5 Low and No-Cost Strategies For Licensed Artists to Connect With Their End Consumer

Think of the tv storyboard as the graphic novelization of your script, where each panel represents a new camera angle or a key moment in the action.

“If I license my art to manufacturers, how do I connect with the end consumer and create demand for my designs in the marketplace?” This is a question that has been rolling around in my head since I started licensing my art in 2004.

Art licensing presents some unique challenges when it comes to connecting with the end consumer. An artist’s main client is the manufacturer – without them putting our art on products, the artist essentially has no business. The manufacturer then has to sell the products with the artists designs to the retailer. So the retailer is also a customer, once removed. The end consumer is therefore a customer twice removed.

When an artist creates art for licensing, they have to please the manufacturer and retailer, while trying to figure out what the end consumer (the shopper with the wallet) will want to buy. That becomes tricky, even for the most marketing savvy artist!

Sometimes the artist meets the end consumer – the person with the wallet who is twice removed from the artist’s business. They may look like a friend, an aunt, a neighbor… and they often sound like this: “I love your stuff! Where can I find it?” They are full of enthusiasm and ready to give gifts featuring the artist’s art.

As an artist who solely licenses my art, I regret often having to respond like this, “Well… I’m not sure. You might find it in this store or that store but it really depends…” It is hard to promote yourself when you don’t control the product.

The challenges facing artists who license their art doesn’t stop there. Sometimes the retailers and manufacturers like to license art from artists who are “known” and have a reputation with the end consumer, twice removed. You would too. If you owned a store and knew that any product you put on your shelves with art by Betty the Great who’s been on every talk show known to man and has an amazing cult-like following would sell, wouldn’t you do it? Or would you prefer to take a chance on Brand New Bob who does nice work but isn’t as known?

These days, it is more important than ever for the artist to take connecting with the end consumer and building their brand into their own hands. Luckily, it is also easier than ever to do.

Here are five low or no-cost strategies to get you started connecting and building a following for your art and your brand.

  1. Harness the power of the internet. Be visible online. Have a website or a blog or Facebook Fan Page where people can go to learn more about you. Notice I said you and not just your art. People like to buy from people they know so let them get to know you. This doesn’t mean you have to divulge every detail of your life, but giving them a glimpse at who you are will go a long way to building a fan base.
  2. Exhibit at show or sell products at art or craft fairs. Even if you license your art exclusively, most manufacturers will let you buy your own products at wholesale that you can then resell. So if you enjoy setting up shop at fairs, go for it! It’s a great way to talk with people, find out what they like about your work and get inspired to keep creating.
  3. Give talks to groups of end consumers. If you specialize or have a variety of special interest products featuring your art, see if there are groups related to them. I design quilting fabric and have spoken at a variety of quilting clubs and store events in my area. It was a service to the organization but also let the quilters know the artist behind the fabric. Like everyone, they too like to support people they know and like.
  4. Do artist signings. If a local store carries your work, why not offer to do a signing during a busy time of day or during a special event. It gives them a reason to invite people to the store while spreading your name and brand around. Signings also give you the chance to interact with people who buy your products.
  5. Look for cross-promotion opportunities. What other business is talking to your end consumer and is there anything you can offer to add value? A local realtor sends out a mailing to about 250 homes each month and includes coupons or information about businesses and services of interest to homeowners. I was able to be included one month, letting women know about a product I offer online. It filled his need for something new and interesting for the month and got my name, brand and website into 250 homes for the cost of printing 250 flyers.

So if you are serious about licensing your art and want to build a following and brand awareness, always be on the lookout for opportunities to interact with your end consumer. They may be closer than you think and cost you little more than your time.

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