Finding new customers (“marketing”) is usually the biggest challenge in running a business. There are thousands of books about marketing, and entire college and graduate degree programs are dedicated to teaching the subject. So, there is not going to be a quick and easy answer to how to find new customers. The short answer is: Talk to as many people as you can.
When you have a conversation, you are marketing
Everything you do for your business is marketing. When you talk to a friend, that is a form of networking, or personal marketing. Any conversation you have has the potential to generate interest, which you could possibly convert into a sale. So, find as many opportunities as you can to talk about your business to as many people as possible.
When you use social media, you are marketing
One of the main ways that we connect with one another these days is online, through social media. So, decide which social media platforms are best for your art, and set up accounts. As people you know connect with you, they may share images of your work and messages about your activities with their friends. It is sometimes difficult to tell if your social media activities lead directly to sales, but every connection you make creates the possibility for a new customer.
You can purchase leads to potential customers
In marketing lingo, a “lead” is any person who might be interested in a particular product or service. So, someone who is interested in buying a painting would be a lead for you. Many companies are completely dedicated to providing leads to other companies (“lead generation”). Businesses pay these intermediaries to find names and contact information (phone numbers, email addresses) of people who may be interested in their product or service. Today, the biggest lead generator is Google. Companies pay Google to place their advertisements as the top answers to searches. For example, if someone types “buy art” into Google, you could pay Google to show that person an advertisement that links to your Etsy site. So, one way to get new customers is to sign up for Google Ad Words and bid for search words. (This is called “paid search” or “pay-per-click.”) A small percentage of the people who see the ad will “click through” and look at your Etsy site. A percentage of those people may decide to purchase one of your paintings.
There are lots of places you can advertise, but buying leads is always a balancing act. Leads can be expensive, since many businesses are competing for the same search words. Also, paid search is most effective when you buy a whole lot of leads. An average click-to-lead conversion rate is around 2% (or 1 in 50), so on average, you need to buy 50 leads to get one sale. So, if the leads cost you $5 each, you might need to spend $5 x 50 = $250 to get one sale. Your paintings need to cost more than your cost per sale, or paid advertising isn’t worth the cost.
Free is a great price
Focus on the things you can do that are free. Can you get a local newsletter to do a story on your art? (Free stories in existing publications are called “earned media.”) Can you post individual works on Craigslist, so some people will look at your Etsy gallery? Can you ask a local restaurant to display your art? Will some friends let you arrange a show at their house? You could try writing a blog about your art or related topics. Any strategy that gets you and your art in front of new people has potential.
Do some research
Ask other artists what they do. Some of them may be willing to talk about their strategies. When people buy your paintings, see if they will be willing to talk to you. Ask them how they decided to buy your painting. Talking to them may help you better target your inquiries. For example, are your paintings well-suited to nurseries or children’s rooms? If so, you might get better results from paid advertising by targeting parenting magazines or online sites for parents.
Build a following
It may take time to find people who are interested in your work and build a following. If finding new customers were easy, marketing wouldn’t be at least a $200 billion industry (Chemi, 2014), and “starving artist” wouldn’t be a cliché. You can make a successful small business. It will take determination and a willingness to talk to a lot of people and listen to what they have to say.
Chemi, E. (2014, March 3). Advertising’s century of flat-line growth. Bloomberg. Retrieved on September 7, 2022, from https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2014-03-03/advertisings-century-of-flat-line-growth