Jay Baer, author of Youtility: Why Smart Marketing Is About Help, Not Hype, says “If you sell something, you make a customer today. If you help someone, you may create a customer for life.”
Youtility, the marketing concept Baer advocates, is “marketing so useful that people would pay for it.”
Artists are often left out in the cold with marketing practices that seem to be suggested for more service- or product-oriented businesses. After all, art is rarely considered useful beyond its decorative, emotional, and intellectual qualities.
But if you put your brain cells to work, you can embrace the youtility model. You can create resources for your buyers and collectors, students, other artists, and/or your local community, which are as helpful to them as your tools are to you.
This isn’t about making a sale. It’s about building name recognition and loyalty. It will also give you great satisfaction.
Youtility Examples for Artists
By way of example, here are three art maps, or tours, that could be made into an app or PDF for download, or become the focus of a Pinterest board.
Museums, of course, like to point out things in the galleries that people should know about, but you have a different perspective.
What kind of quirky tour could you lead people through that will give them a one-of-a-kind experience
When accompanying my husband on a rock-climbing adventure, I came across a mountain home with paintings nailed to the trees outside. I can’t make this stuff up.
Everyone knows the usual museums and galleries for seeing art, but there are good things – some of them humorous like the nailed paintings – happening in offbeat places.
Where can one view art at no charge? Art intended for public consumption might include sculpture, murals, installations, or mosaics.
You could add a twist by researching any controversies around those pieces. Organizations responsible for a city’s public art rarely tell the dark side in their literature, and this is often what makes the best stories.
4 Steps To Being Youseful
Don’t spend a lot of time creating helpful information without a plan for it.
1. Identify your audience.
Who is your helpful resource for? Collectors and buyers? Students? Other artists? Your community?
2. Research and decide on the topic.
You have to be excited about sharing whatever you create, so make sure there’s enough to hold your interest throughout the project.
3. Decide the best method for disseminating your helpful information.
Technology might restrict you, but if your idea is good enough you will find the means to make it happen. Consider sharing through any of these means: PDF download, Pinterest board, phone app (nominal fee could be charged), tweets, or dedicated Facebook page.
For example, here's a Pinterest board I created for everyone who comes to my Art Biz Makeover event. It's annotated to share my favorite restaurants, sites, galleries, and stores in the Golden, Colorado area.
4. Get the word out.
Once you’ve made something so helpful that people would want to pay for it, you must tell people about its availability.
Who needs to know about what you have?
I gave the example of art maps or tours above, but I can think of a number of additional ways artists could apply the concept of youtility to their communities. How about you? Read comments for other creative ideas.