Artists Who Love Marketing – an Oxymoron?

Whether you paint a picture, write a book, or invent a new product, if you did this with the creative passion of an artist, it’s only logical for you to be highly motivated to market your work. Yet most artists express a loathing for marketing.

Why? One reason is that marketing sounds like business and salesmanship. Artists enjoy creating their art, and authors love to write. But business and sales often doesn’t easily arouse their interest.

Let me take a detour and explain that marketing creative products – like paintings and books – isn’t about business and salesmanship. Then I will return to my main point – i.e. why artists should naturally be motivated to market their work.

Marketing a creative product is more about discovery and branding an image, and less about business and salesmanship. Books, for example, aren’t sold by persuasion like used cars. In fact, no salesman is even present – this is obvious for eBooks, but even in the store there is usually just a cashier. What bookstore will thrive with a pushy salesman looking over customers’ shoulders in the middle of the aisle?

Similarly, self-promotion doesn’t tend to attract much interest. “Hey, I just wrote a book and it’s the greatest thing ever so you should check it out,” isn’t the way to sell books.

Instead, when you personally interact with people – in person or online – and people “discover” that you are an artist, author, or inventor, for example, they often want to learn more. People like to buy products that were made by people they know – how often do you get such a chance? – provided that they discover it rather than having it thrust upon them.

“What do you do for a living?” “What have you done recently?” “How’s your new book coming along?” There are so many ways for people to learn more about you and discover your work. They could even click on your online profile.

The more people you personally interact with, the more your work may get discovered. This also helps to create “buzz” when you release a new product, which helps to earn early sales and reviews.

Marketing a single artist’s creative product involves branding. Advertising to say, “This is the best thing since sliced bread,” isn’t going to help, and demanding, “You should go buy this product now,” is a waste.

Commercials don’t work because the majority of people do as they’re told or listen to whatever the television tells them. They work because of branding. When people are standing in the grocery store, deciding which product to buy, they don’t remember what the television said was better and they’re not there because the television told them to go shopping – more often than not, they simply recognize a product that they’ve heard before. That is, they remember the brand. People tend to buy products they’ve heard of, and for which they like what the brand symbolizes.

Fortunately, a single artist doesn’t need to pay advertising fees to brand an image. Branding can be done for free. Getting your product, name, and image in front of your target audience helps to establish your brand as an artist or author. The more they see this, the more they are likely to recognize your product, then one day when they are buying a similar product, they may buy yours.

One way to get your target audience to see your brand is to post valuable content online. Posting advertisements about your product, posting content about yourself, and posting links to your other sites won’t likely attract much interest. But posting valuable content for your target audience may attract new customers. If they appreciate the content that you offer, they might click on your profile to learn more about you – and, lo and behold, “discover” your work.

Every time they visit one of your sites, they see your name, your photo, and an image of your product. Someday, when they are buying a similar product, if they recognize and buy your product, the branding was successful.

Where persuasion fails, discovery often works. Where overt (and even paid) advertising is ineffective, free branding is a great help. So don’t think of marketing as business and salesmanship. Think of it as interacting with others on a personal level so that your work can be discovered, and branding an image so that you and your work may be recognized.

Now for my main point: Artists should naturally be motivated to interact with others personally so that their work can be discovered, and should naturally be motivated to attract the attention of their target audience so that they can brand their image (for which, posting valuable content online is just one of many examples).

So why should artists naturally be motivated to market their work?

It’s simple, really: If you have passion for your artwork or book, you should also have the passion to share this work with others. And how do you share your work with others? Marketing! Use your passion for your work to motivate yourself to work diligently to share your work with others through marketing.

Furthermore, when others see the passion that you have for your work firsthand, they are more likely to get interested in your work. (But be careful to show passion and sound confident, but not to be boastful or overconfident.)

Would you rather buy a painting that was made by an artist that was passionate about his/her work, or just kind of threw something together because he/she was bored?

If you meet two artists, and one sounds kind of bored talking about his sculpture, while the other is clearly passionate about his/her work, which sculpture will interest you more?

If you’re passionate about your work and you strongly believe in it, then you should also be passionate about sharing your work with others (not just “getting it out there” – art doesn’t tend to sell itself). If you’re not passionate about marketing your own work, it suggests that you weren’t all that into it or that you feel like something may be wrong with it.

You don’t have to be a salesman to sell your artwork or book. You just have to be passionate about sharing it with others. Marketing through discovery and branding is a natural fit for the artist. It’s just a matter of perspective.

Chris McMullen, self-published author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

4 comments on “Artists Who Love Marketing – an Oxymoron?

  1. “Discovery” is the right word for it, when talking about getting people introduced to your work. And the only way to really be discovered is to put yourself out there, which can be hard for anyone, including artists! Thanks for the post.

  2. I agree with rolark…. Often, putting one’s self out there just doesn’t seem to be worth the effort as in most cases a lot of criticism and rejection comes with that territory and some just don’t want to deal with that. That is why I don’t let any of my family read anything I’ve written. The one or two times I did, they were all so negative and discouraging that I chose to leave them out. I write for myself and the inner salve it creates for my heart. LOL. I know… chicken, but I’m tired of being told that I shouldn’t have written something that way, or on that topic, or that it’s stupid, etc. LOL Great post though…. I think self-confidence probably has a lot to play into that decision.😀

    • You can’t be talking about your poetry — it’s simply incredible.🙂 I studied only basic poetry (Sound & Sense), I like Sylvia Plath but don’t get all of her poems, I appreciate ee cummings but don’t fully understand it, but I really love your poems. The way you put your poems together, you should have plenty of self-confidence (and don’t let anyone convince you otherwise).

      I understand your point-of-view, though. And it’s a very important point that many artists are concerned with when it’s time to publish and market their art and writing. Even a lot of successful writers and authors have a pile of rejection letters (the one good thing about that rejection is that it often serves to fuel motivation). Thank you for stopping by and sharing.

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