I think marketing can be overwhelming, overcomplicated, and overdramatic (I really just like the rule of threes, feel free to dismiss that last one ;)
I have struggled to find marketing approaches that feel genuine and encouraging as a small arts business. I recently attended a marketing session where after the session the last thing I wanted to do was ANYTHING to do with marketing. It wasn't exactly encouraging. Often advice that is given to artists about marketing comes from other businesses that are not art-focused, thus the advice can fall flat when we apply it to our own arts world. This is what I find so frustrating about so many approaches to marketing, they don't feel fun, or lean into our natural strengths as artists and the way we think and work. Artists have so many creative strengths. We have unique perspectives, we are experts at sparking emotions and curating experiences, it is exactly these skills that build a compelling and fun marketing plan. In fact, I think artists are some of the most innovative and authentic voices in the marketing and social sphere because of our creative lens.
Marketing is a beautiful experimental space where we get to share with the world what we find exciting and what piques our curiosity! Through marketing, we get to connect with folks that are passionate about the same things. We get to inspire new ways of thinking and dreaming. People get to find us and feel relieved to find an artist that thinks and expresses in the unique way that we do. Marketing is an incredible tool that helps us connect with others while also curating a meaningful and intentional experience that helps people connect with what is alive in them.
I used to hate marketing. It made me nervous, feel out of place, and oh so self-conscious of my work and voice. Now, I LOVE IT!!! I am a self-proclaimed marketing nerd (note: this is not the same as an expert ;), and if you see me around town and want to talk about marketing in the grocery store or at a local concert, you will probably make my day. Prepping marketing efforts is now one of my favorite parts of the week and is a special treat for me as it feels like its own creative process at work.
As I said, I haven't always been this marketing geek that passionately wrote an entire blog post about it in her free time. In fact, what shifted marketing from being something scary to something fun is what I am sharing today. The following six tools and approaches have helped me, and fellow makers, lean into our own strengths to build our own marketing game plans and marketing fun.
Here we go, let's dive in shall we?!
1) Follow your energy!
There is no right or wrong way to market, so start wherever you have energy! Literally, start anywhere that makes you excited! Instagram, a newsletter, a website, Facebook (Or meta... whatever they call it these days), snail-mail, word of mouth, teaching classes, tabling events, stickers, Twitter, TikTok, posters, sassy bumper stickers, graffiti (hee hee hee, you didn't hear that one here ;), the opportunities are endless. Start with whatever medium feels like fun for you. Because if it feels fun, like an adventure, and gives you energy instead of taking it, then it has the potential to be a sustained tool to support your business.
After you have your core marketing outlets that work for you may notice that have energy for other additions, follow that energy! Add a podcast, a blog, and also, step away from things that no longer feel fun or energetic. Marketing plans shift and change. Following the energy also means to stop or change when you don't feel the energy anymore. Shift, adapt, following what is fun for you.
Once you know what gives you energy, think about what you are excited to share?! When we are marketing, we are sharing. Think about what you would like to naturally give, share, or offer to the world. People are going to vibe off of your own energy when you share. If you are posting because you feel like you have to, you don't want to or find it frustrating, PAUSE. Maybe even STOP. How you feel when you are prepping a post or writing will show in your final post. If it doesn't feel natural or feels like a chore, rethink what you are sharing or how you are sharing. Sometimes this means waiting until tomorrow to write and prep a post. Sometimes this can mean completely changing your format or post.
Feel free to be honest with folks. People want to get to know you. The authentic, approachable you is what people connect with, so authentically share what you are excited about and what you want to naturally share with the world. For some of us, it's about our creative process, the story behind our pieces, what we are currently pondering, or the latest humorous epic fail. It also doesn't always have to be art! Again, it's sharing what you want to share with the world! You are multidimentional and people will connect with the other aspects of who you are, the many roles that make you, you. People care, so feel free to share! So share that cat pic, about that nature walk, about being a parent, a partner, the sport you play, a different hobby, pics of moss (hi, that's me), or heartful reflections about your life's journey. People connect with authenticity, when you share from an authentic place, it allows people to see your approachability and feel like they know you. And that's the goal of marketing! To help people connect with you, your voice, and your creative work.
Before I post, I like to ask myself, "What am I sharing? Do I, as the person sharing, find value in this?". Sometimes my answer is simply that I love this shade of green yarn and that's why I'm posting. Or that I can't wait for a new batch of scarves to drop in my shop or I want to share about something that brought joy to my day in hopes it brings joy to someone elses day. It's more about intention. Not just sharing to share, but sharing because you're a human who is excited to connect with others, ask yourself, "What do you want to connect about?"
2) Tell your story:
A special note before we dive in, this particular section is solely Aram Atkinson's amazing and thoughtful work (https://aramatkinson.com/), a writer and producer in the UK that leans into marketing and storytelling from a creatives perspective. He has several SkillShare courses and his classes are truly some of the best out there (Currently, SkillShare offers free trials, it is worth using a free trail or paying for these classes if you want to learn more!). For now, I am just going to share two small parts of his work here.
In one of his videos on SkillShare, Aram shares how thinking of marketing like building a script can help us hone our own voice when we share. He shares that identifying your victim or nemesis (problem/issue), your hero (the person using or purchasing your work), your vision (desired impact), and the genre (your tone or style) of your voice can help further flesh out how and what you want to express to your audience. Identifying these roles in our narrative helps us build a story to share with our audience. It feels clear, concise, and brings our audience on a journey in which we get to share our work and they get to be at the center of the story.
Another Aram technique has to do with figuring out what we should share with this simple question: 'What are the invisible things about your work?' As in, what are the parts of your work that may be invisible when you look at the final product but significantly add to the end result and quality of the piece? This can be a step in production that is invisible when you look at the finished piece but is crucial to the construction of the piece. It is through identifying and sharing these invisible parts of our creating that pulls people in and can further show the value and uniqueness in our story and the pieces we are marketing. For example, some of the invisible parts of my making include how I create my woven selvages on the loom, the creative inspiration for each piece, and the love, joy, and gumption woven into each piece.
Think about what is invisible about your work, marketing is one of those rare sweet spots where what's invisible can become visible through our words and stories.
3) Emotional Marketing
Emotional marketing is one of the most solid approaches to marketing, this technique works no matter the size of the campaign or business. It creates a long-term emotional association with a brand/name/artist/organization/business and can create meaningful relationships with the audience you are trying to reach.
The concept is simple. How people feel when they interact with your marketing is how they feel about your brand. Where this gets fun is... in your marketing you can strive to curate an experience to inspire your reader, viewer, listener to experience specific feelings when they engage with your work. Thus, when someone reads your post, sees a photo on your social media, or goes on your website you are curating a specific experience that sparks a curated emotional experience.
The key to this marketing strategy is to identify a core three to four feelings for your audience to experience when they interact with you and your brand. What's great as artists is that our work already inspires emotions in others, we don't have to reinvent the wheel because our marketing should reflect the emotion that is already in our pieces. Thus, to identify your marketing emotions think about your creative work and use the feelings that you already curate and express through your work.
Some examples might look like:
- Calm, rejuvinating, inspired
- Energizing, joy, captivated
- Curiosity, playfulness, touched
- Adventourous, captivated, nourished
- Creative, delighted, rebelious
Once your key emotions are identified is when you can start playing with your visuals and text to inspire those emotions. When thinking of visuals think of the color palate (cold or warm tones, earthy or neon, moody or light), the busyness of the visual (busy, minimalist, simple, a collage, how much negative space), and the image topic (a calming nature shot, a busy yet inspiring desk, an action shot jumping into the lake). When applying this to your text and writing think of all of the different places that you write; website, piece descriptions, social media post, thank you note, blog post, newsletter, or e-mail correspondence with clients. Each of these places is an opportunity to use your tone, verbiage, and voice to playfully create a subtext of the emotions you hope to inspire!
4) Let's ask some questions!
Questions are a great way to get in someone's head, in a good way!
When we ask engaging, open-ended questions it gets people thinking and curious! Using questions in your marketing starts a dialogue with your audience and some of the best questions help your audience to see something in a new way or to open a new way of thinking that helps them learn something new about themselves.
A great goal for using questions is to make them sticky. After someone reads or hears your question, if in three days or more they are still thinking about it, processing it, making connections, asking others about it, then it's a great and sticky question because it has stuck with them. And in three or more days when they think about that question, your work and brand pop's in their head as well! That's what's so smooth about using a good question in your marketing, it gets people thinking and talking while pulling your work into the discussion.
How to create a question that sticks?
- Use 'What', 'Where', and 'When' questions
- Example: What is something that you wish others better understood about you?
- Example: Where in your day do you find the most joy?
- Example: When do you feel most like a kid!? Where do you experience that joy, play,
and adventure in your day or life?
- Example: What is the song that best captures your personality!? Why is that song so you?
- Use open-ended questions
- An open-ended question can be answered in countless different ways.
- If it can be answered with a simple 'yes' or 'no', then it is not open-ended
- Use questions that help someone learn more about themselves and others.
- Curate questions that create greater self-awareness, or curiosity
- Bonus if it's an easy question for your audience to repeat
When we ask good questions, people also feel more comfortable responding and interacting with us online and in person. They want to share and when we ask questions we also let folks know that we want to hear from them, we are curious about them, and we are here to connect.
I have also noticed in this marketing style that people sometimes stay around just for the questions! I have had people call me to discuss one of my proposed questions three months later to then share about all of the different conversations that one question inspired and wanting to further discuss the prompt. People love connection, especially authentic and honest connection, questions can help us create that type of space with our audience.
5) Commandeer the day!
I think this is one of my favorite parts of marketing, you get to add to someone else's day! You get to create this little experience via e-mail, social media, a postcard, or on your website where you get to welcome people and take care of them for a bit. You get to be a part of their day! Potentially, even making their day.
When I curate marketing experiences I like to think of it as though I get to take over someone else's day for a moment and create something just for them. Sometimes that moment lasts three seconds, other times maybe 10 minutes. No matter the time, I have someone's attention, I want to create an experience that adds quality to their day. Some days I want to support someones day with some humor and laughter or being their cheerleader, and other times a mindful moment or a chance to pause, breathe and slow down.
Imagining what someone else's day is like can help you think of what you want to offer. Maybe someone is having a busy, overwhelming, stressful day or someone is going through a rough time, feeling stagnant, or maybe someone is having the best day ever! Imagining someone's day can help you figure out what emotion or moment you want to curate for them. When your marketing also inspires the same emotions and moments over time, people will start associating those moments and feelings with you, thus further building your brand and your connection.
When our marketing plans add to someone elses day we can then become a part of their day that they look forward to. They want to see us, hear from us. Our marketing can make life enjoyable, that's a pretty awesome thing.
6) Marketing plans a plenty!
The more the merrier! Get ready to dream up multiple marketing plans! Each project, creation, or batch has a different creative process, end result, and therefore a unique story to share in its marketing plan. One plan does not fit all, even within a singular business. Thus, share the different narratives, emotional experiences, and invisible qualities of each unique piece that you are sharing. For example, my marketing plans for my scarves, shawls, stickers, journals, and yardage are all different. They all still support similar emotions in my emotional marketing plan, and yet each one is unique in its approach.
Feel free to play with your different approaches, in some areas you can be more humorous, others more vulnerable, go ahead and use your multiple marketing plans to further show the multiple sides of you and your work. Also, these different marketing plans will reach different audiences. When your marketing plan uniquely aligns with the product, it will also uniquely align with the specific market that will enjoy it. What might work perfectly for one product might not for another, play with it, test them out. Your first marketing plans won't be perminent or perfect. So, just start and see what works and build from there.
One final note: I often chuckle at my own social media, newsletters, and email efforts because I know no respecting, super professional business would ever be posting what I post... I have unedited videos, cat posts, and updates about Chuck the Woodchuck when he is sunbathing on the cement outside of the studio. I laugh because I know that if I were in a business with a marketing expert I would have to be explaining myself and potentially be told regularly not to post what I do. BUT I DON'T have a marketing expert on staff, I don't have anyone higher up telling me what I can and can't do. SO...I do whatever I want and you should, too! Your marketing plan is yours alone, no need to explain or justify it to ANYONE!! You already have a unique voice, vision, and experience. Use ALL of it to make your marketing plan your own. You already have everything that you need to make a stellar, engaging, and successful plan, so GO FOR IT!
And don't forget your grocery shopping, marketing nerd is always here to support and hear you out!
Go forward and market my Artisan Fartasan DIY Markatans!!
Best of luck,