17 Effective Advertising for Minimal Cost – Part 3
Effective Advertising for Minimal Cost – Part 3
This month I’m going to finish up this series about advertising with some of the ways I’ve approached the national scene. I must admit this is the area I feel least confident about. However, as my career has recently been taking off on the national front I must be getting something correct so I’ll share what I’ve been doing with you.
First off I should talk about my website. I really could have included this advertising venue in the articles approaching galleries or your local market. Instead I saved it for the national section since a web presence extends broadly to everyone, even internationally. I won’t spend too much time discussing my website as there are many others who can cover this topic better than I, but it is a powerful form of advertising. It’s something that can really interrelate with your other marketing efforts.
I have tried to set my website up as more of an information center than a direct sales venue. I use it to display a range of my work and direct interested parties to the galleries that represent me. I also present information about the processes I use and more personal information about me.
Thus far it seems to working. I’ve had many people ask to use images off the site for newspaper articles, public lectures about metalsmithing, etc. The creative products division of 3M Corporation even asked permission to use in their promotional material a section I made specifically about stretchable tape, one of their products I was given to try out. Naturally I agreed to this as it provided me another national advertising venue free of cost. If companies give you products to try why not offer a review of it on your website and let the company know.
The website has provided me with a place to direct anyone who wants to know more information about what I do for very little cost. However, I must admit one of my personal resources is a great friend who hosts my site, allows me oodles of space for images, and provides me all the technical help I need, hence my yearly cost is really just the fee to register my domain name. I don’t know if it would be worth spending large sums of money to have. If you don’t have the good fortune I do of an extremely low cost website I’d suggest utilizing some of those techniques I wrote about before to determine it’s worth. What’s your real hourly wage? How much would you actually spend to have a website? Then see how many hours of your life you’d have to work to have the site. Is it worth it to you? Another approach might be to look at the average profit you get from the sale of an artwork. Then determine how many pieces you’d have to sell before the website pays for itself.
This last approach is actually how I evaluate many potential advertising venues. If I would need to sell 10 pieces to pay for a certain magazine ad, do I really think the ad will generate 10 new sales? Usually the answer is no so I rarely buy paid advertising space in magazines. However, this leads me to a way I’ve found to get such advertising for less cost, co-op ads. Through one of my galleries I’ve had the opportunity to go in with several other artists and the gallery to have my work shown as part of a full page spread in the one of the major national magazines. I then only needed to make one extra sale to pay for it. This seemed more likely to happen, and in fact did. In this situation I’m not only reducing my cost, but also tying into the reputation and name recognition the gallery has developed by having ads every month. Thus the ad I’m in becomes more effective for me than going it alone, while saving me a load of money at the same time! If you are looking for the traditional full-color glossy magazine ad you might consider finding or developing some form of co-op ad. It will stretch your dollars further.
In my opinion though, there are better ways to get your work shown in national magazines. I would always rather be part of an article than just a paid for ad. It’s sort of like the difference between being with a traditional gallery and being in a vanity gallery. I used to be completely baffled by the process of getting my work into a magazine, thinking that somehow I had to become so famous and appreciated that writers or magazine editors would come to me. I’ve since realized it doesn’t have to be that complicated.
Most of the trade journals I get have sections specifically asking for submissions. One day I figured I’d give a shot and submitted just what the magazine was asking for. I got in! It was that easy. I later told a friend about this and she tried. It worked again. She got in. Then she tried writing an article to submit to another magazine focusing in her media. Not only did she get her article published, her artwork was featured on the front page! I’ve since realized that magazines do need us to provide content and it seems few people have the gumption to even try.
Along these lines I’ve noticed that many of the art magazines have sections presenting exhibitions happening in galleries and museums around the country. Where do the editors get information about these events? From the galleries and museums themselves of course. When I have a show with one of my galleries I often make them aware of these opportunities if they aren’t already. They usually have all the materials assembled already for local press releases so it’s not a big deal to send it on to a national venue as well. Plus this helps the gallery to spread their name and develop their reputation. In one case this sort of approach introduced the editors of a major national magazine to my work. While they didn’t feature the specific show presented, they did contact the gallery to find me. In the end I was featured in another section of the magazine focusing on up and coming artists. This sort of national exposure helps not only the gallery who submitted the information, but also all my galleries. This is one of my primary goals with my national marketing efforts, to be able to assist the sales of all my galleries at once.
Similarly, if you have a major exhibition why not see if you can find someone to write a review of it for one of the art magazines? This is what I’m doing for the Meijer Gardens exhibition I’ve been writing about in this series of articles. I’m pretty sure it will get published too. In doing so you have to be willing to take public criticism of your work since there is no guarantee the reviewer will like everything.
In the metalsmithing field at least there are often books being published that put out calls for image submission. This is another great, low cost way to get your art out there in the national scene. Generally you get a free copy of the book as well. I should probably mention that if you are asked to pay any sort of fee for this it’s likely some form of vanity book and not worth the cost.
If you get published in books or magazines be sure to take full advantage of this and let your galleries know about it. That way they can share this with clients. Don’t let these things happen in isolation. Tie them together and allow your various marketing approaches to work off each other.
Thus far in my career the greatest opportunities have come through a national artist organization, specifically the Society of North American Goldsmiths (SNAG). If you are not a metalsmith, look around. I have to believe there are similar groups for other media.
The best things I get out of SNAG come from attending the annual conferences. Now I’ll admit up front this is not necessarily cheap. However, by being prepared and taking advantage of the opportunities they offer, these conferences have always provided fulfillment greater than the costs.
Probably the first thing the SNAG conference gave me was an understanding of how small the art metalsmithing field really is, along with how normal and generally accessible the master metalsmiths really are. This may not sound like a big thing, but it is these sorts of realizations that gave me the confidence to take on the national scene. Having that willingness to try and belief you can succeed is the first step.
What happens at these conferences is that I get to meet and network with hundreds of other metalsmiths from all over the US and Canada. Those critical personal relations are developed and opportunities happen. For example, early on I went to emerging artist portfolio reviews SNAG offered as part of the conference. It is through the feedback and contacts I made here that I got into some major nationally recognized galleries. These galleries in turn have presented my work at the SOFA exhibitions (Sculpture Objects & Functional Art), which really helped put me in the national light.
A couple years ago for part of the professional development seminar held with the SNAG conference they did a mock jury so we could see just what this process is like from the inside. For this there was a call for artists to send in slides to be juried. They were planning on having about 25 sets of slides to show. I’m still shocked that only 15 of us sent in images! I immediately saw this as a wonderful opportunity to get feedback about my work, and from an advertising standpoint, show my vessels to a large body of conference attendees. I was worried all the spaces would be filled before I could get my slides in. Yet it seems not enough people took advantage of the opportunity. In case you haven’t picked up on this yet, it seems very few people make that initial first effort of sending in images of their work! You can get in the small group that does with just a bit of initiative.
The professional development seminar happened to be at the beginning of the conference. My work was selected as one of the top three by the jury. Since it was set up just to show us how the jury process works there were no awards. Well, that’s not really true; us top three “winners” did get a tasty chocolate bar. What it ended up providing for me was a fantastic conference for networking. The exposure this event created had people coming up talking to me the rest of the time. Not only this, I ended up selling almost all the work I had brought to show around to other metalsmiths. I actually left that conference with more cash in my pocket that I started with, and connections to others in my field around the country!
In 2006 the SNAG conference was in Chicago. I already had a gallery representing my work in Chicago, the Vale Craft Gallery. Vale Craft was already planning a special exhibition of jewelry in conjunction with the conference. Thus they were on the list for the gallery tour evening. I saw a great opportunity at this conference to show a body of my work to my colleagues. So I called up the gallery and asked the owner if he’d let me show an expanded display of my work during the days of the conference. He agreed. In essence I got a solo show! The response from the SNAG attendees was way beyond what I had ever expected. As a result of this show I sold a huge amount of work. Images of my work have been included in multiple major public lectures. A feature article is being written for a major magazine. I’ll have my work included in at least one book. I’ve gotten 4 new galleries interested in carrying my vessels. In fact, the benefits from this keep coming in and compounding upon each other. In short these SNAG conferences have offered me a tremendous opportunity for national word-of-mouth advertising to many individuals in key positions that in turn open up new doors.
As a result of the SNAG conferences I’ve now been getting invited out to universities as a visiting artist to talk with the students and give workshops or demonstrations. This again presents great word-of-mouth advertising. It’s just like doing lectures or demonstrations that I wrote about last month relating to your local region, except it’s national. Plus you usually get paid pretty well to do these!
I guess that about wraps it up for what I have to offer about my advertising approach. Most of what I’ve presented in these past three articles can be boiled down to establishing good personal relations and fostering a greater understanding of my work. Be on the look out for opportunities. They can show up anywhere. Finally don’t think you have to spend an arm and a leg to promote your work. It can be done well for little cost, which in turn means you have more profit.