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Are You Really Online?

9 tips to help you get the most out of your website. 

3500696_illustration [Converted]-02Artists starting a business are often faced with a terrifying onslaught of information overload. Their to-do list grows and somehow, months after the launch of their business, they remain wary of inviting people to view their website, most likely because they haven’t spent the time learning how to make it effective and beautiful. Sound familiar? They call this “website shame.” But there is a cure. Here are some simple steps to getting the most from your website and absolving any hint of “website shame.”

1. Distinguish your brand.

One of the most important things when you first start your business is to decide how you will brand yourself. As an artist, this is often easier because you already have a lot of visual components in your work. But it’s still important to pick colors, fonts and buzzwords that will remind others of the “style” of your business. Are you reserved and professional, fun and sassy, or a tortured artist? You should determine this style with the feel of your work in mind because your art, your branding and your customer base all must work together.

2. Identify a target market.

Pinpoint whom you will be trying to reach with your marketing efforts. These people won’t be the only ones who will buy your art, but they will be those you’ll speak to about your business decisions and whom you’ll go to when you have a slow season. Let your branding and your art help inform this decision. If you have a very contemporary, urban style of painting, you should probably not try to market your art to women in their 80s living in rural areas—not because 80-year-olds will never purchase your work, but because your art won’t attract this demographic. Stereotyping is just part of this process, unfortunately. Also, consider psychographics in addition to demographics: when implementing a marketing campaign, you must know the personality of your market.

3. Take good photographs.

On the web, photography is among the most significant aspects of your business. If a potential customer can’t see your art at its best, then they won’t want to purchase it. You can’t fix lighting problems during the editing process, for example. Also, use your branding to help you take photographs that pack a punch.

4. Show your prices.

Although this subject receives a lot of debate in the art world, it is more effective to be upfront about your pricing on your website. It allows people to decide whether they can afford your art. Showing your prices means that you won’t waste time fielding phone calls from people who will never buy your work and gives you more time in the studio.

5. Make the purchasing process easy.

Although captivating websites are great, the most important part of your online presence is to enable customers to easily make a purchase, including selecting their favorite piece, paying for them and receiving the shipment. Artists often complicate this process by making their customers call them first, by not listing prices on their sites, or showing only one picture of the piece so that a potential customer is left questioning the details. The most effective artist websites have e-commerce capabilities, and therefore customers can purchase online by themselves in just a couple of clicks.

6. Maintain your website.

Many artists make a stunning website and then forget about it. A website should be a living, breathing business advertisement. At minimum, check your website quarterly to make sure that all the information is up to date and there are no major glitches. Resist being that artist who doesn’t check her website for several months, finds out that she hasn’t paid her hosting fee, and learns that the host had taken down her site and trashed the files. After such a scenario, you may have to start from scratch. Smaller glitches can also happen, making your site look unprofessional.

7. Focus on the experience.

Customers are savvy. They want to truly connect with the artist behind the art and to emotionally experience your work. Improve the customer experience by branding. Branding involves improving the feel of your website, improving the story in your copy and using compelling product photographs. Go as far as you can into a customer’s life. Some artists even provide art installation, hiring someone to hang the work on the wall in the customer’s house to ensure that the customer enjoys a luxury experience with the art. Your brand needn’t go that far, but it’s important to think about extending that experience into the packaging of your art and maybe even further.

8. Create a marketing plan.

Something about planning terrifies artists, but it’s absolutely crucial. Without a plan, you bump around from idea to idea, and nothing really works together, making for ineffective marketing. If you sketch out which social networks you’ll use, how much you’ll spend in paid advertising, whether you’ll have a blog, and which publications you want publicity in, then you have focused direction and can work toward these goals.

9. Take action.

We read many articles and have great instincts about our marketing and our businesses, but sometimes we fail to do any of it. We somehow ignore the mantras: “I know I should be more active on Facebook,” or “I know I should pitch West Elm because my work would be perfect there.” However, these mantras are often your brilliant instincts telling you to take action so you can reap the rewards.

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