The Artist Exposure Problem

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artist exposure
It’s tempting to follow the same tired approach that everybody else is using, but in reality the “old” approach is dead.

Everybody thinks there’s an artist exposure problem.

But it’s just not true.

Sure, there’s a problem with the type of exposure you’re getting – but it’s not what you think it is.

After blogging about art marketing for years, writing numerous art marketing eBooks, releasing multiple online courses, and starting several companies – I’ve learned (the hard way) what it takes to build a loyal following that will actually BUY from you.

It’s tempting to follow the same tired approach that everybody else is using (NB: nobody tells you the real numbers after all their expenses and time are deducted) but in reality the “old” approach is dead.

You’re probably familiar with the feeling of trying to keep on top of…

Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, fiddling with your website, designing opt-in forms, trying to arrange art shows with gallery directors, responding to reader emails, organizing joint promotions, countdown deals…

Tweaking your landing pages, analyzing your blurb, trying to get reviews, dealing with trolls, putting together giveaways…

Testing out your links, measuring your click-through rates, designing Facebook ads, Amazon ads, monitoring performance of your ads, playing with keywords, categories, titles, wondering whether Snapchat is worth a go….

And then your brain collapses under its own gravitational pull.

Sound vaguely familiar?

“Artist Marketing Hell” is what happens when you don’t have an overall strategy. Often, it’s a BRUTE-FORCE approach. It’s a “push” instead of a “pull”.

(We’ll cover those shortly).

You see, each one of those “tactics” listed out above can be very valuable in their own right. But if you’re randomly jumping from one to the next without any thought towards WHERE you trying to go, it all falls apart quickly.

So let’s not do that, okay?

Instead, I want to propose an unconventional approach to artist marketing. One that doesn’t involve the “scattergun approach”, or a brute-force attack, or the all-time-worse-advice-for-artists-ever, which is “just make more art and success will happen”.

Now, the devil is in the details. And before I show you the full process, I want you to understand the strategy (remember that? The strategy is what helps you understand what “tatics” you need to focus on to move the needle).

Strategy is everything.

So, here are your main goals – three main “pillars” or “steps” (and one extra for when everything else is in place).

  • GET EXPOSURE

None of this makes the blindest bit of difference if nobody knows you exist. Your goal is to get your work in front of as many people as possible. Then, when you have steps (2) and (3) set up, you’ll convert those “random browsers” into fans and paying collectors. The goal here is brute-force publicity – worry about the “sales” later.

  • TURN BROWSERS INTO FANS

All the exposure in the world won’t mean anything if you can’t DO something with all that traffic. So your goal is to encourage “micro-commitments” from your best newsletter subscribers to filter out the poor leads and focus on the subscribers most likely to buy. This is where we narrow down the pool…

  • BUILD YOUR BRAND AND SELL

You’ve nailed exposure and commitment – and your audience is growing. Congrats! This is where most artists fall down. Now, you’ll need to build trust and engagement with your audience and “lead them down the path” towards the sale, without being pushy or spammy.

EXTRA: SCALE AND AUTOMATE

Once you’ve installed this system, you can automate it. Meaning, you can scale your results indefinitely and properly track and measure your marketing budget to get the best ROI. No more “hoping for the best” – I want you focused 100% on the metrics that will move the needle for you.

What this Means…

Understanding your strategy and using it to inform your marketing and growth efforts will instantly set you apart from 99.99% of the pack.

Where other artists are blindly throwing money at Facebook ads and complaining “Facebook ads don’t work any more”, you’ll know better.

When you read the “latest secret Twitter hack” that will somehow guarantee you overnight success (and probably get your account banned), you’ll smile and walk on by.

When other artists are dashing around trying to get 5,654,567 random tasks completed without understanding WHY they’re doing any of them, you’ll have a clear road map to hit your sales goals and you’ll be working calmly and steadily towards meeting them.

That’s what having a strategy gives you. But the problem is, most artists don’t have one. For most, trying to grow an online art business has become an obsession with “make as many sales as humanly possible RIGHT NOW”.

Which, obviously, isn’t very helpful.

So I want to give you an unconventional approach. One that won’t have you rushing around with a chronic case of exploding-head syndrome.

It all comes down to understanding those three pillars of the strategy I outlined above (and the extra “fourth pillar” once you’ve got all the others in place).

FACT: THERE’S NO SHORTAGE OF TRAFFIC ON THE INTERNET

There’s an obsession today with instant gratification. In business terms, that translates to a hunger to see results RIGHT NOW, instead of laying down foundations for future success.

In reality, this means most artists get so hung up on “sales” and “ranking” they miss the whole point (eg – growing an audience of superfans they can use again and again and again).

Everybody wants growth like this:

artist exposure

But in reality, that only happens 0.01% of the time (or less). Actual growth looks a little something like this:

artist exposure
A graph showing 2 years of my business

The biggest problem with focusing on the “hockey stick growth” in the top diagram, is you get obsessed with SELL, SELL, SELL.

This is a big problem. When 85% – 95% of the people who land on your art page from an ad don’t buy, you’re leaving a lot of potential on the table.

What if you could convert those 95% from “vaguely curious” into “loyal fans”?

We’ll get to that. But first, everything you’re going to be doing is dependant on your exposure. In simple terms, the number of people who are aware you exist, who click your links, who land on your book pages…

In short, the total number of eyeballs on your and your work.

Getting exposure isn’t terribly difficult. There isn’t a traffic shortage on the internet. It’s what you DO with the traffic that matters (trying to get cold audiences to BUY BUY BUY is a shortcut to financial burnout and a chronic case of exploding-head syndrome).

And what you DO with the traffic is coming up in the following parts. But for now, let’s look at some simple ways to get exposure.

THE “OLD” WAY

Putting all your time and money into “brute force” marketing (like relentless ads, emails, posts, and the like) can sound tempting. After all, “Even if only 1% buy, if I send 10,000 people to my art page I’ll still make sales!”

I know, that sounds stupid, right?

But that’s what thousands of artists are doing. Spending money on ads, relentless posting on social media, pitch after pitch after pitch after pitch…

All in the hope that “If I send ENOUGH people to my art, SOMEONE will buy!”

Now, there’s nothing wrong with ads, social media, and pitching people. All of that is essential. But when it’s done without a strategy, you’re throwing time and money down the drain.

Let’s contrast that approach:

That little sales graph above represents two things – evergreen sales (eg – sales happening all the time without me doing anything) and promotional sales (eg – I’m pitching people).

There were no complicated funnels involved. No two-week-long email campaigns. No convoluted ads strategy or retargeting campaign.

I just sent one email.

And the REASON people bought isn’t because of brute-force marketing attacks. It’s because I used a system to carefully attract the RIGHT people, and then NURTURE them in a way that leaves them pre-disposed to buy.

This all starts with EXPOSURE.

THE “NEW” WAY

Essentially, what I’m talking about is a “push” versus “pull” approach.

The old way of doing things has you “pushing” people towards something YOU want (eg – a sale). The new way focuses on “pulling” people towards you by providing something THEY want.

This means providing something of value that draws readers to YOU. Then, making sure as many people as possible know about it.

This is where tactics like free promotions, Lead Magnets, giveaways, joint promotions, multi-artist events, and, yes, your Facebook ads come in.

These are all fantastic ways of getting you in front of people. But the goal is not the sale. Not yet. The goal is exposing the VALUE you provide to the RIGHT people.

THAT’S THE SHIFT IN MINDSET YOU NEED.

Give up the idea of the “instant sale” and work towards building something sustainable and meaningful. This means tweaking your objectives.

There is no exposure problem. Or, at least, it’s easily fixable (eg, those examples above). The biggest challenge is “what to do with all that exposure”.

And that’s where most people fall down. Hard.

I don’t know about you, but I’m not particularly excited about the prospect of working my butt off to get eyeballs on my work, only to lose up to 95% (or more) of those people forever.

So, I want to show you “what to do next” to avoid this, build a loyal audience, and nurture them into buyers.

Here’s a quick suggestion:

Leave everybody else to worry about what will happen to their sales when their ads stop working.

Instead of thinking “how can I make more sales today” focus on “how can I grow trust with my audience and attract the right people”.

This is all about understanding your audience and what they want, BEFORE you try to sell to them. It’s about building a lasting career as an artist, instead of living month-to-month on the whims of Amazon and the big advertisers.

It’s about taking back control of your own business.

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