One of the mistakes that most artists make is trying to sell everything they do to all people. When you try to be all things to all people, you instead water down what you do so that it loses a lot of its impact. Your art becomes something for everyone, an opiate to the masses.
You have to develop something called a Unique Selling Proposition. This is the expression of what makes you stand out from everyone else. I’ll use myself as an example.
When I started my business, I wanted to be an Internet marketing consultant. I had several years experience working for other people, and I had learned a ton so I was ready to strike out on my own. I floundered around for about a year, telling everyone I was an Internet Marketing Consultant. Then I met a couple of great mentors by the name of Dave Dee & Alexis Martin Neely. Dave is a former magician and a serial entrepreneur. He really gets me and I connected with what he was teaching right away. Dave & Alexis told me that I needed to be more focused.
They asked me:
Who is Your Ideal Client?
I told them that I would really love to work with artists, since I am an actor and my wife is a painter, and I really love creative people. I believe that the Starving Artist mentality that so many artists have is just wrong and a total myth. They told me I should bill myself as someone who works with artists and I was like, “but wait, I can work with anyone. What I know can be applied to any business. I’ll lose a bunch of customers!”
You, as an artist, are probably thinking the same thing right now. If I focus on one group of buyers, I could lose all the rest. I’m going to show you how that’s exactly the opposite of what will happen.
When you start focusing on your ideal client, your voice begins to be more authentic to them. If I start telling artists that I am also an artist (which is true, I’m an actor), and that I focus on helping artists learn about online marketing, that has a lot more impact than me just walking up to someone and saying, “Hey I’m an Internet marketing consultant. Hire me for your business.”
As an artist, this can take many forms. Instead of saying, “I’m a painter” or even, “I’m an oil painter,” you might say that you “paint people’s dreams” or that you “create paintings that capture the essence of childhood.” Whatever gets you really fired up and passionate when you’re painting, that’s what you should do.
Think about artists like Thomas Kinkade. As much as artists love to hate him, everyone knows him as what? Right, the Painter of Light. Your USP should be simple and direct. Mine is: Teaching Artists to Dispel the Starving Artist Myth.
Of course, people will ask what that means, right? That’s exactly what you want to have happen. Your USP should be interesting enough that people want more information. See how this works?
“Hey I’m Jane, I paint people’s dreams.”
“Whoa, really? What does that mean? How do you do that?”
So now that you have their interest you have to tell them what you do. You’ve already started to differentiate yourself, but this is where you really capture their attention.
For me, when someone asks how I dispel the starving artist myth, I say, “I teach artists that by eliminating the middlemen like galleries and agents they can build a fan base, sell art directly to their fans, and keep more of the money for themselves.” Pretty awesome, right? Which artist in the world would NOT want to do that? I’ve never had an artist tell me they didn’t want that.
You can do the same thing.
For example, what does it mean to ‘Paint someone’s dreams?’ Eleatta Diver, a client of mine, does this. It’s her Unique Selling Proposition. She tells people that she interviews people, gets to know them, and then paints a unique commissioned portrait that displays the hopes, dreams, conquered fears, and passions that they have inside of them.
Now, I’ll ask you, would you rather have your portrait done by a portrait artist, or someone who paints people’s dreams? I’m pretty sure that there are a lot of portrait artists out there who interview their buyers – but how many of them “Paint People’s Dreams? Probably none, right?
Suddenly Eleatta’s no longer a portrait artist, she’s in a league all of her own, and she has no competition. Then its just a matter of whether or not the client can afford her work, because she’s in so much demand that she can charge a premium for her work. This is how you start to build a brand, and your first step to marketing success.
If you found this post helpful, check out my Guide to How to Sell Art Online – it’s an epic blog post that’s meant to be an overview of the whole process.