August 4, 2016

The holiday shopping season of 2016 is almost here.

Given that, artists need “to get busy.”  August and September are no time to relax.  Now’s the time when artists and galleries need to craft and draft their marketing strategies … before it’s too late.

What do I mean when I say, “too late?”  In short, if you’re an artist or gallery and you haven’t put your marketing strategy into action by mid-September, you’re pretty much dead in the water.  You MUST launch your social media and email marketing strategies immediately after LABOR DAY.  Tuesday, September 6th.

Why?  Because SEPTEMBER is the only chance you’ll have to get into the heads of consumers before retailers launch their own, powerful campaigns. October is TOO LATE. You actually have a shot at convincing people that they can and should buy art as holiday gifts, but you must beat retailers like Nordstrom, Macy’s and Target to the punch. 

Once their charming, multi-million dollar, television advertising campaigns begin, you’ve lost your captive crowd. Few humans can resist television advertising.  Why do you think a 30-second, Super Bowl ad is now $5 million?  You can blow off the significance of marketing and promotion all you wish, but they are no joke.

There's no need for artists and galleries to be left in the dust ... yet again ... this year.  Plan NOW.

Right now, you also have a good chance to grow your online audience while the social media model remains free of charge.  Social media remains your most cost-effective chance at pitching art to millions of people in one fell swoop. This is changing to a paid model even as we speak.  Yes, this is all about marketing online.

Many if not most artists and galleries won’t be able to afford the cost of social media advertising, so do it for free right now … while you still have time.  The good news is that you don’t have to be a black-belt marketer.  All you need are your professional art website, your social media and email marketing accounts and a little time and know how.

I suggest you launch your 16-week “Holiday 2016 Social Media Marketing Campaign" the day after Labor Day.  I will lay out a schedule for you in a moment, but first, here are some things that I believe you must do…

1. FOCUS YOUR EFFORTS: Focus on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Google Plus and Ello.  Social media remains your most powerful tool. You can pick and choose which platforms work best for you, but Facebook and Twitter are MANDATORY.  They’re most conducive to what you’re trying to achieve.  

We don't have time here to fully explore email newsletter software, but I suggest you also post your newsletters on social media regularly.  If you don't subscribe to email newsletter software, then create a "newsletter" page on your website, fill it with NEWS about what you're doing and tweet that out.  This will fill the gap until you subscribe to an email newsletter software service.  

Make sure that you've got internal weblinks in your newsletters that connect readers to appropriate pages on your website.  During this time of year, you should be producing and promoting your newsletters AT LEAST twice per month. In short, your email newsletters need to be an integral part of your social media strategy.

2. ESTABLISH YOUR VOICE: It's important that you have a unique voice.  What do you stand for?  What is your brand? Try to reflect your values in everything you post and this will help you to build your audience.  Granted, this takes time to achieve, but keep working it.  It has taken me years to achieve this.

3. TARGET OLD, UNSOLD INVENTORY: Focus on your art inventory that has piled up in your studio.  You know, the older works that you’re tired of looking at and simply want to quickly move.  You may also want to focus on drawings and prints … things that may be easier to sell to people who could become art collectors.  Why not create a series of drawings specifically for the purpose of selling during this holiday period?  For God's sake, get creative!

4. PRICE TAG YOUR ART: You MUST put price tags on these works and you must post these works on your website.  If you want to SELL your work, there’s no way around this.  Millions and millions of people are online every day.  Shouldn’t some of those people SEE your work and learn that you’ve got work for sale?  They are not mindreaders.  TELL THEM. The easier you make it for people to buy your work, the better.

5. PUT WORKS ON SALE:  I mean that literally.  You must mark your items 25% off … OR … 50% off … OR … offer a free drawing with a higher-priced painting. You may not want to think like a marketer/salesperson here, but you must.  I know that this sounds terribly tacky and gauche to those who believe contemporary art should be “above” this kind of thing, but do you want to pay next month’s rent/mortgage or do you want to pretend that you and your work are “above” a sales pitch?  Reality is clear. Galleries are folding.  Everything continues to point to selling online.  God gave you a brain, but it’s up to you to use it.  The choice is yours.

6. ENGAGE YOUR AUDIENCE: You MUST engage with your social media audience every single day.  This means you should post at least twice per day, per social media platform.  In short, if you’re on Twitter and Facebook, that means you must post twice per day on Twitter and twice per day on Facebook.  Yes, it is work and it does require effort.

Now, the social media posting schedule …

September 6  - September 13: The early bird catches the worm. Use this first week to introduce yourself to people, post photos of your work and “soft sell” them.  You can write posts like: “This is one of my greatest paintings.  Isn’t it cool?  It’s for sale! Buy now!” OR … “I’ve got two great paintings that are dying for a new home.  Check them out here …” Make sure you ALWAYS provide links to your PERSONAL WEBSITE and NOT your social media page.  Needless to say, you need to have a page on your website that allows people to make legitimate, secure purchases.  

Also, make sure your posts contain a “call to action” like, “Buy Now” or “Check it out.” Try to post at least twice per day … once in the morning and then in the evening after dinner time.  Also, you can create a personal email address specifically for online sales, but make sure that address references your website in some way so that people know it’s you.

Finally, I would suggest all artists and galleries selling art use a universal hashtag like … #buyartnow OR #buymyart OR #buyandsellart.  Something that lets people know where they can quickly go to buy contemporary art from living artists and galleries.  Stick with the plan.

September 14 - September 30: Be honest with people and tell them that you’re a starving artist and you’re trying to sell your work.  Tell them that you’re negotiable (within reason) and that NOW is the time to think about buying art as gifts for friends and loved ones.  During this period, you can start offering 25% off sales.  A sample tweet could say something like, “Here’s my painting called ‘Sunday In September.’  It’s now for sale at 25% off!  Buy Now!”  Make sure you post the appropriate links back to your website so that people can buy if they choose.  If and when your works sell, make sure that you either remove them from your site or mark them as “SOLD.”  If you mark them as “SOLD,” this will make people think that your work is desirable and they may try to buy something else. People always want what seems to be hot or scarce.  This is Marketing Psychology 101.  Stay on course.

October 1 - October 16: During this period, you’re going to have to give people very compelling reasons to buy art. People are starting to think about buying for the holidays. Why should they buy art instead of an iPhone or a pair of designer shoes?  Do NOT rely on your art to sell itself.  You MUST give people realistic and down-to-earth reasons why they should buy your work.  Mention these things in your social media posts.  During this period, people are starting to think about Halloween and then Thanksgiving and retailers will begin their holiday pitches, so you must be assertive and relentless in your posts.  Continue to post twice per day.  Do not give up. 

October 17 - October 31: Start offering selected works for 50% off.  How you price them is up to you, but you know as well as I do that people LOVE seeing things on sale for 50% off.  This is holiday time. Will you offer free shipping?  That’s another marketing strategy you can use … only IF you can afford to do so.  Keep going.

November 1 - November 15: Things will be noticeably tough now.  The major retailers will definitely have begun holiday sales pitches, so you’ll be up against big box retailers who will have bought powerful TV and social media ads, but if you began your social media campaign on September 6th as I’ve suggested and IF you have a decent number of followers, you should’ve made some decent contacts and may even have a sale or two under your belt.  Now’s a great time to really push your lower cost prints and drawings.  Hang in there.

November 16 - November 30: Now is the time to really push those 50% off sales, free shipping (IF you can afford it) and re-state your case for buying art.  Make sure your posts are friendly and warm.  Remember, people tend to think that contemporary art is cold and exclusive.  Now is your time to help dispel that myth.  Use your creativity to pitch your work in your posts.  I cannot put all of the words in your mouth, but make your posts compelling and BRIEF and don’t forget to include your website links.  Even if you don’t sell much, you WILL be increasing your social media presence and gaining followers. Keep up the momentum.

December 1 - December 16: Let’s face it. This is almost a free for all. Can you afford to offer 75% off sales?  If so, why not try it?  See what happens. As usual, the closer we get to Christmas Eve, the more frantic things will get.  This is your last, desperate chance to get people to consider buying art as gifts.  It’s a tough sell, but not impossible. December 16th should probably be your final cut off for selling art.  After the 16th, shipping will be a nightmare and people will probably ignore all of your appeals to buy art anyway.  They’ll be too focused on shopping in brick and mortar stores. You're almost done.

December 17 - December 25: I'd take this time off to do other things and enjoy your Christmas.  But there's one more crucial thing that you must do ... 

December 26 - December 30: It would be quite wise to continue to offer upwards of 75% off sales during this period to take full advantage of those gift cards that millions of people would've gotten for Christmas.  Many of those people spend them immediately online.  Why not send out numerous tweets and posts that take note of that?  You could literally tweet out something like ... "After Christmas Sale!  Why not use that gift card for an original work of art?  75% off!"  Why not give it a try?  You can post similar things like this all during this particular week.

What I’m proposing here may be a new approach for you.  This relies heavily on your existing social media base, your email newsletters and your tenacity and commitment.  You work hard to create your work and you must work even harder to sell it.  That’s just how life works.  

I mean, seriously, do you think I just wrote this strategy for you off the top of my head?  Actually, I did.  Yet I must say I've had an absolute blast chatting with you about this.  We CAN do this. YOU can do this!  Just stay on track. Don't give up.  If you make mistakes, just recover quickly and keep going. 

Just remember that every single time you post or tweet, you're not only promoting and marketing your own work, you're also doing something far more important.  This is not just about you. YOU ARE EXPANDING THE AUDIENCE FOR CONTEMPORARY ART.  No one can do this better than YOU.  Actually, I can, but that's a whole other essay.  LOL.  

Now, let's DO this!  I look forward to hearing some great, success stories.


Happy Holidays,