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Small Business Marketing: 3 Ways to Market Your Creative Business If You’d Rather Just Make Art

You’re a painter, or run a dance studio, or publish eBooks.

Or maybe you’re not technically an “artist,” but you run a creative business like life coaching or yoga retreats. You absolutely love what you do, and can’t imagine doing anything else.

Good for you! Finding your passion is half the battle when it comes to business. Businesses without it fail in record numbers.

But maybe you’re not earning as much as you need to feel truly successful. You believe in abundance, but that abundance seems to be passing you by, despite the fact that you’ve got happy customers and know your product is top-notch.

Being a writer and teacher, I get it. I’d much rather be writing and teaching than worrying about the business end of things, but the truth is it’s a privilege to do this work, and with privilege comes responsibility. It also often comes with stuff we don’t want to do. (For writers looking for publishing and marketing tips, check out this website.)

For example, marketing. You know it’s a key component of any business, but you could sum up your feelings about it in one word: Ugh. Or maybe, huh?

Am I right? 😉

But you’d be surprised how a little info on small business marketing can jumpstart your art!

Marketing doesn’t come naturally to you, but that’s okay. Creativity and entrepreneurship don’t necessarily come hand in hand. You just need to reframe how you think of it, then watch as abundance rolls your way.

Art is right brain, marketing is left.

Art is freeform, big idea, think outside the box. Art is hard to explain, but you know it when you see it. Your right brain loves to make art, because it feels unleashed when it does. Art doesn’t care about business or strategy or numbers. It just wants to run free like a wild horse in a field.

(Okay, now I’m getting ridiculous with the metaphors. But you get what I’m saying.)

Even though marketing is more creative than, say, accounting, it’s still more business-y than artsy. Definitely left-brain. Marketing has a budget. Marketing involves plans, strategies, and tactics. Here’s the funny part: even though marketing involves plans, strategies, and tactics, those things can begin the same way art does: freeform, big idea, think outside the box.

Back to that reframing. You’ve got to make your talented right brain think of small business marketing differently. Here are three ways to do that:

Think of it like an art project.

If you’re a painter you wouldn’t be afraid to try a new palette, or as a writer you wouldn’t blink at playing with a wild plot line. Take the same mindset with marketing. Think about what your customers would respond to and have fun with it.

Maybe you’ve got an active Facebook business page. Using Facebook for business is great because you have more freedom to communicate in different ways with your fans – more than those 140 Twitter characters, for example.

You could run a “Make Art Every Day” campaign. For one month you and your fans do one small creative act every single day, and share them on your Facebook page. This will generate fun and excitement, and will build relationships not only between you and your fans, but amongst your fans as well.

Or maybe you run a contest on your blog to see who can come up with the wackiest way to use whatever it is you sell. (Hand woven linens, leather belts, raku pottery, etc.) Your customers send you a photo, you pick your favorite, then feature the winner on your blog. Again, it creates a sense of fun and excitement, as if your customers are members of an exclusive club.

Here’s what you do:

  1. Come up with a list of easy small business marketing ideas. Go nuts. Be your most creative, right-brained self. Don’t worry about the ideas being weird or impossible. Write them down. (For more ideas about online marketing, read this post.)
  2. Whittle your list down to the three ideas you like best. Pick one of those three that appeals to you the most and can be implemented in the next couple weeks.
  3. Lay out the baby steps, start to finish, for how to make the idea happen.
  4. Put your plan into action, and note your customers’ response. Make note of how many signed up for your newsletter, or made a purchase, whatever the relevant metrics are.
  5. Repeat with the other two ideas.
  6. Which ideas did your customers respond to best? Keep those in your marketing plan. (Hey, you have a marketing plan!) Go back to your original list or come up with new ideas, keeping the ones that work and ditching the ones that don’t. Play.

Think of it like practice.

Musicians do scales, dancers plié over and over until it’s perfect. It might not be your favorite part of the day, but you know practice is a must to stay on top of your art.

Creative entrepreneurs have to do the same with the business side. (Find excellent resources on creative life and business at Eric Maisel’s website.)

You owe it to the world to let us know about your creative brilliance, and marketing does just that. The more often you spend time on small business marketing – the more often you practice – a few things will happen:

  • You’ll get better at coming up with good marketing ideas
  • Your marketing regimen will become part of your creative routine
  • It’s likelier that customers will find you and buy from you over time

Remember: Regular action = forward motion.

Here’s what you do:

  1. Set a timer and work on marketing your business for a specific amount of time – 30 minutes, an hour, the most you think you can handle in one shot. Do this three days a week.
  2. Sit there until that timer dings. Some days you’ll get little done, and that’s okay. Keep sitting there. Other days you’ll get tons done. Even better. The more you practice, the better at marketing you’ll get. You might even start looking forward to your marketing time because it’s fun and helps grow your business. (Who knew?)

Think of it like an apprenticeship.

You didn’t become an artist overnight, you studied the greats first. You apprenticed yourself to the masters, living or dead, and learned their techniques, influences, tools, subjects, and habits. You studied, tried it on your own, made mistakes, tried again, succeeded. Over time, your art blossomed.

Think of marketing the same way. No one expects you to know exactly what to do the minute you open your doors, you’re only expected to learn and make it better. You can get advice for building a business, tips for creative writing, and inspiration for a wealth of other creative processes – and they all go into your development as a professional and as a person.

Here’s what you do:

  1. Let the experts help get your small business marketing strategies and tactics in place. There are plenty of good teachers out there (including excellent blogs like this one), so look to them if you’re running dry on how to market your business effectively. There are tons of free tutorials and articles, or you can hire a consultant to get you going even faster.
  2. Look at what other successful creatives have done and mimic their methods. If you’re a writer, pick apart how another writer took her latest book to the bestseller list. Or notice where a fellow painter shows his work and what art publications he’s featured in. Take notes and think about how it applies to your business. Remember Picasso’s words: “Good artists copy; great artists steal.” I’m not suggesting you take other people’s work and claim it as your own, but he had a point. Sometimes there’s no need to reinvent the wheel.

Then again, as in Picasso’s case, sometimes there is. 🙂

One last thing: creatives seem to have this strange fear that if they stoop so low as to market their work they’re selling out.

Nonsense. Unless you’re happy doing creative work by yourself in a cave somewhere – and even those guys got their paintings seen eventually – you want others to know and appreciate what you do, yes? The only way that will happen is if you get comfortable with the left side of your brain and get to marketing.

Next steps:

  • Think about these three marketing approaches. Pick the one that seems easiest or most comfortable.
  • Commit to trying it for 90 days. It’s tough to see results any quicker than that.
  • Set reasonable, quantifiable business expectations. Reasonable being the key word. Not, “I’ll triple my sales” or “The New York Times will interview me.” How about “I’ll sell 10% more a month,” or “I’ll get one show in my local gallery.”
  • After three months, see how you did. I’m betting that even if you didn’t hit your goals, you will have made progress. That’s good enough.
  • Commit to another 90 days, and watch your business grow.

What’s holding you back from marketing your creative business? Let us know in the comments!

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