Storytelling is the hot new marketing tool for artists. I’m seeing article after article about how and why you should add storytelling to your art marketing strategy. In fact, I wrote one of these articles myself that explains why stories attract more art collectors. Turns out, stories are the rock-bed of human civilization. They are so deeply ingrained in our humanity, stories are the glue that keeps us connected. That’s powerful stuff.
Okay, so you already know you should be using stories. And, you already know that they are helpful in all of your marketing efforts from website copyrighting to social media captions. But how do we add them to our art marketing strategy?
While you may have a message in mind that you want to pass to your potential collectors, it is not just any message that will give you the necessary engagement and results. Your message has to align with their needs and pain points. In order to align your message, you need identify who your potential collector is.
This is why learning about your audience (your potential collectors) is the first step towards mastering effective storytelling for your art business. You must get to know what your potential collector’s tastes and preferences are so that you can customize your story around them for a higher chance of success.
Step One: What is the Purpose of Your Story?
A marketing story should have a definite purpose. Before you sit down to write, you should have an understanding of what you intend to accomplish. Usually, many marketers miss the point by being overly promotional and salesy. Modern collectors do not fancy anything that promotes a brand. If you are too promotional or salesy, your story will have low engagement. That is why it is necessary to establish your story’s purpose.
Sure, we know before we start that our main purpose is to sell a piece of art, right? But here’s the problem: most people don’t like salesy art captions. Nothing will get your potential collector to click away from your website or social media accounts than a catalog-style offering. Your collectors know how to buy. What they want is a deeper connection.
That’s why the three main purposes for story telling in your art business are: 1)To help your collector know you; 2) To help your collector like you; and 3) To help your trust you. Most all of your marketing stories will fall into one of these three categories.
If your collector knows, likes, and trusts you, they will want to buy your artwork.
Step Two: Craft An Engaging Story
As you sit down to write, think about who your collectors are (or will be.) It can help to think of one person in particular who has purchased your art in the past. Write to this person in your own speaking voice, as if you were sitting across a cafe table with a cup of coffee in your hand discussing art and life.
Focus on your intention to craft a story to help this one person to know, like, and trust you. The following are story-telling prompts to get you started:
What would you say to help this person get to know you?
Maybe you would tell a story of why you make your art. Or maybe an endearing story of the first piece of art you ever created and what you thought of making it. Maybe you would tell stories about where you grew up or about a particular life event that changed the way you see the world and thus your art.
What would you say to help this person like you?
Getting someone to like you can be very tricky, especially if you’re an introvert. For our purposes, you will only need to focus on what you have in common, and most likely, this will be the subject of your art.
Here’s an example: Let’s say the subject of your artwork is mountainous landscapes. You already know that the person is looking at your website/social media posts because there is something about the art that resonates with them. For whatever reason, they are attracted to the mountains. And so are you. That’s what you have in common. So, tell stories of the mountains. Stories of hikes, boating, and camping, or living in the mountains are all fair game because that’s what you have in common.
What would you say to help this person trust you?
Trust is another tricky topic, right? But if you think about what makes you trust a particular store enough to spend your money with them, you’re well on your way.
Think about stories that address how well you craft your art and the quality of the materials you use. If you are interested in commissions, stories about how you collaborate with collectors are excellent. If you have received positive feedback after a sale, make sure to share that experience. Awards, accolades, or shows are good subjects because it lets your collector know you are an active artist, which inspires trust. And don’t forget to help your collector with their challenges, like how to hang art, or other interior design tips.
Keep in mind that a winning art marketing story is not always about your art. It could contain an emotion-evoking message such as an inspirational or aspirational story you recently heard in the news. These types of stories help your collector to know and trust you.
Step Three: Tell Them What to Do Next
While you are trying to avoid being overly promotional, your end goal is for your audience to take some action. Whether it is to follow your Instagram account or buy your art or take an art class from you, you need to put in the extra effort that will make it hard for them to deny your call to action when you drop it.
So what’s the right balance? The 70/30 rule works well for this. Start with 70% of your storytelling (website, blog posts, social media captions) that just focus on know/like/trust. The other 30% of the stories for sales. As you go along, you can increase your call for a sale if you find that your audience is open to it. But proceed with caution.
Storytelling is an effective and powerful way to generate art sales because they connect you to your potential collector. If you think about using stories to help your collectors know, like, and trust you, you are well on your way to becoming an art marketing storytelling expert.