Art Marketing – The Place Part of the 4P’s – Direct Marketing

Every artist should consider using direct marketing to sell their art!

Every artist should consider using direct marketing to sell their art!

If you put two marketing experts in a room and ask them what is the definition of direct marketing they will likely give you twelve different answers! A short definition of direct marketing is where the producer or artist deals directly with the end user with no other intermediaries involved – the end user could be either a consumer or business. In the previous article, Art Marketing – The Place Part of the 4P’s – Distribution Basics we looked at the basics of the distribution piece or “Place” in the 4P’s model of marketing.  In this article we will take a closer look at direct marketing and how you might use it in selling your art.

While direct marketing is one of the many distribution channels available to you as an artist it also describes many marketing tools. Some examples of direct marketing tools are:

  • Direct mail
  • Telemarketing
  • Catalogs
  • Internet marketing
  • Email marketing
  • Mobile Marketing
  • Trade shows / seminars
  • Door to door leaflets
  • Direct Response television / radio
  • Kiosk marketing
  • Direct selling

Direct Mail

Direct mail is often referred to as “junk mail” but if it is used properly it is anything but junk. To have an effective direct mail program you need to have your market targeted and secure a list which matches your target customers. Unless you are selling pizza or some other product which most people use, then a mailing to a whole neighborhood of “occupants” probably won’t be very effective for you. Some things to consider in putting together a direct mail program are:

  • Secure a list of past customers, prospects, people who are likely to buy or buy complementary products. It is important that you keep your target customers in mind when developing your list. There are many companies that specialize in direct mail lists and they can help you with finding the right list.
  • Design an effective piece with a good headline, story, offer and call to action. Think outside the box and try some 3-dimensional pieces that come in a box or other “non flat” packaging. You are creative so put some of this creativity into your direct mail piece – make something that screams “Open me, I want to find out more!” In addition to printed materials you may want to include items such as CDs or DVDs.
  • Make it easy for your prospects to find out more information and order. Have a call to action and direct them to call you, visit your website or mail in a postcard.
  • Conduct tests before you go all out with any direct mail program. Test you lists and test your direct mail pieces. As postage has gone up cost it has become even more important to watch your costs and response rates. The days of mass mailing are becoming a thing of the past.
  • Keep track of your results, costs and make changes as needed. Direct mail is all about testing until you come up with right formula.
  • Try using FedEx, UPS, or other courier services for your “high value” targets as these have a higher chance of getting opened and read.
  • If you choose to use some kind of postcard, be sure to check out printing companies that specialize in postcards. You can easily find these companies on the internet.


Those obtrusive calls you used to receive at dinner time have been on the wane since the establishment of “do not call” legislation. It is likely that this medium is not for you but you may want to use telemarketing to contact galleries and other retailers in your distribution chain. Here are some ideas on how to use telemarketing effectively:

  • Use telemarketing to set up appointments to meet in person to show your art or products.
  • Use telemarketing to find the right person to send marketing materials to.
  • You can buy phone lists from a list company, get them from a business database at the library or find them with some research on the internet.


If you have enough art pieces, you may want to consider developing a catalog. Your catalog can be just a few pages to something quite large. Catalogs can be expensive but they can also serve other purposes such as your brochure and as hand outs at events or shows. Catalogs have a longer staying power than most marketing pieces and may end up on a table in an office or in a home. Be sure to check out some of the online printers who print items such as business and postcards, many offer affordable options for catalogs in low quantities.

Internet Marketing

It seems that the internet has invaded all parts of our lives and direct marketing is no exception. If you don’t have a web page – get one! Having a website today is like having a business card and if you don’t have one it may be hard for people to take you seriously. In a future article we will take look at the internet and how best you can use it. In the meantime here are some ideas to get you thinking about how to use the internet:

  • As an information piece – your website
  • As a place to buy your art – your website and other websites such as Fine Art America
  • As a place to tell your story and provide entertainment – your blog
  • As a place to interact with your audience and develop relationships – social media

Email Marketing

Email marketing can be seen as an extension of direct mail without the postage costs. The problem with email marketing is crossing the line where it becomes spam. When you get junk mail it usually goes into the trash without a second look and with many emails they get trashed by an email filter. If you are going to use email marketing make sure you have permission from your target to send them an email. Unsolicited emails are probably not going to get read and worse yet you may alienate your prospects.

Mobile Marketing

With the proliferation of smart phones and the ability to serve up content from the web a new industry has started and is now referred to as mobile marketing. According to the Mobile Marketing Association, “Mobile Marketing is a set of practices that enables organizations to communicate and engage with their audience in an interactive and relevant manner through any mobile device or network”. With the user’s permission a marketer is able to communicate to its audience in a direct manner. Some applications for mobile marketing include:

  • Announcements of upcoming events and confirmations for these events
  • Announcements of specials or sales
  • Couponing
  • Shopping or product purchase
  • Contests and sweepstakes
  • Location based promotions and services
  • Entertainment apps such as games, wallpapers, songs, videos
  • The use of QR Codes (More about that in a future article)

As a final note on mobile marketing, you need to be aware that recent studies have shown that approximately half of all internet page views are being done on a mobile device or tablet – and this figure is expected to grow.  One thing that you should do right now is make sure that your website is mobile ready.  It is important that your website visitor has a good viewing experience on these devices.


Trade shows (including art shows), seminars and exhibits or any other place where people gather to look at products or ideas are a great place to market and sell your art. These are also great places to meet new customers and spend a little time telling them about your products and brand. In addition to having your art together make sure you have your “marketing act” together as well. I have seen way too many artists spend a lot of time and money to participate in a show and fall down when it comes to marketing. Make sure you have your “stuff” together with regard to the following:

  • Your elevator pitch or your story
  • Business cards
  • Brochures or other promotional materials
  • A sign-up sheet to gather names, addresses, phone #s and email addresses
  • A decent sign or banner with your company or brand name
  • Create a great experience for your visitors


Leaflets are a versatile and relatively inexpensive compared to direct mail because there is no postage involved. There are companies that specialize in placing leaflets on doors, cars in parking lots and to people passing down the street. This form of direct marketing might be useful when you are participating in show, event or festival and you want to get people to visit your booth or exhibit. You may also want to consider using some form of coupon with your leaflets that offers a discount or free gift. If you use leaflets try not to make people mad and don’t make a mess!

Direct Response Television / Radio

If you don’t live in a cave without a TV then you probably know what direct response television is – think Ginsu knives or the Pocket Fisherman or a hundred other products that you didn’t know you needed. Direct response television is more commonly known as the infomercial. They can be a half hour or an hour in length with some lasting just a few minutes. Infomercials are the king of using a “call to action”; as a matter of fact you see or hear a number to call every few seconds. The reason they do this is because it works, when they tell people to call, their phone banks light up.

Infomercials keep their audience’s attention with a mix of entertainment and sales pitches. They seem to follow the old marketing adage of “you can’t bore people into buying from you!” There are television channels such as QVC and some weekend radio stations that devote all of their time to selling products. Some of them offer art related products such as jewelry, crafts and prints as a part of their total offerings. In order for this type of direct marketing to work the promoter will need to have a substantial quantity of goods to sell and a suitable offering for their audience – maybe this will work for you?

Kiosk Marketing

Some companies use kiosks as a way to market their products or services. A kiosk is a free standing structure that may be attended or not. Some kiosks are interactive with the addition of computer screens and possibly an internet connection. Examples of direct marketing using kiosks are:

  • Financial services kiosks that provide a multitude of services such as check cashing, money orders, bill payment and other services
  • Photo kiosks where the user can scan, upload and print digital images.
  • DVD rentals such as Red Box
  • Recently I saw a local fine art photographer with an unmanned kiosk in a major mall. He had many of his framed prints attached to the walls of the kiosk. There was no computer screen and he relied on brochure racks to tell the prospects about his art and how to contact him to order. Maybe something of this sort will work for you.

Direct Selling

Direct selling or face to face selling is the ultimate direct marketing. With direct selling there is no one between you (and your sales people) and your prospect competing for their attention.

Direct selling has also come to mean something else. According to the Direct Selling Association, “Direct selling is the sale of a consumer product or service, person-to-person, away from a fixed retail location, marketed through independent sales representatives who are sometimes also referred to as consultants, distributors or other titles.” Some examples of companies using this type of direct selling include: Tupperware, Mary Kay, Avon and Amway just to name a few. There are even a few direct selling companies that sell art, jewelry and crafts. By definition these companies are not engaged in direct marketing because they use independent sales representatives or consultants.

You can learn a lot about selling and marketing by studying direct selling companies. Maybe there is an art party in your company’s future.

A Final Word

As you have seen there are many different marketing tools available to you in the world of direct marketing. Direct marketing can be an extremely effective way to market your art once you get the right formula. As with all marketing, direct marketing requires that you choose your customer targets carefully, find the best way to reach them and test and retest your approach. There is something in the direct marketing world for you and your art!


Neil McKenzie is the author of The Artist’s Business and Marketing ToolBox – How to Start, Run and Market a Successful Arts or Creative Business available in softcover from Barnes & Noble and Amazon and as an eBook from iTunes, Amazon and Barnes & Noble.   He has developed and teaches the course “Artrepreneurship” at the Center for Innovation at Metropolitan State University of Denver, and is also a visiting professor at University College at the University of Denver.

Neil has over 30 years’ experience as a management consultant and marketing executive, working with some of the world’s top brands. Neil is a frequent lecturer to artists and arts organizations, a guest columnist for Colorado Biz Magazine, where he covers the creative sector of the economy, and the author of several articles for Americans for the Arts, a national arts organization. Follow Neil on Twitter: @neilmckenzphoto

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