In all honesty, building brand is fun. But it’s not an overnight thing. It takes consistent and strategic effort and requires a deep understanding of exactly who your target market is and how your product (i.e., your art) is helping them. This post examines 5 key parts to building a brand as an artist. 

Of course, there are numerous factors to consider when creating brand for yourself and your art. 

However, grasping the 5 elements in this post will give you a huge leg up for scaling and securing brand. 

So let’s dive in and explore how to start building brand as an artist today!

Outline

1. Introduction: Sales Funnels, Brand Building & Selling Art Online

Building brand encompasses everything from your profile color choices, messaging and “voice” on social media to your actual artwork, community and marketing strategies.

A core element for building this community and brand is in understanding what a sales funnel is and how it can help you to create brand and make money selling art online.

You may notice a tendency for beginners who are trying to promote their art online to go straight for the sale. 

There’s also the commonplace strategy to simply start posting your art on some artist marketplace, hoping to stand out and generate high volumes of traffic and profile views.

A problem here – besides saturation – is a lack of control and brand building. 

Detaching yourself and your art from a strategic digital marketing plan erodes long-term growth, brand opportunities and owned audiences (such as email subscribers, website visitors and social media followers).

Of course an artist marketplace method can (and does) work and is something you can implement alongside a sound digital marketing strategy. 

But it should not be a core strategy because building your own brand outside the parameters of a marketplace will compound over time and evolve into a long-term, resilient and secure asset.

And doing this requires an understanding and appreciation for digital marketing best practices.

There’s never been a better time to take full advantage of the online infrastructure that enables anyone (with the drive and patience) to create an automated, income-generating, online personal brand and business.

So if you’re new to using digital marketing best practices, where is the best place to start? Short answer: with a sales funnel.

The Sales Funnel Methodology

A sales funnel is actually not a new concept, it’s just all digital and automated nowadays (which is way simpler). 

Essentially, it’s a model that represents the principle stages of the customer journey from reaching new prospects and converting them into warm leads and eventually loyal customers.

At the top of the funnel, you have cold traffic audiences (i.e, people that don’t know who you are yet). 

Often, the strategy at this stage focuses on brand awareness. Sales do not typically happen here. This is where we introduce ourselves and our brand and start the relationship.

These people are similar to acquaintances. You know, that person you met last week and recognize – but still don’t know or necessarily trust.

Next, we move down into the middle of the funnel. 

These are people who have now heard of you and more likely to trust you. 

They’re also more likely to make a micro-commitment (such as giving you their email in exchange for something) or consume your content and consider your art (for future purchase).

This is still not the time to sell. However, this audience is quickly becoming a friend to your art and brand.

The rule of 7 dictates that it will take, on average, up to 7 points of contact before a new prospect converts into a sale or qualified lead. 

So this is the power of following a sales funnel format. It keeps you organized and strategic to not only build brand but also make consistent and reliable sales online.

So moving further along the sales funnel, we arrive at the bottom of the funnel. 

Here is where your warmest traffic resides and is where the bulk of your conversions and sales will occur.

Following this sales funnel methodology will ensure you’re strategic in building long-lasting brand and down-the-funnel sales.

So what do we fill in the different stages of a sales funnel with? Content.

Recommended Read: How To Make A Sales Funnel In 4 Simple Steps

2. Your Content Strategy

I like to structure a good content strategy around three core concepts. Together, these elements will act as a strategic guide for your overall marketing strategy, which will ultimately build a strong, trustworthy brand. They are:

  • Defining what value are you giving or offering in exchange for someone’s time, commitment or money
  • Knowing exactly who your target market is that you’re creating content and art for
  • Knowing which stage of the sales funnel that your content is best suited for

Besides these things, we also need to consider the platform we’ll be using for our content and what the user’s state-of-mind will be there.

For example, people visit Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Google and Pinterest all for different reason and with different intentions and mindsets. 

The content someone expects to see on a particular platform will therefore vary.

Ultimately, matching your content strategy to the particular platform you’re using will ensure it performs the best it can while you grow a brand and following smoothly.

I explore more specific content ideas in the social media section below, but here is some important foundation information to consider for your artist content strategy:

  • Facebook
    • Great for creating a group or community
    • People go on Facebook to engage with family and friend and to consume interesting, entertaining and share-worthy content
    • People are not in a buyer’s mindset
  • Instagram
    • Great for building brand, highly visual
    • Peole visit Instagram to consume interesting, entertaining content; engagement is higher on the platform
    • Peolpe are not in a buyer’s mindset but they are more likely to engage with brand and consume relevant ads
  • YouTube
    • Great for building brand, business and a following
    • People turn to YouTube for entertainment, inspiration and to have problems solved and questions answered
    • People are more likely to be in a buyer’s mindset
    • Content based on SEO and search intent
      • i.e., “art that looks great in houses with low ceilings” has more buyer intent than “what is abstract art?”
  • Google/Personal Website
    • Great long-term strategy for building a business, evergreen content and a searchable, findable brand
    • People turn to Google to have their questions answers and their problems solved
    • People visiting Google are more likely to be in a buyer’s mindset
    • Content is based on keyword research
    • Check out the section below on SEO and website building for more on this topic!
  • Pinterest
    • People visit Pinterest for inspiration, entertainment and find new ideas
    • The platform is actually more of a search engine than social media
    • It’s especially popular for creative niches
    • According to Omnicore (2020), Pinterest users tend to spend more on Pinterest and the user demographic tends to be higher income earners
  • LinkedIn
    • More formal and business/networking oriented
    • Great organic reach for content
  • Twitter
    • Great to keep your followers updated on events, news and other points/thoughts from your life
    • Users are not in a buyer’s mindset
  • TikTok
    • Still relatively new, but a fantastic place to build a following and brand quickly
    • People want entertaining, engaging and interesting content
    • This is a great platform to build brand and top-of-the-funnel awareness

3. Your Social Media Strategy

Dissecting the various angles, methods and elements of a good social media strategy would be a whole article (or more) in itself. 

Actually, that’s exactly what I did here

Still, there are key takeaways that are absolutely crucial for using social media.

Specifically, it’s instrumental that we understand the user’s mindset and how it changes between particular platforms.

In fact, we should frame all our content and digital marketing around this core concept. Let’s consider an example.

Say we take two popular and powerful social media platforms – LinkedIn and Instagram – and do a side-by-side comparison of them, what can we say?

Well perhaps it’s obvious, but LinkedIn tends to be more professional, formal, networking-focused and business oriented while Instagram doubles down on brand, lifestyle, engagement and the use of highly visual content.

So what does this tell us about the user’s state-of-mind between these two platforms? Will a piece of content perform the same on Instagram as it does on LinkedIn? Well, no. 

These two platform are totally different from each other and people therefore visit them for completely different reasons and with completely different mindsets.

And this is the point: We must create customized content that is best suited for the user’s state-of-mind based on the particular platform they’re using and their expectations while using that platform.

Below are some content ideas to use as an artist. Notice the variation between different social media and online platforms.

  • Instagram
    • This is a must and a perfect place to post your art (it’s a highly visual platform after all)
    • Post a mixture of your art, day-in-the-life content and entertaining, interesting or inspiring posts
    • Only do sales posts occasionally
      • actually recommend keeping the bulk of your sales posts to Instagram ads (which you can run to your followers)
    • Link out to your website or other relevant socials (using a link tree) in your description
    • Use stories and show raw, day-in-the-life content
    • Go live and engage with your following
    • Get involved with other influencers in your niche, do collabs and join in on the conversation
  • Facebook
    • Start a group page for fans or other artists to join – then make engaging post for everyone daily
    • You could run daily/weekly contests for the best artwork or comment (etc.) to keep people engaged
    • Create a Facebook business page and use it as a space for people to message you and reach out
    • Use this Facebook business page when running Facebook ads (more professional than a private page)
  • Pinterest
    • A good Pinterest strategy requires consistency at scale
    • Pinterest is a search engine so you’ll want to create visual, click-worthy pins daily
    • Be sure to optimize the titles and descriptions (as well as your profile and boards)
    • Post pins linking to your website/YouTube/etc. content or simply pins of your art (linking to a purchase page perhaps)
    • You could create short videos showing your process, then inviting readers to learn more or visit your site
    • Browse Pinterest to see what other artists in your niche are doing
    • Check out this post here to learn more about Pinterest SEO and using it as a marketing/traffic strategy
  • TikTok
    • TikTok is still in its infancy, but it’s rapidly expanding in terms of content style
    • The key is to keep it engaging, captivating and interesting
    • Participating in challenges and creating content around trending hashtags are great starting points
    • Documenting your process, life and art are also good for TikTok
    • For example, if you’re a painter, starting with a blank canvas and speeding up a video of you creating a finished work would be interesting and draw people in (no pun intended) to watch through til the end
  • LinkedIn
    • You could target businesses, entrepreneurs, store retailers, etc. and develop relationships
    • You could eventually sell art for to businesses for marketing purposes, office decor or general designs
    • You could create content and LinkedIn articles such as “The Benefits of Abstract Watercolor Art On Employee Productivity, In-Store Client Retention & Office Mood
  • YouTube
    • Documenting your process, tutorials, interviewing other artists and artist lifestyle content are all great ideas
    • If you can combine two niches, your artistic expertise could be a unique edge
      • For example, besides digital marketing and building website content, I’m also a musician and use original tunes to create unique travel/lifestyle adventure videos on YouTube (a win-win for both my YouTube and music brand!)
  • Google
    • Just like Pinterest and YouTube, Google’s a search engine (the largest actually), so content will be predicated on keyword research and buyer intent
    • Create long-form articles solving problems/providing value for your target market and niche
    • If you can use art and your expertise as solutions to problems, that’s perfect (see the LinkedIn concept above)

4. SEO & A Branded Website Strategy

Having a branded website is your online portfolio and establishes credibility, professionalism and instant trust. 

Adding an SEO and content marketing strategy on top of a branded website takes things to a whole new level. Of course, this requires more time, patience and strategy.

Luckily, many of the core concepts for good SEO and content marketing can be quickly summarized and will go a long way in getting off on the right foot.

Of course, I definitely recommend further reading on search engine optimization so you can take full advantage of its power, but the points below are a great start!

7-Point Checklist For Quick SEO

  • Start With Keyword Research & Aim For Low Competition/High Search Volume
    • Start by typing keyword ideas into Google and see what autofills as suggestions
    • Alphabet soup technique: After your seed search query, start typing the first letter of the next word and see what autofill for suggestions; go through all the letters of the alphabet for countless keyword ideas
    • Scroll through the first page results and examine the competition – if the websites seem big and well-established, then this is likely a high competition keyword and difficult to rank for
    • Scroll further down to see other suggestions and ideas
    • You can also use a free tool like Ubersuggest for more data-backed keyword research
  • Write Long-Form Content Based On A Specific Keyword (1,000-1,500+ words)
  • Include the Keyword In Your Title & Within the First Paragraph Or Two
  • Don’t Make Paragraphs Too Long – Space Every Couple/Few Sentences So It’s Less Intimidating To Read
    • This is a great way to optimize for mobile!
  • Add Images
  • Use Headline Tags
    • H1 is for the main title
    • H2 is for the main sections
    • H3 is for subsections within the main sections
    • I rarely use the other headline tags
  • End With A Call To Action To Engage Readers
    • For example, “leave a comment with your thoughts on SEO below!”

Recommended Read: Free Lesson On Google SEO By HubSpot

$$ Tip Jar 

Besides implementing an SEO strategy to your original posts, you can also repost your content on LinkedIn and Medium to increase your exposure, views and potential traffic.

Posting the same article across these three places is not considered duplicate content and will not hurt your SEO rankings or status.

5. Your Digital Marketing Strategy

Understanding the user’s state of mind (based on the particular platform they’re on) and how to use a sales funnel strategy are some of the most instrumental elements for a successful digital marketing campaign. 

These marketing tenets will help to guide your campaigns forward while keeping things organized and strategic.

As artists, we have an amazing array of marketing tools and resources available to us – many of which are quite affordable and relatively simple to implement.

So although you’ll want to set aside a decent budget to truly scale and run profitable campaigns, getting started by testing a few different audiences and variables can be done with as little as $5/day.

And one of the best places to start testing these variables and implementing a digital marketing strategy is with Facebook ads (and Instagram ads, which is owned by Facebook).

Facebook provides us with an almost overwhelming amount of targeting data and insights. 

And as one of the largest social networks out there – with over 2 billion active users – you can rest assured that whoever your target market is, you can find them there.

Since a full tutorial on Facebook ads is obviously beyond the scope of this article, I’ll instead provide you with some key takeaways and a few links for further reading (below).

Recommended Read: Complete Guide To Digital Marketing For Creatives

Digital Marketing Essential Elements

  • Know Your Sales Funnel
    • Have campaigns for each stage of the funnel
    • Each stage/campaign will have different objectives, targeting, messaging and offers
    • Your objective is to push people further along the sales funnel, from cold prospect, to warm lead, to eventual fan/customer
    • Top-of-the-funnel campaigns
      • People who don’t know you yet – cold traffic
      • Interest-based targeting
      • Essential to explore new markets and grow a business and necessary for new businesses or artists
      • Focus on giving value, not selling
    • Middle-of-the-funnel campaigns
      • People who are warmed up to you and your brand and now know who you are
      • More likely to make a micro-commitment (lead magnet campaigns, webinars, etc.)
      • Website visitors, people who watched a previous video ad or engaged with a previous post, etc.
    • Bottom-of-the-funnel campaigns
      • People closest to a purchase or conversions
      • These people know you, trust you and/or are ready to buy
      • Cart abandoners, visitors to specific product pages, email subscribers, previous clients, etc.
  • Be Sure Your Audience Targeting Is On Point
    • Facebook has 3 audiences
      • Saved Audiences – Behavior, demographic and Interest based targeting; cold traffic
      • Custom Audiences – Retargeting website visitors, email lists, people who engaged with a previous post, etc.; warm traffic
      • Lookalike Audiences – Using data from a custom audience (which you know is successful), Facebook creates new cold traffic audiences to target; cold traffic but highly effective
  • Understand Social Media Marketing VS Search Engine Marketing
    • Social media marketing is interruption marketing
      • i.e., people are not searching for solutions to problems or answers to questions
      • More friction, requires more understanding of the sales funnel and retargeting
      • Highly effective, cheap to get started and excellent for testing
    • Search engine marketing is keyword based, intent marketing
      • i.e., someone searches a specific phrase and you provide a relevant ad/offer
      • Less friction and easier to capture people at the bottom of the funnel – even as a new business
      • Also highly effective (people are actively searching for keywords that you can create campaigns around, after all)
      • Google ads, YouTube ads, Bing, etc.
  • Test
    • Test different audiences, creatives and messaging/copy
    • You can also test different landing pages, offers and other metrics
    • Scale the best performing ads and ad sets by increasing the budget (incrementally – not all at once; see below)
  • Budget Wisely
    • Have a decent budget (i.e., spending $50 on ads targeting cold traffic likely won’t yield a positive ROI)
    • Start testing with $5-10/day for each ad/audience variation
    • Let these ads run for at least 3 days (this gives the algorithms time to properly optimize and test)
    • Scale the winning ads and audiences by doubling the budget every~3 days
    • After you reach ~$50/day ad spend, increase budget by ~20% each time
  • Be Patient, Strategic & Remember To Focus On Adding Value, Solving Problems & Providing Solutions

Recommended Read: Complete Marketing Action Plan For A Graphic Design (or Creative) Business [Pt. 1]

Additional Tips, Tricks & Hacks

  • Consistency & Patience
    • Remember, building brand and developing relationships takes a long time
    • Depending on the price point, industry, targeting and offer, it can take up to 7 (or more) points of contact to convert a cold prospect into a customer or qualified lead
  • Use Strategic Upselling To Increase Your Average Cart Value
    • Adding one-click upsells (and downsells) to your checkout process is a highly profitable strategy that will increase your average cart value
    • You can add upsells such as custom framing jobs, print versions of the art or other complimentary products
  • Digitize & Upload Your Designs Onto Other Products To Sell Via Print-On-Demand
    • Check out Teespring to learn how you can upload any picture or design onto a product to sell
    • With print-on-demand, there is no shipping, inventory, returns or other distribution logistics to worry about – all you need to do is create the designs, upload them onto products and market them
  • Run Giveaways & Include Your Followers & Prospects In Your Business
    • For example, running polls about what to paint next or how to finish a project
    • You could also do a collaboration with another artist to quickly reach new potential followers
  • Expand Your Market By Offering More Affordable Prints
  • Tell Your Unique Story
    • Everyone loves a story and is a great way to build brand and a loyal following
  • Document Your Process
    • This could be perfect for Instagram stories, TikTok or even a sped up YouTube video of you creating something from start to finish
  • Test
    • Testing will allow you to know what works best for you and your art business
    • This is a crucial element of paid ads and is something you’ll definitely need to include in your campaigns
  • Use Call To Actions Telling Readers & People Consuming Your Content What To Do Next
    • It may sound simple, but simply adding a clear call to action (Click Here, Claim A Discount Here, etc.) will increase conversions and optimize your content/marketing
  • Find Your Niche & Become The Authority
    • What is your art theme and story? Perhaps you can be one of the top video game artists for creating trendy, abstract gaming related/inspired art – there’s your target market: video game enthusiasts, makers and everyone in between!

Conclusion

This post has provided a comprehensive review for building a brand as an artist. A core element was supporting the use and an understanding of a sales funnel methodology within your content, social media and marketing strategy.

We also explored topics related to building a branded website and creating optimized content for that website via SEO. 

Coupling existing, value-adding content with an active social media account will support a more successful digital marketing plan.

Overall, it’s crucial to understand who your target market is, how you can use your art to add value and how and when to present marketing offers and sales pitches to them.

It’s an extremely exciting time as an artist (or business in general) and there are numerous resources and tools available to us for growing. 

However, being a successful artist in 2020 (and beyond) also requires an entrepreneurial approach.

This is the new frontier and there are no gate-keepers guarding entrance to individual success. 

The tools, resources and audiences are all there – if you have the right approach, strategy, patience and consistency.

So enjoy the process and focus on adding value and engaging with your followers/fans!

Let me know in the comments – what’s been the biggest hurdle for you to grow your brand as an artist?

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