Marketing on the internet - by Mike Savad
Selling anything is hard. Knowing what the buyers want is always hard. Being good enough against people that have been doing it for years – is hard. Selling online is very hard because there is a lot of competition. Not just that, but with today's phone technology, cameras getting better, software that makes photos look like paintings, they are getting better as well.
Your competing against the customer who also can take pictures of anything and make it look like a painting. So your work will have to be better than theirs if you want people to pay attention to your work. This is a wake up call for many people, their work may not be any better than a customers, and often they won't sell a thing because of it.
I've been selling online for close to 10 years now, and I've built up quite a portfolio, and developed my own style. It took years to create a method where people would know who made it at just a glance. That said it often takes up to 3 months to sell that one image. It often has to “soak” for a while before people like it enough to buy it. Depending what it is, it could take years before it sells.
This is just a basic guide, if you want something more advanced you'll have to find another article, but not written by me, I only know the basics myself.
1. Know your market and make things people want.
That sounds easier than it really is, because when you start your shooting in the dark and have no idea what people want. However you know what you want. So many things that you would normally hang in your house, or things you would buy if you saw it in a store. There is a good chance that if you like it, they like it, but you have to really like it. Many people fall under the impression that all they have to do is make something and it will start selling. But this couldn't be farther from the truth.
You see, people won't just buy anything you place in front of them, they need a reason to want to buy it in the first place. So in reality you have to make things people want. But people usually don't know what they want, but they know they want it when they see it. So whatever it is you make it should be of high quality.
To sell a lot you generally need a lot, however many people are under the wrong impression that you have to become a factory to be successful. You will need a diverse variety of items to remain interesting to people. Because you don't know what will be popular, you make a bit of everything.
Some artists feel that they have to create something that is outside of their vision of how they want to make it. That they can't make it their usual way and instead have to make to how a customer wants it. However a customer doesn't really know how they want it, so you should make it in your own style. They are buying your style.
So how do you know what people want?
Lets say you own a bakery, and your not sure what will sell well, what to do?
A. You can make a number of different cakes, chocolate, yellow, etc, pies, cookies and the usual deal.
B. You can look at the demographics of the area and see what kinds of people live there. The type of people may be high class, so they will be used to fancy things. There might be a large senior center near by so you can make nostalgic things. And so on.
So you opened the new store, it looks nice on the inside, a clear sign on the outside, you posted notices and advertised you were there in local papers and such. People come in expecting to find a confectionery delight of some kind. You start off by making a large variety of cakes, from fancy petit fours, to black and white cookies. Standard cakes and the usual wares.
After the first week you'll go over your books to see what you sold. Was anything trending? Perhaps chocolate sold faster than anything else, yellow cakes sold now and then, and cherry pie did well.
The next week you increase your line up of chocolate. You increase the variety of chocolate cakes. A few will be you usual cake in different shapes. You'll make 2-3 more with different fillings and icing combinations. At the same time you'll add one more item to your yellow cake line, and maybe one more type of cake, something with fruit on it.
Pay attention to what sells the most, do customers come back? Do they order the same thing they did the last time? Do they try something new? Do many customers buy the same cake. Was it the coating? It was certainly the presentation of that cake. If many people buy that particular cake, that cake is now a part of your permanent line up.
To continue the experiment, try making that cake that sells well, and creating new shapes out of it. Or add fruit or a new filling. Maybe the secret to selling that cake is just the icing. Try that icing or type of icing on other cakes. The chocolate poured on icing, might work well as a white frosting or even pink. Experimentation is the key here. Some weeks you might not sell those ideas. So you put them aside and try another idea.
In other experiments you might find that the cakes that sell well, look different than other cakes in town. Fancy flowers, better tasting icing, artistically decorated cakes may be the key to separate you from the other stores.
These experiments should never stop, keep adding a few new things to the line up of your store until you have constant sellers. From there you can tweak it and refine it more. But it will be rough the first few months or even years of running the place.
Back to art
You experiment with art as well, you do the same thing. You create a number of different things, but creating a series out of them. 3 lighthouses, 3 landscapes, 3 of different things. For the first month, maybe even the year, you may not sell anything. Its a hard road to sell things and it takes time. You first have to build up a gallery, and you have to develop a style first.
The above shows past experiments using a certain style. In this case spirals. I never know the taste of a person, I try to just make cool looking things, while maintaining a certain look.
What is a Style?
A style is the personality you give your image. Its how you create the image, its your vision. Its how you use the camera, how you use a brush. How you use color, etc. You usually can't seek out a style, you develop it over years. You may not even notice you had one until people started identifying your work with just a glance.
Finding your Niche
Lets say after a year, you find things are starting to sell. Pay close attention to your sales, how fast it sold, how large it was, and what it was. My rule is, if sells large, or is really fast, I'll make another one. If it sells 3 or more times, I'll make another one.
This is the NICHE. It's the item that sells well for you, in the style you created, and people like it. So if you have 12 roses in your gallery and you sell 9 of them, and they are all either orange or white – make more of those two colors.
Then look for more niches. Maybe other kinds of flowers. Try a few of each kind and see if it sticks. However you may end up with a false positive in which it sells well because of the season. Maybe it was the year of the rose or something.
Again its about experimentation.
Don't be afraid of trying weird things, sometimes one idea might stick well. Once you have one that works, make more, and narrow it down to what people really like.
It amazes me what people consider good quality, and while quality can be subjective, it all starts with you. I often help people with their images. And when someone asks to get a critique, and I post an image, often I get a response: Why did you post that? That's my worst image. Which just leaves me scratching my head. Because why in the world did you post an image that was bad?
You don't post your worst ones, and if you know its bad, why would anyone buy it? You don't know what image people will land on first. When doing a search for something they may stumble onto that image. Then they may use that image as a gauge to rate the rest of your stock. You may have some really nice pieces in there, but people will move on. Its like eating some burned food at a restaurant, it may only take once before you don't go back there again.
Only send your best. And while your best will change over the years, you could always go back and tweak stuff. But as long as you know you sent your best at that time, it should be fine.
Basic quality - Guidelines must be followed, or the print itself will look terrible. Your image should be free of defects, otherwise those flaws will end up on the buyers walls. If you view your image at a 100% (that means fill the image on your screen so your seeing it up close, it needs to be clear. Blocky, grainy, blurry, just poorly made – won't cut it. The final quality is a reflection onto yourself.
If its a painting, you should be able to see canvas and brush strokes. If it looks soft, it probably won't be printed.
Normal quality – If you are a photographer you shouldn't have the following things in your image: blank white sky, crooked horizons, buildings that tilt too much, bad crops, busy snap shot like images, it should look uncluttered.
Naturally we will always hear something from that one guy: “but I sold one that had all those things”. And anything is possible, however that was one sale and its usually not repeated. And if that's the only image you ever sold, it may be time to examine your quality on your other images. Color cast issues, boring vacation shots and the like, it may be time to cull those out.
3. Descriptions, Title, Keywords
In today's world of fast attention spans, where people want to find what they are looking for right this very second, you need something to catch people's attention. A good picture should sell itself, but they may never see it if they only judge it by the title.
Title - Many people glaze over this. Thinking up a catchy title is a creative task that some people can't do. Its the first or second thing a buyer will look at. The title should reflect what is in the scene, because people will judge the work based on the title. Especially important if the work is hard to understand. If people read nothing else, the title should be written well. Don't name your things untitled 1,2,3, it shows a lack of respect to the art you made and to the buyer trying to understand it.
A good title is the same as a catchy newspaper heading. When you see a story that catches your eye – “Man born without a head”, you may want to just see what that is about. If the title was “medical mystery” or “headless man” or something like that, you may pass it.
The title should be interesting and perhaps funny. While its nice to have an informative title:
Keys on table I think it would look better if you called it:
“honey have you seen my keys?”. This way you can add humor to it, and it might spark an idea for the person who is always losing their keys and now they will always have them... on their wall.
Description - Shown above, once you have a title you can add a description. However don't just point out the obvious. Using the above title the description I've seen many make would be like – this is a picture that has keys on a table. While it's important to have keywords in your description so google can find you easier, the description is more for the buyer. Tell us why you made the image. If you can't come up with a good description, it will be that much harder to market it later on.
Keywords - Keywords are boring, not many get into them, only adding a few if any at all. But if you want to sell online you need to have words for google and the rest to find. Internally you can't be found If you don't have them. Add as many words that fit the subject as you can without spamming. Don't add odd phrases, Hashtag things you saw on twitter (such as #imageoftheDay or something like that, you'll only waste space for real words. Always include your name, and any odd title you have for your store. Don't include the town you live in, it only confuses people and no one cares.
Add unique words when you can. It's not just a chair, it's Adirondack chair. It's not just a church, it's a protestant church. Locations is very important. Tell people what town, state, county your in. Put that in the description as well. However only add that if it's relevant. A skyline, beach house, mountainscape, you would mention where. But if its a flower, don't bother.
If you do have a flower, mention its color, nick names, latin names, how many (single, one, two, three, etc), types of flowers, if you know a birth month add that. Roses for valentines, etc.
If it's a person, mention they are blond, young, blue eyes, african american, nubian, face, curls, anything unique about the image, tell us about it.
4. Your avatar
Your avatar is your brand.
Make sure you have a good looking picture of yourself. The avatar is one of the first things a person see's, and just like in real life, they make a snap judgment about you when they look at the image. On a subliminal level you want to appeal to people's senses, you want to show them you are a professional, that you care about how you look, so therefore, your images will also look just as good.
You don't want a crummy, blurry, crooked image of yourself. Nothing cut out of an old yearbook, or a wedding you had 45 years ago. Nothing of you dressed up as something at costume party. No selfies in front of a dirty mirror. You don't want to appear side ways, blurry, upside down.
Your image can be comical if you want. But overall it should be professional looking.
Having a bad looking picture of yourself may make others not click on it. Some could think that your images must look bad because your self portrait looks bad. And they may very well be right.
Good you have a good picture of yourself, now place that image on every site your currently on. Every social site, blog, forum, POD, just everywhere. Be consistent. If someone finds you on one site, they will know its you because they recognize your image. Don't change the avatar every week, don't use a different one on every site, and if you do change it, don't change it too much. You want to be recognizable.
5. Your Biography
Your biography should be short, simple and to the point. It should outline what you make. And who would want the thing you make. Don't be long winded here, you don't want to bore your customers. I think it's a good idea to write in the first person. Writing it in the 3rd person, people tend to be pretentious. Many will show off asinine awards from small shows, country fairs and other places no one has ever heard of or care about. It won't make you sound better, just tell them what you have.
Also avoid the following:
Medical status – No one wants to know about your operations, cancer, or that your dying.
Your homeless and have no money, you need money, please by my work, I have no MONEY!!! You won't get pity sales, they will leave when they get to that line.
Just starting out – NEVER tell them your a beginner. This also goes for being self taught. People will look at you in a different way. It would be no different if your doctor came out and said he was a beginner or he was self taught. Let people assume you've been doing this for years.
Never mention that you don't have any idea if what you make is art or not. And that you hope people will like it. Let them decide. It sounds sad though if you don't know if its art.
Copyright death threats – We all know you don't want people taking your work, but it's best to keep it simple – Copyright to Mike Savad 2000-2014 – something like that. Giving them a contract statement with an ultimatum is a sure way to annoying a customer. You already are telling them you don't trust them at all.
Religion & Politics – Its best to keep things neutral. Mentioning god, faith, etc. or your favorite president is great if your with your own kind. But mentioning it too much is a turn off to many. No one wants to feel like they are being converted on your page, and many will just leave. You don't want to take that chance. If you think your god loves you, he will know this is just business and knows it doesn't belong there. I know there are many here that will argue that it's ok and totally harmless, but next time someone creates a bio that has a faith you don't like – devil worship or what have you – see what you think of that person then. Its the same with your own religious beliefs.
On that note, politics annoys people, even a favorite sports team. All of that should be kept hidden and out of view.
Your kids – I know many think its a great idea to talk about your family life. But very few care, parents have a tendency to ramble on about their achievements and it just clouds what your trying to say.
Where you grew up. Again very few will care. You might want to mention you grew up in the mountains and that's why you have so many images of them -then its ok.
Links – don't put any other links in your bio. This is not not the place to redirect people to your facebook pages. Don't ask for likes, or anything else. First off its tacky, don't ask for likes. Don't even ask for comments for that matter. But if you provide them with a link to facebook, do you know where they will go? New messages, a check on whats going on, and within 30 seconds, they will forget they were ever on your page.
Keep it simple:
Who you are
What you do
What you have
What style you use
Your a painter, photographer, welder, just tell them.
That's it. You don't want to make it a long read, your not writing a book, your not being interviewed. These simple things will be found by google so use keywords when you list the things you like making.
And if you do say you specialize in something, make sure you really do.
If you say, “I specialize in beach photography”, then you should have dozens of images of that. And not those three images you took on a vacation.
A specialty is something your good at, and have a lot of
6. With the basics covered, you now need a good name for your store. You don't want a listing of code that sites come with directing people to your store. Instead you want a simple and easy to remember name. In my case I use my name http://www.MikeSavad.com and that goes directly to my artist website. To make it easier I capitalized my names.
7. Now that you bought a name, spread your links. Join forums, add a sig line in your email. Make a blog, make a web page. No matter where you go leave your links behind. One way links, google likes these and it will raise you up in the search. Leave a trail, over the past 20 years I've been in countless forums. I always sign my name the same way, 3 dashes and my name. I didn't have my link with me, but the more often your name comes up, the better you'll be found. This is true if you have a name that others are also using. And since you do have a vanity name, get business cards printed as well.
8. Join Social media
Facebook - I'll be honest, I have no idea if this place is a good place or not to advertise. It's full of cat photo's and recipes. False likes, a few comments, and just a lot of distractions. As of this writing there are rumors that facebook will remove the ability to advertise images there. However you may find people blogging your work, and you may gain fans. But you'll probably just attract family you don't care about, or friends from work that just want to see what's up, but don't care about your work. However that said, you should join to have a presence there, and a link back to your store.
Google plus – same as facebook. I was banned from that place for a whole year, and I managed to get back on it just recently. To this day I don't know what I did that got me banned, so I'm not doing anything there at all now. I never erased my account however, that is still intact.
Pinterest – I'll be honest, I don't like this place, never did. Its a big clutter of images that are hard to find. If someone stumbles into the site, they will have a really hard time finding anything. And with all the distracting things that are not your picture, people will have their attentions swayed.
On the plus side its a good place to see all your images at once. You can make collections that you think your client will like and they can see it all in one place. So there are good things about the site. I don't like how people can upload images from their hard drive and I don't like the fact you can change the link after. Like the others, you should have a presence there. It's not like you can avoid not being there.
Twitter – This place is easy to find people that may like your stuff. Its more confusing to look at it because its mostly text. However I think that's a good thing, as pictures are far too distracting.
Finding followers is easy, getting them to follow back is harder. If they follow you, they will see your tweet. Twitter has a ratio, it's something like: follow 2000 people, and then 2000 people have to follow you back. After that it's a 10% ratio, so your always trying to balance the dead beats out that don't follow you and replace them with better stock.
Adding images - On the outside, adding pictures to your stream seems like a good idea. After all people can look at your work, and you want them to look at your work. However in my opinion this is a huge mistake.
In today's day and age where people are used to looking at an image, very few will click on one to see it up close. And they will do the same with the twitter feed as well. They will glance and move on. And to make it worse, the link, depending on its length will count for your 140 character limit. By the time you post it, there may not be room for a description let alone hashtags. Without hashtags you may never be found.
Hashtags are the blood to twitter. They are the keywords people will use to find your things and group things up so you can see “like” things. Simply add # in front of a word, that has no spaces and it becomes a keyword tag. Don't add this to your keywords in your store however. Hashtags are used in all the sites I mentioned above (though pinterest is going back and forth using them).
Keep hashtags neat in the line avoid #putting this into #eachLine because its really #distracting each of these tags become blue and it makes it hard to read the line. Try to keep it all in the back. Removing the ad these sites put onto the back.
'Chicken - Chick Flick' - http://mikesavad.com/featured/chicken-chick-flick-mike-savad.html #savad #poultry #chicken #TVnight #Movies #birds #animal #DateNight #married #couple
I added everything to the end. There are places that say you should only have 3-4 tags, but I like to place many in.
An interesting note: Bots will see hashtagged words. And if the bot likes your word it will send your tweet to twitter feeders found on other people's web pages. #dentist, might end up on a dentist page some place. So when you name things be very direct to who will end up with this image.
Use hashtags as a hint to what else the image is about, make people curious by combining words that don't normally go together. #chickens #datenight #poultryFarmer
As mentioned, joining twitter isn't enough, you need to find followers. For example that chicken image above, I would enter into the search Chickens. Then second link down on the left, click people, and now it will only show people that like chickens. However it may simply find people who like eating chicken, so you may have to narrow it down to “poultry farmers”. I'll click on about 30 of them before moving on. I don't even read what they are, or their ratio of followers, I don't care. About half will follow you back. There are twitter follower cleaners around, some of them are more confusing than others.
Keep doing this trying to find people, that relate to the things you sell. Skip over the ones where they are locked, they aren't worth the hassle. Try to do 500 follows a week, then wait a week or two. Go to the link below to remove the ones that aren't following back. The site below is a little tricky to use as you have to check them off and erase them manually, but the people that own the site will usually answer all your questions. Or you can pay for the service and they will do it for you.
Don't heavily spam twitter. There are many places that will allow you to feed timed things in, but I don't like doing it this way. You also want to avoid pushing it too hard or people will drop you. 3-5 a day, or 10 a day spaced far apart will suffice. If you flood it, people will drop you.
9. Write blogs.
For example, this is a blog, it will also end up in the forum. People will comment on it. Everything you see here is a keyword. And google likes content. Forum posts, blogs, etc all get red carpet treatment from google. Make sure to mention your site a few times, add pictures, titles and such. You can be a guest writer on another site. Or be interviewed, any place you can leave a link is what you want.
Often I'll leave comments in you tube, news reports, etc, I connect with facebook, people click, go there and see my page that way. It doesn't pay to be anonymous online, it won't help you sell better.
10. Tell people outside. - It helps greatly if your outgoing, print up business cards, tell people who you are and what you do. Talk highly of yourself, but don't go over board. I am not a people person and really just mess up this route, but you might be better at it than I am. Some people carry a portfolio, a tablet with your work wouldn't be a bad idea. Some people place their images in bars to be seen or bought. Your only limited by your own energy, time and creativity.