In the last video we switched around all your communication so you talk about the reader, the prospect, not about you. Essentially: “You’ve got the problem? I’ve got the remedy.” Obviously that’s a trite way of putting it and I don’t mean to belittle it, but it is pretty much the approach. It replaces and improves upon “I dun another painting that is slightly different to the one I did last week”.
I got a “best video yet” comment, which was super lovely, thank-you.
So if you took that on board and you’re now writing about your buyer, what happens when they click and look at your website? If that’s still all about you, there’s a disconnect. They’ll feel a loss of momentum and focus and you’ll lose people. To keep them beguiled by what they’ve discovered (you), the opportunity is to continue in the same style and lead them to a solution to their problem. (They may, by the way, have never said they have a problem but they are here because you’ve helped them realise something, so you’ve already delivered value.)
You can do this (yes, you)
This is completely possible for you by the way. You don’t have to buy anything. The only thing you need to do is realise the truth here. Someone reacted “but people like when I show the process”. That’s a defensive move, it’s your brain going “but .. I like talking about myself”. That’s true, feeling good about talking about yourself is natural, it’s an evolutionary property that is how we got civilisation.
But that’s not what we’re doing here. We have work to do. Of course, you came to art because it feels good and you’re good at it and you get into flow and you’re your own boss. That all feels fantastic at the start.
Is there anywhere left in the house/studio for you to store your unsold art?
The nagging doubt that we are here to solve today is .. validation. Are you just creating art into a void? Is there any space in your home or studio that’s not filled with your unsold art? Or do you have a fanclub of people who get you? Do you have the feel-good of clamour. Is there a buzz at your previews? Can you put up your prices because of demand? Does it feel like your art is connecting with people? Are you making a difference?
The buyer’s journey
Let’s imagine you are concerned about climate change and your approach is to highlight the beauty and fragility of the natural world. And let’s say you find a rare orchid, you paint it in a beautiful way, and you write a little bit about how it is threatened.
It’s good to publish that on social media and on your website because what you’re not saying is “here’s how I painted this”. You’re putting something out there that will attract people who are concerned about orchids, perhaps about this particular species (SEO rule number 837: be specific). That’s the pheromone idea. It makes you discoverable to those who share your concerns.
Personally on social media, I would post a partial picture, or a picture of it not quite finished, or a photograph of the inspiration, with a link to see the final artwork on your website. I wouldn’t ‘satisfy’ on social media.
So let’s be clear .. someone with an interest in orchids may find your post on social media, or a search engine like Google, and click to see your painting and they arrive on your website on a ‘product’ page, looking at the one work. They’ve arrived from outer space, and they’ve landed deep inside your website. They haven’t yet seen anything else you’ve done, they’ve not seen your home page, and they don’t know who you are, but here they are looking at your painting.
What will they do once they’ve enjoyed looking?
It would be nice if, on that page, there’s something that helps them know you. I’m thinking a slogan. So .. “Jenny Jefferson, the orchid artist” would place you.
There will be some navigation, a menu. Maybe a buy now button if you’re selling it on your website. Maybe a ‘join my mailing list’ form underneath.
Now, I don’t want to be distasteful here but a lot of things are like sex and this is one of them. A quickie can be really quick but there should be no distractions towards the goal, certainly no doubts, so everything has to point in the right direction. That person arriving on your orchid page, they might just actually buy the painting so long as everything’s clear and nothing distracts them and they have no doubts. Just a few sales will be like that.
But if they are hesitant or have doubts or whatever, you’re into a longer courtship so what do you need to do? Sales go through stages.
Our viewer who’s arrived from nowhere onto your website because you seem to have the answer to a problem they didn’t know they had until five seconds ago, they may think “hang on a minute”.
What are they going to do? Look around your website maybe. Click on your ‘about me’ page? Yeah, seems reasonable.
All right, so what do they want to see there? They are looking for alignment. If your ‘about me’ is like “I love orchids because it was Mussolini’s favourite flower and I’m a fascist” that’s probably a disjoint and they’ll drop you and never return because they probably don’t agree (I made it up about Mussolini & orchids btw).
They are looking for shared values in your ‘about me’. So if you say “I’m here to highlight the beauty and fragility of the natural world” and they feel the same way and they agree it’s valuable work and they want what you want and you want what they want then there’s nothing there to stop them supporting you.
It’s rare to find someone who shares your values and when you do, you both want to connect and hang around each other.
Your website visitor may check your work and see what else you do. They are wondering if you are serious about the orchid thing. Does it all hang together and make sense?
I was reading Maria Brophy’s Art Money Success book earlier and she lists many artists who specialised, Jackson Pollock for instance. It’s not that he couldn’t draw a cat, he probably could. It’s that he didn’t. He found a niche and he pushed.
Some consistency, at least of values, enables our new website visitor to trust you. Values are the quickest route to mutual understanding. It’s the judgment we make when we meet someone for the first time based on how they are dressed, how they walk, eye contact and greeting.
By values I mean, if you paint orchids because you are concerned about the environment, we might be relaxed if you also paint lichens. If you also celebrate oil pipelines then we have to roll back and recalculate and wonder what connects those two and drives you.
Then there’s a quick, final stage in the buying process which is “how will I feel in the morning?”
In other words, is this real? Am I being duped? What will my friends think?
And also .. will it go with the sofa / fit on the wall? Is it framed / do I know a framer / how much will that cost?
If the potential purchase solves a problem, if you have shared values, and so long as the “how will I feel in the morning” test gives a green light, they may buy your painting.
To the extent that there are doubts or mismatches, they may postpone their decision to buy and the moment may pass. If they like you but don’t love you because there’s something not quite right, not sure what it is yet, but maybe it just needs time, they may opt to play a longer game and perhaps connect with you. If they sign up to your mailing list or follow you on social media they are saying ‘maybe, let’s see how it goes’. They might come to a show later, and if it feels right then, maybe they’ll buy.
The crux, then, the way you gain impact, the way you connect with people, the way you build your audience, is knowing them better than they know themselves. Revealing things they don’t know yet, to them, and making them feel like they’ve come home.
Again, it’s not about you. I know the idea of being an artist is to find self expression and sometimes that might be with oil paints and sometimes guitar and sometimes with a surfboard or a poetry slam. Sometimes this sort of painting sometimes that. “Don’t limit me, I’m a free spirit.”
I was going to use Usain Bolt as an example. Would we have heard of him if he dabbled in lots of sports? It turns out he has https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Usain_Bolt#Other_sports but they seem to be more about him enjoying his success, not about how he got successful.
So it’s not about limiting you. It’s about finding a direction and finding people who want to come with you. It doesn’t mean you can’t take a holiday or explore other artistic directions and endeavours. It’s more like a job. Done successfully, you’ll have a group of people who love what you do. It will come from your heart, it will be genuinely what you want to do, and you’ll continue to push that. But it doesn’t limit you.
I rather like Captain Beefheart’s music. When he stopped and turned to painting, it seemed to me to be expressing the same values, just using a different tool. So it was consistent and I’ve no doubt plenty of people went with him.
What I’m getting to is the same thing as before. It’s not about you. It’s about your website visitor and presenting a persuasive consistency to them.
So go and check your website. Become sensitive to how many times you use the word “I”. Remove irrelevancies and distractions. Tie everything together so it flows from the values you stand for.
And while you’re at it. While you are clarifying that, have a bit of a wonder what might happen if you turned that up. Does painting local landscapes mean you want to protect them?
It’s not insincere. Here’s the point.
You’re a leader
Here’s the very, very big point.
Let’s take the orchid thing. If you paint orchids, you’ll need to know how to find them. You’ll need to be part of the orchid community. You, and the rest of your people, will probably want a more orchid friendly world.
And because you are embedded in that world, you .. of everyone, an artist, possessed of expert imagination and the skills to visualise what you dream .. have the greatest power to create a vision of what the orchid people want, and what they value.
They may not have the skills to do that, but you, uniquely, have.
And a vision created, is a future closer to being realised.
If you see the desirable world that your orchid people want, they will look to you. You will be .. whether you like it or not .. a leader.
As a leader, you’re ahead. Since you’re the one with vision, people who share your values will share and refer to your work in places where other similar people gather. Online forums you may never know exist.
Well hey, quite by coincidence, that’s going to help you sell art. Hurrah.
And if, between us, the orchid artist and the local landscape artist and the portrait painter and the pet commission artist and the abstract painter .. by bringing out the detail or realising that it’s not about that, the beautiful imperfections, by helping people to stop and see and understand and empathise, to see through another’s eyes, you’re helping build a better world.
That’s what drives me. I’m here to help you do that.
And it’s actually easy once you get it, you just need to know how.
I’ll explore how this feels in the next video.