APOLLO 13, FREE ADVICE, AND YOU: What a Failed Moon Landing Mission Can Teach Us During These Hard Times

What a Failed Moon Landing Mission Can Teach Us During These Hard Times.
What a Failed Moon Landing Mission Can Teach Us During These Hard Times.

APOLLO 13, FREE ADVICE, AND YOU

Topics: art marketing | FineArtViews | Luann Udell

This post is by Luann Udell, regular contributing author for FineArtViews. She’s blogged since 2002 about the business side–and the spiritual inside–of art. She says, “I share my experiences so you won’t have to make ALL the same mistakes I did….”  For ten years, Luann also wrote a column (“Craft Matters”) for The Crafts Report magazine (a monthly business resource for the crafts professional) where she explored the funnier side of her life in craft. She’s a double-juried member of the prestigious League of New Hampshire Craftsmen (fiber & art jewelry). Her work has appeared in books, magazines, and newspapers across the country and she is a published writer.

What a Failed Moon Landing Mission Can Teach Us During These Hard Times.

 (5 minute read)

 We interrupt this series Newsletters 101 for this public service announcement…

 All Fine Art Views writers have been encouraged to focus on online marketing/social media marketing during the pandemic. It gets harder to keep that up as time goes on. I’m weary of it, and I’m sure you are, too.

This week, I struggled to think of a fresh idea for a column.

So here we are in a situation that has not happened since the Spanish Flu, more than 100 years ago. It has changed everything, worldwide. Everyone on this planet has been affected, some more harshly than others, for many different reasons.

For artists, that means virtual events instead of gallery shows, open studios, or art fairs. For many of us, it means not even being able to go to the studio. Sales have fallen drastically. And there’s no end in sight, yet.

Yesterday, for some reason I can’t even remember, I paged through my daily schedule/to-do list notebook. On September 7, I’d written a few thoughts from one of my favorite advice columnists, Carolyn Hax in the Washington Post newspaper. (I think I must have gone on a Hax spree through the archives, because the mention of Apollo 13 was actually from her April 4, 2017 column.)

In discussing how good marriages aren’t about a perfect fit, but are about couples working with what they’ve got, Hax said this:

“In a memorable part of (the movie) “Apollo 13,” engineers have to build a carbon-dioxide filter with only material (the astronauts have) on hand. That applies to marriage, too: Understand what you need, see what you actually have, then try to build something that works.”

Let me repeat that:

Understand what you need. See what you actually have. Try to build something that works.

Bingo!

What do we need right now?

What we need is connection with our audience. Yes, we want sales, too. But that comes from the connection, right?

What do we actually have?

Let’s see…. Open studios? Nope. Gallery shows? Nope. Art fairs? Nope.

What’s left?

Social media.

 Facebook. Instagram. Email. Our websites. Virtual events.

This is why we’ve been asked to focus on social media insights for you. It’s all we got!

So what can we do with it? What can we build that will work?

 We can create a website.

We can create a website on a platform that is specially built for artists. (FASO!)

It will showcase our art, yes. But we can also tell our creation story, how we came to do what we do, why we do it, and how we do it.

We can create email newsletters that lets our audience stay up-to-date about what we’re up to.

We can show stages of where we are with our new works-in-progress. Instagram is PERFECT for this! This week, I had a breakthrough that’s held me back on several big projects for years. I’ve been posting updates on IG. (Okay, today I realized I haven’t actually solved the holding-me-back thing, but I’m excited by how close I am to fixing it!)

We can share on Facebook, especially our business page. We can share updates, thoughts, stories, images, etc. (And you can post on Instagram, and have it re-posted on Facebook.)

Virtual events are more common. Do they work? Yes and no. I participated in three virtual events in August and September. I didn’t think I’d made any significant sales, especially with the two that took place here in California. But afterwards, I realized this strong uptick in several larger-than-normal online sales during that period came from…a virtual event in New Hampshire!

The people that have followed me for years suddenly leaped at the chance to buy my work, and it was very satisfying. (The sales didn’t occur through the online channels of those events, which is what threw me. People found me there, then went to my online store and made their purchases directly from me.) These virtual events didn’t cost much, and I consider what fees I did pay, as my online marketing budget.

Social media marketing is what will get us through this ‘new normal’, until something like the ‘old normal’ returns.

And yet, from some of the comments made during this time, Fine Art Views readers often remind me how tired they are with all this focus on social media.

I try to remember to check back on where commenters are coming from, so I check their website and their work. Seems like the unhappiest folks didn’t have an online store/shop, or even prices on their work. Some don’t even have a website.

In my volunteer work for one major virtual event, I created captions/sentences for over 140 artists, describing their work, their inspiration, and what made their work unique.

I was shocked how many of them didn’t have a website. Or they didn’t have a correct link to their website. (I had to Google them.) Or they only had a bare-bones website, not even featuring more than one image of their work.

So many people had ‘resumes’ instead of actual artist statements. I had to dig deep to find anything of interest to say about their work, or simply go with what I thought of their work. (Don’t worry, I was kind to everyone.)

So many people didn’t have any social media accounts—no Facebook, no Instagram, even though Instagram, based on images, feels made for visual artists.

Even in

I know hundreds of artists and craftspeople. Yet in my own email feed, I get email newsletters from less than a handful of fellow artists. And some of those are not newsletters I signed up for.  They got my address from events I signed up for, or a group activity I was in. (DO NOT sign up people without their permission!)

And some artists didn’t even share their email address.

To continue the metaphor, if these folks were astronauts, they’d be dying for lack of oxygen.

Now, if your intention during this pandemic is to step back, focus on your work, and let go of sales and marketing until the ‘old normal’ is back, it’s okay, and I don’t blame you. It’s definitely a great time to dig in and make our art. Fewer distractions, fewer obligations, and I can’t go thrift shopping. (Did I say that out loud??)

But if you want to boldly go where you’ve never gone before, now is the time to bump up your social media marketing game.

Don’t complain, up your game!

If you enjoyed this article, share it! Link back to it here on Fine Art Views, or my blog at luannudell.wordpress.com.

If someone shared this article with you, and you’d like to read more in this series, visit my articles at FineArtViews.com.

BEHIND THE BIGGEST QUESTION OF THEM ALL

This post by Luann Udell was first published on Fine Art Views, a blog about making, marketing, and selling art.

Luann Udell is a regular contributing author for FineArtViews. She’s blogged since 2002 about the business side–and the spiritual inside–of art. She says, “I share my experiences so you won’t have to make ALL the same mistakes I did….”  For ten years,             Luann also wrote a column (“Craft Matters”) for The Crafts Report magazine (a monthly business resource for the crafts professional) where she explored the funnier side of her life in craft. She’s a double-juried member of the prestigious League of New Hampshire Craftsmen (fiber & art jewelry). Her work has appeared in books, magazines and newspapers across the country and she is a published writer.

You, too, can deeply connect people to your art.

In my last Fine Art Views article from April 7, 2016, THE BIGGEST QUESTION OF THEM ALL“The Biggest Question of Them All”, I talked about how to uncover what the true ‘objection’ is to a prospective customer who wants your work. In response, one reader said:

“As I read the article I was struck by how your questions to people (and trying to figure out what their objections may be) really reflect a deeply sensitive way of viewing things. Particularly the bit about how we feel about our bodies and why we choose to wear certain things. My working theory so far has to do with the work that you make. It’s so personal to begin with and carries quite a bit of meaning with it already. I suspect you are automatically set up from the get go with a deeper (and different) way of needing to connect to buyers. (And I am not suggesting that a different media such as a beautiful and traditional painting isn’t deep but only that it perhaps needs another type of connection.) Hope this makes a little sense!”

YES, the comment makes perfect sense! BUT –

Recognize that this push-back (“Great idea, but it won’t work for me!”) is a natural reaction to being introduced to a different way of doing things.

We immediately believe the strategy is unique to the presenter, that it can’t be transferred to our situation. (I’ve done it, we’ve all done it, you may be doing it right now!)

BUT though not all of my solutions and thoughts will relate to your unique situation, there are always interesting parallels you can explore, experiment with, and eventually apply to yours.

And so YES, jewelry can be an ‘easier’ sell – BUT not always. Let’s explore some the pushback claiming my work is ‘too different’ to mine for ideas:

  • Pricing/Affordability: YES, I may have a wider range of price points than most 2D artists, and a lower ‘entry’ price.

BUT 2D artists have these options, too. Cards and prints (lower price points), smaller work, unframed work, older work.

Conversely, jewelers who work with gold and precious gems certainly have a higher overhead than most 2D artists (not just materials, but overhead and insurance.) And yet many have built a thriving audience for their work.

  • Demand: YES, much of my work can indeed feel like a more personal product (they intend to wear it, after all!) and therefore easier to sell.

BUT If you think YOUR chosen medium has lots of competition, let me tell you: In my world, jewelry is the single most competitive category, in stores, at fairs, and online. My aesthetic, and my work, actually appeal to a much smaller audience than most other jewelers. (I’m not even gonna go there with my 2D work and 3D work! Its audience is EVEN SMALLER.)

  • Comfort level: YES, People may feel more at ease buying home décor, decorative objects, and jewelry rather than art.

BUT 2D artists can create a comfort level, too. Painting/drawing, throughout history and our culture, is a readily-accepted and popular way to decorate and personalize our spaces, both personal and professional, public and private. When you say “art”, 2D work is the near-automatic response. It’s what we all think of as ‘real art’. Your reputation precedes you!

AND, one of our roles, as artists, is to advocate for the power that art has in our lives, over mass-produced tchotchkes and mass-produced reproductions. To stress why real art is important, especially with new collectors. To share how timeless it is, not only through our history, but is long-lasting appeal. Much more cost effective than that popular little whatzit that will be off-trend in a few years. How it speaks to us on a deeper level, how integral it is to our human nature, because it speaks to us in a way that actually bypasses our ‘thinking brain’, going directly to the ‘feeling brain’—just like music, like dance, like stories and books and movies, and other creative acts.

  • Connection: YES, how I make my work, how I display my work, how I interact with potential customers, etc. is very personal.

BUT 2D artists also have that potential for connection. Your potential customer will pre-select themselves for connection to YOUR work, too. It starts with initial attraction: They see something they like and come into your booth. If you are at an opening reception, or your work is in a gallery, they gazed at YOUR work longer than anyone else’s. That’s an opening, a place for you to start that conversation.

AND though I’ve worked hard to create powerful emotional connections between my work and my audience, it wasn’t always that way, it wasn’t easy, and it took time.

I have almost two more articles included here, on how to connect, and how not to DISCONNECT. (I see it all the time.) But I’ll save those for now.

In the meantime, let’s assume the world is a big place, and there’s a big enough audience for ALL of us:

Will you share some of the connecting strategies that have worked for YOU?