022: Doing Things That Don't Scale
Making the case for doing things that would never work if your art business grows larger, and why these marketing tasks can actually be some of the most powerful.
Doing something in your business that does not scale? We want to hear about it.
Here's the post from Caroline that got us thinking about doing things that don't scale:
Read the transcribe
You're listening to the Art Marketing podcast, and today we are talking about doing the things that do not scale. So making the most of what you have, by doing the things that don't scale, and examples of things that don't scale for artists that you can put into practice, and pretty much why it's always the right idea to do so.
Now today's episode was inspired by a couple of Facebook posts that we had from customers in our Facebook group. The first one was awesome, it was a huge success by Caroline. Nice work, Caroline. She ran a Valentine's Day sale. We advocated that everybody do that, and she made a couple of small sales. Nothing big, nothing blow it out, but she at least did some marketing toward Valentine's Day and was rewarded, got some sales. Then she decided to do one extra step which we advocate, which is go to all the unsold carts, so specifically people that put a piece of art into their shopping card and didn't check out. She emailed all those people by hand, and it ended up amounting to I guess another four prints and eight dollars worth of sales, right. I heard that. I was overjoyed. Love hearing it when people use the techniques that we advocate and it actually turns into sales.
But I contrasted that with a post the same day or the day before, whatever, from a customer that's been with us for over a year, and he's like I've been at it for a year, and I still don't have my first sale. While he had a good attitude about it, because he said he was still doing everything, he was obviously a little bit bummed and discouraged. He's gone through an entire year and he hasn't sold anything.
Now, there always ends up being a problem in these situations that you have to diagnose, right? For him, and I haven't had a chance to respond to his comment yet, but I will, or someone else on the team will, is number one, are you selling offline? If you're selling offline, then you can sell online, right? So I don't know if that problem has been solved or not, that's always where you start. Then step two is, okay, well, what are you doing to actively market? Then you get in and you go and look at the stats and you see is any traffic being driven, how many emails are you sending and all of that, right? But it's always one of those two problems. Either the offering isn't exactly aligned with what the market wants, or you're not doing any active marketing, you don't have any attention in the eyeballs coming.
The bigger picture is not those two Facebook posts and the inspiration thereof, it's the what do we know, right? What we know is that the majority of artists, the majority we talk to anyway when I say what do we know, it's the majority of the artists we talk to, 90% plus, are technically start ups. I've done, I've made that point before whereas it doesn't matter how long you've been doing art or how awesome at art you are or how long you've been going to art shows and craft fairs if you are new to getting your digital website up and you're new to building an email list and sending those emails, you're technically a start up. Yes, you've figured out that owning your own online art gallery is the right way to roll, right, your own website, your own social following, your own email list, your own website traffic, your own buyers that you can email whenever you want, right. We've talked about that a bunch. But unless you have all of that already set up, you have some momentum, i.e., you have some traffic, you are technically a start up. You're just getting going. It's in many cases not fair. You've been an artist for a long time. You're very accomplished, very good, but in terms of a digital entity, you are brand new, and you're just getting started.
You're digitally speaking, just new to the game. Right? Even if you're not, if you have some of that stuff decently set up and you've been selling online for years, you still want to grow all of that, right? We know that most are start ups. We also know that you, it doesn't matter if it's you or we, we are engaged in a battle for attention, right? Attention is the new currency. It does not matter if you're an artist or if it's us with software or if it's Netflix trying to sell subscriptions to their streaming content or any business out there, we're all battling for attention. In order to get customers, we need to get attention, we need to get eyeballs to look at our offerings, and that comes down to attention.
To get that attention, it means marketing, right? As businesses, we need to actively engage in marketing to get our product or service out there, to get some attention, to build relationships, to grow, know, like and trust. To get people to like us and want to do business with us, right? I think it's a critical thing for all artists, regardless of how well you're doing out there, right. The immediate next question is yeah, I've heard all that, I get it. So what?
If the majority of artists that we're talking to are just getting going and just getting started, they're just starting to build traffic to their sites, they're just building their email list, their social following, everything that we've talked about, maybe even chasing their first sale, right, like the guy that I mentioned earlier, there's good news and there's bad news, as there is in anything. Let's start with the bad news. Get it out of the way. It's really hard to get started. It is tough in the beginning to get your first few email addresses, to get those first people coming to your website, your first fans on Facebook or Instagram or Snap Chat or wherever you're doing your marketing. It's tough. It's a grind. It can feel soul crushing at times. The life of an entrepreneur if there ever was one.
A lot of times you're just working and working and working and you feel like you're spinning your tires and not getting anywhere. I've been there so many times, I totally get it. I totally empathize with that. Just about the time you start thinking like oh, man, this is so tough. Art doesn't sell online and it never will, there's some good news here too, right? But let me tell you a story. Let me tell you a story. Side story. And all of the American listeners, which is the majority of you, you know, what do we all learn about in school? We learned about the American Revolutionary War. Us versus the Redcoats, right, us versus the British.
On paper, this battle did not look good. They had superior training, they had superior equipment, they had more experience, they had bigger numbers. This looked like a force that was going to annihilate us. What did we have? We had local knowledge of the terrain, local support, disdain for preconceived rules of engagement, and a deep yearning for freedom. But again, on paper, this did not look like an even battle. It looked like we were going to get smoked. But what did the Americans end up doing? They turned their weakness into strengths, right? What they were good at, they accentuated. They took advantage of it. They engaged in guerrilla style war. They used their knowledge of the local terrain and the local community support to set traps and ambushes. They did not fight according to the British notions of the rules of engagement in how a battle should be fought.
As a result, the Americans won. They took what their preconceived disadvantages-, not preconceived, but what their perceived disadvantages might have been and they turned them into advantages, so to speak. They took what they had at their disposal, turned it into an advantage and put it to work. I think it worked for them, and it can work for you, and it's one of the ways that I love to think about that American Revolutionary War, and it always just kind of comes back.
You do the things that do not scale, right? So let me tie it back. You're just getting started, yes, you're small, no, you don't have a huge ads budget or a giant credit card to spend on ads. You don't have some sort of mythical list of high net worth individuals and art buyers that you can sell to or that somebody is going to loan you. By the way, these lists don't exist. But, you know, oh, yeah, and then let's just say perhaps you have a full time job. Perhaps you have two children, some of which don't like sleeping through the night like mine don't. So you've got life, right? We all have life, so you have to ask yourself what you do have and what might just give you an advantage. That's where this concept, this notion of the things that do not scale come into play.
There's a guy named Paul Graham that coined the phrase, or I guess articulated the concept is I think probably the best way to say it, but he's got an original post. He's a super famous VC, and so I'll include the post in the show notes, because it's an awesome read. Briefly, this concept of doing things that do not scale is it's essentially the quickest way to get up and running and get traction by doing these types of things. A simple way of saying this, you know, you do the things you can only do when you're just getting started and when you're small that you could never do when you're a bigger company.
Random example. Let's say you're, I'll make one up, let's say you're running a valet parking business and it's at the airport, and right now you're really only getting two customers an hour. What do you decide to do, you're going to do something that does not scale, it's not something you can do later with lots of customers, and you're going to go ahead and take everybody's luggage out of the back of their car, and you're going to walk it all the way into the check out counter where the bags get picked up, and you're going to do that for every single solitary customer. Right? That would be amazing. Right? And you could probably get away with it by having two customers an hour, but once you have 50 customers an hour, there's no chance, because you're not going to be getting people out of the car. It's something that will not scale once you're a bigger company. Once the business grows. It's an example of something that's just impossible from either a time or a financial standpoint once the company gets bigger.
I think in his piece if I recall, I haven't read it in awhile, but he talks about Airbnb, right? And when they first got started, you know, they started this business and their goal was to get people to list their homes and eventually have people to rent them through their service. Instead of just sitting at home and trying to spend some money on ads and get people to come to their website in a digital fashion and list their houses, do you know what they did instead? They got on a plane, flew to New York, and knocked on doors one by one, and said hey, I'm so and so from Airbnb, here's what we do. Would you consider listing your house with us? Oh, you would? Great. Tell you what, why don't you let me come inside. I'll photograph your house. We'll use my laptop, get you signed up, and I'll put the listing up for you. Is that okay?
So that's what they did, and they went door by door, and they literally walked right into the living room, sat down, used the computer and got the listing online right there before they left. Obviously amazing story, right? A great, great way to think through something that does not scale but just completely wows your customers, your potential customers, gets them in the door immediately, gets the ball rolling, gets things going. So let's put it into our world, in our sphere right, and talk about art and selling art.
Let's go over some, let's make up ten things you can do, right? Artists can do, or examples of things an artist can do that does not scale. I would say at the top, a personal email to every single solitary person that signs up for your email list. Don't farm it out to Mail Chimp or whoever your email service provider is and have some cheesy autoresponder. Write them a personalized message. Hey, Steve, thanks so much for joining my email list. I really appreciate you taking the time to check out my work. Can I ask you a question? Where do you list? What do you do for work? What is it that you like most about my work? Whatever it is, a personal anecdote, put something in there. Or, and I mentioned this one before, a personal DM, direct message, to every new follower you get on Instagram. You know, look at the new followers, make sure it's not a bot, send them a DM thanking them personally for the following so much. Ask them what type of content they would see. That's something that works incredibly well, something that doesn't scale.
There's the first, the one I used in the first example. Hand emailing every single solitary unsold cart personally. You have a site, it's set up to sell art. Hopefully you have a shopping cart there. You could email those people by hand. What about personalizing your newsletter content on an individual basis? You say I only have 50 people on my email list. Well, that ought to be easy to do then. Again, like write an anecdote to Steve in the hey, Steve, I know you love photos of the Southern California waves and rocky beaches. I just want to let you know I just got back from a trip driving up and down the coast. It was amazing. Here are some incredible things that I saw. Here's one personal photo that I took that I thought you might like. I'm not going to list it in my store. And then send him your regular newsletter content. That's extremely personal. That's like wow level of service, and that definitely doesn't scale.
What about responding to every single solitary Facebook comment? What about responding to every single solitary Instagram comment, no matter what, in either case, making those responses personal and thought out. Again, an example of something that doesn't scale. What about chatting up every single solitary incoming messenger subscriber? If you have a list of those podcasts about the Facebook messenger, go listen to them. Opportunities abound for behavior that does not scale, for tactics and techniques that do not scale using messenger. But, you know, why don't you really chat up those Messenger subscribers? While you're at it, why don't you drop the chat box on your website? You know, get the code to fire the chat box on your website, put it on your phone. Every single solitary time a visitor comes to your website and wants to talk about your art, stop, pull that phone out and start talking to them. Have a conversation. Another great example of something that doesn't scale that's an amazing thing, a wow type of a thing.
Just ran an art fair, did you, or did a craft show or whatever the case might be? Did you run the fishbowl technique? Then send a personal text message to every single solitary one of the people that dropped their business card in your fish bowl and just say thanks so much for coming to my show. Here's a photo of so and so, have a great day. Do it one by one. You'd be amazed at how like blown away people are. I could give you more crazy examples. I mean once you start thinking and putting your head to it, like you can really, really come out with some amazing ones. Like if you're an artist and let's say you can sketch or draw or paint, figure out some sort of way to do something quick that is digital, take ten to fifteen minutes to draw something custom of each individual subscriber that you get an email. You could potentially do this with Instagram too, if email is not your jam. And send it to them.
Like, if I just joined your list and you just painted or sketched something that was completely personalized to me, you took ten, fifteen, twenty, thirty minutes to do it and then sent it to me in an email, I would be blown away. They will be blown away. Could you potentially do that to 100 new email subscribers a day? No chance, won't scale, right? You know, if you're a photographer, ask me, ask every person that joins your email list what they like about your work most. What's their most favorite. Then, after they email and they tell you, go back into your archives, pull out an image that's just for them that you haven't showed to anyone else. You've got plenty of these in your archives that are great photos and say hey, here's a rough cut photo that I've resized screen saver size just for you. Wanted you to have it. Thanks.
The point is that the opportunities abound to be able to do it. The things that don't scale, that take so much time, is something that you can do when you're small, when you're trying to get traction when you're just rolling, actually things you can do at any stage of your business. But really easy to do when you're small, when you're just getting traction, when you're just rolling. I mean you can give that high level of service, that high touch experience, that incredible personal experience because you're small. If that's, go back to the American Revolutionary War example, like that's what you can do, that's your secret sauce, that's what you have the ability to do because you're small and what happens is that when you engage in this behavior, it's the exact gas that you need to get that fire going and really start burning.
I think the big point of it is it's about the relationships, right, it's about being close to your customer, and so you do the things that take time that are hard, that require extra work, but that has really the potential to wow your audience. And by the way, like I said, I mean even in our size of business and businesses way bigger, there's still totally opportunities to do this all the time, and you find that it just, it makes, it makes an incredible impact each and every time you do. Hard to measure, hard to quantify, but just an incredible, incredible impact. I think, like I said, it will serve as the gas that you need to poor on your fire to really get it going on, to really turn it into a big blaze.
Over to you. What's the question? You know? What are you doing that doesn't scale? I actually want to hear about it. I'm going to put an email that I send out on this episode, I'm going to put on the podcast episode page, in the show notes, I'm going to put a little messenger icon and I want to hear about the things that you're potentially doing that do not scale, or the things that you're thinking about doing that do not scale. Have a great example of one? Have one in mind? Hit that button and tell me about it in messenger. You'll see it all over the page. But yeah, great focus, great thing to adhere to, and have a great day.
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Brought To You By Art Storefronts
We help artists & photographers open and run their own art gallery business online.