If you struggle to sell your art photography, you are not alone. Selling art prints, earning selection in a gallery exhibit, finding a coveted spot in an art affair, or being featured in an online venue is all part of the art sales and marketing process.
If you are failing, you are likely approaching the process incorrectly or not at all. Understanding the nuts and bolts of art marketing is critical for your success, and I recently wrote an overview of the process, “How to Sell Your Art Photography Prints— Six Steps to Sales Success.” I suggest you take ten minutes and read this summary before digging into targeting marketing. Images by Lynn Beeler.
If you fail to plan, then “Holy Moly,” you have planned to fail!
Let’s face it – as an art photographer, your goal is to showcase your unique perspective and creativity through your images. But you need to plan for success, and most art photographers fail because they fail to plan to sell their work to the right audience. The fact is that there are way more photographers than there are collectors and buyers at any level, so standing out and reaching an ideal audience can be challenging. You need a plan, and that’s where target marketing comes in.
What is Target Marketing?
Target marketing is based upon the theory that there is a “butt for every saddle.” There is always a buyer somewhere for your work at a specific price point and a specific window of time. We need to find these buyers, and your target marketing strategy focuses on a specific group of consumers known as your target audience. Once you understand your target audience’s needs, interests, and preferences, you can tailor your marketing efforts to effectively reach and engage with them.
Why is Target Marketing Important for Art Photographers?
Target Marketing (TM for short) is an essential skill and is as critical to know and execute as your camera and post-production workflow. Targeting allows you to focus your time and resources on a specific group of people most likely to appreciate and purchase your work. This not only helps you save time and money but also increases your opportunities for success, and once you have developed the right audience, you can build a loyal following and grow your business.
Target Marketing and Artistic Integrity
As artists, we often hear the mantra that we need to create work primarily for ourselves and not for others. No doubt, this is primordial advice for creating innovative art photographs. However, it’s unlikely your artwork will have universal appeal. You will not please everyone, nor should you. Some artists want to hide out in front of their tripod and wait to be discovered because they believe they are protecting their Artistic Integrity and are sadly disappointed when their work goes nowhere.
On the other hand, if you are serious about marketing your work, you need to identify and develop an audience that understands your ideas, feels what you feel, and appreciates your work. Your marketing goal is to expose your work to these individuals and build trust with them through consistent, creative artwork and honest communications. When you work this way, you find people who will part with their treasure to support your work and financial success.
How to Identify Your Target Audience
Before starting your target marketing efforts, you need to identify your target audience. We call this your buyer persona or avatar, and this type of data will help define your target audience.
- Demographic information: Age, gender, location, education level, income, etc.
- Do they have an interest in photography or art?
- Buying habits: Do they frequently purchase art or photography prints?
- Where do they shop for art- online, at galleries, art fairs, local displays, etc.?
- Are they investor collectors?
- Are they home or office décor buyers?
- Where do they display their art?
- Personal values: Are they environmentally conscious, health-conscious, culturally driven, and buy art to support these values?
- How does their income range relate to the type of art photography they buy?
If you have yet to sell any art photography prints, you must make educated guesses about your perfect buyer. As you sell your work, note your buyer’s characteristics, and refine your avatar accordingly. Once you clearly understand your target audience, you can tailor your marketing efforts to effectively reach and engage with them.
How To Reach Your Target Audience
Assuming you have marketable work, you need to position yourself in front of the people who you believe are your target audience. Initially, you want to be in front of a large group of prospective buyers and track who is responding to your outreach. This data will help you identify your audience and refine where to put target marketing efforts. Over time when your work is consistently out there, your target audience will find and follow you.
Use Social Media— Social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook and Twitter can showcase your work, help you identify your target audience, and develop a following. Use relevant hashtags, collaborate with other photographers, and engage with your followers to build links with honest communications. Buyers of your art also want to know and engage with your art activities and processes. This allows them to live the art they buy and reinforces their appreciation for your work.
When I see a new follower on my social sites, I DM or message them with a short note of thanks, invite them to my website, and ask for comments.
Online Advertising— I cannot stress the value of proper online advertising enough. Creative advertising, such as Google and Facebook Ads, will help you reach your target audience where they spend their time online. Although it is beyond the scope of this post, the data you can generate from online advertising can quickly and accurately help define your target audience.
Collaborations and Partnerships— Get to know the art galleries in your home market, partner with them, and work with other art photographers. Cooperation is not competition in the art photography field; it is resource sharing. It’s also a great idea to align with brands that target the audience’s interests.
Email Marketing— Of all the outreach marketing tools, email has the best return on investment and is the least expensive of all marketing channels. The conversion rate for targeted email is the highest of all the digital marketing tools. It takes time and focus, but building an email list and sending regular newsletters to your subscribers to keep them updated on your latest work and exhibitions is critical. Constant contact with your email followers builds trust and belief in your career.
Maintain An Online Presence— Developing and maintaining a website with online purchase tools is essential. Your art style, brand, and purchase availability help to develop and support your target audience. This can be through your website, Instagram, and Facebook accounts are great, but it also helps to be featured on other sites via interviews, articles, blogs, and public relations write-ups.
Your online presence builds trust with your target audience because art buyers will want to see how you establish your mark as an artist. You must ensure your site and social media are up-to-date, fresh, and relevant to the type of art photography you present. Conversely, to target art buyers online, try following them on Instagram and interacting positively with their content. But how do you find art collectors on Instagram? A fairly easy method is visiting a gallery’s profile page and checking whom they follow. If you scan the list, you will find art insiders, buyers, and collectors.
There are many moving parts to developing and identifying the target audience for your art photography. Success in this area may require substantial time and effort, so you must create a target marketing plan. You will appreciate the progress as you reach certain benchmarks, such as new followers on your email list, higher engagement numbers on your social sites, and sales that gradually increase. Small successes will propel you to continue your work to find and serve your target audience.
Be patient and persistent, put your art photography out there, and know that you’re already on your way to finding that special person who wants and appreciates your work. Make a plan, trust the process, and take your time. After all, you are investing in yourself, and your art is worth it.
Bob Killen is a Landscape Art Photography Teacher, Mentor Instructor, artist, and writer. He specializes in content related to art photography and online art marketing with an emphasis on SEO, SMM, and eCommerce. He is a National Park Service Artists in Residence alum, and collectors own his desert artwork in the US and Europe. You can find him teaching Masterclasses for National Park Photography Expeditions LLC in the field as well as coaching successful art photographers via his online classes. If you need assistant with your art photography or marketing your work, contact Bob at firstname.lastname@example.org