Parallel Marketing consists of a very basic concept! My motto is all about keeping life and business as basic and as simple as possible. So “simply” think of other interests and activities the people who “love your work” share. For example, if you create functional pottery and one of your hottest selling items are Ikebana Vases, your target audience and clientele, most likely, also share a love of Japanese floral arranging.
Likewise, a potter who sells a lot of tea pots or tea bowls is likely to have a good client base of individuals who love to drink tea.
How does this all translate to clever and creative marketing? Think about this...If you know this about your target audience, what parallel marketing events (meaning events not directly related to “your work”, but that run parallel to your industry) can you host to get your audience to you and your work?
For the potter selling Ikebana vases, the obvious event to host...An Ikebana floral arranging class. For the potter selling a high volume of tea pots and/or tea bowls, a clever parallel marketing event may be a Japanese Tea Ceremony, hosted by a true Japanese Tea Master.
What I suggest to keep things more economical for you, is to ask a current client (who you suspect enjoys entertaining, to host the event at their home in exchange for a gift certificate for you work. In essence, a barter. This way you don't have to rent a venue to host the event. If you are comfortable hosting it at your own home and have the space this is a great option too.
Bartering can be a wise and creative way to launch marketing events. Be sure to have a table, shelf unit or wall to display your wares at the event, so that at the end of the class, workshop or demonstration, the participants will be inspired to purchase their favorite pieces. Since you will be offering the event for free, the attendees will be compelled to thank you by purchasing your art at the end.
In most cases, it is not terribly expensive to hire someone in a parallel field to come teach, demonstrate or present for a couple of hours, or even an hour may be sufficient.
Often the person teaching may be interested in bartering as well or part barter, part cash payment may be a nice balance. Be sure to get a receipt for your records, even if hand written. All expenses related to the event are tax deductible business expenses, except the bartered wares. When you trade or gift an item, even to a charitable cause, only the cost of the materials that went into making the piece are deductible. Not fair I know, but this is how it works!
Whatever you end up spending on the event, as long as with in reason of course, is well worth the buzz and P.R. that the participants will generate and spread to others. It is wise to look at the money you put out for hosting an absolutely free event, as an investment in a very effective, fun, unique and creative marketing plan. If you sell work out of a reputable gallery you pay 40% or more in commission to the gallery. If you sell your work at a reputable art show you pay a substantial booth fee to be there. When you sell your work wholesale, the standard is to sell your work at half your retail value. In each of these scenarios, you have a financial investment and responsibility.
In comparison, parallel marketing can be a great value for you. Even if you do not sell like gangbusters the first few events, more and more sales will come as you build buzz momentum about your work, and this will launch you much further than without this needed and wise marketing strategy. Additionally, building a loyal following in your own community has the huge benefit of allowing you to sell directly to your customers, cutting out middle men who often take more than their share. You should still be diversified and not only relying on parallel marketing alone, of course.
When you look at it from this perspective, you will see that it is a wise endeavor, which gives you a hefty return on your investment when done correctly. Parallel Marketing is a great way to connect with your clients on a more personable level. They will enjoy the intimate setting you provide by hosting such and event. Use this intimate setting to get them using and viewing your work as much and as often as possible throughout the event.
The intimate contact with the work itself, sells more art! Let them drink out of your tea bowls, use your tea pots, trial your vases for their floral arranging(You can even offer to let them take the vases or wall art home with them for a trial with the security of a credit card swipe –this is optional, but most of the successful wall art creators I know offer this free trial for work over $500.00 as a convenience to their clients and it sells a lot of work for them. Once home and on their wall, they rarely return it and usually call to tell you to run their credit card for the purchase of the piece, so they can be the proud new owner. (It's kind of like taking a puppy home, there is no turning back once it is home and everyone ogles over it's preciousness) Allow them to hang your photography during the event if you host a wall art hanging class. All of this "hands on" interaction with your work, will make them delight in telling their friends about you and your work.
Tell them they can only attend the next event if they bring a friend. The experience is enriched for the customer when they get to spend time getting to know “The Artist” better and getting to hold, view and learn more about your work all through the event, even though the focus of the class is on something other than your work.
This indirect route to you, "The Artist", provides a rich experience for everyone involved and it give clients something new and exciting to talk about. It is a powerful and effective way to draw in new clients as the buzz of your free events spread like wild fire.
Of course, since you will be doing a limited number of them and will have limited spaces, for each class, people will line up quick for access to your next event. And they will pass your business cards and referral program cards on to their friends and family. For more information on creating a referral program watch my video “How to Create a Referral Program” on this blog. Every artist needs to host parallel marketing events and every artist needs a referral program. So don't miss the boat... go get busy.
Freea L. Sarti Art Marketing and
Career Development Center
Pro-Arts Advocate and Founder of The Chronicles of Artnia.
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