Tips and Insights For Artists Looking to Improve Their Marketing Efforts
To use the words of Jay-Z, you’re not a businessman; you’re a business, man. (Reword that in whatever gendered or non-gendered way works for you. 🙏 )
At MakersPlace we are passionate about helping our artists succeed, in both the digital space and the art world in general. To empower our artists with the tools and knowledge they need to propel their names and artworks to the next level, we’ve compiled some best practices to keep in mind when marketing your art and engaging with potential collectors.
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Why Does Marketing Matter for Artists?
Financial success in the art world is not defined by talent. The world’s most talented unknown artist is still an unknown artist. And that uber-talent will be unsold or underselling until they find their audience.
As an artist, your main focus should be on your art, but your secondary creative superpower should become marketing and getting recognition for your work. As daunting as it may sound, many successful artists spend as much time marketing as they are creating.
Find Your Target Audience
A crucial first step for marketing your art — and yourself as an artist — is to first understand who you are trying to market to. This step requires equal parts self-reflection and research.
First, clearly define and identify your art style(s).
“My style” is perhaps too big and vague, so break it down into smaller chunks, answering some or all of the following prompts (not all will necessarily be applicable):
- Software (Procreate, Photoshop, CD4, Unreal Engine, &c.)
- Physical art supplies (oil paint, paper, charcoal, photography, &c.)
- Subject matter (portraits, human figures, still lifes, animals, landscapes, &c.)
- Genre (sci-fi, metaverse, feminist, &c.)
- Process (glitch, drawing, generative, &c.)
- Direct influences (individual artists, movements, schools, &c.)
- Color palette (B&W, psychedelic, muted, minimal, monochromatic, &c.)
- Format (3D, animation, 2D, multimedia, mixed media, &c.)
From the terms listed above, you can start to research your artistic peers in these areas (ideally those who are already well-established and making consistent sales).
I recommend turning to Twitter Advanced Search with the list of descriptive terms generated above plus some terms for the “may contain” field such as web3, crypto, .eth, .tez, NFT, along with similar terms that can cut through the noise.
In this process, spreadsheets are your friend (We’ll keep adding as we continue your research.) Organize it however you like, but be sure to track each artist’s channels for easy reference and add a few descriptors — if the list grows quite long, you want to be able to remind yourself who each artist is. Maybe paste a thumbnail-sized image into a cell for easier reference.
In this next step, look at the marketplaces where they sell and pay attention to:
- Who’s buying their artwork
- Which collectors are big fans of this style of art (hint: this is fodder for a second “target audience” spreadsheet if you’re so inclined.)
Use these insights to build a list of potential collectors, audience members, and like-minded artists with whom you may just want to nerd out.
As you begin to create your target audience list, be sure to consider communities too. Is there a forum where people are discussing art similar to yours? Where are the most active Discords? Those people are all your target audience! Learn what type of art they like, what they usually spend, and where they hang out.
Learn from Those Doing it Well
More spreadsheet fodder! Before you dive into your marketing mission, research the artists in your space who are well-established and getting the recognition you hope to achieve.
Take note of what they are doing:
- Where and how are they promoting their artworks?
- How are they crafting their descriptions?
- How are they communicating with their collectors?
- How often do they post?
- Which posts get the greatest engagement?
Thinking along these lines will help you create a game plan for your own marketing strategy. As all great artists steal, don’t be shy about using successful channel activity (tweets, IG stories, YouTube videos, &c.) as templates for your own burgeoning miniature marketing empire.
And while you’re visiting accounts anyway, it’s helpful to start making meaningful comments, retweeting great posts, and interacting with your favorite artists and their followers.
“It’s all in who you know” is true but often misinterpreted as a call to arms for sleazy transactional networking. Instead, interpret the “who you know” truism as a call to action to involve yourself in a more social, community-oriented practice rather than the business-card-slinging alternative. Put succinctly, the more people with whom you have genuine relationships, the greater your chance of becoming a success — however you define it.
Your greatest lever for career success lay in the goodwill of others; you can engender that goodwill with your own thoughtful engagement and generosity.
Develop an Active Presence Across Channels
Whether you love it or hate it, social media is an important tool for artists hoping to gain more exposure, fans, and eyes on their work. It’s how most collectors discover their favorite artists and work.
You should aim to have an active account on the channels that matter most to your audience, which these days are probably Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok (in order of importance).
Post and promote your artwork regularly across these channels. Twitter has the most active community of NFT collectors, but Instagram’s UX makes for a superior artist resume. TikTok is less gung-ho on NFTs, which might mean it’s ripe for standing out if you have the bandwidth to create compelling content that fits in on TikTok.
Having a well-maintained personal website is also key for artists hoping to be discovered online for three reasons:
- It makes it easier for people to discover and share your work.
- It makes you look reputable and established.
- It gives you — the artistic mastermind — complete control over your brand in a way that social channels cannot.
One thing digital marketers always consider with every piece of content is: What do I want the audience to do here? This is where calls-to-action (CTA for short) come in. At the bottom of this article, you will see a form field to sign up for the MakersPlace newsletter. As a marketer, I hope you like this article enough to sign up for the newsletter. That’s the CTA for this content.
From the perspective of an artist in the NFT world, common CTAs might be social media follows or newsletter signups, but because your ultimate goal is selling your art, your website and all other channels should give prominent placement to the places where collectors can view and buy your work — you know, like your MakersPlace gallery URL.
Sharpen Your Storytelling Skills
People share and buy art that inspires or ignites some type of emotion within them. While all art is up for interpretation, drafting a thought-provoking description that pulls viewers in and makes them feel something will help viewers appreciate your art even more.
Storytelling principles should be applied within all your promotional texts, including your artwork description on MakersPlace or social media captions.
To jumpstart your creativity here, ask yourself some or all of the following questions (and add any you prefer to focus on) as a pre-writing exercise to tell the story of each piece or series:
- Why did I create this?
- Under what circumstances did I create this?
- What experience do I want viewers to have when they experience my work? (Be as specific as possible!)
- What inspired this work? Was it inspired by an event, person, place, movement, feeling, etc? How many inspirations went into it? (i.e. “This part comes from x, but in this part, I was thinking about y.”)
- What makes this an especially (difficult/ representative/ odd/ intellectually stimulating/ &c.) example within my body of work?
Use your answers as the starting point of a writing exercise to create a concise but captivating description.
Some artists may bristle at this advice, but there is no formula for what the description should look like. It can be a poetic addendum or straightforward reportage. But consider that even the most pure-hearted, art-loving collector feels a sense of status with a new acquisition, so why not give them a script of how to brag about your art?
Build Meaningful Relationships with Collectors
Once you’ve identified your target audience/collectors, the next step is making sure they know who you are. Successfully engaging with collectors is a delicate balancing act . You want them to know you, but you also don’t want to come across as salesy or annoying.
The best way to avoid this? BE SINCERE! Collectors are people, and they can sense disingenuousness. Start slowly engaging: liking their content, contributing ideas or opinions on their posts, engaging in conversations in the comments of their tweets, etc.
Establish yourself first as a knowledgeable follower with a keen eye and interest in the same kinds of work — because if you did your homework above, then this is 100% true.
DON’T start by asking them to check out your work or bid on a piece. Build a relationship first, so that when the time does come, you are someone they not only recognize but enjoy. Chances are that once they get to know you, they’ll start exploring your work on their own anyway.
Once you have a good relationship, you can begin to notify/tag them in your future promotions.
Stay Motivated and True to Yourself
The biggest piece of advice we can give to artists is to never give up! Gaining a fanbase is something that can take years, but with persistence, discipline, and flexibility, you can reach the promised land. For more ideas (and some philosophizing) on how to create an undeniable online presence, check out this companion article, How to Stand Out in the NFT World.
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