Editor’s note: This post is excerpted from my Guerrilla Marketing for Artists: How 100 Collectors Can Bulletproof Your Career book.
What are some of the benefits of local marketing? Naturally, you get to sell to people you know, or to someone who knows the people you know, and they get to buy from someone in their local community. It is a tremendous advantage when you’re not marketing your art to complete strangers. Don’t be shy about emphasizing in your marketing materials that customers who shop locally are helping to keep jobs related to their purchases in their local community.
You know this instinctively because you also buy from those you like. The easiest way to get people to like you is to give them a chance to know you, personally. A big, expensive ad campaign (Yeah, like that’s in the cards for any visual artist, or small business, for that matter.) can make people who never met you like you. Short of that, the best way to make sales locally is to get to know people around you.
The next easiest group of people to sell your art are those who know somebody who knows you. Or, they learn something about you because you used slight celebrity to get some local recognition. This is called the hometown advantage. If you are not using these strategies to sell you art, you are ceding the business to someone else and making your art more expensive to sell when your only prospects are total strangers.
Although doing business with those you know increases your chances of making a sale, the number of sales you can make locally depends on the size of your market. Small towns and rural locations may not have a large enough base to support a thriving art business. If that’s you, most likely you are already conditioned to going distances to get things done.
You can promote locally, nationally, and globally. However, it makes sense to focus on one area at a time, especially for artists who are in early career stages, or on a budget. As such, it is a good idea to focus on marketing locally first. It is my opinion that many artists who are spending time trying first to market to consumers who live thousands of miles away from their home turf are missing what’s often called the “low-hanging fruit.”
If you ignore the potential customer base in your backyard while spending time and effort trying to develop a following far away from home, you have your marketing turned inside out. Your marketing should be concentric by drawing a radius around your hometown to start your marketing.
Depending on the size of your area, you could start drawing a 100-mile circle from where you live, and then a 200-mile and 300-mile circle. Using the service at www.freemaptools.com makes this task easy to complete. By using guerrilla marketing tactics like this, you keep your marketing area compact, which allows you an affordable way to focus on the prospects closest to home.
It makes sense to expand your customer base in a continuous process of radiating further from your home base. A tried, and true guerrilla marketing strategy is to start locally and advance to regional, national and international markets. You can support each phase with targeted online marketing and advertising efforts, and carry over the success from one to the next.
Building a base of business, a firm foundation around where you manage your studio, and possibly retail location, is a smart idea. Set a goal of building a loyal, local and regional following of 100 collectors. It will not happen overnight; in most cases, it will take several years to achieve even 50 collectors.
Artists who grasp that a core of 50-100 loyal buyers gives them a solid foundation for their business to grow and gain the confidence to branch out and do other things. These might include marketing nationally or globally, and extend their brand into other fields.
The math says if you make 33 pieces a year for 30 years, you will have made 999 pieces. Only you know for sure what is likely for your career. With the 1,000 pieces in a career model theory, you can see that applying it to the 100-collector goal makes a nice dent in your total sales.
Selling two, three, or more pieces to each of those 100 is not farfetched. In addition, neither is assuming that, among those 100 collectors, there are those influential types who could be responsible for introducing you to another 100 collectors over 30 years. Alternatively, perhaps their connections will positively affect your career in other untold ways.
Want to learn how to sell locally and to people who know you? Join the How to Find Art Buyers Workshop.
When you promote locally and directly, you can build healthy relationships with your collectors, much more so than you are likely to create with sales in galleries and online. Building close relationships with your collectors fits in perfectly with the “We” cycle of the Pendulum Theory. Of course, you will find some of your most loyal collectors who become closest to you will come from those relationships.
The idea here with guerrilla marketing is for you to establish a base of operations and a core group of collectors whose enthusiasm and purchases will feed your larger ambitions, no matter how large they may be. A few centers of influence can steer your career to the success you believe your art deserves. I have said before in some of my blog posts that I will take 100 direct buyers and personal relationships rather than 1,000 Facebook fans or 2,000 Twitter followers.
I contend that it is much easier to sell art to local businesses such as resorts, restaurants, and medical facilities than to try to sell to similar companies in distant locations. In those places, where you are unknown, everything is more complicated and expensive because of shipping and travel involved. So how do you go about getting involved in local business opportunities for your art?
See if looking at how to do it with this approach makes sense for you: you may have heard of the parlor game Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. It is based on the “six degrees of separation” concept, which posits that two random people on Earth are, on average, about six acquaintances from each other. It rests on the assumption that any individual involved in the entertainment industry can be linked through his or her film roles to Kevin Bacon within six steps. Kevin Bacon may have worked with this person, who in turn worked with this person, who worked with that person, and so on until through only six people you have connected Kevin Bacon to another entertainer.
It is a remarkable idea. Microsoft did a study a few years ago to see how accurate six degrees of separation is. Its findings proved that one person is slightly less than six people away from any other person on the planet. You can use the concept of six degrees of separation in a marketing capacity. In fact, it can become one of the strongest planks in your guerrilla marketing strategy.
Look at the stats on how big your potential connections are on the LinkedIn site. You will see that by targeting the right relationships you can reach out to those in a position to affect your career positively.
Before you apply this concept, you need a plan. First, decide what you want to achieve by working the “six degrees of you” game. For instance, you may wish to reach a local gallery owner; a director of cultural affairs; a museum curator or donor. Your need might be to meet a prominent publicist or art critic in your area who you know could help you if you could reach them with valid reasons why you wanted to engage them.
First, identify your target with clear intentions on what you need. Then begin to work on how to achieve your goal. You start by asking people who you think are the best prospects for knowing someone who might know someone. When you ask, have a stated purpose in mind. In most cases, you also will want to ask how you can help the person whose support you are trying to recruit. By offering mutual support, you are going to have greater results than by merely asking. In other words, by having a specific reason to talk to the person, you are going to have greater results than if, for example, you just wanted to meet them without an explicit reason.
Begin to think about how you can formulate a plan to incorporate six degrees of you to get to know the right people in your community that is, the people who can help you. I suggest you do some brainstorming. Perhaps you can find, or form, a mastermind group. Get other artists involved. This is where you can use an online group. Maybe you get help from others online; you might find them through LinkedIn.com. Maybe you meet them by participating in your local art community, through your organization or association.
Gather a group of artists in a salon type of format, where you can talk about these things. What do you need to do with your career? How do you become more successful? Who do you need to know to help you become more successful? Start by tapping into your family and friends and their connections. These are your faithful support. Who do they know? In addition, who is it those people know? By doing this, you move steps closer to being successful with six degrees of you.
As you go through this exercise, you are going to find that the people who will be useful to you fall into two categories, typically. There are those who want to prove that they are powerful and connected. These people are truly delighted to show their power for you and reach out to the right people to help you. The other type of person is the do-gooder, who genuinely wants to assist other people. It doesn’t matter what their motivation is, as long as they are willing to help you.
The best thing is that you get their commitment to helping you achieve your goal of finding your target audience. Meeting the right one or two people can make an enormous impact on your career. You cannot leave it to chance that you get to meet the right people when there is a way for you to reach out to them through your local, warm market. Taking action in this way is a perfect example of guerrilla marketing at its best.