Local marketing is advantageous for visual artists in many ways.

— Barney Davey

Advantages and challenges of local marketing.

You don’t need to wait to get found in your local market. Lean into the advantages of being a local.

Supporting local businesses benefits your local economy; everyone gets that. And there is a definite trend to support independent artists. Those are natural advantages for artists. But they don’t just happen. It is a benefit you make happen rather than hoping for random action.

Tap into your roots.

You can make the case that you are a talented, local indie artist. Your crowd will respond when they see you proudly representing your work. That’s the best you can do. Make your best art and take pride and joy in it.

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.

And besides, consider this…

Your email list is your warm market.

There is much helpful information for all artists in the Definitive Guide to Art Marketing. An active email list is a warm digital market. So being rural is less of an issue. And if you feel it, you can tell stories and market the lifestyle. It has the potential for potent promotion in an appealing niche. Advantages are everywhere when you are open to receiving them—like turning a rural location disadvantage into an asset.

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 whenever 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 people 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 have never met you like you. So short of that, the best way to make sales locally is to get to know the 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.

The hometown advantage.

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 people 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 describes you, you are probably used to going long distances to get things done.

You can promote locally, nationally, and globally. However, focusing on one area at a time makes sense, especially for artists in their early career stages or on a budget. It is a good idea to focus on marketing locally first. Many artists who spend time trying to sell to consumers who live thousands of miles away from their home turf are missing what’s often called the “low-hanging fruit.”

Avoid complicating marketing your art.

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 by 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.

Expanding your customer base continuously, radiating further from your home base, makes sense. A tried-and-true guerrilla marketing strategy starts locally and advances to regional, national, and international markets. You can also help each step with targeted online marketing and advertising, and you can use the success of one step to help with the next.

Use local marketing to grow where you are planted.

Use local marketing to grow where you are planted.

To start a local business, you need a strong base to sell your art, run your studio, and maybe even open a store. Set a goal of developing a loyal, local, and regional following. It will not happen overnight; it will take time for your collector base to grow.

Artists who recognize that having a core of loyal buyers forms a solid foundation that makes the business fun and profitable. And the results give them more confidence to sell their products across the country or around the world and to use their brand in other areas.

Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon

See if looking at how to do it with this approach makes sense: 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 away from each other. It is based on the idea that any person in the entertainment business can be linked to Kevin Bacon through their film roles in 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 years ago to see how accurate six degrees of separation are. Its findings proved that one person is slightly less than six people away from anyone 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 playing the “six degrees of you” game. You might want to talk to a local gallery owner, a director of cultural affairs, a museum curator, or a donor, for example. For example, you might need 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 about 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 better results than by merely asking. In other words, having a specific reason to talk to the person will have more significant effects than if, for example, you just wanted to meet them without a particular reason.

Start planning 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 useful here. Maybe you get help from others online; you might find them through LinkedIn.com. You might meet them by taking part in the art scene in your area through an organization or association.

Gather a group of artists in a salon-type 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 someone who can help you become more successful. Start by tapping into your family and friends and their connections. These are your faithful supporters. Who do they know? Also, who is it those people know? By doing this, you move closer to being successful with six degrees of you.

You will likely 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 to you and reach out to the right people to help you. The other type is the do-gooder, who genuinely wants to assist others. Their motivation doesn’t matter 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 enormously impact 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.

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  • 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

  • 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,

  • peppi reed says:

    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!

  • 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?

    • 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.

  • 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.

  • Hi Barney, Your books and blog are an Artist’s Bible. Like the Holy Word, just read it and do what it says for a better life and future. I’ve got to mention that the book we co-authored, How To Sell Art To Interior Designers is now available as an Audioook from Audible. Best news of all; Artists can get a FREE COPY – https://yourfreeaudiobook.blogspot.com

  • Valentina says:

    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!

    • 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.

  • 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.

  • Great insight! I am working on more organic ways to find an audience and get more traffic to my studio and my website. I am participating in a group called First Saturday. Every first Saturday of the month a group of artists open their studios to the public in the Vancouver BC area. This is a great way to meet locals, connect and network with fellow artists and share and sell my work to potential customers and the community.

    • Thanks for sharing your experience. It’s a great opportunity for you. It sounds like you are excited about the program. Here are some unique methods you can use to get more traffic to your studio and website by participating in First Saturday events:

      *Social Media Promotion: Utilize social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to promote the event and encourage people to visit your studio. Share photos of your work and behind-the-scenes glimpses of your creative process to build excitement and interest.
      *Collaborative Marketing Efforts: Collaborate with other participating artists to cross-promote each other’s studios and events. This can help drive more traffic to your studio and website and increase visibility for all involved.
      *Interactive Experience: Offer an interactive experience for visitors, such as a hands-on workshop or demonstration. This can not only provide a memorable experience for visitors but also help to establish you as a knowledgeable and approachable artist.
      *Virtual Open Studio: Offer a virtual tour of your studio on your website or through social media platforms. This can help reach a wider audience and provide a sneak peek of what visitors can expect when they visit your physical studio.
      *Special Offer: Offer a special promotion or discount for visitors who attend First Saturday events. This can incentivize people to visit your studio and provide an opportunity to build your email list and connect with potential customers.
      *Community Outreach: Reach out to local organizations and businesses to promote the event and encourage them to share information with their networks. This can help increase visibility and drive more traffic to your studio and website.
      *Engage with Visitors: Engage with visitors by asking for their opinions and feedback on your work. This can help build relationships and establish you as an approachable and personable artist.
      *Follow-Up: After the event, follow up with visitors by sending a thank-you email and including information about your studio and upcoming events. This can help establish lasting connections and drive repeat traffic to your studio and website.

      Do as much and as many of those things as possible to help you get the best return from the event. Let me know how things go with it.

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