Marketing for Creatives – Presentation 27th January 2016

OK, the presentation is a bit tongue in cheek, but it’s true these are the things you SHOULDN’T be doing if you want your creative business to succeed. Below, you’ll find an introduction into how you can change the way you think about marketing and, instead of trying to do everything, doing one thing that works.

Grab the download and a single sheet marketing action plan here: Marketing for Creatives

‘Creatives’ are no different to any other business, large or small; all have difficulty marketing their wares to a buying audience. And, for all businesses the process is the same:

  1. Sell the things people want to buy
  2. Get in touch with them
  3. Persuade them to buy from you

It sounds simple when it’s put like that; but if it were that simple, we’d all be doing it, right?

The first hurdle to overcome is understanding the difference between marketing and sales. You’re not alone if you’re thinking ‘aren’t they the same thing?’ almost everyone does! But marketing resides in all three of the process above, whilst selling is exclusively in step 3. Sure, you can use the sale itself to help enhance your marketing, for instance reviews or ‘I’ve just bought … ‘ tweets, but marketing is a different engine altogether and it requires a slightly different shift in thinking that’s just perfect for creative minds.

Sell things people want to buy

Because this is about marketing, I’m going to assume that you’ve been at this for years and you know what people buy and what they don’t. I’m also going to assume that you only make what you know will sell; anything else you create you’re doing for your own pleasure or a gifts for family and friends. This stage of the marketing process is often called ‘Market Research‘ and its value is in preventing you wasting time, resources and money on things that don’t sell.

Persuade them to buy from you

There are many schools of thought when it comes to the sale. Is it the end of the cycle or does it just loop on round again? I’m very much of the opinion that it’s easier to sell something to someone who already knows and likes what you do than it is to convert someone new. A great example of this can be seen in loyal supermarket shoppers who only ever go to their favourite store; it’s not that they don’t know other stores have the same products which may even be cheaper, it’s that they like being there – after all it says a lot about who they are as well.

Get in touch with them

This is the lynch pin between making something and selling something. This is the bit where the seller meets the potential buyer and hopefully there is a resolution that pleases everyone. But what exactly does ‘finding the place people hang out’ actually mean?

Well, it’s made up of three steps – each one is vital for the others to be successful and they must be completed in order if you want to avoid wasting time and effort.

  1. Understand who your likely buyer or audience is going to be.

This is often harder than it seems, after all everyone is going to buy your work aren’t they? The reality is the opposite of this, only some people will buy your work, but the chances are they may have some common characteristics. These can include:

  • Demographics like age, gender, family, culture or location
  • Purpose like interior design or a gift
  • Needs like garden or house renovation

So, the essential task is to break down what you know about your buyers because this tells you a lot about where you’re going to be able to connect with them. Of course, this doesn’t prevent you from selling to someone who is completely left-field, it’s just a process to make your marketing time, effort and budget stretch as far as it can. Pick ONE audience to work with – you’ll have fewer grey hairs at the end of the year if you do!

Of course, I mentioned buyer AND audience in the title because you don’t always need to sell to the end purchaser, you might use an intermediary such as a gallery instead. It’s equally important to understand though what links the galleries you currently sell through so you can find more of the same in the future.

  1. Find out where they hang out

If you’re looking for a consumer purchase the chances are you need to be in a different place than if you’re looking for an intermediary like a gallery owner.

So, the places that people hang out are many and varied and include online and offline. What about some of these as starting points now you know ‘who’ you’re targeting:

  • Public craft fairs.
  • Wholesale buyers fairs – the Spring Fair in Birmingham is one of the largest in the UK.
  • Local galleries or bookshops.
  • Book fairs, readings, the library or even book clubs.
  • Twitter – look for hashtags such as #museumselfie #authorinterview, #artwatchers, #flockbn (crafters) or even #craftsposure.
  • Facebook – find and follow pages for your particular creative pursuit such as UK Handmade Craft Pages or ArtsHub.
  • LinkedIn – is great for finding professionals you want to connect with like critics, galleries, publishers or agents.
  • Pintrest – is visual, crafty and female oriented and lends itself to anything with visual impact
  • Reading materials like magazines, newspapers and newsletters.
  • Artist and craft specific online networks such as Behance, Etsy, Artslant, Artbistro and Artist2Artist.

Of course, this is not a complete list – it’s simply a starting point you can add to.

Once you’ve found some suitable places online and offline then you need to work out what you’re going to do to connect with the people there.

  1. Connect

It might be as simple as setting up a stall with your crafts and a few handy forms so people can leave their email address with you to find out when you have more in stock later.

You might need to think about photographing your work as you go along in stages and send it out on Twitter with an appropriate hashtag you’ve researched and know people follow.

You could create a portfolio on any of the artist’s networks to showcase the work you do.

But all these require regular, focused effort and that’s something only time provides.

Fortunately, by targeting just one group of people, who you’ve already researched instead of trying to cast your net wide means you can craft what you do to meet their need. It doesn’t stop other people from following, liking, sharing or even buying; but it does is make life easier for you.


  1. Hi Linda, Great advice, thanks. I sell my books on Amazon & Kindle using more of a boutique sales model than the widely employed multi-site approach. The “word-of-mouth” model works well for my books. For your amusement, here is a post re table manners sent to my email list.
    Overcoming Social Ineptitude – 12 Suggestions

    Involvement in social situations can result in a display of ineptness unless particular customs are understood, recognized, and adopted depending on various circumstances. A list of twelve potential situations that might be encountered is accompanied with suggested social remedies based on personal experiences. The list is presented using a format of Situation / Response.

    1. Situation— I am seated at a formal dinner with an array of tableware on both sides of my plate during the serving of several courses. / I begin the meal by starting with the outside utensils and work inward regardless of the fact that I am unfamiliar with some of the foods being served. Depending on the order of food presentation, I must be able to recognize a salad fork from a table fork because the order of working inward is not a hard and fast one; also don’t cut salad with a table knife, or don’t look around at other people while doing it. Working from the fork side is easy however when and if to select a knife from the other side of the plate requires glancing toward the head of the table where one assumes the host or hostess knows how to eat a particular entrée. The order of drinking from multiple wine glasses is anybody’s guess.
    2. Situation—I tuck my napkin into my shirt collar to protect my clothing from unintended spills. / Napkin etiquette requires respecting linen napkins by placing them on the lap below table level and refraining from using the napkin unless absolutely necessary to dab soup, for example, that’s running down one’s chin. Napkin holders (rings) are left on the table during and after a meal; they’re often not intended as souvenirs of the occasion – the same practice applies to taking home place cards and menus; also never ask for a take-home box before, during, or after a meal because it’s bad form.
    3. Situation—I progress to the soup course but I am unsure if one spoons toward oneself or away from oneself, and remember that tilting the bowl to spoon the last portion of soup is unacceptable in polite company. / Polite diners spoon away from themselves although some persons ignore this refinement in spooning. Soup bowl tilting or lifting toward the lips is discouraged under all conditions. The stack of plates for various courses is placed on a large plate named a charger, for some unknown reason. Spilling soup on the stack of plates can indicate a lack of manners especially if the charger needs to be changed during a meal.
    4. Situation—I finish my particular entrée, and I lift the plate to pass it to the wait staff to help them clear for the next course. / Never touch one’s plate to lift it and don’t ask wait staff for seconds unless offered by the host or hostess. Fresh dishes arrive at table and are served at your right side and dirty plates are removed from your left side by wait staff; one should take care not to confuse these directions because doing so will likely limit future dinner invitations.
    5. Situation—I have a mouthful of food and a person asks me a question. / Several reactions might be used in this situation. The recommended approach is to not chew so much food at any one time that a prolonged lapse of silence is required before one can answer the question; if possible, answer with an empty or nearly empty mouth. Refrain from placing food in a napkin prior to answering or to take home for one’s dog or cat after the event. An alternative but not recommended response is to point or motion toward one’s mouth while keeping the lips tightly pressed together; this signal conveys your attempt to answer the question without having to talk with a mouthful or partial mouthful of food. Answering while holding a hand in front of one’s mouth is an emergency procedure that can be used under some conditions, e.g., the family dog is chewing one’s shoe underneath the table or a family cat is sharpening its claws on one’s attire.
    6. Situation—I spill food or drop tableware or drop my napkin onto the floor. / Never pickup the dropped napkin or cleanup a spilled item from the floor because servers are adept at cleanups during formal dinners, especially when guests have been drinking prior and during the event.
    7. Situation—I am hungry because dinner is late being served, and I start eating a roll. / Always wait for the host or hostess to give permission to start eating or to start eating themselves before even picking up a fork or a knife. Eating utensils should be handled in a nearly horizontal position relative to the tabletop and not held in a vertical manner with ends of the tableware touching the tabletop at both sides of one’s place at table. The Henry VIII stance prior to a meal is not recommended.
    8. Situation—When rolls are presented take one at a time; refrain from taking one of each variety, and if rolls are passed around the table don’t let the person offering the breadbasket continue holding the breadbasket while making a selection. Take the breadbasket from them and then make a selection if there is a selection remaining to make. Remember to continue passing the rolls and don’t refuse to take the breadbasket if it’s offered. Remember that too many rolls might ruin dessert.
    9. Situation—I have a butter plate with my own butter knife on or near the plate. / When a butter container is passed or held for serving, use the butter knife to dip from the butter container and place the butter on one’s clean butter dish. Don’t butter several rolls with the butter knife and then dip it into the table’s butter container for refills. Use a table knife to butter one’s own roll always placing the butter knife on a clean area of the plate.
    10. Situation—Remain aware that people at the table are observing one’s table manners, especially while eating a roll. / It is customary to break bread with one’s hands even if forgetting to wash one’s hands prior to the occasion, rather than using a table knife to cut a roll. Buttering the top and bottom of a roll and continuing to butter the roll while eating it is considered bad form.
    11. Situation—I arrive at table, locate my place at table and sit because of being tired from standing. / Remain standing behind one’s chair until the ladies present are seated. If a lady starts to leave the table, stand or appear as if trying to stand until the lady motions for one to remain seated.
    12. Situation—I am standing next to a lady at table before the meal. Try to pull a chair back for the lady to sit, but be careful to keep the chair moving forward while the lady accepts one’s gallant gesture; this procedure might prevent delays in dinner caused by crash landings on the floor. A remedy for preventing crash landings is to move the chair forward gently in order for the lady to feel it press against her leg thereby preventing embarrassing situations for both persons.

    Best regards, Charles

  2. You’re quite right Paul. I remember a few years ago doing a presentation called Sex Sells which looked at that very issue. Ultimately we solve problems and people buy those solutions and they do it emotionally rather than rationally which is what we’d all like to believe about ourselves.

  3. Everything you’ve said above is really useful and well and simply put. But for me there’s one other thing about the psychology involved in all of this (and I’m not a psychologist!).

    A lot of people think that marketing and selling is about selling products or services. I don’t think it is. I don’t think people buy products. I think they buy expectations….expectations of what that product or service will do for them. So I think marketing is about creating customer expectations and then satisfying them. That fits with understanding your customer, their needs, wants and desires…and their expectations. It’s why we have both Lidl and Waitrose and factory produced ‘crafts’ and handmade craftsmanship.

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