Local marketing is advantageous for visual artists in many ways.— Barney Davey
Advantages and challenges of local marketing
As the world lumbers along toward the end of a pandemic, supporting their local businesses is crucial. You likely have a local market as an artist 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. So it is a tremendous advantage when you’re not marketing your art to strangers. So please 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. An extensive, 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. So 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 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 deal with when your only prospects are total strangers.
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. For example, 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. 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 loop. 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 continuously radiating further from your home base. A tried and true guerrilla marketing strategy starts locally and advances to regional, national, and international markets. In addition, you can support each phase with targeted online marketing and advertising efforts and carry over the success from one to the next.
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 bright idea. Set a goal of creating 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 boost their confidence to branch out and do other things. These might include marketing nationally or globally and extending their brand into other fields.
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 their film roles to Kevin Bacon within six steps. For example, 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. By targeting the right relationships, you will see that 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. Then, you start by asking people you think are the best prospects for knowing someone who might know someone. Then, when you ask, have a stated purpose in mind. In most cases, you will also want to ask how you can help the person whose support you are recruiting. By offering mutual aid, you will 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 particular 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? You move steps closer to being successful with six degrees of you by doing this.
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 helpful to you fall into two categories, typically. First, 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 others. It doesn’t matter their motivation, 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.