This post is by Clint Watson, former art gallery owner and founder of BoldBrush, known for FASO Artist Websites, the leading provider of professional artist websites, the $38,000+ BoldBrush Art Contest & Exhibit and the free daily art marketing newsletter, FineArtViews. As a self-proclaimed “art fanatic”, Clint delights that BoldBrush’s downtown San Antonio, Texas office is full of original art You can connect with Clint on Twitter, Facebook or his personal blog at clintavo.com
While I’m a huge proponent of email marketing for artists, I’ve started shying away from using the term “email newsletters” because of the connotation that “writing a newsletter” conjures in many people’s minds.
Embrace the Medium
Whenever a new communication medium appears, it’s natural for people to simply transfer what’s working in a previous medium to the new medium.
The first television ads were really just radio ads repurposed for TV. The radio ad (optimized for voice) played while the view stared at a static image. The first television ad was by the Bulova watch company in 1941. And, indeed, they simply took the voice-over from one of their radio ads, and displayed a picture of a watch, and well, that was the entire ad. Obviously they weren’t (yet) embracing television for it’s own unique strengths.
What they hadn’t done, what nobody had done, was to realize that television was a brand new medium with completely different strengths.
Contrast that early Bulova TV advertisement to a modern Apple ad. The modern ads embrace all the strength of the medium. They focus on fast-moving visuals that evoke emotion, and often have little or no voice over. We saw a similar situation in the early days of video ads on Facebook. Many companies simply posted their television ads to Facebook. But Facebook videos have much less attention and need to be effective, need to be produced differently from traditional TV ads.
The point is that for every medium and every channel, you have to embrace that medium and design your marketing to work natively with the platform.
Embrace Email, Natively
Email marketing goes far beyond sending “newsletters.” A “newsletter” is something that was printed on paper that we sent in the pre-internet era.
Prior to email, many companies and artists produced print newsletters. In a print newsletter, it makes sense to save up a lot of news, and then produce something monthly or quarterly that shares all of that news at once. At my gallery, for example, we often sent printed newsletters that had a dozen or so “stories” about upcoming exhibits, news about artists, or tips and tricks on collecting and hanging your art. That made sense in a medium that required expensive printing and mailing via snail mail. It also made sense in a world before smartphones. A world where people were accustomed to sitting and reading a newspaper.
Many early attempts at email “newsletters” mimicked this earlier era and people simply ported their printed newsletters to the new email medium. The worst ones simply attached a pdf of their newsletter. But, even the best ones had far too much content for one email.
Even the early editions of FineArtViews were designed this way, until I very quickly realized that:
1. Producing email newsletters this way was very difficult and took far too much work
2. Sending an email with dozens of topics overwhelmed people and they usually deleted them.
Simply porting a print newsletter email is as much a mistake as simply porting a radio ad to TV. We, like everyone else, quickly figured out how to work with the medium of email properly.
With email, people’s attention spans are much shorter than with print. Subscribers tend to scan instead of reading in depth (with exceptions). You have to intrigue your reader much more quickly. Unlike a printed newsletter, which may hang around on the coffee table for days or weeks, an email may quickly be sent to the digital trash bin.
So, you must adapt your strategy to the medium. That means being more focused. That means getting quickly to the point. Make each email about one, and only one topic (after all, you can send another one tomorrow, or next week, which we couldn’t affordably do with printed newsletters). If you want the reader to do something, make it extremely clear what you would like them to do. It sometimes means targeting only a small subset of your email list (if you’re promoting a workshop, only send it to the “artist” segment of your list).
In addition, since email is so cheap to send, people can subscribe to a series of emails, known as autoresponders. We didn’t have a way to do this in the print world, and it’s another great example of using the email platform natively. We’ll cover autoresponders in a later article.
When you embrace the medium, your marketing will use the email medium natively, personally and to its best advantage.
Proper email marketing is sophisticated, targeted, personal, relevant and very different from simply sending a “newsletter.”
What strategies have worked for you in promoting your art, exhibits or workshops via email?
BoldBrush/FASO Founder & Art Fanatic
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