Offline Marketing Ideas for Artists

Offline Marketing Ideas for Artists

A relatively hot topic around here the last few weeks has been marketing without the internet. Today, I’d like to continue exploring offline marketing ideas for artists.

Before I begin, however, I’d like to share the other places we’ve talked about that (just in case you missed them!)

The topic first came up in my interview with Patricia Mitchell for the August issue of CP Magic! Magazine. In the interview, she mentioned several ways she markets offline, and spotlighted those that were more profitable than any website she’s ever had.

The second mention was in the featured article in the September issue of CP Magic!, in which I listed several ways to market offline for those who preferred a more personal touch. Look for the article titled Old School Marketing. Jana Botkin and others also contributed to that article.

Of course, once the idea took hold, I continued thinking of the ways I marketed my horse portraits when I was beginning. The internet wasn’t “a thing” back then. Neither were personal computers, so all my marketing was offline.

What did I do to make a start as a portrait artist? And will those methods still work today?

Offline Marketing Ideas for Artists

Following are a few of the things I remember doing when I was first getting started in the late 1970s and 1980s.

Flyers

I typed the first flyers on a manual typewriter, with a space left to attach an image. Since copy machines weren’t what they are now, my artwork was always a pen-and-ink drawing rather full color or grayscale. Once I made a design I liked, I used that image on business cards and other materials, as well.

I took my finished master copy to the local office supply shop and had copies run off. Usually in different colors (with the idea that flyers on colored paper would attract more attention) and in small quantities of between 20 and 50.

I then placed those flyers in the local feed store where Dad had feed ground for the dairy cattle, but where horse people also shopped for feed, supplements, halters, and other horse-related items.

As I got older and more adventurous, I started going to local horse shows and taking flyers. The entry booth was an ideal place to leave flyers.

Wherever I left flyers, I asked permission first. If the business was nearby, I checked periodically to provide more flyers if needed.

Does this method work today?

Absolutely! You can do nice flyers today in color or in black-and-white. You can even put a QR code on them so people can scan the code and go directly to any URL you want them to visit!

You can even print your own in full-color!

Brochures & Pamphlets

As my graphic design skills improved, I shifted from using flyers to making brochures. You know the type. You see them in places like travel agencies and travel centers. They can be produced on standard letter or legal paper, and folded to fit into a business envelope for mailing. They fit easily into a tract rack for display and are easy to hand out at shows, exhibits and other similar places.

These are often produced in full color, but can also be printed partially in color and partially in black-and-white, or entirely in black-and-white.

What really sets brochures apart is that you can include images, and that was what I focused on most with my brochures. I chose the best images I had available, so that people who took brochures could be reminded of my work later on.

Brochures can also include basic prices if you wish, but should include your contact information. Images and contact information are the two must-have features, in my opinion.

Does this method work today?

Yes. Coupled with business cards, brochures can go a long way to making your name and artwork recognizable to a lot of people. If you do art shows, have exhibits, or even do open studio events, make sure to pass out brochures!

Groups & Organizations

Many years ago, I was a member of two groups of horse artists.

The first one was international, the Equine Artist’s Guild. Members had only one thing in common: We painted, drew, or sculpted horses, or made other horse-related artwork. One of our members did models and another created wearable art, mugs, and ceramic tiles!

Be aware that being a member of a group like this doesn’t guarantee sales. Artists don’t usually buy the work of other artists.

But the value of that group was not only the camaraderie, but hearing about exhibit and show opportunities all around the continent. Since there were members from almost all fifty states and Canada, it wasn’t unusual to hear about exhibits and art shows on both sides of the border.

I was also a member and co-founder of a state group called the Michigan Equine Artists. We were a subgroup of the Equine Artist’s Guild, but with a more local focus. We organized group exhibits at each of the two big horse trade shows in Michigan each year for two or three years. Those group booths were a good way to get our artwork into larger markets that most of us wouldn’t have been able to enter on our own due to cost.

Does this method work today?

It can, but they work best if the group is local. Local groups are more likely to have in-person shows than the larger online groups so popular on social media.

Consignment Shops

After I’d been painting long enough to have a good collection, I framed the best pieces, and found a consignment shop. I took small work framed and ready to hang, because that made things easier for the consignment shop owners.

I will confess that I didn’t get many sales from the consignment shops, but I didn’t put much effort into it, either. For example, they didn’t give me a booth that I had to set up (something I would do today.) Instead, I dropped off my artwork and left it to the shop owner to put things up. Since the nearest shop was quite a drive from home, I didn’t stop in to see if my work had even been put up. I was trusting back then.

And probably pretty naive!

Does this method work today?

It sure does. Just ask Jana Botkin.

You will need to be careful in selecting the shops to work with. For one thing, they should be close enough for you to drop in periodically and see how things are going.

You should also find a shop where you can set up your own display. That will take you more time, but it also gives you some control over how your work is displayed.

Word of Mouth

I once read somewhere where someone said word-of-mouth marketing no longer worked. It may not have worked for that person, but it has always worked for me. Before and after the internet.

And it’s about the easiest and most natural marketing you can do. All you have to do is talk about what you do.

It’s a good idea to have a selection of photographs of your best work to show, too. These days, you can use your phone. Back in the day, I bought a mini-album that held about 24 3-1/2×5 inch photos and filled it with my best work.

My Mom had one, too, and she was only too happy to show it to friends and perfect strangers!

Does this method work today?

I won’t say this method never fails, but it is one of the best ways to market your work locally. Even if you do a lot of commission work for people out of town or out of state, word of mouth is a great marketing tool. Why?

Because it doesn’t matter who is talking about your work. If they are happy with it and like to show it off, they’re marketing you, and they’re doing it by word of mouth!

Offline Marketing Ideas for Artists

If you’re interested in more ideas for offline marketing, check out the September issue of CP Magic! The featured article, Old School Marketing, includes more of my ideas, plus ideas and suggestions from other artists. Some of them do all their marketing offline.

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2 Comments

  1. Carrie, initially I used shops to sell my work on consignment because there are no for-profit galleries where I live. Now, even if there were, I’d still choose a busy store with a friendly proprietor over a gallery. I stay in communication with them, ask for input, ask to know what customers are saying, and follow their suggestions for steady sales. Honesty, regular communication, willingness to help and authentic friendship are key here.

    1. Jana,

      Thank you for the comment and for your insights.

      Having worked in a gallery, I’d have to say you make a good point about preferring a busy shop. Traffic is important. You definitely have a better chance of making sales if you’re work is being seen.

      There are times when a gallery is preferable, though each artist has to make that decision for themselves.

      Regardless of how you choose to market your work, honesty, regular communication, willingness to help and authentic friendships are vital. The more willing you are to do your part in marketing, the more likely you are to have your work marketed by the store, shop, or gallery with which you’re working.

      Thank you for the comment!

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