Seven Sins of Art Marketing | How Many Do You Recognize in Your Career?

How to Avoid Committing the Seven Sins of Art Marketing

I always encourage artists to study how successful artists conduct their business. You take your time to learn the unique and notable techniques talented artists use to make art. It follows you should learn how top selling artists get their work seen and sold.

Here is a list of ways artists are not making the most of their potential. The bad news is you may recognize things that apply to your career.  The good news is you change things if you try.

Here are the Seven Sins of Art Marketing

1 Art Marketing SinsLittle or no knowledge about your buyers. Now, I realize you cannot be blind as to who buys your art. The sin here is when you do not know as much as possible about your buyers. Who are they? Where do they live? What is their income level? Do you sell primarily to women or men? What is the average age of your buyers? Do they have preferences for sizes, colors, and subject matter? Do they buy at shows, from your website, or online galleries?

When you complete a picture of your buyers, you see a road map of how to hunt for more just like them. The more you can do to find niches and groups where your best prospects are, the more focused and fruitful you can make your art marketing. If you only have a vague idea of how new buyers, or repeat buyers for that matter, find you and make buying decisions, you are at a distinct disadvantage. You are operating a dysfunctional marketing plan.

7 Marketing Tools Top-selling Artists Use
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Don’t let little knowledge now discourage you. Trust your instincts and use your best guess. It’s far better than mass marketing, which is inexpensive and unaffordable. Keep after it, you are building a dynamic business and a dynamic profile of your ideal buyer. You will improve with practice.

2 Art Marketing SinsNot knowing which art marketing activities work best for you. There are too many art marketing tools for any artist to use them all. The sin here is not researching to know which tools get the best results. I believe email marketing should be part of every artist’s arsenal. Aside from email marketing, you need to identify and work with tools that you can master and that give you the best return on your time and investment. Again, if you don’t know, ask and observe successful artists, trial and error will get you there.

3Art Marketing Sins Believing you can make all kinds of different art and find buyers for them is a sin. Your collectors, galleries, and dealers have expectations about your work. If you confuse or disappoint them, you put yourself in the position of starting over. It’s hard work, and no fun building a following for your new art should your existing buyer base lose interest due to radical changes in your art. It’s a gamble with your art career I do not recommend.

Although you may have urges to create work that is entirely different from what is bringing you success, I encourage you to resist them. It’s okay to make all kinds of different art. Just keep to the style that sells best for your marketing. Or, get creative. Figure out how you can incorporate your new style into your current style. If you are known for Western art you can ingeniously add abstract values to it. That’s how to bring your current tribe along with you. Maybe you’ll invent a new crossover genre where you gain instead of losing buyers.

“Dance with the one that brung ya.”

7 Marketing Tools Top-selling Artists Use
Download your art marketing tools list here.

4 Art Marketing SinsClinging to the old way of doing things with your marketing. There is tremendous value in having consistency in how you market your work but don’t fall in love with it. You may be enjoying great success with your current marketing. That said you must accept there is no guarantee it will last. Make it a habit to be curious about and act on potentially profitable new ways of getting your art seen and sold.

If you resist learning about new ways to market your work, you might eventually find yourself with fewer and fewer sales. That’s what happened to many artists who depended solely on the gallery system in the last few years. Things change. You do not have to jump on every new fad or the latest social media sensation, but you need to keep an open mind to the possibilities of new ways of finding buyers and selling art.

5 Art Marketing SinsIneffective communication. Too many artists are poor communicators. They don’t work at building their email list or regularly schedule and complete email marketing plans. Phrases such as “marketing automation” sound like a foreign language to them. Often their websites and social media networks go unattended for long spells. They don’t blog or blog infrequently. They have no cohesive plan and it shows. As a result, their fans and followers don’t know if they are still making new art or not… or even if they are still around.

If you don’t tell ’em, you can’t sell ’em

Out of sight is out of mind. Successful artists understand the importance of consistent communication. By keeping your fans informed and engaged, you improve your closing ratio when your art marketing puts an offer in front of them. Effective communication increases how much money your collectors will spend with you, dramatically.

7 Marketing Tools Top-selling Artists Use
Download your art marketing tools list here.

6 Art Marketing SinsLack of professionalism. Artists who do not pay attention to the business of art pay a hefty price. You must have systems in place to keep records of your business, sales, and inventory. If you do not respect your business, you may fail to pay your taxes on time or to allocate sufficient funds to your marketing. Without systems in place, it’s easy to miss crucial payments or deadlines. Sound business practices are essential to your long-term success.

7 Art Marketing SinsDismissing the importance of image. Looking like an amateur is a career killer. Your image is an essential part of your brand. How you, your website, and your art marketing materials appear, each sends subtle clues to your collectors and prospective buyers. When you sound or look like you are clueless or don’t care about your image and the image of your business, it’s easy to dismiss your art. Coming off like an eccentric artist who doesn’t give a shit about their career is not a way to be a hipster everybody loves. You can be an eccentric, wild character, just make sure you take care of your business or get someone to do it for you.

When buyers and art professionals consider whether to buy or hire you for a meaningful job, for a gallery to invest in promoting your work or for journalists to decide to write about you, your profile with them becomes the deciding factor. Vow today to take pride in your work, your art marketing, your appearance and you. That’s how to give yourself the best chances of making the most of your art career. Isn’t that what we’re all here for?

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7 Marketing Tools Top-selling Artists Use
Download your art marketing tools list here.
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  1. ‘Dance with the one that brung ya!’ Alternatively, you never know who you’ll meet in the big smoke.
    I’ve been following you for some years now, Barney, and I have found much inspiration in your articles. Your collaborative ‘hangouts’ with Jason are fabulous.
    However, I must admit to being a little confused when you talk about disappointing galleries and collectors (would that I actually had galleries and collectors to disappoint!). Furthermore, knowing the intimate details of these nebulous galleries and collectors is also an interesting hypothetical exercise, given that they are likely to live in Beijing and speak Mandarin.
    While I generally dismiss questions such as, “What sort of visual artist are you? Do you paint in watercolours or oils?” as simply polite conversation starters from people who have little interest in purchasing art, I sometimes wonder whether they want to “pigeon-hole” me to avoid ‘confusion’ with Monet or van Gogh. I imagine a conversation when that person returns home: “I met a visual artist today who specialises in the most spectacular watercolour paintings of a particular genus of Australian wild flowers on 300 gsm french cotton paper post cards using brushes made from opossum fur”.
    The inference is that an equally spectacular French landscape in oils on a large stretched canvas by the very same artist would confuse those mythical galleries and collectors.
    Nevertheless, I am hoping that you were really suggesting that a mélange of JacksonPollockesque paintings and traditional realist landscapes could raise the occasional eyebrow in a mythical gallery director or serious collector.
    I shall continue in my confusing style, and in the meanwhile, enjoy your enlightening articles.

  2. Yes it is really important for the artist to study the business aspects of other successful artists. Your post really helped me to understand the Seven Sins of Art Marketing. It has great details and yet it is easy to understand.
    That’s what i was looking for. I will definitely share it with others.

  3. Artists like many other professionals must wear more than one hat. You must be advertising and marketing just as much as you are creating your art. If advertising and marketing are not your thing then hire an assistant or find a rep to work with you.

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