Networking is one of most important activities your business must perform. Whether your art business consists of only you or you have others in your organization, networking is a must to grow your brand.
It’s not what you know but who you know – not exactly. Successful artists need both good art and skills and know the right people. Networking is about building relationships, not handing out business cards or have a lot of friends or followers on social networking.
Networking is not a one-time activity – it is something you should be doing everyday of your business life. Networking may lead to direct sales from those in your network or they may lead to referrals and testimonials.
Some examples of those who may already be in your network
- Current Customers – Your current customers are an important part of your network. They can introduce you to others who may buy your art. An important concept to grasp is that “Birds of a feather, flock together”.
- Potential Customers and Prospects – Prospects are in your network even though they may have not bought or ever buy.
- Suppliers – Those who you buy your supplies and materials from. You might be surprised on who they may be able to connect you to.
- Influencers – These are experts who influence others. They may be directly involved in the arts or they may be in an entirely different field. What matters is that they have an audience(network) and what they say counts.
- Other Artists and Professional Organizations – Other artists you know should be included in your network. With other artists you may learn new skills and techniques and learn about trends in the marketplace. While other artists should be a part of your network, make sure you include others. An often overlooked segment for your network is professional organizations. These could be organizations oriented to the arts, general business or other organizations that you are interested in.
- Friends, Family, and Business Contacts – These are the people that you already surround yourself with. They can be an important source of leads and referrals as well as support.
- Galleries, Consultants, Art Buyers – When an artist typically thinks of networking, gallery owners, art consultants and art buyers come to mind. Make no mistake that they should be a part of your network. This segment of your network will have a large impact on your sales and how your brand is perceived by their network.
- Magazines, Newspapers, Websites and Blogs – Make it a point to make this segment a part of your network. By the nature of their business and the many people they touch, they can help you to grow your brand.
When you look at the diagram of A Simple View of Your Network there is only interaction between you and the various segments in your network. In reality there is much more happening – see: Your Real Network . Not only is there interaction between you and your connections, there is interaction between your connections and their connections – this leads to a lot of combinations.
In this example I used segments but in real life these would be people and you could see how the number of possible combinations grows quickly. This is where the “Six degrees of separation” idea has come from. The theory goes (and the reality) is that you are only six steps away from any person on earth if you use the friends of friends idea. If you use social networking sites such as Linkedin, Facebook, or Twitter you should already have a good idea of “friends of friends” and how these numbers can grow quickly.
How to Network
- Seek out new people in your network. This could be on-line but don’t forget that you also need to get out and meet people in person.
- Target who you want in your network by their type of occupation/business or industry they are in.
- Have your “story” down pat – See: Elevator Speech For Artists & Creatives – What’s Your Secret Sauce?
- Take an interest in the people you meet. Spend more time talking about them than about yourself.
- Offer to help others out.
- Have a business card – See: Don’t Forget the Little Things – Like Business Cards!
- Be authentic about how you present your brand.
Social Media and In-person Networking
Social media is not a substitute for a more personal touch. Social media is great way to get your network started but in most cases you will need to do other things to further develop these relationships. Ideally your social networking activities should lead to in-person or more personal encounters. Develop your skills in communicating by phone (yes it still exists), in person, email, personal letters as they will help you get to that personal meeting.
- Developing your network takes time and effort – this is work!
- Go for quality versus quantity.
- Create a target list for those you want in your network.
- Have fun – you will make some great contacts and some new friends as well!