How to Decide What Marketing Tasks to Invest In

Your marketing mix is a blend of actions you take—both online and offline—to promote your art.

Your ideal mix is your ideal mix and nobody else’s.

©Kerry Schroeder, Released. Acrylic and graphite on panel, 52 x 52 inches. Used with permission.
©Kerry Schroeder, Released. Acrylic and graphite on panel, 52 x 52 inches. Used with permission.

You have to figure out what works best for you, especially if you're trying to make a living from your work.

At the same time, all of the options for where to spend time and energy could drive a person batty.

Should you be on Twitter?

Should you purchase an ad?

Should you send another email?

I suggest considering 3 criteria for deciding whether or not to make a task part of your marketing mix.

1. You are seeing results.

After you have implemented a marketing task consistently over time, are you benefiting from it?

Notice the words “consistently” and “over time.” You can’t try something once or twice and say it didn’t work. You have to have made a commitment to doing it on a regular basis. Perhaps you do it monthly for a year or weekly for 6 months.

©Kathryn Hansen, For Lease. Graphite pencil on paper, 7.5 x 9 inches. Used with permission.
©Kathryn Hansen, For Lease. Graphite pencil on paper, 7.5 x 9 inches. Used with permission.

Sporadic action doesn’t result in a good test sample.

The benefits you seek from your marketing might include any combination of the following:

  • More sales
  • More opportunities for teaching or exhibiting
  • More sign-ups in your classes
  • More names on your mailing list
  • More engagement from friends and fans
  • More referrals
  • More connection to others
  • More visitors to your site

After doing the task consistently over time, do you see any of the above?

When we get results, we are more likely to enjoy the task and improve at it. This brings me to the second criterion for deciding what to add to your marketing mix.

2. You enjoy it.

There are marketing tasks that you must do—regardless of whether or not you enjoy them. For example, you must create, maintain, and use your mailing list because it’s your most important asset.

©Deanna Krueger, Oceanus. Acrylic monotypes on recycled medical diagnostic film (X-Ray/MRI film), staples, 45 x 63 inches. Used with permission.
©Deanna Krueger, Oceanus. Acrylic monotypes on recycled medical diagnostic film (X-Ray/MRI film), staples, 45 x 63 inches. Used with permission.

While you won’t like all of the tasks that make your business hum, you won’t be effective if you absolutely detest doing something—even if you’ve seen it work for another artist. Pouring that kind of rotten energy into a job that’s supposed to be about connecting people to your art has disaster written all over it.

Don’t waste your time on such tasks, and don’t waste your followers’ time.

By example, I saw great benefit in doing my weekly podcast for 2.5 years, but I didn’t enjoy it. I didn’t like reading the same text I had written for my newsletter. There were other ways I wanted to spend my marketing time and additional ways I wanted to add audio to my offerings.

I discontinued my original podcast in 2011 and revived it in an updated format (that's more fun for me) in 2016.

There are plenty of things you could be doing to promote your art, so why waste your time on something you despise?

Again, you can’t enjoy every aspect of each ingredient in your marketing mix. Hopefully you will enjoy most of the process or at least appreciate the benefit you receive from doing the work.

3. It’s the best way to spend your time and resources.

©David Paul Bayles, Falling Tree #15. Photograph. Used with permission.
©David Paul Bayles, Falling Tree #15. Photograph. Used with permission.

Here are three examples of what it means to use your time and resources wisely:

  1. If you are GREAT in person, you should be out there networking and meeting new people. Plenty of people build businesses in this traditional manner rather than spending time on social media. Work to your strengths.
  2. If you have only $500 to spend, it’s better to send postcards to your list instead of buying an ad. You have to consider long-term benefits, and the list (your most important asset) always wins when it’s one of the possibilities.
  3. If you’re at the point in your art career that you seek gallery representation, you’d get much more from visiting and networking in galleries than from sending a bunch of emails. Yes, it takes even more time and effort to do this, but it rarely works to send a bunch of emails to people who have no idea who you are.

Your Turn

What’s your ideal marketing mix?

Do you have a list of tasks you implement consistently?

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48 thoughts on “How to Decide What Marketing Tasks to Invest In”

  1. I like how you stress combining doing what gets results & doing what you enjoy. Different kinds of marketing come more naturally to different kinds of people, and complement their art more appropriately.

  2. I really like this post. This is the kind of question I always ask myself feeling being pulled in one too many directions. Being consistent over a time period is a great advice.


  3. My biggest obstacles: consistency over time, and making a useful contact list (since in fact most people on my list are not not actually interested in art at all).

    Other obstacles exist but I think these are the two most frightening ones.

    1. Patricia: You know after being with me for so long that the people are on your list because they support you. And each one of them knows about 150 other people. Don’t ever discount them.

  4. The idea of doing an email list terrifies me. Everyone says it’s the one most important thing but it feels so direct, so personal. How do I know that anything I might have to say will interest anyone? To just pop up in their inbox like that?

    On the other hand I am far too comfortable with Pinterest and Twitter… it can suck up a whole day if I’m not careful…

  5. I don’t know. It feel like I’m being intrusive. Someone can chose to come to a blog or a Pinterest board, but I feel very self conscious about appearing in their inbox.

    But it may be that it is because my main selling platforms (Etsy, Ugallery) don’t have a way for people to sign up to be on an email list so I’d have to manually collect their emails to even see if they wanted to be on a list. So it feels more like spamming than if they signed up themselves.

    Can you tell I have all this angst around this subject? Every time someone mentions email lists I have this sick feeling in my stomach. 😛

    1. Kerri, I SO hear you re: email list. I finally set up Mail Chimp when I was doing Art Biz Accelerator, and I’ve sent out about 6 emails a year last year. It gets easier and easier, trust me.

  6. Hi, Alyson, I started a blog a number of years back, but only post a few times a year. I also have a facebook business page. In the interest of focusing my marketing time, I am thinking of discontinuing the blog and doing more entries on my business page. What do you think?

  7. Hi, Alyson,
    Thanks so much for your reply, that makes sense to me. What if the content on my blog post winds of being exactly the same as a facebook post? IE: developing content and then posting it in two places?
    Thanks so much!

    1. Leslie: You post to your blog first and then share it on Facebook via a link and a little comment. Chances are slim that people will see it more than once. If they do, they’ll just ignore it and move on.

  8. I haven’t found my ideal mix yet. Last year I upped my presence on Pinterest a lot, just to see if it worked. I kept it up for 9 months. It was a lot of work, not that fun, and it didn’t bring me any more traffic or other goodies. So this year, I’m focusing on YouTube instead. Instagram will come along as well. I have my blog, newsletter, facebook etc. But not as many platforms as I did pre 2016.

  9. Wow talk about timely — am in Accelerator workshop, working on goals, and marketing mix and your email pops in (the Universe is nudging me YET AGAIN). I was most struck by getting rid of things you despise doing. I have one big one that has never made sense for the way I like to sell and communicate and that is juried exhibitions. Just never liked applying and dealing with the whole concept. For me at this stage it is a despicable. I have always sold using other ways, from get go, not a lot, but there was always a return from online sites, social media posts, meeting people, networking with non-artists, sometimes it just popped in my lap by talking to my neighbors. But gosh darn it I punished myself by applying to those juried shows because that is the traditional way to go. But frankly I am far from traditional and I know people, sales, client relations, marketing and I LOVE sharing and promoting my art. So the media mix was there all along — and will be adjusted since I have read your blog. Who needs to have the negatives of doing what they despise just because its always been done that way. We are all unique and different. Thank you so much, Alyson!

  10. You nailed it on the consistency point Alyson. This is a massive issue, because artists see results over time only if they remain consistent. Results are a great motivator, but patience is so important. I also worry about social media as an end in itself. We cannot trust social media as a business solution. This mostly leaves me with blogging (effective if done with SEO in mind) and person-to-person marketing (the best kind).

  11. A very good example of effective marketing is what you do with Art Biz Coach. I regularly delete tons of emails from sources I thought I would be interested in. Sometimes I put yours aside, but always read within a short time. I am not ready to invest, but I see the value in what you do for artists, and will likely at some point do so. The tidbits of free stuff are very helpful and keep me on your list. Thanks for popping up in my email box regularly.

  12. I spent four hours on Saturday setting up emails to go out this week to my list and afterwards I said “how exhausting, what was the point? etc. etc.” Well, I got two sales this week as a result – a result of consistency over time and doing a *little* bit of something I don’t love. Worth it if I see results!!

    1. Hi Michelle, I need to regroup and get going on, both painting again and promoting in ways I haven’t done before. What did you send in your email lists that got you those sales? How many emails did you send out? Congratulations on your sales AND on your resolve to doing that little bit that saw results after all!!! Kathryn Broland

  13. Good post, Alyson. I struggle with marketing terribly. I have a website: and I contact galleries on occasion and do some local shows and enter national competitions. That’s about it. I really hate email marketing, blogs etc. I have some youtube in progress videos. So, of course I don’t see much advantage from any of it.

  14. Hey Krys, I’m in accelerator too!
    This year I am devoted to becoming more consistent on my blog and e-newsletter (and maybe sending out snail mail if I can get addresses). And going to more in-person events. Though I am kind of interested in exploring how I can leverage pinterest because I use it as a resource myself.

    Consistency over time is exactly why I have not made a Facebook artist page. I post art stuff publicly on my personal page including re-posting from my blog. I’m on several social media (mostly to see what is up) but I find I need chunks of time away, and at this point I just can’t see posting several times a day! let alone weekly.

  15. First of all…thank you SOOO much for including my drawing on this post…it means the world to me as I am such a huge fan of yours and your advice has strongly impacted my business!! Secondly I agree with everything you said here. Facebook and referrals are where most my business comes from, but I started on Instagram last year and I also do Pinterest, newsletters, and blogging. I mix it up on every platform…so each one is different and fresh and that way I don’t bore of it as I have to be creative even when it’s the same drawing I post…I’ll do a video of it for Instagram or show my cat next to it for Facebook, etc. This makes it fun for me and the people who follow me!!

  16. I recently finished my website, so now the task of marketing really begins. I am using mail chimp for my subscriber list, but noticed you mentioned sending postcards (an idea I love) — problem is I am only harvesting emails not street addresses. Is this a mistake and should I correct this? I assumed that people would be reluctant to sign up w more than an email…

    1. Hi Rhonda, I have been wondering that myself. Perhaps just straight out ask with something like “If you want to receive occasional postcards of my art include your street address.” I think something like that is what I am going to do.

  17. ALYSON,
    such a perfect topic…..consistency seems to be key yet I am hating FB and see little results in expanding…I really NEED to be better at Instagram…I love it but it’s far bigger than Hashtags and posting. Stories and layout with tools that look like a pottery barn book.
    Your points of summary are spot on! Thank Heavens for Alyson. Next, shake hands and mail…
    some print. I love meeting clients. But WHEN can I paint??? Oh, and my google page is so
    messed up…who can I seek to get help for this? Or…choose a new, not common domain?
    Thanks Smart good looking boss lady.! Listening. Vicki

  18. Alyson,
    Thank you for addressing this topic! Wonderfully informative and I am neighbors and friends with Kerry Schroader! Yesterday, I sat down to do my monthly workshop email that I have been doing for the past 6 years! I was stymied by it because I had so much other news to report and felt the pressure to do another blog post, etc. While I have benefited some from sending out montly workshop emails, I have noticed that my master list of 1,700 performs much better when I send out a new blog post or share tidbits of shows and sales. While this isn’t my favorite task because of all the updating of the website, new blog post, artwork and exhibitions, I want to put my time and energy for the “workshop” email, into a newsletter that de-emphasizes the workshops and emphasises my art more. Is this a good idea? Thanks so much for posting this! Elise

  19. My marketing is a combination of what I find inspiring, what it inspires me to create, and how messy my studio gets. Somehow I seem to get good response to the messy studio pictures. Maybe people like it when I reveal that I’m actually human…

  20. I really struggle with marketing, and I’m learning to give myself a little gentleness on this front. How is it we expect ourselves to be good at sitting quietly alone in a studio AND doing the polar opposite? We just have to practice, I think. I just opened a show, and I mailed invites to all my VIPs, and emailed my list, and sent press releases and more press releases to local papers and on-line mags. It was a well-attended opening, but I had zero press. At least I tried, so I feel pretty good about that. Next time, I won’t leave the press releases to the last two weeks. I’ll start sending them weeks before the show, and keep sending them. This is SO far out of my comfort zone. But I’m finding I get more comfortable the more I do it.

  21. “Making good business is the best kind of art.” ~ Andy Warhol

    For me, art and design are evolutionary processes, takes experimentation. The same is true for business. Trial and error.

  22. Its refreshing to find someone saying do what you like instead of just grinding it out. It’s very important to love what you do. I admire your courage for taking chances and mixing things up, god knows that can be scary.

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