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Featured Article/Paper Number 11

by Dr. J. Darragh M. Elliott, M.Sc., Ph.D.

"What is the point of a Marketing Plan Anyway"

A marketing plan, no matter how simple or how complex, it really comes down to one main point. This point is the placing of ones dreams and aspirations down on paper together with the current statistics surrounding your area of endeavor to reach a forecast of attainable results within a given period of time. Thatís it.

However, it being this simple, it is very easy to fall into the trap of distortion. The trap of distortion is twofold. First, it is easy to make the current factors out to be better than what they are, which in turn can lead to an overly optimistic conclusion, or to make the current factors out to be worse than they are, which in turn can lead to an extremely pessimistic conclusion. The key here is to be rational. Certainly, economic conditions influence marketing strategies, but the first consideration in the writing of any marketing plan should be, that I am at point A, and I want like to get to point B. Given the current economic and statistical factors at hand, what can I do to get from point A to point B? Is this realistic for me and can it be done? What are the certainties of this happening, or is this all trial and error and hope for the best? What am I going to do, or what can I do to make my plans a reality?

It then comes down to the question, if things are all gloom and doom, does a marketing plan help? If you have a plan that is set up on a step-by-step basis for projecting income and expenses, finding purchasers, advancing your position in the area of public recognition, obtaining additional exposure for your product, are you still willing to take up the tools of your trade and create something now? Or, are you going to sit back and wait for the telephone to ring, and when it does only do something about it then? AND WILL YOUR PHONE RING? Not too likely.

As with any marketing plan, an artistís marketing plan depends upon a certain amount of predictability. There are people who will buy either impulsively, or because they like the work. There are collectors who will buy, there are interior designers or corporations who will, too, if your work suits a certain situation. This leaves a number of options available for showing your work and gaining further exposure. The key here is earning money and how to go about it.

Finding oneís place or niche in the art world can be a difficult thing. Using the steps as outlined in the previous monthly article, will make it easier, but it does require an understanding of the entire art market, and a sense of how to achieve oneís goals and then the understanding of a marketing plan.

To start a marketing plan (after thinking about it for a while), put a plan of action down on paper. In the beginning, keep the plan as simple as possible. Many artists want to get a gallery to represent their works. All right, get a portfolio together. Collect all of the names and addresses of galleries that show the kind of work that you do. Figure out the cost of contacting these galleries and make a small budget for the money required or printing and postage. The trick here is to keep it simple and easy.

The next thing might be to spend an hour in the library looking at art magazines and finding a photographer to take slides of your works.

Many of even these small tasks can seem overwhelming to artists who prefer to have the telephone ring on its own or otherwise be discovered. They would rather not assert themselves and face the certain amount of rejection that lies ahead. However, in field of rejection, it is extremely important to remember that for every "no" that is received, you are one step closer to that "yes", and by shear law of averages, that "yes" has to come.

Sure, making art is more pleasurable than locating the names, addresses and telephone numbers of art galleries, and you are not alone, most artists would rather make art than develop and work a marketing plan. If you become lonely working in your studio then you can always go to exhibition openings or indulge in other social activities. But is your marketing plan going to get done?

In my experience, the artists who complain the most that they have not had any sales are, the people who tend to have put the least amount of effort, energy and discipline into the marketing of their work. You have to do this yourself; no one is going to, or really can do this for you. There are no fairy godmothers out there who are going to wave a magic wand and have a marketing plan appear for you.

For the emerging artist, and in fact even for the established artist, it is best to keep a continual focus on how to get stated, finding galleries and being accepted into juried shows. However, at the same time, the root of all your activities should always be to build your name and gain exposure.

To sell your work, you have to first find out what the public likes, wants and needs and then develop and/or paint to suit this market. If one item sells quickly, paint or create another along the same subject. The second can be created faster and should be more fluid as with the third over the second and so on. The most important factor here is, do not cheat Your Clientele, and Donít Leave out Detail. This is the road to stagnation and the end of an artistic career.

Certainly everyone has individual tastes, but one of the best constructive critics in the art world is your dealer. Listen to them when they speak to you about your paintings. They may suggest adding a figure here or there, changing this color or that. You may never have thought of it, but the point to remember is that they know their clientele and they know what sells to their clientele and you do not. Benefit from their experience. And a point to remember is that every successful artist has some sort of plan that they have followed for achieving success.

Once you become more established, then look to creating another marketing plan for expanding your market, time management and budgeting. It is always best to remember that it is the buyers who determine what is or is not art. The quality of the art in accordance with the ability of execution determines the amount that the buyer will pay.



How To Price Artwork

For ďemerging artists", the establishment of prices is of the greatest concern. Those artists who already have established a market can simply incrementally raise their prices from time to time. The best way to establish a market value is by going to fairs, art galleries, shows and other places where artworks of a comparable size, medium, and quality are sold. The asking prices found here can offer some guidelines to what an artist may charge for his or her work.

As with other industries, artists may want to price items in such a way to reflect an hourly wage, rent, cost of materials, utilities and labor. Such an equation exists more so for the established artist, but for the emerging artist it does not and cannot reflect the market. An emerging artistís work should not be priced twice as high as everyone elseís, simply because that artistís rent is high or he or she does not want to feel like a slave. The reasonable price needs to be established first and all other related expenses adjusted accordingly. Prices also vary from the large urban center to the small town. If the artist is going to be selling works in a small town, the prices should be set accordingly. And if the artist is located in or will be selling his or her works in the large urban center, then the prices should be set accordingly. The obvious best scenario is either work at a low cost overhead in a large urban center or to work in a small town and sell your works in a large urban center. To go further, have a low cost overhead in a small town and sell your works in a large urban center.

If you are going to sell in both areas, then cater to your market. Sell different works, and those that are less time consuming and take less materials to create in the small town, while in the large urban center, sell your major works. Failure to do this can cause a lot of friction between you and your large urban art dealer.

As time passes and your works sell, only raise your prices as they become justified and in direct ration to the growth of your market. You now know that there is a heightened demand for your work and the special works will be much sought after more.

Each time a jump in pricing is made, a new clientele has to be established. Here again, a marketing plan has to be used to attract more wealthy people because your current clientele can no longer afford your works.

It also pays to obtain a mailing list. This can be accomplished from current purchasers, and those that show an interest in your work at a show or exhibition. As with any new product, they should be written. The letter should contain your biography and some sample pictures (insert some new photos from time to time) of your new works. If you met this person through a common friend, be sure to mention the name. Whenever you make a sale, always ask for leads. Can you tell me of any one that you know that might be interested in my work? Then send that person a folder and do not forget to mention the person who gave you the lead.

As you grow in stature, and your prices increase, it may be necessary to change dealers. You should look to a dealer who has a wealthier clientele. This way, your works of art will sell for more. If you do change dealers, never run down your former dealer. You never know when you may even need a simple recognition. To move on even further, socialize with the wealthier clientele, dress appropriately, and use the networking pool. One good area for this is through your local Chamber of Commerce.



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