You’re good at your craft. You want to spend your time making more stuff, not annoying people by schlepping your wares. Besides, that’s not your strength, right?
The problem is, learning to be a good marketer really is a matter of life or death to an artist. You simply can’t make money unless people are buying your products, or coming to your shows and exhibits. But there is good news. You don’t have to spend the rest of your life hiding—boring, but safe—behind protective glass.
Throw your hat into the ring
Officially, publicly, and proudly announce to the world your intention to be a competitor:
1. Reframe the ruthless tiger into a cuddly pussycat. The words “marketing” and “sales” can put more fear into people’s hearts than saber-toothed tigers. If this describes you, I have one piece of advice: Talk to people. Just talk. Convey information, have conversations, educate. Whether you’re online or on stage, it’s all just conversations and relationships. Once you realize you are making your work available to people who are already interested in it, all the pressure is off.
2. Resolve to use your superpowers for good. People are starving for connection, inspiration, beauty, laughter, momentary distractions, and the warm fuzzy feelings that art brings them. You have a moral obligation to get your work out to the people who need it. Art might not be a matter of life or death, but it sure makes the difference between a beautiful journey on the planet and a bland existence.
3. Imagine yourself accepting your Lifetime Achievement Award. What will it be for? What will you have accomplished? Think in terms of the impact your work will have on people. You need a vision for your career that will carry you through the tough times. You’ll need to know who you’ll be, what you can do for your audience, and where you’re headed.
4. Commit to the long haul. Be patient and kind to yourself. Your road won’t always be easy, and, yes, there is a lot to learn. But it’s not complicated; you can absolutely do this. Build your fortress one block and one wall at a time.
Identify your most thrilling feats
If you’re not sure what you do that’s worthy of prime-time TV with big-ticket sponsors, try some of the following tactics:
5. Realize you’re already brave. Ask friends, fans, and customers what things you have the nerve to do that they admire. You probably tend to take your artistry for granted, yet how many people have told you they could never do what you do? You can talk to them in person or send them an e-mail with a few simple questions. You might get some surprising answers.
6. Revisit/relive your standing ovations. Think back—when have you done something that absolutely delighted your fans, customers, or clients? What have you done to make people throw money and praise at you? Write these things down and purposely do more of them.
7. Stand proud in the spotlight. You’re unique. Play that up. List some key ways you are different from your competition and communicate these differences.
8. Become a mind reader. Get into your customers’ heads and ask yourself what they like, what they don’t like, how they spend their time, and where they hang out. Interview current fans and customers to find out why they buy from you. Ask a handful of people if they would mind answering a few short questions in exchange for a small gift. Then ask these same questions to a larger group via SurveyMonkey or similar online tool. Listen when they respond.
Find your adoring, adventure-hungry fans
It’s all about the tension, excitement, and the energy of the crowd, right?
9. Build your command center. Get a real website if you don’t have one. Social media sites should all drive back to the main hub of your operations and engagement on your website.
10. Craft captivating stories. Tell how you got to this place. Daredevils don’t start out jumping canyons. They start on three-foot-high ramps. Stories are powerful ways to build connection and they’re universal. How did you get where you are? What were your turning points? What struggles did you overcome? Use humor and emotion.
11. Bare all. Figuratively, of course. What’s your mission? Why do you do what you do? How do you want to help people? Talk about those things that drive you to thrill-seeking artistic entrepreneurship.
12. Flip on the camera when people are raving about you. Gather testimonials—these could be formal or informal or a combination of both. It could be as simple as asking for a quick video the next time someone compliments your work. What others say about you is more powerful than what you say about yourself. It’s not bragging. Testimonials allow you to connect with more ideal fans.
13. Share center stage. Round up videos and pictures of happy customers’ experiences. Have them submit photos of themselves using, displaying, or listening to your work. New fans will relate and imagine themselves there, too.
14. Collect your press clippings. Grab and share clips from Twitter, Facebook, and fan mail on your websites. All those nice things that people say to you online and offline (with their permission) are fair game and easy to gather.
Getting in front of people isn’t enough. Your next assignment must knock their socks off.
15. Give your people what they want. Knowing what your fans want is your job, not theirs. They don’t care only about the physical book or the CD or the coffee-table sculpture they’ve purchased. They’re buying a feeling, an experience, a lifelong memory, an emotional connection.
16. Needle fans with their biggest fears. They won’t really be in danger, of course, but they don’t know that. Imagine their worries and frustrations. How does your work help your fans ease their minds? You can help them prevent boredom, take time to smell the roses, or laugh at ridiculousness.
17. Tantalize fans with their biggest thrills. Identify your clients’ driving needs or desires. A trigger exists that makes people actually take the time to check out your work, come to a show, and pull out their wallets and buy from you. You have to know what that is. Is it the desire to capture and relive a great memory? The feeling of being on the ground floor of a movement?
18. Titillate them with their deepest desires. Once you discover what you really sell, dangle it in front of people’s faces. Tempt them with the outcome they’re seeking. Make it irresistible.
19. Master mind control. You do this by creating an ideal customer profile and imagining yourself talking to that person. If you’ve done one in the past, it never hurts to revisit it. If you’ve never done one, a ton of information is out there. It’s incredibly worthwhile.
20. Be astounding and unpredictable. Push the limits. Do things differently. Keep people on their toes by constantly surprising them. Don’t feel you have to do things a certain way just because everyone else is doing it.
Rally your supporters
No one accomplishes amazing feats on his or her own. Usually a whole team is working behind the scenes to make sure everything goes off without a hitch.
21. Round up your superfans. Gather those people who will follow you to the ends of the earth. Show them your gratitude by offering them something special—a limited-edition piece or an online or in-person fan appreciation party. Then keep getting your work out to more people to grow this bunch.
22. Find backers. Find out who the influencers are in your niche and build genuine relationships with them. Start now, because this will take time. Don’t ask for anything yet; just be cool and giving. If your work is a good fit for their audiences, your backers will not only have great stuff to share with their followers, but they’ll also give your fan base a boost.
23. Recruit volunteers. Let people help you. It can be as simple as asking—most of the time, we just don’t think to do this. Maybe someone’s good at making posters, organizing events, walking around neighborhoods, or visiting local businesses distributing flyers or business cards. Ask!
24. Build a street team. Let your most loyal and vocal fans be part of the team. They can help share the announcements that excite them and the works that move them. They can hang posters, spread the word about special offers, and bring new people to events.
25. Embrace your friends and family. They are your number one support network. They might not always understand. They might be overprotective sometimes. But they are there through the triumphs and the failures, cheering you on. And they will tell everyone they know how proud they are of you.
26. Assemble special teams. Line up reserves that are always on call for those times when you need extra help. Know which friends have the skills and desire to help you with specific projects. Find a virtual assistant before you need one. Post a project on E-lance.
27. Cheer, chant, and do the wave. Have a rallying cry that unites everyone on your team, a goal you all share. Make it succinct and memorable. Cartoonist Hugh MacLeod has “Office Art That Actually Matters.” You could use something like “Photos that make you smile” or “Sculptures built from dreams.”
Fan the flames of excitement
When you tap into that sweet spot of giving people what they want, they will come back for more. They’ll tell all their friends and drag them along to meet you. So throw a little fuel on those flames.
28. Give fans previews of coming attractions. Include upcoming releases, shows, and new places you’ll be showcasing your work. Turn it into a must-see event, with real, not false, urgency. People can see through false deadlines like snake oil—use urgency wisely.
29. Award backstage passes. Open your studio, either physically or virtually or both. Explain your setup, your equipment, favorite themes or materials. You could go into your work process, things that inspire you, or how you capture your ideas. All this is fascinating to people.
30. Hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Have an actual grand opening with hand-signed, snail-mailed invitations. Offer tours. Make it into a virtual event by doing a short video showing your studio and equipment. Do a press release and run it in the local papers.
31. Roll back the curtain. Do a short video or blog post highlighting your actual creative process. Make a whole series of journal posts for a large project like a book or CD. Follow a project from start to finish and document it with photos, video, or a journal. Share this on your blog or on YouTube.
32. Offer new fans a test drive; let them take their own lap around the course. Come up with something exclusive, irresistible, and valuable (that you could charge at least $20 for) that your fans will just have to have. It could be a print, an art e-book, or a sample DVD. Give this away in exchange for an e-mail address, which you can then use to further build your relationship with them.
33. Arrange frequent meet-and-greets. Engage face-to-face with your fans before and after events. Hold online meet-and-greets like Twitter chats, Google hangouts, etc. Really engage online. Don’t just add people to increase your friend count; build relationships as much as you can.
Leanne Regalla teaches creative people how to pursue their art without going broke, living in their cars, or starving to death. Her blog, Make Creativity Pay, is located at www.MakeCreativityPay.com. Follow her on Twitter @LeRegalla.