As another year and decade begin, you may be thinking about your arts business development and feeling overwhelmed or just keen to grow it further in 2020.
You might feel like there’s a lot to do or end up dwelling on past “failures” (or learnings as I like to call them), so it can be hard to know where to start or reroute from. I think the most important things are focus and planning, as without these it is harder to grow and you end up doing things ad hoc, without aims.
Image right: The Other in Mother
Key areas for your arts business development focus
Planning is quick to say but has a lot to it. It can include many areas and take considerable time – but it’s worth it, not just for growth but also better for your mental health.
Firstly, it’s important to understand the difference between strategy and planning. Strategy is more about the why, the situation and the many routes. The planning is the how, what when and where – the steps to take. Here, I’m looking at a few things that I think are key parts of strategising for arts business development, including:
- Your “why”
- Your “who”
- Your differentiation
Modern day marketing is appeal and adding value to someone’s life. Two ways to add value to someone’s life are to communicate the benefits, and to fully connect with them, perhaps through communicating a story. Without one, your art, product, shop or workshops may come across as one dimensional. It also gives you a starting point and something to base your brand on.
Think about one of your offers. It could be a drawing workshop, collection of jewellery or watercolour paintings. Some questions to ask yourself could be:
- Is there an issue or value that drives me? For example sustainability.
- Is there something I like or is a common theme of my work? For example Indian textiles.
- Is there anything from my training or university projects that is interesting that influences my products or workshops? For example you are a qualified architect.
- What am I passionate about? For example animals.
- Is there something different or interesting about me or my processes? For example only using gold from the mines of Sardinia.
- Is there something about my surroundings that I can be a part of or has its own story? For example a studio deep in the Peak District or shop within the Manchester Craft and Design Centre.
- Do any of my other skills mean I can offer something else? For example digital skills that mean I could create an animated shop online.
🔎 Search “experiential marketing” to see where the future of marketing may be headed. If you’re an artist, how do you think arts, exhibitions and marketing could come together to create something interesting?
🔎 Search “Buyer” or “User Persona” for examples of profiles and what to put in them. Create a document in a format you feel comfortable with.
I mentioned your audience in the last point and your “why” and “who” really go hand in hand. Creating an audience profile is important because you need to understand what drives them to buy, visit or attend. You should base it on a hypothetical person who you can then tailor all your marketing efforts towards trying to engage. Obviously people vary, but it’s good to have a specific idea of your main audience.
Firstly, remember that you may not be your target audience so shouldn’t make decisions based on your opinions, for example regarding pricing products. You may want to base your visual brand on your tastes, but incorporating an understanding of your audience.
When deciding on a person’s demographic attributes, you can base some of your profile on years of existing experience and observation, and with a starting point of perhaps an element of your work – for example the use of strictly sustainable materials or only the highest quality diamonds (both likely to attract 2 very different types of people), you can then research other insights about this person like their job, salary and family situation. You could base them on primary research such as surveys, focus groups and polls about your existing market, Google Analytics data and social insights and secondary research by other people, groups and the government.
Other important things to explore: What else drives this person? What do they need? What do they want? What fears do they have that you can minimise? What marketing content do they consume and how/where?
Some competitor research is important, particularly those operating in the same geographical or cyber space as you. Some of the earlier “why” questions may have sparked some ideas about what differentiates you from other makers, artists, groups or facilitators and it’s very important that you understand what that is. It’s rarely enough anymore in a saturated market to
simply create nice products, particularly if they are similar to other makers’. You must find something to emphasise as a difference. When compared to someone else who makes gold rings with precious stones, it’s more likely that the more in depth story and solid brand will be more visible and successful.
Hopefully you can see how having a better understanding of what drives you and for whom, will help you. I think it is so much better mentally to fully immerse yourself in your story.
Further down the line, having a unique, cohesive and relatable story will help you to create a marketing plan that includes interesting and appealing photographic content, blog post topics, SEO keyword strategy and graphic design. Not only these, but it should also make you feel more comfortable embodying your brand and open up a world of potential marketing channels including your elevator pitch, radio stations, bloggers, partnerships, listings…
It should also help you to keep tabs on your decision making. Your actions should have relevance and a reason or aim based on the above insight. It’s a risk to do something because you think or were told you should. You think you should do a post about your ceramics workshop, but who are your workshops even aimed at? What is different from you and the next pottery facilitator? What are the benefits for that audience, what do they want out of the experience? How do you know you should be using Instagram? If you use all of the social media channels but aren’t sure why, feel like you’re spread so thin that you have started “auto-multiple channel sharing” and aren’t seeing a return on your time investment, perhaps you’d be better focusing on one channel that you know is relevant to your specific audience and offer.
Key questions to ask yourself when you making a marketing decision might be:
- Is this clearly targeted to my main audience?
- Is it immediately clear why they should attend my exhibition over another that day?
- Is it relevant to my story?
- What do I want from this and how and when can I measure its success?
Coupled with SMART business aims based on your needs, you should be unstoppable!
A few more tickets have been added to Arc’s next Artist’s Networking Event, which will include audience development presentation with me and a deeper discussion with arts business peers. There are a few tickets left as of writing but if it does sell out you can register for the waiting list. You can also join Arc’s Artist Network mailing list here. Hopefully see you there!
You can also visit my arts marketing website for more about me and what I get up to.