The Key to Building a Future of Consistent Art Sales: Audience Building
Whether you are young or approaching retirement, full-time or part-time, just about every artist or photographer envisions a utopian future where consistent, monthly sales are coming in.
“If I could just earn a couple thousand dollars a month from my art, I could…”
- Quit my job!
- etc., etc., etc.
But if you speak to most artists or photographers about their sales consistency, many will tell you it is their biggest problem.
Many have spent years and years of their lives in the art business yet today they have no sales consistency they can rely on.
Solving this problem is part of the core mission of Art Storefronts.
Throughout this blog — in our case studies (such as our optimization tips that improved bounce rates by 400%), tutorial videos, and other technical articles — we have published a significant amount of real data showing many artists and photographers currently on the ASF platform that are making consistent, monthly sales. It is real and it is happening.
The purpose of this blog post is to cover the single most important thing these folks are doing to make consistent sales happen.
This is not a single tactic or strategy that can be arbitrarily listed as a line item on our Step-by-Step Guide to Sell Art Online. Instead, it is a broader concept, a guiding principle, that should become a cornerstone of how you think about and run your art business from now on.
So here it is: The key factor separating those with consistent sales from those without is their commitment to and success in the area of audience building.
Let’s dive into this.
What is Audience Building?
Audience building is the act of pursuing, cultivating, and harvesting direct relationships with your target audience.
On the surface, your “target audience” are the direct buyers of your work.
But on a deeper level, these are the people who have some sort of lasting emotional connection with your subject matter. This emotional connection is driving their purchase decision.
Discovering the common emotional connections between your buyers will allow you to gather common characteristics about your buyers, which in turn will empower you to find more of them. For example, let’s say you paint or shoot beaches of Maui. Your target audience might include those who have vacationed there, got married there, live there, are inspired by it, or hold this place dear to their heart. Once you understand this, you can start thinking of ways to build more of these audience members.
Furthermore, keep in mind that your target audience are the people that actually want to see your content. They also want to stay updated as you continue to create new content. Your target audience does not think you are “pushing” anything on them when you send them email updates or when you post on platforms like Facebook. Instead, they want to hear the stories, reasons, and inspirations behind your work.
Your target audience is the key to consistent sales because they the ones who are most likely to buy from you both now and in the future.
So, it goes without saying that building a target audience should be your top priority. So, let’s get into how you actually do that.
Step 1: Pursue Direct Relationships with your Target Audience
In the phrase “direct relationships with your target audience”, the key word is “direct”. Direct means:
- There are no intermediaries between you and your buyers/prospects
- There are no communication walls between you and your buyers/prospects
- You collect email addresses of your buyers/prospects (critical)
Without these ingredients, we’ve found that its nearly impossible to build your own direct target audience. And that’s a big problem, because without a direct target audience, you won’t be able to mimic the success that others are seeing. Instead, your sales performance will continue on its current path.
Foundationally, there are few things you need in order to start build a direct target audience:
First, you need to have a website where customers can buy from you directly on the spot, right now. This means they are not redirected to another website (i.e. Etsy) to make a purchase where they become an indirect buyer (their email address & contact info is hidden from you). If and when they buy, you must obtain their email address. This email address is extremely critical, as you will ultimately need to leverage it with email marketing and with more advanced techniques such as creating Facebook Lookalike Audiences, which you cannot do unless you have email addresses.
Second, you need to offer an easy and immediate way for new potential members of your target audience to stay updated – even if they don’t buy. This is because the majority of your first-time visitors will not buy, and you have this one chance to get their email address before they get back to their busy day and forget about you. On your website, this is accomplished through Lead Capture, a technique we have widely documented and perfected within the Art Storefronts software. In person, you will want to have a lead capture strategy as well. See Art Fair Lead Generation Strategies and From Brick to Click: The Key Strategy for Retailers with a Physical Presence.
Third, you need to spend the majority of your available time executing on strategies that will generate new target audience members. If you’re an Art Storefronts customer already, follow the Success Plan. Never stop thinking of new and creative ways to get in front of your target audience. As a rule of thumb, if your traffic data is not steadily increasing each month, then audience building needs to be your top priority until it is.
Step 2: Cultivate Your Direct Relationships
The second step is to cultivate the direct relationships you have with your target audience members.
Here is our most clear and simple advice on what you need to do:
Make regular deposits into the emotional bank accounts of your target audience members.
Show them beautiful imagery. Tell them stories. Sincerely try to make their lives better.
One powerful way to do this is via email. Your content should focus on one piece each time, telling a story about it, or the inspiration behind it, in a few descriptive paragraphs.
Our advice is to put as much of your heart and mind as you can into this content. Care more about the individual, and don’t worry about getting an immediate sale.
Here’s an example of an Art Storefronts artist doing this well:
Deb Minnard sends these emails once per week to her target audience, which she is continually building. Each week, the email focuses on one specific image, with the story or meaning behind it (this is key). Her target audience absolutely eats this up. They look forward to receiving these messages each week.
One touch at a time, like a true Romantic Art Seller, Deb is cultivating deep relationships with her target audience.
Finally, the content you send in any individual email should also become a Facebook post (containing the image and the message).
It should also become a short blog post on your website, which will increase the amount of unique, relevant content on your website. The more unique, relevant content that you post related to your subject matter, the more that search engines like Google will reward you.
Step 3: Harvest Your Direct Relationships
The final step of audience building is to harvest the direct relationships you have with your target audience.
The time of harvesting is what we call “the ask”. It is when you send an email with a promotional offer or a reason to buy.
This may come naturally when you are running promotions on or around a specific Holiday, or it may come after a certain period of time that an audience member has been on your list. Regardless of how you do it, at some point, you need to ask for the business.
The great part is, all of this can be done digitally. And, when you have appropriately cultivated your audience members in the right way, you never come across as salesy nor pushy. Instead, your offer comes across like an opportunity — and those that do get to capitalize on it end up loving you for it. Your customer feels like they won!
Summing It All Up
Once you have a successful audience building system in place as described above, it just works like a machine for you.
But unfortunately, anything that is built well takes time and patience, and audience building is no different.
If you haven’t already been audience building — meaning you don’t already have a sizable email list of target audience members — then the best thing you can do is get started now.
If you already have a sizable list, then you should focus a little more on cultivating, followed by harvesting.
If you just take it in small doses, one step at a time, its really not all that hard. Before you know it, you’ll have an established and continually growing pipeline of target audience members who are connected with you and your work.
This is what the most successful artists and photographers have. This is the key to consistent monthly sales.
All that’s left? Software built to turn your audience into art buyers 24 hours a day.
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