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Help Desk 4 Creatives— Marketing

By Merritt Minnemeyer
arttimesjournal July, 4, 2017

Last week we at Arts Mid-Hudson held a marketing workshop for artists and arts organizations. Together with Andrea Rhodes, founder of GiG Marketing, our staff led 30 artists through the basics of logos, positioning, website design, and the like. It was a fun, interactive 90 minutes followed up by some informal one-on-one consultations with Andrea and Melissa Dvozenja-Thomas, our Marketing Coordinator extraordinaire. I urge you to check with your local arts council for marketing and other workshops that they are offering.

There is so much ground to cover when discussing marketing. As with many aspects of promotion and business, artists often believe that they simply do not possess the ability to accomplish what is necessary for a successful marketing strategy. Au contraire! Artists and creatives are actually exceptionally equipped in this regard, if only they can adjust their view on it. (This theme is a drum I will continue to beat, you will notice.) Though we cannot share every juicy detail of Andrea and Melissa’s exemplary seminar, here are a few great tips:

Know Who/What You Are

The essence of good marketing is a strong, clear message. To hone this message, begin by boiling down what you do to a single sentence. Leave out the frills, for now. In plain language, come up with a few simple words that tell the world what it is exactly that you do. This is referred to as a “descriptor.” You may not end up using this sentence in your promotional materials, but keeping it in your mind will help you stay on track as you develop your strategies. Examples might look something like: “a non-fiction writer with a focus on positive motivation and effective storytelling,” or “a visual artist specializing in water color landscapes.”

Know Why You Are Different

After defining yourself in the simplest terms, dig a little deeper and uncover what makes you, you. How are you unique? What sets you apart? Use those creative juices to come up with a short but compelling couple of lines that tell the world why they should know you and what you do. Examples of this might be: “a thoughtful non-fiction author whose passion, insight, and humor create a warm quilt of words to live by,” or “a renowned water colorist whose breath-taking landscapes capture the awe and inspiration of the Shenandoah Valley for you to treasure for years to come.” This little gem is referred to as “positioning.” It is the springboard for your marketing. From this point you can begin to craft your brand and design other elements accordingly.

Simplify Your Look – Logos and Visuals

This is where those of you who are visually inclined can shine. Logos need to be clean and easily replicable. They can definitely be text based, but the best logos have a simple design element that is eye catching as well as meaningful. Think the Nike “swoosh,” McDonald’s golden arches, or the Olympic rings. These images connect in some way with the message of the company they represent and make a lasting impression that we remember. They become synonymous with the brand. Do a little bit of research as you are out and about or online. Pay attention to the logos you see – are they eye-catching?

Do they capture your interest or imagination? Do they leave you wanting to know more about that organization? After you come up with a few different ideas on your own, run them by some trusted friends and colleagues. And if this is not your area of expertise, ASK SOMEONE WHO KNOWS. A strong logo can be forged with minimal fanfare and expense, and it is an essential element of your marketing efforts. Plus you will be working with it a lot, so make sure it is right for you.

Understand Your Audience

Many people think that getting the word out to anyone who will listen is the best way to begin. The key to that is “who will listen.” If you are running a student special, it would seem odd to target your emails/fliers/postcards etc. to seniors, yes? Or if your local library was promoting a program for vegan-friendly spinning and knitting enthusiasts, and you received an invitation in your inbox at your job at the meat packing plant, that might strike you as odd, wouldn’t it? The point is, while it is true that “you never know” who might see your materials, data proves targeting your marketing to people who have self-selected as potential clients of your work based on their interests are far more likely to bear fruit than a general wash of distribution.

Ask yourself these questions: who is most likely to be interested in my work? What ages? Locations? Income levels? Interests? Once you have pinpointed the answers, do some research and find out where other artists and organizations are sending their lists. Is there an arts service organization or arts council near you? Are you able to partner on an event with someone and share their lists? Where are the community bulletin boards in your area that cater to your potential clients? Following your nose once you are on the track can open up some wonderful unforeseen opportunities. It is up to you to figure out where to start.

Marketing can seem like a huge undertaking, but it is critical in this day and age. Andrea shared this with us in her workshop: “Stopping marketing to save money is like stopping your watch to save time.” – Henry Ford.

While it takes some time away from your art, it also creates venues for future work. With care, diligence, and a bit of your own pixie dust, you can make your work shine out there. As always, we are here to help.

Have a question about the business of being an artist/creative? Send an email to Merritt and her colleagues at grants@artsmidhudson.org and have your question featured in the next Help Desk 4 Creatives article!

Merritt is the Grants & Funding Manager at Arts Mid-Hudson, an arts service organization serving Dutchess, Orange, and Ulster Counties in New York's Hudson Valley. She lives in Ulster County with her three vibrant sons, and two goofy pound pups, and one remarkably darling husband.