This article is by Clint Watson, former art gallery owner/director/salesperson and founder of FineArtViews. You should follow Clint on Twitter here.
While browsing Kathryn Tyrrell's excellent Making a Mark blog, I came across a post, What Do You Know About Selling Art Online?, where a reader had written Kathryn for some advice on getting her artwork "out there."
Considering the questions the reader posed led me down the following line of thought . . .
Two Common Online Art Marketing Questions
In part, the reader wrote, "I'd really like to get more traffic to my blog and website but have no idea how to do it. Any advice you could give me would be really appreciated...Do you have any recommendations regarding Etsy, ImageKind or any of those sites?"
These types of questions are very common, especially among artists who are just getting started online. So Kathryn helpfully distilled the reader's letter down to the following two points that most artists wonder about when they're getting started:
- how to get more traffic to their blog and website
- views on various websites which help artists to sell their art online.
In fact, Kathryn, has found the time (I don't understand how) to put together a Squidoo Lens to help artists answer these questions.
My Easy (but wrong) Answers
I want to be very clear, before I get into the meat of this post that I have absolutely no problem with the questions posed above, and Kathryn's answers and lenses are useful and helpful resources. I encourage you to utilize them.
However, I had some thoughts about such questions that I wanted to share. You see, sometimes these questions are asked by people who don't necessarily want the "real" answers (hint: marketing is hard work and takes time...years, usually), but are wanting a "quick" solution and/or some kind of magic site/method that will just automatically start selling their artwork. And, since I'm in a bit of a flippant mood today, I'll start by giving you a couple of flippant (i.e. wrong, but easy) answers to them:
Question 1: How to get more traffic to your blog and website (instantly)
Answer 1: Advertise.
You'll get traffic right away...just realize that the "traffic" will be virtually worthless. For example: A few months back, out of curiosity, I experimented with StumbleUpon advertising and shot my visitor number up over 1,000 visitors more than normal over a couple of weeks. It could have gone much higher, too, if I was willing to waste more money. However, as soon as I stopped advertising, my traffic went back to normal. (Of course "traffic" that you garner by having conversations over a period of months or years with loyal readers isn't worthless...more on that below).
Question 2: Views on various websites which help artists to sell their art online.
Answer: 2 These sites do help your existing sales effort, they don't usually sell much for you.
These websites have neat technology and can be of great assistance to "help artists sell their art online." These sites typically are tools to assist you with your marketing and selling efforts...they don't sell FOR you...you've got to do that for yourself. The blog, EmptyEasel, interviewed two of ImageKind's top selling photographers and essentially they both did all their own promotion and used Imagekind as a back-end fulfillment service...and that's a great service after you've made the sale that needs back-end fulfillment. One of the photographers interviewed, Ben Rogovy, had this advice which sums it up nicely, "It’s always best to start where you’re already known and work outward. Often times an artist may have a support network of family and pre-existing fans/friends. Those people are a good base to start word of mouth."
A Different Perspective
It's not necessarily bad to ask the questions presented above, we all want more "traffic" and we all want more sales. However, I've felt for some time now that, although the Internet offers so many opportunities for artists, it seems that we're commonly asking the the "traffic" questions while ignoring the "right" questions.
For example, consider what artist Asher Mains wrote, "I am under the impression that many people including artists are still in the Web 1.0 phase of simply providing their work for broadcast across the web. More and more I understand that people really want to be engaged. Watching my statistics I have an OK amount of visitors - but there's nothing to bring them back to my site. Instead of being an artist standing on a corner preaching my artistic ideas at people walking by - I want to be an artist that has dialogues with people walking by so that they can engage my work more fully and so that I can learn from their feedback."
Or think about what artist, John T. Unger told me, "It's not about traffic, it's about the right traffic. I once got 50,000 visitors in three days from collegehumor.com. The 50,000 did not buy anything, leave any comments or link to the site. They were in and out. By contrast, the same number of visitors that year who found the site organically spent 1,000s of dollars and told their friends."
With that in mind, here are the questions I think artists should be asking:
6 Uncommon Art Marketing Questions We SHOULD Ask
1. How do I engage in conversations with my existing contacts and begin leading my clan regarding my story?
2. Do I have the proper tools on my website and blog to have meaningful conversations?
3. How do I encourage my existing supporters to refer their friends?
4. Am I making full use of my mailing list before asking about such things as "traffic"?
5. Do I have an email newsletter? If not, why not? and how soon can I start one?
6. Do I realize that nobody or no website is going to market or sell my work nearly as well as I can?
What I'm saying here is that "traffic for traffic's sake" is worthless. We want "people for people's sake."
Remember, Less is Often More Powerful
It's like Daniel Edlen wrote on his blog, Vinyl Art, "We need to appreciate PEOPLE, not the value they create for us to take. I'm lucky in that, firstly, I get to do what I enjoy, and secondly, I usually get appreciation for what I do. I get to feel connected to the goodness in people. It is there."
I wrote about this previously in 1. vs. 100, but I'm going to re-post the ideas here.
Think about this:
Would you rather have...
1 Person who loves your work or 100 who are "just looking?"
1 dedicated fan or 100 "page views" on your web site?
1 real friend or 100 "Facebook Friends?"
1 fantastic painting or 100 mediocre ones?
1 selling gallery or 100 restaurant exhibits?
1 productive hour or 100 hours watching TV?
1 week in Maui or 100 weeks at work?
1 person who refers another buyer or 100 "maybes" who found you through Google?
1 phone call from a person whose life your art has changed or 100 emails from people wanting you to add "more red" to your work?
1 customer or 100 time wasters?
Sometimes 1 is far more powerful than 100....
Remember that before jumping on the latest Internet bandwagon promising you more "hits", more "page views" and more "traffic."
Now go change the world.
Software Craftsman and Art Fanatic