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Let’s talk a minute…about what your strategy shouldn’t be

Incandescent light bulb

The other day I had a coaching session with one of my clients during which we both had a major light bulb moment.  She was fretting about how all this new stuff would take up her time and keep her from doing what she loves…making art.   The light bulb switched on when I said ….our uses of social media/networking are different, because we have different visions. In fact I would say that each of us have different visions and those visions drive our strategies. ..we will  each have the right level of emersion that will work for us and that level will match our visions.

As a blogger my vision is to find and help as many artists as I can in whatever way I can. To do that I need to approach networking in a way that reinforces my vision. So I need to obsess over Search Engine Optimization (SEO), trends of page views etc. And I  also need to find and emerse myself in social networks that might hold potential readers…artists needing help negotiating the constantly changing business environment. So I spend a lot of time on-line finding and following trends to see if they could be helpful to my readers.

On the other hand you as an artist have a very different strategy, while mine is to sniff out information, yours is to find, build and nurture connections. If your strategy matches your vision the time needed to implement and follow your strategy will become less and less. In fact the time needed can be very little once you have your networks in place. You won’t have to “tweet” all day, you won’t have to spend hours on Facebook, and you won’t have to write multiple blog posts everyday. Remember,  the point of social networking for working artists is to use it as your very own communications channel,  to be an artist first and web/social media maven… only if it fits your vision.

 Lets talk a minute...about what your strategy shouldnt be

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What 2009 will bring and how artists can lead the way.

Over the last few days I spent time scouring the web for forecasting trends related to small businesses that could then be translated to the world of artists especially those relying on art fairs as a major source of sales. What I found was a lot of hope (you read that right!) the catch is that hope will not be realized without a change in the way you do business.

paper_typing-400x198 What 2009 will bring and how artists can lead the way.

What I found might be surprising…a lot of what will be showing up in 2009 in the form of consumer behavior and trends indicated an advantage for artists. The advantage is surprisingly simple in that most have yet to take the leap into the online digital  revolution. Because of this fact, artists will have “skipped over” a lot of the chaos that caused early adaptors to chase any and all shiny objects.

Trends are indicating that this will be a year of “settling out” and because of the economic shifts taking place consumer behavior will be increasingly focused on a desire for human interaction when making buying decisions.  Artists are especially poised for this since it is a natural part of how we sell our work…we just need to know how to incorporate 21st century tools. There are three general areas that artists should pay attention to over the coming year.

Engagement

  • There will be a deepening desire for engagement to include “live” conversation. This may seem logical to us but for other types of business it hasn’t been. We have been face to face with our buyers since day one however it has tended to end once we made the sale. Over 2009 we will need be more aware of and use ways to continue our engagement after the transaction.
  • Finally the coming year will be a time for deeper listening not only for trends but as a tool to reinforce our buyer relationships.  Also by listening deeper we can discover more accurately what our buyers want. Artists need to learn to set up and use what Chris Brogan calls “listening Posts” to better hear and meet the needs and desires of their markets.

Focus

  • Because of the work done by early adaptors artists will have a much lower learning curve when it comes to using  social media. It will be easier  to tie together their market profiles, and buyers in a very focused way. In doing so artists will be able to use social networks with almost laser like precision to engage their buyers regardless of geography.
  • This laser like focus will pay off by allowing artists to pay greater attention to producing work that attracts and retains buyers rather than remaining stuck in the random and unpredictable cycle they have experienced thus far.

Influence and attraction

  • Realize that our buyers look to us for guidance in making buying decisions,
    and make sure what we make, not only meets their needs, but does so obviously.
  • Because buyers will be looking for more human contact it will be important for artists to learn to use  the intimacy rule: intimacy touches emotion;emotion powers conversation. As a result tools that bring consumers more closely into an artists’ life and creative process will go a long way in earning trust, and love which can be the difference between making it and not making it in down times. Blogs, customer appreciation programs, open studios will all be necessary in the coming year.
  • Remembering that satisfied customers tell three friends while angry customers tell 3000. Building a network of evangelists coupled with efforts to put the “ME” back into customer service will go a long way towards making a show good or awful.

In short it looks like artists especially those living on the art fair circuit a very well positioned entering 2009 as long as they learn to use the tools that will bring them into the 21st century and better contact with their buyers. They can lead the way because of their long history of face to face contact with their buyers and relative connection to their markets. The 21st Century tools will only help to  modernize the foundation they have already built over decades.

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Virtual Networking in a Brave New World

The Social Network As It Was.

Remember when networking was something that was accomplished at blazer-wearing cocktail parties and on the golf course followed by a cocktail?  Even if you don’t remember that, one must realize historically there was such a thing.  Leaving the house and beating the streets socially was absolutely the only way possible to network in the community and create a name, credibility and resource.  It was an era of creating importance amongst people of importance.

Enter the Digital Era of Networking

Got a computer?  Of course you do.  Well, throw away your taste for shrimp cocktail and the smell of freshly cut grass coupled with too many gin and tonics.  Your social and business network has not only become easier to access but absolutely endless.   You are a rock star in the infinite world of your own virtual networking.

There are no people of self importance.  We now understand that importance is relative to the task.  And we also understand that the tasks are constantly evolving.  It’s a better day.

Modern Party Chatter and Tee Off Times

The basic difference between networking in the past and networking now is the comparison of a closed circle to an infinite web.   There are no limits to a social web presence, guaranteed.  And you don’t have to hear the rancid gossip either.

Creating a brand name or identity in the digital era involves a very simple infrastructure of URL presences coupled with what we in the digital social networking industry like to call maintenance.

The infrastructure is the name branding and the maintenance is the social trust building.

Digital Social Infrastructures

Social networking sites are ever evolving.  They change faster than you can beat an egg.  The sites of interest to networkers today are: Face Book, Twitter and Linked In.  These URL’s maintain groups of social networks that constantly interact, change and identify.  It is imperative in modern social networking that you do not only have one presence but many that interlink.  They work together.

Other important factors that assist in connecting equally are:  e-mail accounts, personal or professional websites and blogs.  Each one of these is a necessary piece but not one of them more important than the others..  That chain is the infinite web of digital social networking.

The system works perfectly.

The Hitch

Quite frankly, even though this system is an extremely effective method to achieve niche recognition – there is one major drawback.  It takes a great deal of time to update, connect and communicate.  There absolutely aren’t enough hours in the day to run a business AND keep an interactive web presence for marketing purposes.

It can be done.  It has to be done.  But it doesn’t have to be done alone.

But not to worry, mind you.  You will notice more agencies that specialize in the area of social networking maintenance to assist in the process.  

And you will notice more specialized niche business coming your way as well as higher sales in the process.

And lastly, you never had to lift a cocktail fork or listen to so and so go on about his bum knee and his bad marriage.  Imagine that.

It’s a brave new world.
 

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ArtWorks

A CASE STUDY: finding and exterminating artistic ANTS

The last post on this subject closed with a description of the process but to really make it work we need to look at it as artists. To do so we are going to have another conversation with our friend Sarah who has been struggling to make a living with her art.

” So Sarah, you look particularly discouraged today, what’s up?”

Well, I just feel forever stuck in a rut of never making enough from my art to support myself.” she said. ” I can’t figure it out…I work hard at what I do and yet I never sell consistently and my friends and family keep telling me I should get a ‘Real Job’ I’m close to giving up”.

” I am sorry to hear that…are you willing to try something different to see if we can get you back into the swing of things?”

“Sure, I’m game for anything that will help.”

” Ok, let’s take a look at some of your beliefs associated with being an artist or for that matter being a creative person. So tell me about your earliest memories of what people said about art and becoming an artist. What pops out…?”

“The first thing that pops out is how often people told me that it was ‘cool’ and they thought I was really talented but that I could never really ‘make a living from it’ . I heard that a lot in grade school and later high school, most of my teachers told me I needed to focus on skills that were marketable and leave the ‘creative stuff’ as a hobby.

My family was sort of supportive but they insisted that I study something ‘real’ in college, although I did get them to let me take art classes if I took their ‘real’ classes as my primary major. Well that didn’t last long…I fell in love with  the art department, I felt alive when I was in the studio. It didn’t matter if I was drawing, painting, throwing pots or pulling prints. So I decided to be an art major in spite of my family.”

“Did you notice any negative beliefs creeping in or was it all fun in the studio?”

“Now that you mention it there was a strange undercurrent type feeling that I couldn’t figure out for quite awhile. It seemed like everybody was always talking about ‘working hard’ on something and our professors were often saying that ‘art should not need to be sold’ that what we create should sell itself. I remember asking a couple of my profs about that and they all said that art was not a business and to think of it like it was would demean and constrain our work.”

“What did they mean by that?”

“Well mostly they would say that it would hurt our creativity and to be really successful we needed to focus on our art and not worry about the business end of things”

“Ok,” I said ” this is starting to look like something…so what do you think was the common message you got. What are your core beliefs as a result?”

” I totally, got the idea that art was not worth much, that at best it would be a hobby. In college I started to have hope but the undercurrent of the art department saying over and over that art and business shouldn’t mix left me confused and feeling like I was forever doomed to being a ‘starving artist’. Now after finishing school I look around and don’t see many artists that aren’t starving ! Also when I do sell my work most people think I charge to much since I don’t do it full time”.

“So would you say that you developed a belief that to be an artist you had to starve and you certainly couldn’t  make a living at it?” I asked.

“yes, that’s about it”, she replied.

“Let’s look at that negative thought… write it down. Now, look at it and ask ‘is this true’ so do you think it is true?”

“Well, yes at least it is how experience it”, she said.

“Ok, now can you ABSOLUTELY without a doubt KNOW it it is true? Can you REALLY know?

Next I want you to answer this question…‘how do I react when I think that thought?’ This is important you’ll need to dig deep and pay attention to your feelings. When you think that thought what do you do? How do you treat yourself and others? Take some time to write down all the ways you react.”

” Here goes” she said. ” I feel angry, resentful and well hopeless. I get mad at buyers or at least don’t put a lot of time in with them. I really get mad at myself for thinking I could make this work.”

“Now ask ‘what would I be without that thought’, who would you be? How would your life be different?’”

“That’s not hard” she said. ” I would be living in a nice house, I would have lots of people wanting my work. When I did shows I would sell out and would easily get paid well for my work.”

“Ok now let’s take that original negative thought and turn it around. The original thought was, ‘you could never make a living as an artist’ now becomes ‘you can make a good living as an artist’ or ‘I can make a good living as an artist.’

Finally, I want you to take that turn around and ask ‘Is this turnaround as true or truer than my original negative intention?’ Then find three good examples that prove the turn around is just as true or truer than the original negative thought.”

“wow!” she said, ” my mind is racing I can see how one thing can lead to another. Can this process be used with my buyers?”

“Yes, certainly, it can help you get out of feeling like a victim and start seeing you buyers in a different more positive light. We can work on that another time you are going to need some time to work just on this part.”

I hope this has been helpful here is another way to get at the negative thoughts and begin the process. Take this list of positive intentions/beliefs and write the first negative intentions that pop up when you read them:

  • People will easily pay me for the value of my work.
  • When I talk to potential buyers it is easy to get them to sign up for my newsletter.
  • People really get my work and see the value it will add to their lives.
  • It is easy for me to build a network of supporters and buyers.
  • My buyers come back to me often and tell their friends to buy from me.
  • It is easy for me to learn to market my work.
  • My brand is easy to identify and is the primary driver behind buyer attraction.

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Marketing Monday: how to use the Y-Factor

Have you ever wondered how you could steer more buyers your way as they flood into the streets the first morning of a show or how you can get more buyers into your gallery show? More importantly I am sure many of you have wondered, just like me, what drives that mob to roost, what causes them to choose one artist over another?

how to use the Y-Factor

The traditional method of drawing buyers has been to stand out in the crowd, to be obviously different than your competition. As working artists we thought it made sense and that our work made us automatically different enough to catch the eye of potential buyers. We also assumed that our competition was others in our medium, other potters, other jewelers or fiber artists and all we had to do was stand out among them.  But the truth is many of us were just guessing…we really had no clue how to stand out we just knew we made something in a particular style that no one else did. Further more what we did  do was done within the context of a randomized buying model, sales depended largely on a potential buyer “stumbling on us” and liking what they saw. We resigned ourselves to relying on unpredictable sales patterns and subsequent unpredictable income.

While show sales seem to becoming even more random there are some things you can do now that will help. So lets take a step back and see just how you can stand out and even more importantly what the secret is that will allow you to become a beacon to very focused and steady buyers. There are really two parts to this process:

  • Knowing your market
  • Knowing what differentiates you from your competition

We have talked extensively about knowing your market so lets take a look at the second part… what makes you different or in market/brand speak what is you Unique Selling Proposition (USP). But first let’s get one thing out in the open…every, yes EVERY other artist is your competition especially those of you who follow the art fair circuit. No longer do you have the luxury to think that you compete only with those in your medium.

We are also going to assume that you already have a vision of your business, you know how your products compare with alternatives and you know who is the best fit for your products. Typically, big businesses rely on a process of defining key points of differentiation based on such things as product, service, market, the problem solved etc. While these are certainly important and should definitely be part of your process they are not primary because of the Y-factor, that hidden element that only we as artists posses.

The very nature of our business is driven by us…without us there would be no business, no product and no happy buyers. The Y-factor is critical to your success, it will give buyers a reason to put you on their list, it will cause them to focus in on you with laser like precision. How well you cultivate the Y-factor in your business will be critical to your success and growth and could very well lead to you becoming a household name or not.

So…what is the Y-factor? The Y-factor is the YOU-factor, it is the sum total of how much your work reflects you, your values, your vision, how integrated your personality is in your work and how visible the package that makes up you and your work is. Once you can successfully tie all of this together buyers will be drawn to your work BECAUSE of you, because they see you and identify you and your work as one and the same.

So the secret to getting focused enthusiastic buyers who not only love and collect your work but also connect you with other enthusiastic buyers is:

  • Recognizing the existence of the Y-factor.
  • Acceptance and understanding of your Y-factor.
  • Your ability to use your Y-factor to build a strong network of repeat buyers.

Now go back and review your vision, your perfect customer profile, the alternatives to you  ( why a potential buyer would pick you) and try to tie them up in a package that represents you. Once you have that, brainstorm  ways to make that package visible. Here are some suggestions:

  • Take care of your ANTS especially as they relate to your own self image.
  • Focus on how you display your work and how it can entice the buyers you want.
  • Learn to identify those potential buyers who get your work and in turn get you.
  • Learn how to develop communication links with your most enthusiastic buyers.
  • Develop a sustainable list of contacts in every venue you are likely to show.

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Four steps to exterminating your ANTS

The last part of this discussion ended by pointing out that the two most common ways of ridding ourselves of ANTS (automatic negative thoughts)  through shear  will power will just make them more powerful and likewise denial will also cause them to take over our lives. However, there is hope and there is a way…

dead_ant Four steps to exterminating your ANTS

A while back I learned about  my ANTS by using a very simple tool developed by Byron Katie. She had been struggling with almost a decade long bout of depression when she had one of those “ah ha” moments that seem to come out of nowhere to slap us upside the head. She realized that she was letting here negative thoughts run her life and when she started really examining the thoughts that drove her to stay stuck she was surprised  to see them disappear. Katie came up with a simple process called “The Work” that has worked with hundreds of thousands of people, helping them refocus their energy and move on to achieve their goals.

In a nutshell the process consists of:

Identifying the negative intention AND committing it to paper so it doesn’t linger in your mind.

  1. Ask if the negative thought is “true” or “False” you can ONLY answer “Yes” or “No”
  2. If you answer yes or you are not clear then ask “Can I know with absolute certainty if this is true?” Again only yes or no.
  3. Now ask: “how do I react when I think that thought” write down what you feel it can be one feeling or a collection. Don’t think about just write down your feelings and reactions.
  4. Who would you be if you didn’t believe that thought? Write down who you would be or what would be different if you didn’t have that thought. The key here is to really imagine what life would be like without that ANT.

The final part of the toolset is called “The Turnaround”. Turn the belief around to its opposite. There maybe several iterations of the turnaround. It is very important to understand that these are NOT affirmations, they are alternate realities different ways of  looking at the belief. To validate the turnaround do the following:

  • Ask if the turnarounds are as true or truer than the original belief
  • Write down some examples of how the turnaround is true
  • Write down descriptions of actions that would support the turnaround.

For more information on this process visit www.thework.com. We will also be going into further detail about using this process as part of your preparation for 2009.

Next we will apply this process to common mindset issues that hold artists back.

Was this helpful? Do you know what your ANTS are?

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