If you want to expand business and develop your art marketing skills, you need to interact with people – and lots of them. Networking encompasses different activities that will help you gain exposure, referrals, publicity, sales and increased profit.
How artists can make the most of networking opportunities:
1. Create a business card that works for you. A business card that grabs attention with a compelling image of your work is a good start. Make sure it has complete information including your website and email address. Use a matte finish and light color on the back of the card – this allows others to write information, reminding them to get in touch or make notes about your work. When you are networking, make sure you have a pen handy and write on their cards as well, to prepare you for following up.
2. In a niche market? Join related groups and attend events to network. Do you market or sell artwork which is appropriate for corporate interiors? Attend events where interior designers and architects gather – get out and meet them in person. Whatever your niche, find a group where you can mingle with your target audience. Check out these free trade publications as resources: Trade Pub, All Free Magazines, Free Biz Mag, and Free Trade Magazine Source.
3. If you want to receive, you first must give. If you want business referrals, make sure you are giving business referrals. This is where many people go wrong – they don’t understand that making the first step to help others will open the flow to them as well. The people you help will not necessarily be the same ones who can help you. As you gain experience, and continue to refer, you will see the benefits. A wonderful book on this subject is The Go Giver by Bob Burg and John David Mann.
4. Perfect your elevator speech. This is a clear and concise explanation of what you do. Make sure you create a picture in the listener’s mind so that they understand and remember you. Sum it up in 30 seconds or less – about the length of an elevator ride. Memorize it so that you can use it smoothly. You may need a different “elevator pitch” for trade shows, art fairs, conferences and for the press.
5. Understand what you want and be able to communicate it. What do you want to gain from networking? Who do you want to meet – gallery owners, promoters, or retail customers in your niche? Get clear on exactly what types of referrals you desire, so that when you speak to others, they will understand your needs. If you say, “I’m looking for people who want to buy my work,” that’s not specific. If you say, “I’m interested in meeting retailers who sell handmade clothing,” the hearer will understand and be able to refer you.
6. It’s not about you. Networking is a two-way street. People don’t want to hear an infomercial about you and your business for ten minutes. Ask about them – and be genuinely interested. Get information about what they do and what they are seeking. You may be able to identify other business people who could be good strategic partners. The more information you gather, the better you can meet their needs.
7. Follow Up, follow up, follow up. One of the most important steps to networking is to select those people you feel are a good connection, and follow up with them by email or phone. Make an appointment to meet and get to know them better. For most important new business connections, it takes a minimum of seven contacts to get a “yes” or first order. Don’t expect immediate gratification. Get to know each other first!
8. Become a part of an artist’s community. Artists frequently meet each other through guilds, associations and in exhibit venues. Other artists can be a very useful resource for information about shows, where to purchase materials, and even sales or other art marketing opportunities. Try some groups to find one that works for you. Make it a point to get face-to-face with your local arts community, and online with them at least once a week.
9. Pursue online networking opportunities. The internet and social media present a tremendous art marketing opportunity for artists and craftspeople to network, and to support each other. LinkedIn is a great resource for referrals, and finding experts and specialists in any occupation – even gallery owners and museum curators. Facebook, Twitter, Google+ (including Google hangouts) and online forums and chat groups can also present multiple opportunities. The Arts Business Institute serves the artist community online as well. Join us on Facebook and Twitter.
10. Touch them personally. Your e-newsletter and Facebook page are just some of the ways you keep in front of prospective and active buyers. Staying in front of the crowd requires a little daily contact here and there. Your email newsletter should allow customers and prospects to get to know you more personally… get out that cute photo of the kids by the Christmas tree or you with the dog, or those big tomatoes from your garden… the arts community is all about people, not just stuff.
11. Don’t Give Up. It takes a while to become comfortable at networking, and you need to consistently show up to do so. If you feel awkward at first, don’t let that stop you. Keep attending and acquaint yourself with others in the group. As they get to know you and understand your art marketing goals better, the opportunities to receive referrals will be greater.
12. Find a mentor. One of the most important things a new artist can do for their career is to develop a relationship with a mentor. Make the time to meet with them monthly, perhaps for lunch or dinner, and take advantage of their wisdom and experience. A mentor can be an excellent source of connections and referrals as well.