There’s A Reason Those Artists Are Starving

One of the best books I’ve ever read on marketing is Monopolize Your Marketplace. I’ve read dozens of books on marketing and this is one of the few ‘must haves’ for a marketing collection. Truly. I might just reread it soon actually. It’s one of the best organized and well structured and through books on marketing (full of great stories and examples I still share in my marketing workshops to this date). The tone is way more aggressive and the lense is far more capitalist then I’m personally into – but the content is 100% gold. In this post – Rich gives some down to earth and brilliant advice to artists and art fairs everywhere.
There’s A Reason Those Artists Are Starving
By Rich Harshaw of Monopolize Your Marketplace

Here we go once again with “random pieces of marketing coolness that I just felt like you needed to know.” There’s no unifying theme, no particular order, and no detailed “how to” prescription. Just a quick 10 minute read that will definitely spark some money-making thoughts in your mind. Have fun!

There’s A Reason Those Artists Are Starving: My 14-year old daughter is a budding artist, and if I don’t say so myself, she’s really good. So when she asked me to take her to a local art festival, “Art In The Square,” on Saturday after lunch, I said, “Let’s go.” The weather was perfect and the place was jam-packed with hundreds of local lookers. As we meandered from booth to booth checking out everything from wicked cool windmills to unbelievable oil paintings, I overheard one of the artists tell someone that he “did 35 of these shows a year and covered 45,000 miles to do it.”

Holy crap. That’s not a weekend hobby. That’s a lifestyle.

And this wasn’t the “starving artist” convention, either. These were professional artists with really good stuff with price tags to prove it. But in the two hours we were there, I only saw one person carrying a purchased painting under their arm, and I didn’t see anyone else who appeared to be in “seriously ready to buy something” mode. It was, it seemed, a festival full of window shoppers, price gawkers, and lookie-loos.

Most of us—take me, for instance—didn’t even know the darn thing was going on until 57 minutes before we showed up. Even though I saw several artists’ work that I found interesting, I simply wasn’t ready to plunk down $450 on an impulse buy.

So did the art show organizers or the artists themselves make it easy for me to find them and sample their wares later?Of course not! That would make too much sense! Nobody had a card to fill in. Nobody offered a postcard-sized print of their work with a Web address on the back for future browsing. Nobody had a contest for a free print (so that names and email address could be collected). They all simply hoped and prayed that I’d whip out my checkbook on the spot and give them money—essentially on a whim. Talk about underleveraged.

And that wasn’t the worst of it. The festival organizers did no favors for the road-weary artists, either. There was no guide available telling me which artists were where and what they did. There was no list of names. There was no contact information. There was nothing. Even their website only had a listing by names—but no links to artist websites, no way to tell which artist was which. Nothing. Useless. Worthless. Highly disappointing. And extremely underleveraged. I couldn’t even figure out which artist had the wicked cool windmills to show you. Sorry, their bad. You’ll have to settle for my crummy phone picture.

Major marketing mistake #4 is failure to have an offer. And it is killing these guys. A very simple strategy of postcard-sized prints or even a mini-catalog of their art would allow these guys to build up an email list of (I’m guessing here) 200 to 500 people per show that cared enough about that particular artist’s stuff to fork over their contact information. Multiply that by 35 shows a year and you’re talking 7,000 to 17,500 people on an email list. They could be sent special offers. They could be sent paintings of the week. They could be reminded NEXT YEAR when the art show returned—thereby guaranteeing bigger on-site sales from email recipients who would then be actually anticipating their return… and showing up with that fat wallet, ready and eager to buy.

On the other hand, maybe they really are (truly) starving artists—and prefer to stay that way.


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