Part Three: Marketing and Promoting Your Gourd Art
In September, we talked about pricing gourds, and in November about where to sell your gourds. This month, we'll touch on different aspects of marketing yourself and your gourd art.
Many artists have difficulty with marketing themselves and their product. There is something about the personality of an artist or their solitary work time that makes them hesitant to go out and say to the world, "Look at ME!!" While being humble and modest is a wonderful character trait, it will not help you when it is time to promote yourself as a member of the selling world. You'll want to treat your gourds the same way as photos of your grandchildren - be proud of them and take the opportunity to show them off! You are not just marketing your gourds; you are marketing yourself.
One way to promote yourself and your art is on the internet. You can pay someone to build a website, or you can build your own with some of the free or inexpensive web building software programs. Your own internet provider probably offers you a limited amount of space at no charge, and with a bit of practice you can use a program such as Front Page to build a small website. However, just building a website won't bring you visitors. You have to create a reason for people to visit those pages, perhaps by buying internet advertising, through word of mouth, or by offering such great content that people return to visit many times. (In fact, this newsletter is a form of marketing; I hope that if you enjoy reading it each month, perhaps in the future you will keep me in mind when you want to buy supplies!) It does take a long time and a lot of effort to become established as a presence on the internet.
You can also list things on already established websites that serve many artists; this type
of cooperative selling will bring in traffic to view your work and usually has reasonable
fees for listing and selling your items. Click on the logo to the right for an example of one
type of cooperative website that allows you to buy and sell a variety of crafts. This site
is relatively new and has expressed an interest in attracting gourd artists to sell on their site.
You can also promote your art by being visible in your local community. Attend or have booths in local arts and craft fairs, and pass out your business card often. Make your business card eye-catching; a well done card with a photo of your finest art will be retained long after a plain, uninteresting card has been cast aside. Interact with customers when you are at a show. Nothing turns people off quicker than an artist that is more interested in reading a book instead of greeting the potential customer with a friendly smile. Happy customers and positive word of mouth does wonders for sales. Whenever possible, provide a range of products and prices. Remember, the person who can afford the lower priced gourd art today might be the one who purchases the high end creative custom design the next time. Establish a customer base by keeping records of people that have purchased from you in the past. Create a little "About Me & The Gourd" artist brochure on your computer, and let the customer get to know you. If you have a photosite or website, a list of awards, etc. add that to your brochure and let people know more about you and how they can stay in touch with you. If you are doing a show, send a postcard or email notice to your regular customers and let them know if you have something new you think they might want to see. If you provide good customer service and a great product, you are likely to have repeat customers.
If you want to sell in a gallery, put together a nice portfolio with high quality photographs that show your work to the best advantage. A simple binder with large photos inserted into plastic sleeves is sufficient; add newpaper articles that reference your work, awards, or other pertinent infomation if applicable. Choose photos of pieces that express your own personal style - create a consistent yet distinctive body of work that people will recognize as yours.
It's ok to promote yourself in other ways. Selling your artwork effectively requires time, determination, name recognition and networking. Community news articles, giving free speeches at local groups, donating time to help a childrens after school program, entering contests, etc., can all give you good exposure and a bit of name recognition. Anything to get the word out there about what you do will be helpful. Sometimes this type of work will lead to other, more prestigous opportunities such as being asked to exhibit in a gallery, show or other event.
*Thanks to Kit Gee of Elizabethtown, Pa for her input into this article.