14 Mar ‘Marketing’ For Creatives
There’s no special marketing that’s just for creative people; marketing is marketing. I was specific about this post being for creatives because a lot of us are really bad at it and that’s something I want to change. If you create for fun and you’re not interested in getting paid, well, that’s fine; you don’t really need to understand marketing. If you want to make money, or even make your career, by doing something creative then an understanding of marketing is essential. To put it another way; without good marketing, you will fail.
That might sound a bit extreme but if you want to make a go of, whatever it is you want to make a go of, then you’re going to need to get people to give you money to do that thing or buy that product. That means they have to know about you. That means marketing and that’s the difference between a hobbyist and a professional.
As an artist, I want to spend all my time painting. That’s what I love. That’s when I’m happiest. I used to dream of waking up in a studio, it was a New York loft kinda place, like a converted warehouse. I roll out of bed as the sun pours through the huge industrial windows, wander over to my canvases (I have three or four on the go) and start painting. Living the dream, doing what I love every day. Then I woke up in the real world, with bills to pay, having annoyingly decided that a 9 – 5 wasn’t for me. That meant balancing the art, the part I loved, with the other half of the equation; telling people about the art. It’s definitely possible to eventually get to the stage where you can just focus on your craft, you can sell out a product before it’s launched or you can sit back as the enquiries roll in to you with no outreach. But that doesn’t happen overnight.
Get in Front of People
I recently joined a few Facebook groups for artists; I’m always trying to learn from others and I thought these groups would be good places to get ideas for blog posts. Essentially most of the groups that I’ve found are echo chambers, exchanging ‘follow for follow’ on each other’s Instagrams and FB pages – this might boost your numbers, but as a typical rule; people that are in the same discipline as you will unlikely spend money on your work. The first thing you need to do is work out who will. Where do they hang out? What problems do they have that you can solve? Get in front of them and help them.
Cold calling and emailing is definitely a way to get connections, but be prepared for a lot of ‘no’s’. The easiest start is with your friends. When we started Graffiti Life we painted kid’s bedroom murals for a few friends. As they shared and liked our work on social media they also connected us with their friends, recommending us to person ‘A’ who just started working at company ‘B’, giving us a foot in the door. Even if your friends can’t help you directly, they may know someone who can. Ask.
Years ago we would have had to knock on a lot of doors or spend £££ on TV or radio ads. Now, we have social media.
Within FB groups, fairly often I’ll see someone posting that they hate using social media for their work and that it’s ‘not for them’. Please recognise that social media is a beautiful gift that has levelled the playing field and can enable you to live life doing what you want to do. The people that understand how to use social are the ones that are winning – not the best creators.
Reread that and tattoo it somewhere prominent. You don’t have to be the best at what you do, if you understand social you will win. I know that a lot of people get frustrated when they see ‘influencers’ with less talent than they have, killing it on social media. Don’t hate the player, hate the game. They understand the game better than you do. Every time we post a mural on the @graffiti_life instagram page it probably took us two to three days to paint it. It’s on your timeline for maybe three or four seconds, long enough for a double tap then you scroll on. It’s annoying that we can’t just post a pouty selfie for thousands of likes but it’s just the way that it is. We don’t waste time worrying about the system, we focus on content creation. Every piece we post is a new opportunity for someone to find our work. Sometimes the person that does is a decision maker at a major brand.
Social Media Myths
There is a myth that in order to build an audience you have to pay. Certainly using ads is a way to get noticed, but it is by no means essential. We’ve never spent a penny on ads but if we did, like with everything we do, we’d be methodical. If an ad gets no traction, it’s your fault. The copy, the video or the pictures were wrong or you targeted the wrong people. You have to experiment, see what works and do more of that, until it doesn’t work anymore, then try something else. People are quick to declare that ads don’t work after one unsuccessful campaign. That’s easier than admitting that maybe you didn’t nail it.
You can Google how to play the algorithms. You can read blogs on the best time of day to post. Honestly, I think I’d lose my mind if I started worrying about that kind of stuff, my best advice would be; do what works for you and be consistent. The algorithms exist to protect your sanity. If they scrapped them now there’d be chaos. There’s so much content online, too much. Platforms will show you the content you want to see, because you’ve liked, interacted and commented on it in the past. Interaction is a vote to see more, so work out how you can encourage that interaction among your audience.
Big numbers on social are quite useful. Humans use ‘social proof’ to asses if something is worth their commitment. A large following instantly signals that other people know and trust you, giving them peace of mind in their decision to join the herd. The numbers will often sway a potential client in a similar way. On the practical side of things; a 10k following on instagram unlocks the swipe up on stories feature, which is an awesome sales tool. Having said all that, it’s crucial that you don’t focus on the numbers. Often called ‘vanity metrics’ a large number does nothing for you if your audience isn’t targeted and brings in zero leads or sales. I would swap a 1m following that never spent a penny with us for a community of 1000 active, engaged followers that supported our work, in an instant.
Starting at 0 is hard. It takes time to grow and that’s why most people quit.
Get people’s attention. There’s a number of ways you can do this. Being really good at what you do is a great start. If you’re not there yet then practice and grow, you can still grow an audience along the way. Going viral sometimes happens by accident (we once had a painting shared by the Wu-Tang Clan insta, wtf), but you can also plan for it. Our podcast has been huge, but there’s a couple of tactics that have helped its success and organic growth. One of the main reasons is that it helps people. The show isn’t an hour of us talking about how great we are, it’s tackling problems that we know creative people face. We’re also not scared to ask people to share the show with someone that they think would benefit from hearing it; we do that every episode. By booking big-name guests and having them promote the show we reach a new audience each week and it was through ‘influencer marketing’ that we reached #1 on iTunes on our debut. But remember, we started with 0. We didn’t just ask influencers to share it, we spent months developing relationships with them so that when the time came to launch they were happy to share.
Going viral is great but I wouldn’t rely on it unless you have figured out a formula. The real audience building happens by grinding it out. This means actively researching and learning the hashtags your audience is using and use this to find them, follow them and interact with them. Build a relationship with each follower, answer every comment, reply to every DM. Start conversations on Twitter, find and follow potential clients on LinkedIn. One by one, person by person.
The audience you build is directly proportional to the amount of work you put into building it.
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