Activate Your Marketing for a Bigger Audience

Are you putting your art out there and hoping someone will see it, buy it, or give you a show?

Bonny Lundy painting
©Bonny Lundy, Good Omen. Watercolor, 28 x 18 inches. Used with permission.

There was a point when I was complacent about my marketing. I would write my blog posts every week and post to Facebook and Twitter. Then I’d sit back and wait for something to happen.

And I relied too much on my existing list without reaching out to new potential audiences.

Fortunately, my coach corrected my ways. (Yes, we all need coaches!) Amazed that I had such good results with such little effort, she pointed out that I could help a lot more people if only I'd become more active with my marketing.

This got me thinking about all of the passive marketing that we do. That you do. How could you approach it more actively in a way that puts you in the driver's seat of your destiny?

Here are a few ideas.

©Melanie M Brannan, Serenity Disc 4. Golden heavy body acrylics on hardboard substrate with coating, 24 inch diameter. Used with permission.

Ensuring You’re Not Wasting Time on Social Media

Passive: Post updates. Like others' updates. Accept friendships.

Activate Your Social Media

  1. Seek out the people and businesses you really want to connect with. Friend them, like their pages, comment on (don’t just like) their posts, and promote their activities.
  2. Create a reliable editorial calendar for engaging content.

Using Your Mailing List Effectively

Passive: Update your mailing list. Add a sign-up form to your website. Send a newsletter and hope it doesn’t get caught up in a spam filter.

Activate Your Mailing List

  1. Ask people you meet in person if they'd like to be on your list. Yes, you can actually ask this!
  2. Segment your list and target specific messages to each segment as appropriate.
  3. Make a plan to contact your top customers with a personal message once a quarter.
©Valerie Lorimer, Fertile Ground. Paint pens on watercolor paper, 6 x 6 inches. Used with permission.

Benefitting from Exhibitions & Events

Passive: Install your art. Send a postcard and an email blast to your whole list. Create an event on Facebook. Post a photo to Instagram. Hope people show up, buy, and tell others.

Activate Your Exhibitions & Events

  1. Train the venue staff about your art. Share stories and selling points that they can share with visitors. Visit weekly to check in.
  2. Host a VIP preview party and invite your top fans and collectors.
  3. Schedule special private events for specific groups of people who need to see your art.
  4. Communicate on a personal level. Write notes by hand on the postcards you send. Send private emails to the people you most want to attend and invite them to a private showing. Pick up the phone and dial your VIPs.

Boosting the Relationship with Your Gallery

Passive: Ship or deliver the art to the gallery. Attend the opening. Cross your fingers.

Activate Your Gallery Relations

  1. Call the gallery every 3 or 4 months and ask them how you can help them sell more of your work.
  2. Show up for the gallery’s other artists. Gallerists like to see that you’re supportive and engaged.
  3. Bake cookies for your gallerist. A gallerist in Santa Fe told me they love it when people bring them food because it’s difficult to leave the space during open hours.
Carol MacConnell painting
©Carol MacConnell, Whisper. Fluid acrylic, 42 x 84 inches. Used with permission.

Filling Your Classes and Workshops

Passive: Schedule class or event. Rely on venue to fill the registrations.

Activate Your Teaching Opportunities

  1. Send a personal note (email, direct messages, text, or real mail) to the people you most want to attend.
  2. Pick up the phone and invite potential students to your class.
  3. Offer to write a guest blog post to help promote the event.

We need both passive and active marketing, but our businesses slow down when we rely on passive alone.

How are you being too passive with your marketing? How are you activating it?

Originally published in 2014. Updated and republished October 2018 with original comments in place.

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39 thoughts on “Activate Your Marketing for a Bigger Audience”

  1. Kathy Friedline

    PASSIVE PASSIVE PASSIVE me. I will be using some of your tips in the next few minutes for an exhibition that I am co-chairing!
    Love your new format!

  2. Great tips, as always! I will be putting this list on my desktop.
    I might add one thing: be sure you have your portfolio with you at all times on your phone or in your purse.

  3. I am bookmarking this post as I am a passive marketer…I admit it…ugh!! But in my defense I am getting a bit more bold this year, asking people to join my FB sight and be on my mailing list…but this is more of a push…thanks!!

  4. Alyson,
    Thank you. I love the idea of targeting specific types of customers rather than one emailing. Just so you know, I recently held a one woman show as a challenge to one of your workshops. The results were amazing. Your training was and is amazing! Thank you so much.

  5. I think these marketing strategies you’ve shared are very effective, and makes a whole lot of sense. What’s even better is that they can be put into effect right away.

    Thanks for sharing,

  6. Wow…I am passive on all counts.
    I’ve not finished updating my new website in six months.
    I’ve not attended juried shows in which I have been included (scheduling conflicts with my being out of town).
    I’ve not been actively looking for new clients…no keeping in touch with my base, other than through Facebook.
    I have to get on the ball.
    Thanks for your generous replies co-artists.
    And, Alyson, I think you are making me more and more aware of how to survive as an artists — everyday. Thank you!

  7. Another great and timely post. I am not a very fast producer and therefore have not clued in to how to send news to just some of my list. I do not see the benefits of it unless I make enough art for different tastes.

  8. The personal touch really counts. I am trying out video messages using Soapbox by Wistia. It is a free browser extension and no software required (I have no connection to Wistia). Just click start, record a quick video message and send them the link on email. Nice for thank you messages.

  9. Needed this today! Love all the comments here; I, too have become passive in recent months. Upon reflection, I know how this happened. No excuses! Time to refocus my energy and stop being lazy about marketing and making connections! Thanks, Alyson!

  10. I am becoming more active but I have a long ways to go before I can confidently say, “I’m an active marketer of my work.” But thanks to Alyson, I know what I have to do. One step at a time, I’m getting there.

  11. Love your list Alyson! I’d like to add guest-posting or contacting appropriate publications offering your art for a feature article, as great ways to get eyes-on.

    Social media is still my personal downfall. I just don’t dedicate enough active time to it.

  12. Alyson• I always appreciate your perspective on things. I think this is the first time I disagree though.

    I don’t think the activities you’ve mentioned are passive at all. Maybe another word would be better? Because creating a postcard when most only send emails (emails take time too) is time consuming considering that one must design (being a graphic designer I admit to being a perfectionist on this front) and print as well as add postage. Creating FB events and individually inviting people all requires so much time. I always add personal messages. Research and writing for a blog and posting in places where they can’t be automatically posted took me 2 hours at one point. I have specific days for Insta, Facebook, and Twitter because you aren’t supposed to just post but engage as well as curating your content and attempt to encourage discussion. Some of the things you mentioned are easier said than done though. Just segmenting your mailing list requires you to capture information in a different way which requires some research – possibly even doing a survey of your subscribers – on part of the administrator.

    I know and believe marketing is a very important component of the business of being an artist. I think there needs to be balance; seeing what works specifically for us and our businesses and time left to take a breath. I know you aren’t saying to do all of these at once, but for those of us who want so badly to succeed we will wear ourselves out trying all of these things at once. I do agree that trying some of these actions to engage and activate at various points in time could be good alternatives.

    Over the years I’ve so appreciated you helping artists to see themselves as business people and helping us think about ourselves beyond the false narrative of the “poor artist”. Thank you!

  13. Thanks Alyson! I can see how passive I’ve been in my marketing, as well as where I’ve begun to step out (collecting names for my mailing list). I’m now thinking of ways I can make things happen (like scheduling private events for the people who need to see my art) and shed that passive skin I’ve been wearing for too long!

  14. I continue to use the post card strategy you taught me years ago in Bootcamp, I collect mailing addresses like crazy. People love to get handwritten thank you notes and Holiday cards and regular updates in the mail. I have people email me and thank me for the thank you note. I paid attention in class and it has “pay-ed” off.
    Thank you Alyson,

  15. Such great ideas!

    I have found that being one on one with a client to tell stories about my work and answer their questions is interpersonally satisfying and often leads to sales. People love to hear what’s behind or inside a work of art and that creates more of a relationship between us. Often it intrigues them to hear about the making process and to see my studio. I think if I could get each potential client alone for a tour and talk, I could sell work almost every time. That personal connection is powerful.

  16. Love these tips. PASSIVE marketing is a trap that I have fallen into many times (despite me telling my clients to do otherwise all the time).

    It’s tough as an introvert to continually be active – but my best results have always come from when I’ve challenged myself and put more effort in to with ACTIVE marketing. I think a lot of creatives are introspective and often introverted and therein lies the challenge.

    But thank you, this post is really motivating. I’m going to share it.

  17. Hi Alyson, enjoying all of your posts, and thanks for the Success Plan you sent me regarding Content Creation.

    I see you mention Facebook and FB business pages a lot. With all that has come out about Facebook and privacy, I am really leery of investing in Facebook, and I know many of my friends (real friends, not FB friends, lol) are moving away from or have left Facebook entirely. I spend less and less time there and don’t even trust posts to private groups not being used by FB to target ads to me. It’s creepy and disturbing.

    I don’t see a good alternative for hosting webinars and “private” groups, but gosh, I wonder how many artists or other creative types who have been relying on Facebook’s streaming platform are going to have to seriously re-assess. Any thoughts? Have you heard anything among your network about concerns with continuing on Facebook so heavily?

    1. Alyson Stanfield

      Chris: I think you’re right to be concerned. We are also looking for alternatives to FB for hosting our groups. And most of my clients use biz pages to feed their Instagram posts to. Never hurts!

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