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Support Local Marketing Make It Happen in Your Art Business


Advantages and challenges of local marketing

As the world lumbers along toward the end of a pandemic, it’s more important than ever for people to support their local businesses. As an artist, you likely have a local market unless you live in a sparsely populated rural area. Even then, I would not be discouraged or give up hope that some folks in your market will buy your art. There is much helpful information for all artists in the Definitive Guide to Art Marketing.

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 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.

People like to buy from people they know and like.

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 most accessible group of people to sell your art are those who know somebody who knows you. Or, they learn something about you because you used a slight celebrity to get some local recognition. Marketing like this gives you the hometown advantage. If you are not using these strategies to sell your art, you are ceding the business to someone else and making your art more expensive to sell when your only prospects are total strangers.

Download List of 7 Essential Tools Artists Use
Download List of 7 Essential Tools Artists Use

Your mileage may vary.

Although doing business with those you know increases your chances of making a sale, the number of transactions you can make locally depends on your market size. 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 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.”

Don’t make marketing your art more difficult.

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 your area’s size, 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 freemaptools.com makes this task easy to complete. 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.

Download List of 7 Essential Tools Artists Use
Download List of 7 Essential Tools Artists Use

Use local marketing to grow where you are planted.

Use local marketing to grow where you are planted. Building a business base, 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; it will take several years to achieve even 50 collectors in most cases.

Artists who recognize that having a core of 50-100 loyal buyers creates a solid foundation for their business to grow upon can take action to make it happen. And they will grow their confidence to branch out and do other things. These might include marketing nationally or globally and extend their brand into other fields.

The 100 Collector Theory.

The 100 Collector Theory Production capabilities are different for every artist. I once heard a rule of thumb that is feasible to me. It states that most full-time artists will paint about 1,000 originals in a lifetime.

The math says if you make 33 pieces a year for 30 years, you will have created 999 original artworks. 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 over the course of your career is not farfetched. Also, 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.

Download List of 7 Essential Tools Artists Use
Download List of 7 Essential Tools Artists Use

Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon

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. It can become one of the most durable planks in your guerrilla marketing strategy.

LinkedIn connections support local marketing theory.

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 a 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 aid, you are going to have higher results than by merely asking. In other words, by having a specific reason to talk to the person, you will have more significant effects than if, for example, you just wanted to meet them without a specific reason.

Start making plans to use the power of six degrees in your local market.

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. An online group is of use here. Maybe you get help from others online; you might find them through LinkedIn.com. Perhaps 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? Think about who is someone that can 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? Also, who is it those people know? By doing this, you move steps closer to being successful with six degrees of you.

You are highly likely to find powerful benefactors and patrons in your local market.

As you go through this exercise, you will find that the people who will be useful to you fall into two categories, typically. Some want to prove that they are powerful and connected. These people are genuinely 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.

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Download List of 7 Essential Tools Artists Use
Download List of 7 Essential Tools Artists Use

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  1. Dear Barney,
    What a “thinking” article, particularly the “100 collectors” section relating to our individual residences. It prompted me to think in a new direction, and come up with a new idea for you, although you, more than likely, may have already discovered.
    * Get out of my art comfort-zone genre and dive into a new art genre: it will either improve me or re-focus me, and either one wins.
    Thank you.
    Pat Timbrook

  2. A lot of really useful points Barney, particularly the use of linkedin and by implication other social networking to expand the local beyond the obviously local.
    All the best,
    Joe

  3. this has opened my eyes to finding collectors. i am going to an artists workshop on saturday, feb 7. we will be exploring each others art and brainstorming on how to get more sales. i am on etsy since november 2014 and a lot of view but no sales. i know my art is changing each day, week, month. so surely i will be able to tap into someone who knows someone. thanks for great article!

  4. Great article Barney. I’m curious how to go about asking for help and offering help in return? What language do you recommend to use? Is there a code of conduct? What is acceptable and expected?

    1. Hi Derek, Make a relationship first. Get to know the person. If you know something about them, it is easier to figure out how you can help them, or at least offer genuine help. Based on that, be straightforward. I’m flattered you like my art or have purchased my art. If you have friend or colleagues who you believe would enjoy seeing it, I can send my portfolio to them with your compliments, or I can give you an extra copy to personally deliver to them. It takes forethought and practice, but is worth the effort. A referral is a ten-times stronger prospect than a complete stranger. My book, Guerrilla Marketing for Artists book has a chapter on Local Marketing and another on Networking. You can get it on Kindle for $9.99. Those two chapters will make it a bargain, the rest of the information and insights make it a steal.

  5. Hi Barney,
    A great post! This is exactly how I started my business, ART VENTURE, which supported me and my family for more than 20 years. I started from scratch with just a looseleaf catalog of beautiful posters as a sales rep for a small company. I made phone calls to the Interior Designers in my hometown asking to show them the catalog. I sold art to the first five designers I called on. One of them happened to be the ASID area chair lady and she invited me to make a 15-minute presentation at the monthly meeting of the area designers. From that point on I learned from my customers. They showed me what sort of art they needed and I found sources, including many artists who consigned their art to me to show and sell for a nice commission. I became an Art Rep, selling my own art, and for other artists and fine art publishers. I did exactly as you said – took a road map and a compass and drew circles around my hometown and expanded step-by-step into other towns until I had clients from Key West to Tallahassee. I sold a quarter million dollars worth of art a year, which allowed me to build a beautiful home and studio where I did my own art. It was a fun business! Thank you, Barney for, co-authoring How to Sell Art to Interior Designers. You can see it here and other books I’ve written on http://www.amazon.com/author/harrisondick.

  6. Thanks for this article, Mr. Davey. You explain complex marketing rules and concepts in a very simple way.
    I would like to subscribe to your articles, but when I click on the place that is marked, the page does not open with text, but only with codes. How could I resolve this?
    I have another question related to online weekly marketing courses – I would like to enroll but I do not speak English. Will it be possible to translate the recorded materials? I hope the Google Translator has translated my writing understandably so far. Greetings, I wish you the best!
    Valentina

    1. Hi Valentina, Thank you for your comments Google Translator worked well. I have created a subscription for you. You can unsubscribe anytime. There are no plans to translate the weekly marketing courses at this time.

  7. Thank you for this article. It was very encouraging! I do live in a rural area and have recently begun to sell more of my art work to people in my state and people connected to my husband's show pig business. I will make a specific business plan with goals.

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