Email has an ability many channels don’t: creating valuable, personal touches – at scale.
When it comes to marketing in the digital age small businesses, including artists, are challenged to keep up. That is no surprise because digital marketing seems complicated and fast-moving. Those feel like good reasons to avoid getting started with marketing automation.
The problem with feeling that way and not acting is you lose opportunity and sales. While that is the immediate result of avoiding marketing automation, there are more severe consequences.
The marketplace is changing and evolving. You see how consumer buying habits are shifting. Expensive luxury items are sold every day online. Without marketing automation, your ability to compete for business via email is diminished or nil.
Email marketing gives you the means to make sales without being present. If you think you cannot sell your art via email, you are misinformed. It’s more than possible. It is a reality. You can make sales from leads you capture that re-run through an automated sequence of email messages designed to promote and sell your art.
It Sounds Like a Lot of Work, and I’m Not a Techie
These are valid and common reactions to the thought of marketing automation for artists. There are work and time involved, and expense, too. The work does require you to learn how to use your marketing automation software.
The expenditure of time and money are legit downsides to automating your marketing. You must look upon doing this as an investment in your business. Your payback will continue on an automated basis for as long as you want to sell your art. Much of what you learn to do and implement is one-time or done infrequently.
For instance, you create a lead magnet, which is the item of value you trade a prospective subscriber for their email address. It’s also known as an ethical bribe. We’ve all given our email address in return for some goodie we want. You may tinker and try new lead magnets. However, it’s not something you do daily, weekly, or even monthly once you have one producing satisfying results.
Tech without Fear (Especially with me on your side!)
You don’t have to fear technology. As the saying goes, “The dread is worse than the do.” By that, I mean getting the tech in marketing automation to work is not that hard. Getting this done is especially true if you have a guiding hand. But, anyone can learn everything they need to know with relative ease, guide or not. If you determine this is important, you’ll put aside your concerns and get moving. I will stop right here to tell you I am such a guide.
Here is a map showing a generic example of how an email marketing automation campaign looks. (The purple oblong on the left = lead magnet.)
The Above Example Explodes the Steps in Marketing Automation
This example is an excellent way to begin for new marketers seeking to implement email marketing automation. What you see is a way to automate sending relevant content to your list after they opt-in for your lead magnet, which ideally is a digital download. You will only create the content once, but you will use it repeatedly to send to new additions to your list. Your automation software does the work for you.
Your marketing automation software is guided by “If This Then That” logic. For instance, IF someone buys your art or a class you are giving), THEN your system automatically stops sending marketing messages encouraging sales to THAT person. You can also use rules and timers to determine when to put buyers into a new sequence and when to start it. Again, your marketing automation will follow the rules you set and manage all this for you.
What Is Marketing Automation Software?
The number of providers grows frequently. Current top providers with plans designed for small business include Convertkit, Mailerlite, Active Campaign, Get Response, MailChimp, and Infusionsoft. All will work. All are not equal. Search for reviews and comparisons to help you choose. There are more options than these if you decide to look.
Here is a gif image from the Convertkit website showing how automation works using it. If it looks confusing, that’s normal. It flashes fast. Once you learn what those terms are and we talk you’ll get it. And, you’ll appreciate the beauty of its simplicity.
While I use Infusionsoft, I do not recommend it for artists due to its expense and complexity. My advice is to use either Convertkit or Mailerlite. Active Campaign is also excellent but is more than most artists will need or want to use. As always, doing due diligence is the key. Remember, you can still migrate to a new service if necessary.
Want to Read & Learn More about
Marketing Automation for Artists?
The following is excerpted from my best selling book, Straight Advice: How Market Art Online Now. (Fair Warning: the following is 3500 words long. It’s a 12-15-minute read. You’ll get loads of practical advice to use in your art marketing plans. Grab a cup of coffee or tea and soak it up!)
Chapter Seven: Marketing Automation for Artists
The methods of finding prospects and developing them into customers are evolving, particularly in the digital age. Changes that might have taken decades not that long ago can happen now in years and months.
The internet has substantially changed everything in communications, commerce, entertainment, and more. The companies that are doing the best and growing their brands and sales in this new environment are adopting, adapting, and reacting to what feels like constant flux.
Despite how the internet creates change, some things never change. An appropriate example here is the KNOW – LIKE – TRUST continuum. People’s buying habits are the same online as offline. The tendency is for them to go through that continuum before making a purchase. They ask themselves, “If I don’t know you, how can I like or trust you?” Consumers are educated and have their guard up when dealing with new potential vendors. It’s why services such as Yelp and Angie’s List are so popular. When they don’t know you, they seek validation.
There is no Yelp for artists.
Buyers are on their own. With that understanding, you can use this information to treat your customers to a pleasant experience. They might like your art right away. But to make a sale, you need to earn their trust, and for that to happen, they need to develop a sense of familiarity with you. That’s how you’ll sell more art throughout your career.
Visual artists have mostly been on the sidelines of the rapid changes regarding marketing. I see more using new technology, moving into digital art-making, digital printing, and even some into 3D printing. Artists with vision will harness these advantages and change art in unimaginable ways. But in marketing their art virtually, all of them are hindered by using techniques from decades ago.
The marketing front has changed, too, permanently.
It used to be that a marketing “plan” consisted of creating a product, then driving cold traffic (prospective buyers) to a landing or sales page. The plan was to convert visitor interest into sales (product + landing page traffic = sales).
That methodology lasted for years. It evolved from a necessary, almost a brute force kind of marketing into a more sophisticated approach with softer pitches, better bonuses, and tighter control on the demographics being sent to a landing page.
This scenario worked very well at first in many industries and made lots of internet marketers wealthy in the process. Eventually, this online model became “oversold” and stopped working. The buying public had become smarter and less patient with what they came to regard as such in-your-face advertising. Today we mostly ignore those efforts.
Digital marketing evolved alongside customer sophistication
A new way of doing things grew out of frustration with the low return on investment (ROI) from doing things the old-fashioned way. The new method takes more time, offers more value, and works more closely to mimic human behavior than past marketing models. In effect, it breeds a familiarity that helps make sales.
Instead of sending cold traffic to sales pages, smart digital marketers use a multistep process. Not unlike dating. There’s a range of approaches that work. You know it’s ineffective or even offensive for a guy in a club or nightspot to approach a girl he’s never met and ask for a kiss. It’s equally unproductive and inappropriate to propose a new prospect to buy on the very first “speed date,” on your first contact or communication.
Real connections are at the essence of digital marketing
A real potential connection happens after a meaningful relationship has been forged. You get to know the person. Learn about who they are, what they do, and where they live. How they feel about things vital to you. It’s a natural progression of peeling away layers to get to a place of “know, like, and trust.”
Without “know, like and trust,” the “kiss” connection just isn’t going to happen. The same applies to selling art. If your goal is to sell to buyers directly, your success hinges on building a mutual knowledge of one another (know), a reliable connection (like) and trust.
Artists often get jammed at this point. They’re still trying to sell too fast. They’re not using methods that help them build rapport and trust with potential patrons. I don’t blame them. No one has been there to help them understand this sales paradigm shift or guide them to think about doing things differently – at least until now.
Marketing automation is more than running drip campaigns
The previous section on using drip campaigns goes a long way toward helping artists improve their marketing. But they shouldn’t and don’t need to stop there because there’s so much more they can do to move up to modern marketing techniques.
I’m not going to discuss how to get traffic. I assume you’re already doing something to raise awareness of your art and your brand ‒ you! It could be Facebook posts and ads. Or you are hanging out in forums on LinkedIn. You might be attending meetings of associations and groups that you think might attract prospects for your art. There are dozens of ways to lure traffic to your site. That’s not the problem.
Where artists are falling is in not having a plan for what happens after someone shows up at their site. Many are getting better about having some opt-in form on their blogs and websites. Unfortunately, those opt-in forms are widely ineffective today since most of us have developed banner blindness and can easily ignore requests for our email addresses.
Use marketing automation to help combat banner and web form blindness
Even when we do encounter a web form, we ignore it anyway because there’s no quid pro quo for our information. People aren’t sufficiently motivated to divulge their email addresses just because you promise to send them more email. Everyone I know already gets too much, and most of us don’t want more. So, without the proper incentive, a web form request for an email address is, with rare exceptions, pointless.
What’s an Artist to Do?
Because there’s no easy answer, most artists get stuck right here. They have a hard time getting opt-ins to their email list. And when they do get an email, they start asking too quickly for sales, or they have no follow-up plan beyond that initial prospective buyer contact. In most cases, the level of outbound communication falls far below the degree of sophistication of the prospect.
Before I talk about what artists should do, let me describe how savvy marketers in other fields move customers along a path to a sale. As I said before, it’s a multistep process that takes time to complete, and there is a precise, thoughtful formula for what goes into each step. Moreover, you test to refine what’s working and to quit anything that isn’t.
The currently preferred method of turning cold traffic into hot sales has five parts:
- Valuable Content
- Lead Magnet
- Core Offer
- Profit Maximizer
If you want people’s attention, you need to have content that appeals to them in some way. The best content either scratches an itch or relieves pain. These are not exclusive. You can create compelling content that’s just so fascinating that it’s hard to resist. It’s possible, but hard to do consistently.
An example of scratching an itch might be an article on how to do something that interests the prospect. For a wannabe artist, for instance, it might be deconstructing how a famous painting was created. It might be explaining something in layman’s terms about art creation. Or something in the art field that you take for granted, but that might seem mysterious to art buyers. It could be as simple as a drawing lesson. You get the idea, I’m sure.
An example of relieving a pain might be how to restore an old keepsake photograph. It could be how to care for a vintage poster or clean and care for an aging original. It might be an explanation of how the secondary art market works or how to safely buy art online. Perhaps it’s just a trick on how to correctly and squarely hang multiple pieces.
You know your audience and avatar, especially if you’ve taken my Art Marketing Mastery Workshop training. The training lesson goes far into helping you get to know more about your customers and potential buyers than you can imagine. The insights you gain from this exercise are powerful. They will help you make intelligent decisions about everything you do regarding marketing your art. You can use your avatar insights to think deeply about collectors’ itches and pains and then can create content to touch on those points.
If creating content isn’t your thing, there are freelancers eager to help you with it. If you balk at the idea of hiring a freelancer or creating your content because of the time and money it takes, you need an attitude adjustment.
That’s because it’s the opposite of what you think. The reality is you cannot afford not to find a way to communicate with your patrons, buyers, and prospects on a higher level. You risk losing sales and relationships and miss opportunities to make new contacts and build your business.
Of course, if you resist change, it might be time to evaluate what you want from your career. Ask yourself what you’re willing to invest and to do to make it successful. There’s no shame in deciding that not pursuing a full-time career as an artist is your best path. Being a business person isn’t the right fit for lots of otherwise talented, smart artists.
However, it’s your burning passion to become a successful, full-time artist; then it’s time to invest in your business and marketing up to speed for the future. Some things will never change: for instance, that if you show your art on a steady basis to enough qualified buyers, you’ll sell your work. In the past, the way to get sales was through galleries and other third-parties such as publishers, licensing agents, and so forth.
What’s advantageous today is that buyers are readier and more willing to buy directly from artists. However, artists can only succeed at making this happen if they use the tools and techniques at their disposal in ways that resonate with buyers. If you are going to sell them, you must romance them.
The steps out here work. They follow the path of starting small and working your way up to a place where you have established a “know, like, and trust” relationship with your prospective buyers. Nothing happens overnight.
When you get busy and stay busy working on building business relationships and friendships, you will soon enough reap a cumulative, exponential harvest. The tipping point is inevitable. You’ll start seeing more sales and new patterns of transactions. And, you’ll know they happened because you set goals, took deliberate actions, tested and refined your results, and stayed optimistic and aggressive in your marketing.
So, let’s say your skillful promotion for the valuable quid pro quo content you offer gets you an email address. Or, if you’re using Facebook advertising, it gets you a retargeting pixel. You’ll either send an email with an offer for your lead magnet, which is the incentive to tempt readers to connect with you. Think of it as a SMOT (second moment of truth, per marketing), following the FMOT (first moment of truth), the opening page itself.
You can suggest your lead magnet within your initial valuable content as an option. This works best when you know your audience well or if there’s a good chance they might know you, if even slightly.
A lead magnet is something of value you’re giving away. The best are things easily understood, highly desirable, and quickly consumed. It’s usually in the form of a digital download. You may recall the mention of Hazel Dooney offering hi-res images that are small, but suitable for framing. That’s a perfect example of a lead magnet.
Infographics, checklists and post compilations also make great lead magnets. Short books, reports, and how-tos work well, too. Sometimes expanding on your valuable content or aggregating, some of it makes an appropriate lead magnet. Getting multiple uses of your content like that, repurposing it, is a smart, efficient, and acceptable way to extend your investment in creating your content.
What’s happened with placing a lead magnet is that, with new clients, you’ve begun a relationship by establishing yourself as an authority on a topic that interests them. By asking for and getting their email address, you’ve now received in return a micro-commitment from them. They have entrusted you with their email address. That’s good – for both of you.
You can always add a tripwire as well. That’s something of higher value than a lead magnet, and usually, a product or service sold on your website for a higher price. When you see an author offering a book for free, plus a $6.99 shipping fee, you’re encountering a tripwire. You can bet a core offer, the full-priced retail product, is waiting in the wings. As is the upsell to the profit maximizer offer, which defines itself.
Your customer path is a series of mutual commitments in an ongoing relationship. It begins with the tripwire offer – the micro-commitment – that shows interest from the buyers who have moved beyond providing an email address to trusting you with their credit card information. It’s a real-time development of your nurturing the relationship you’ve developed with them. It’s the digital equivalent of making friends, each of you checking to see how your friendship is evolving.
A tripwire is an offer of great value at a bargain price. By this time in the communication process, it also involves tripwire purchasers self-selecting and segmenting themselves as potential buyers. You don’t give your email address and then your credit card information unless you like the offer. By the tripwire stage, you’ve achieved the first full level of the “know, like and trust” continuum. Some tripwire suggestions are notecards, mini prints, posters, portfolios, sketches, books, or anything that has value to your target audience. It should be something that your prospects find of interest and value, and that they know you’d otherwise be selling for a higher price on your website. Experimenting with different offers and different price points is the only way to figure out the ideal offer.
For most artists, this is going to be original artwork, perhaps a limited edition or a higher-priced, open-edition print. There is timing involved in how quickly you roll out your offers. While your lead magnet and tripwire can come right on top of each other, the core offer takes more strategy. You may want to take some time before you make your pitch.
As always, testing is the only way to get the timing right. Your audience, your art, and your price points can affect how long you wait after you make a tripwire sale before you make your core offer. You could extend your core offer with a thank-you email from the tripwire deal. That’s an excellent place to start. See how it works. But give it enough time and repetitions before you decide to make any changes about core offer timing.
You can set up an automated responder or drip campaign to send your core offer to your prospects. Try posting something weekly for five or six weeks, then drop to every other week for a couple of months. If your potential buyers are still on the fence and haven’t shown any interest in a piece of art, consider a follow-up phone call. In addition to personal sales contact, this gives you a chance to find out how your marketing is working – or not.
The feedback from the phone call can help you refine your sales methods. Knowing why customers aren’t buying is invaluable. Instead of guessing and testing, you can address objections and head off problems before they arise. When you’ve exhausted all your options for getting an immediate sale from the call, be sure to keep each phone contact in your general broadcast list. If you have multiple lead magnets, they may again segment themselves for input into another marketing funnel for a different lead magnet.
A Further Word about Emails
Your most crucial email is your welcome email. Additional information is included here since it’s specific to the topic of marketing automation. Now your new prospects opt into your list for the first time; they’re most receptive. Make sure you introduce yourself and provide insights into your business. Take the time to explain how often and what you send by email. Give brief instructions on how to whitelist your email address to ensure it makes it to their inbox.
Your initial email should include links to previous posts, so readers get an idea of how you create and provide content. If all that information is lengthy, you might want to break it up into two separate emails to keep from writing a novel on your first welcome email. As you send emails for your lead magnet or tripwire, you want to be aware of when you’ve scheduled those to go out. You don’t overwhelm recipients with too much email.
You should segment your list. That stops prospects moving through your funnel from getting your broadcast emails until you think the contacts are ready to receive them. You want to keep them focused on what’s important and relevant to your marketing now. Again, it’s a matter of avoiding TMI (too much information). Besides, you certainly don’t want to confuse them by dropping another lead magnet in their inbox too soon. That can throw off the currently targeted marketing sequence to which they’ve already responded.
Imagine you’ve just landed a core offer sale. Congratulations! Keep that up, and your income will become predictable, and your future more secure. A profit maximizer is an upsell to something of higher value than a core offer.
As with the tripwire thank-you email, you can provide a profit maximizer offer in your core offer thank-you email. An example of a profit maximizer is a suite of images or artworks. Perhaps one large and two smaller complementary pieces. Or one original and two prints. It might even be to offer one of your masterpieces, bigger and more elaborate than your standard originals.
You might use a profit maximizer to tender an offer to do a commission. Or you could have a club or society where you charge an annual or monthly fee with certain products included and substantial discounts on others. Or, use free shipping, or whatever makes sense to you that works. It’s a great place to stretch your imagination. Use the brainstorming exercise of writing down 100 items that you would never use for a profit maximizer. I’m confident you’ll come up with a splendid idea you wouldn’t have thought of without the brainstorming.
With profit maximizers, it’s always going to come down to how well you know your audience. Use your creativity to brainstorm for unique ideas for products or services to fill each of the five steps in your marketing process for this offer. If the process from initial contact through profit maximizer is too complicated, or this last step doesn’t fit your business model; you may forgo it. Maybe you’ve determined that your market segment won’t respond to it. That’s your call, as always.
The reason for taking on any sophisticated marketing is always the same. You’re looking to take prospects at the end of the AIDA (Attention – Interest – Desire = Action) continuum. You value your work. You want to see it sold and out in the world, ready to be handed down as an heirloom through generations. What you’re learning by reading this post is the best recipe for cooking up long-term success just like that for your career.
None of these actions are set in stone. They’re strongly suggested, however, because they’ve been battle-tested in many different vertical markets. The process works. To be sure, trying something like this will shake up your marketing and breathe new life into it.
If you feel you’re stuck or just marking time by using antiquated and ineffective marketing techniques, try this strategy. You’ve nothing to lose and everything to gain by pushing yourself to try new things, in this case, the latest marketing automation technology and techniques for a new age.
Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due
I first learned a good deal of the above information from DigitalMarketer.com. It has evolved the steps outlined above into what is known as the customer value journey. Here is its map illustrating the journey starting at the lower left.