Putting your work in front of new audiences is one of the most important aspects of managing your business. There are tons of articles and resources online you can search for. However, how do you know that the art marketing plan you’re implementing is both measurable and effective?
“Historically, the arts have depended mostly on legacy and word of mouth,” begins Lainya Magaña, the founder of A&O, a boutique integrated marketing and public relations agency that offers services to businesses in the arts and culture industries. “We can see now that the internet and social media is beginning to change the way that the industry works.”
When it comes to implementing marketing strategies for artists, the internet has leveled the playing field considerably. While audience engagement was once the exclusive domain of recognized galleries and institutions, online marketplaces, personal stores and social media are now essential platforms for individual artists to engage their target audience. No matter what the size of your creative business, a strong art marketing plan maintains the overall health of your livelihood.
A robust art marketing plan shouldn’t rely solely on public relations campaigns.
Public Relations and Marketing Strategies for Artists
Press and media coverage are an important part of keeping an artist’s or institution’s name on the public’s mind. However, press coverage can only take a creative so far. Magaña stresses the importance of understanding the limitations of both marketing and PR and learning how to leverage each.
“If you get a write up in the New York Times or Art Forum, you sort of assume that everyone is going to read that article. But an article doesn’t give you any hard data,” explains Magaña. “The end goal, in essence, is usually profitability. Public relations alone can’t bring you profitability. There is no direct ROI relationship between press and a sale that can be tracked. With an art marketing plan, you can track numbers and data.”
Besides traditional press coverage, include ad placements, events, creative partnerships, social media strategies and content creation in your art marketing plan. These platforms can provide real numbers as to whether or not your marketing tactic worked.
“The disadvantage of depending exclusively on public relationships and not developing an art marketing plan is that PR doesn’t tell you who you are engaging,” Magaña stresses. “Sure, that New York Times article engages ‘x’ amount of readership and a New York Times audience, but it’s hard to really understand that audience.”
Understanding Your Audience
Magaña suggests that there is a wealth of information available, but that targeted art marketing campaigns utilized by other industries are still outside the norm of strategies traditionally used by the average creative business, artist or art institution.
“Marketing isn’t really an area that is understood within the arts,” she comments, “This is purely anecdotal, but I am aware of very few galleries or institutions that have marketing coordinators on their team.”
A creative business, artist or institution will generally have an idea of who their consumer base is and some of the media outlets they prefer to use. A traditional art marketing and PR method might focus specifically on art-centric publications and hope that the strategy engages. Quantifiable analytics help build an extra layer that allows for more meaningful content and better ad placements.
Before developing any art marketing strategy, the first step should be analyzing your demographics and tracking the behaviors and interests of both your current inbound traffic as well as the audience you would like to engage in. For example, you should have a good idea of who is regularly reading or responding to content on your blog and social media channels Magaña recommends analytic services like Google Analytics, to gain powerful demographic insights. If your desired demographic isn’t the audience that you are currently engaging, analytics can give insights into where your art marketing strategy is failing and how to turn it around.
Clearer understandings of your demographics allow for more laser-focused content, creative events, targeted ad placements and social media campaigns within your art marketing strategy. The ability to narrow your focus will give you room to build a stronger narrative and more meaningful connections.
“Maybe a gallery is trying to reach an audience of collectors who buy late 20th-century abstract paintings. How do you reach that buyer?” Magaña poses. “You can create data to understand who that collector is and learn, for example, that that consumer is a 40-year-old male who likes interior design and reads golf magazines. With that information, you can create a more focused campaign, an event at a golf club or an ad in an interior design magazine,” that directly targets your particular demographic, she says.
Understanding that demographics change over time is also an important component of any art marketing strategy. Creative brands should be frequently monitoring what their customers want and which outlets they regularly consume, and be prepared to evolve with their consumers in order to remain relevant. Magaña chimes in: “If you are looking to appeal to a millennial demographic, you aren’t going to do a collector’s tour, you’ll throw an after-party.”
Set A Goal and Build an Art Marketing Campaign
Once you understand your current or desired demographic, the next step is establishing a specific goal—increased sales to existing clients, increased brand awareness, new partnerships, expanding sales into new demographics—and creating a set of marketing metrics and key performance indicators to measure the effectiveness of campaigns across the chosen marketing channels.
The language and tone across your art marketing materials should always be consistent across assets and mirror established language across the rest of your brand. Spend some time developing your brand and identifying color schemes, imagery and the ‘voice’ you want to project in your content. Using collected data can help tailor this messaging to your desired demographic in order to create the narrative and connections your customers are seeking.
Creatives should consider A/B testing, a method of comparing two versions of a website or ad campaign against one another, to determine the best course of action. With A/B testing, you can analyze your art marketing plan’s performance and determine what your customer demographic does and doesn’t react to. Data gleaned from the experiment helps understand exactly what your customers react to which will allow you to continually build better tailor-made experiences for your desired demographic, improving the likelihood of reaching your particular goal.
Don’t Fear the New Frontier
Magaña explains that art marketing is still a relatively new concept and that part of the process is educating artists, institutions, and creative business owners about the importance of moving away from traditional public relations-heavy strategies, leaning instead on the marketing opportunities provided by social media and other new technologies.
And, as in any new strategy, consistency is your strongest tool. “With time and persistence good projects succeed,” says Magaña.
Kevin Vaughn is a writer and photographer focused on food and culture in Buenos Aires, Argentina. His work has appeared Munchies, New Worlder, Remezcla and Savoteur.