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.
You’ve heard the saying “It’s not what you know but who you know” – well 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 and more than having a lot of friends or followers on social media.
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. In an age of social media and digital everything it is important that you don’t forget your friends, contacts and who you associate with in the REAL world.
There is another saying – “Nothing makes you crazy faster than hanging out with crazy people”. The same could be said for being successful – nothing makes you more successful faster than hanging around with other successful people. One common thread with successful people is that they say that they had the help of the people they surrounded themselves with – few say they did it alone. Make it a point to associate with interesting and successful people.
Here are a few ideas on the types of people you should get to know:
- Other Creatives and Artists – Hopefully these associations will keep you abreast of what is going on in your craft and the marketplace. Don’t limit your creative friends to those who are just like you or those who have a similar style. Check out creatives and artists that you don’t like – you may get some great ideas and learn something new.
- Business Professionals – you need to get to know professionals such as accountants, lawyers, advertising and marketing professionals and consultants just to name a few. These people have a wealth of knowledge of the business world and can give you ideas on how to apply them to your business.
- Suppliers – Your suppliers can keep you informed to new products and technologies that go into your creative products and services. They can help you with ways to save money and time and are a great source of referrals.
- Customers – Keep good relationships with your customers and prospects. Whether you sell to the consumer are have intermediaries such as galleries or wholesalers make it a point to make them part of your business relationships. It is easier (and cheaper) to sell to someone who has already bought from you than it is to find a new customer. Make it a point to keep in contact with your existing customers.
- Business Associations – A lot of creatives I meet totally miss out on why they should belong to business associations. A good start is to get involved with your local chamber of commerce. They are a wealth of business information and resources. Also check out groups or associations that your customers belong to.
- Social Media – Social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin are great ways to start and maintain your business relationships. If you aren’t using these tools you need to start now! I suggest you target your business relationships and have an interesting and inviting profile. Get to know the people in your network, take an interest in what they have to say, make comments and give feedback on what they are saying. In short start making some friends and valuable contacts. Don’t forget that social media can be a great “soft introduction” to meeting people in real life – so take advantage of this!
- Have a Story – Work on your story or elevator speech or whatever you want to call it. Concentrate on why you are unique and what benefit you provide to your customers – stay away from “I am a ….”, or “I do ….”. What is your secret sauce? For some ideas on developing your elevator speech you migh want to check out this article: Elevator Speech for Artists – What’s Your Story
Ok, now you have a few ideas. Go out and make some new acquaintances and friends. Surround yourself with smart and diverse people. Get out of your studio or workshop and participate in the world – you will find it a lot of fun and profitable.
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