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A Tale of Two Paintings – A Cautionary Story of Word of Mouth Marketing

It was the best of marketing. It was the worst of marketing.

I just got a new painting today. A gift.

The painting (pictured on the right) is simple, bright and beautiful. I really like it. And I think my friends will too.

Some backstory:

Back in July, I posted a blog about a thought I’ve had for years for painters to market their stuff.

And then, a few days ago, I had a consult with a local artist and energy worker, Deb MacKlem. And she took this idea and ran with it. I’ll be writing more about her in another blog.

So that’s the first painting in our ‘Tale of Two Paintings’.

But I have another painting (pictured on the left). Everyone loves it too. Most of the people who come into my home see it and comment on it.

Here’s what both of these paintings have in common. People love them. And I’ve personally met both the artists and liked them as people – I want to support them.

But the artist of the red and fiery painting that sits above my fireplace is never, ever going to get any business from me.

Deb will. Lots I bet.

Here’s why (and the truth is a bit heart breaking).

The red painting was actually the first painting I’ve ever bought. I saw it at Remedy Cafe in Edmonton and was immediately struck by it. One of those visceral ‘i need to have that’ feelings. I got to talking with the artist (alright – so I was flirting with her but she did turn out to be the artist). I asked her to hold the painting while I ran to the ATM to get her some cash (only $120 for such an amazing painting!). We arranged that she’d deliver it to my place in a few days. The conversation went something like this . . .

“Do you have any business cards?” I asked. I intended to put them behind the frame on the little ledge. No one would see them but they’d be there so I could spread the word about her brilliance.

“No.” she said.

“A website?”

“Not yet,” she replied hopefully.

“Okay. No worries. When you drop it off, just make sure you leave your email so I can tell people how to reach you.”


And we shook on it.

A few days later she dropped off the painting. And left. Without giving me her info. Her info is nowhere on the painting. I have no way of reaching her. I have no idea who she even is anymore.

So, consider the word of mouth marketing dynamic here.

People are coming to my place. They trust me. We’re friends. They see a painting they love. We talk about it. Note that: word of mouth is happening. But she will never, ever, ever get any business from it. Word of mouth isn’t enough.

For word of mouth to work best, three things must be in place.

1) It must be remarkable. You want people to make remarks about your work? Make it worthy of remark. Make it cool. Make it interesting. Make it worth talking about. Her painting succeeds here. It’s striking. People love it.

2) It must be easy. This is where she fails. It’s not only ‘not easy’ for me to spread the word, it’s impossible. Don’t make it difficult for people.

3) You must make it worthwhile. On the most basic level, this means thanking people for spreading the word. This means tracking where people heard about you. This means being gracious. Again – she can’t do this because I can’t send her business.

Here’s the story of the second ‘Sun’ painting.

Deb Macklem booked a coaching session with me. During which we talked about how she could promote her paintings. I gave her a bunch of ideas, including the one from this blog I wrote.

After the call, I got an email from her, offering to give me one of her paintings for free.

And Deb’s no fool. Her giving me that free painting will likely make her hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars over the years. Why? Because, I host a lot of parties at my place. I have guests over often. And her painting is the first thing they see as they walk in. And many of them will ask about it. And then I’ll tell them. Plus, here I am writing about this painting on my blog and tell you about it and encouraging you to check out her facebook page.

Here’s what Deb’s painting does much better from a marketing perspective.

First of all, there’s a whole story behind it of how I got it. Which I’ve just told you.

Second of all, it’s tied to a cool project – there’s a nice story there. There’s the story of how her paints the sun because the sun gives freely, is abundant and the perfect symbol for her this kind of endless, life affirming generosity. And the project has an easy to remember name. The Abundance Project. Easy to search. Easy to find.

The Back of The Sun PhotoThirdly, it’s got these stones in the back of it which each have a meaning. Each one represents something that everyone wants an abundance of: wealth, health, protection, unconditional love. The stones are there to help draw these things to you. It’s very cool, so, of course, I want to show it off and tell them all about it. It’s something unique and conversation worthy.

Fourthly, she’s given me some word of mouth materials. Her cards to pass on. So, if someone likes the painting and the story, I can reach behind and pass on her info. The word of mouth is supported by promo materials that are right there at the point of conversation. Smart.

Fifthly, she’s given me some stuff to read which can educate me even more. The more I know about her project and the painting – the better I can talk about it and sound smart to my friends. People like to sound smart.

Sixthly, she’s going to be inviting me to her party that’s coming up in a bit – so she’s building a relationship with me over time.

All of these add up to more word of mouth (and thus more business) for her.

Two paintings – one will act as a marketing piece that will make her more and more money over time. The other will make her no money.

Which painting do you want YOUR business to be?



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