Monday, February 09, 2009

Marketing 101 for Artists - an introduction

Marine Inversion at Carmel
14" x 18", pastel
copyright Katherine Tyrrell
(see notes at end for comments on this pastel painting
started on the beach at Carmel in July 2006)
In recent days I've been writing about the different ways artists can sell their art online. However selling is just one of the activities involved in marketing art and this post aims to provide a brief overview of what marketing is and how selling art online can fit into a broader range of marketing activities. This is very much a high level look at marketing. I'll unpick the parts in future posts.

Who's this post for? Well, for a start, none of what follows applies to you if:
  • you are only producing art for your own pleasure or consumption or intend to give it away. That's a really splendid way to make art and I hope you continue to enjoy it!
  • you know that 'real artists' only create when the spirit moves them and are penniless and starving until the point at which the benevolent sponsor picks their work out of the crowd and gives them a gallery show. That's fine too if you're an optimist and this is what you want believe - and you're prepared to wait.
This post is for people who realise there's maybe a bit more to it than that. It's aimed primarily at people who are wanting to think through their current approach to selling their art in the context of the current recession.

So - what exactly is marketing?

If you've never studied marketing then I wouldn't be surprised if now and again you get confused about all the different ways of describing what happens in getting the art off your easel and into the hands of a client - and how they all fit together.

Today I'm starting a new series of posts which will all relate to marketing - and how that relates to art.

I'm stating with something akin to a summary of the different activities involved in marketing from a theoretical perspective. Then in order to make that relevant to art, I'll provide some examples of how these relate activities to artists. Remember this is just an overview at this stage.
Marketing is all the things you can do as an artist to create, communicate and deliver what you have to offer to your client or customer.
That means that marketing INCLUDES:
  • deciding what you want to create and how that is going to be specified.
  • all the different ways you communicate about your goods and services to the people who may want to buy them.
  • all the different ways used to channel and deliver the goods and services from a producer to the customer.
Marketing Plan
A written plan, usually in-depth, describing all activities involved in achieving a particular marketing objective, and their relationship to one another in both time and importance.
Chartered Institute of Marketing - Marketing Glossary
There's a notion that a proper marketing plan should include clear statements about elements of what is called the "marketing mix".

Marketing mix: You can think of the marketing mix a bit like baking a cake. If one of the ingredients is left out the cake probably isn't going to bake properly and although you'll deliver something it's much more difficult to give your consumer a highly satisfactory experience. To follow the analogy a little further, you know when you've got the mix right when the customer comes back and asks for more!

The four key ingredients - known as the four 'P's - are as follows.
  • product
  • price
  • place
  • promotion
Marketing Mix
The combination of marketing inputs that affect customer motivation and behaviour. These inputs traditionally encompass four controllable variables 'the 4 Ps': product, price, promotion and place. The list has subsequently been extended to 7 Ps, the additions being people, process and 'physical evidence'.
This is such a core concept in marketing and it's been around for such a long time that people have spent years coming up with additional 'p's which are also important! Other 'p's that they have suggested are important are:
  • people - the people they deal with represent the product
  • process - the experience of making a purchase makes all the difference to whether interest is converted to a sale
  • packaging - how you package your art - in the gallery, online and in the post - all make a difference to interest and satisfaction
  • physicality ie tangible evidence of the product - This addresses questions relating to "What's it like?" Such as "Can you touch it?" "Can you see it?" "Is it real?"
Product: A product can be either a good or a service. In the case of artists it's the artwork plus any additional items you build into your proposal for a sale.

You might specify what reassurances you'll give to your customers. For examples statements about materials used to produce your art; statements of authenticity; what warranties you will give etc.

You should have a clear understanding about what you intend to produce in the period covered by your plan. Most businesses base this on market research about how the market segments into differemt groups and what each segment of the market likes, needs wants, and buys. For example what sizes are selling in what price range to what sort of customer. Subject matter might be based on what you like to produce and what you know sells. (Personally speaking I can't go round an exhibition without making mental notes befoe I leave about the subjects and sizes which have sold and what gets left on the wall no matter how good the artist!)
Market Segmentation
The division of the market place into distinct subgroups or segments, each characterised by particular tastes and requiring a specific marketing mix.
It's very helpful if you can identify the sort of person who wants to buy the sort of art you produce. For example:
  • adults in the 25-40 age group; busy people who like online shopping but don't have a lot of cash to spare although they like their homes to look nice
  • more mature adults with cash to spare for bigger purchases now the mortgage is paid off and the family have left home
Price: This is a statement about how the price for your work is determined - including how you discount any prices. Your "price" may or may not reflect input costs and may or may not reflect the cost of your time and effort in producing the artwork. My post on pricing will discuss different approaches to pricing and what you need to think about in relation to a recession.

Placement: Basically it's about choosing what sort of retail channel to use in what sort of environment to get to the point of sale. In detail it's about making decisions about two related aspects:
  • Location - Based on your research, which part of the marketplace you want to target (location; market segment - in customer terms) and
  • Channel - How you get your artwork from your studio to your customer.
So for an artist this could be a bricks and mortar (B&M) gallery in your local town or it could be a website providing an art gallery or art store site online. Different types of people buy their art in different types of places. If you want to pitch your art priced $1,000 you need to place that art where people go who are willing to spend £1,000 for an artwork. For example, it's no surprise that small daily paintings have sold well online.
E-Commerce (Electronic Commerce)
Any business transaction that takes place via electronic platforms
Identifying what sort of people (market segment) is likely to buy your art is important. This then relates to decisions about whether you want to focus your efforts locally, regionally, nationally or you want to go global!

Promotion: Promotion has a number of elements. These are:

  • advertising - this relates to a structured effort to persuade your potential customers to buy your art. It includes for example your website and your blog - even if you have no art for sale on them right now. It can also include membership of online art galleries and having an online art store.
Promotion of a product, service, or message by an identified sponsor using paid-for media.
  • public relations - This is about managing the public perception of your art and yourself as an artist. Think of newspaper editorial, articles in art journals or coverage by websites/blogs that people read. Think also about unguarded comments in blog posts, forums and on other people's blogs!!!
Public Relations
The function or activity that aims to establish and protect the reputation of a company or brand, and to create mutual understanding between the organisation and the segments of the public with whom it needs to communicate.
  • word of mouth - this is where family, friends, relationships with former customers and peer to peer social networks (such as Facebook) are all so very important. Closely linked to viral marketing and peer to peer marketing.
Viral Marketing
Spreading a brand message using word of mouth (or electronically - 'word of mouse') from a few points of dissemination. Typical techniques include using email messages, jokes, web addresses, film clips and games that get forwarded on electronically by recipients
  • point of sale - issues relating to converting interest into a sale and the place where the transaction actually occurs. When selling online promotion can be about ensuring compliance with sales regulations and offering a great deal of reassurance about the site where people are entering their card details. You might want to know about how to get PayPal onto your blog. They might want to know that are dealing with an accredited secure site with a security certificate and the little lock icon at the bottom of their screen!

I'm still working out what topics I'm going to cover and in what order in subsequent posts so I won't make any promises here. However I will be developing "resources for artists" information sites which reference good websites and good posts about marketing created by other people - so if you've got any particular favourites do let me know in the usual way by leaving a comment below.

There's lots of scope for making the order in which I tackle the different aspects relate to what people are most interested in - so do please leave a comment and let me know!

Don't worry if you don't understand some aspects right now. Remember - think cake! I'm going to be breaking up the topic of marketing into easy slices to make it easier to digest.

The artwork for today's post is that rarely seen thing these days - one of my pastel paintings! This one was started sat on the beach in Carmel in July 2006 and wasn't finished as I got too cold due to the marine inversion which was taking place at the same time as the rest of the USA baked in an amazing heatwave! (see Thursday 27th July: Carmel by the Sea - and a marine inversion)

On the Monday that week I'd been travelling through three deserts and experienced temperatures some 50 degrees F higher!

I've done a little bit more to it but I'm not sure it's 'finished'. However I'm also not sure that I'm going to do any more it. After a few weeks of looking at it 'parked' I've decided that I rather like it the way it is!

Link: All the definitions used come from the Online Glossary of the Chartered Institute of Marketing.


  1. Wonderful timing! Can you do the P's in any order? I started getting some publicity materials arranged today. And I think I also know the sort of places I would like to sell my work. I'm a little more wobbly on the plan. Having just done an ArtBiz course with Alyson Stansfield I do feel I have more tools to help me. This 101 has added to that. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and experience.

  2. positively Fauvist :>)

    you should do more pastels

    and this was a great post - though I think Certificates of Authenticity is a US thing? I've never had a gallery that dealt with them,

    It would be so easy to forge one I'm not sure of their purpose?

  3. Thank you for this excellent research and information. In the past 20 years, I have been part of B&M galleries, co-op galleries, shows and one-person exhibits, juried shows and have been blessed with many collectors. Now I am looking to the computer as a way to share my artwork and have that wonderful experience of selling. Having a website and blogging is the most that I have done.

  4. Hi Katherine,

    As one of my favourite blogs, I am giving you an art blog award. It can be copied from my blog at You are asked to list 7 things that you love and give the award to 7 other artblogs.

  5. Great post Katherine! I think an important key to getting artists to embrace business strategies such as marketing is to get them to realize that running a business can and should involve their creativity, just like their art making does. Such a shift in thinking can overcome the resistance that a lot of artists feel towards managing their business affairs.

  6. Thanks for the award Ranjini - however I'm afraid I don't do these memes anymore.

  7. Vivien - yes a Certificate of Authenticity is a USA thing. I think in fact it's required in some states.

    I really should get those pastels out more shouldn't I? ;)

  8. Anita - the best place to start when working out how best to market your art is with the customer.

    Learning as much as you can about how people like to buy art, what sort of art people like to buy - and at what range of prices can save a lot of heartache later. You can learn a lot just through observation and asking questions.

    All the major changes that I've ever initiated and then managed in strategic marketing plans (for implementation across the UK and Ireland) came about through market research.

  9. Peggy - glad to hear you're wanting to learn more about using the Internet

    Teresa - I absolutely agree. As creative souls we should be better than other people at coming up with new angles on how to make marketing work for us!

  10. Katherine, I agree with the comments on the pastel painting -- BEAUTIFUL - really grabs me!

    I have just skimmed this article, almost overwelmed, don't know how you do it! Will study it in depth. Have just spent an hour on your Squido and will be retuning to it, also, to make a better marketing plan. Thank you for all of your had work and sharing.

    I feel in a funk about selling anything, but your drum beating is getting me energized.


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