. Much better is a full e-commerce enabled shopping cart on your site that allows buyers to put multiple items in the cart and process all with shipping, taxes included for one total price.
WordPress users have numerous shopping cart plugins to get this done. There are open source options such as Zen Cart, OS Commerce, and others. And, there are e-commerce template sites such as Big Cartel, 3DCart, Shopify and more. Shopify seems to have taken the top spot among shopping cart platforms. In addition to ArtStroreFronts and FASO mentioned about, some online galleries, such as FineArtAmerica.com have widgets that you can use to embed a shopping cart directly into your site or blog.
Additionally, you need a credit card processing system to use in-person with your phone or tablet, and offline. The Square is very popular, and PayPal now has a product to compete with the Square. If you are driving traffic to your site or blog, then give yourself a chance to monetize that traffic with sales on the spot and at the moment.
The more clicks, the more actions it takes to complete a sale, the more you lose sales. Make it easy to buy directly from you. For WordPress users, read this informative article by uber blogger, Chris Lema: Building an online marketplace has never been easier. His blog is loaded with useful insights and information for WordPress users.
Being organized is critical to your success. You need a way to track and manage your inventory. In the course of your career, you may make anywhere from 1,000 to 3,000 or more originals. If you are making reproductions, or limited editions, this number can skyrocket.
There are other options. Do your own research, ask around, and get started with the system best for your art career. The longer you wait to get started, the further behind you get on getting organized. The less organized you are, the more stressed you are, and less productive you are. If you want the most out of your career, you must use some system to manage your inventory.
Some argue working to optimize your site so it will rank higher on search engines is a waste of time. I understand that getting generic traffic for non-specific keywords or phrases will have a very low conversion rate. In other words, SEO for artists won’t bring in sales. The reason you need to do SEO for your site and blog is because it is worth the effort.
Besides potential new traffic to your site, doing SEO work on it imposes a structure and format that will make it easier to navigate and use for humans. When you look at what Google is after for search results, it can be succinctly described in two words: relevance and reputation. Making sure your site is relevant to keywords that are important in describing your site makes it human-friendly.
When a customer comes to your site, they expect the page to load fast, and to know immediately what the site is about. They want a clean architecture that makes it easy to get to the next page or section, and to find links relevant to the information they are seeking.
A site that is well constructed for SEO purposes will have the added and equally important benefit of being helpful and easy-to-use for humans visiting it as well. If you get more new eyeballs on your site as a consequence, all the better for you. You may not convert a new visitor to a buyer, but you have an excellent chance of getting them to sign up for your email list if you offer a compelling call to action for it.
Here is an informative article by artist Zoe-Lee Skelton, who also is an SEO content writer, on SEO accessibility tips. You will find excellent keyword research tools on these posts at Wordstream and Social Media Today. Finally, make sure to read Cory Huff’s insightful post on What Big Tech Knows About Art and You Don’t. He will tell you how to use what he calls Art Malls, including top online art sites such as FineArtAmerica.com to your keyword and online presence advantage.
If you have read Guerrilla Marketing for Artists, you know I advocate networking to find collectors as a way to grow your art business. In it, I explain how to put the Norm of Reciprocity to use in networking. It simple terms, it means when you give someone something or do them a favor, they instinctively feel obliged to return the favor.
I suggest giving a portfolio to a potential collector, or to someone who can refer business to you. It is an easy, affordable way to spread the word about your artwork. For years, I have touted the H-P owned service called MagCloud. Using it, you can upload PDF pages to create both an online portfolio and one you can order to be printed, bound and delivered to you.
MagCloud announced that Blurb.com has purchased the company. Regardless, if you can still get a beautifully printed, slick four-color portfolio delivered to you. A 20-pager will run you $5.00 or less per copy. An alternative is to offer note cards with your art on it. If you are already on FineArtAmerica.com, it is easy and affordable to order note cards from its website. There are many other ways to create affordable gifts based on your art to use in your networking efforts.
What would you rather give someone, a business card, or a portfolio or note cards with your work? Which of these is the most likely to get a response for buying your art, or offering an introduction to someone the recipient believes would have an interest in your work? When you think of the lifetime value of a customer, or know your customer acquisition cost, then using ideas like this become minor investments with potentially big payoffs for you.
Put these tools to work for you and watch your career take off.