“The difference makes the difference.”
What great words to live by when you’re in business and want to stand out from the crowd! It’s easy to see why it works; just look at the image below and be aware of what you notice first:
Separating oneself from this crowd is easy because all of the other flowers are exactly alike, the background is neutral and there are no distracting elements. When there’s not much else to look at but you, just being different is all you have to do to attract attention – and it can be as simple as showing black and white images when everyone else is showing color, presenting square format when everyone else shows rectangles, or showing very large pieces when everyone else creates small ones.
However in most cases, everyone else is not doing exactly the same thing in a world that is 18% gray. Most of the time our world looks more like this:
Standing out in this crowd isn’t as easy because there are a lot of interesting things to look at. Noticing something different makes people look at you but buying decisions are then made based upon quality and perceived value in comparison to other interesting options.
In these examples efforts have been made to stand out in the crowd but because everyone is different and there are still obviously other options, we as human beings move on to making decisions on which ones we like the best. Judgment is made based upon image. What kind of business is this? What adjectives would you assign to each of the examples – loud, understated, wild and crazy, attentive to detail? Which one do you like the best?
This makes it important to stand out in the crowd in ways that are appealing to the kind of people who are most likely to buy your products or services, based upon the adjectives they assign to your image and their perception of quality and value.
This is called image marketing and it’s one of the most important kind of marketing to attract clients of specific demographics. Standing out in the crowd is important, but how you do it is equally important.
To put a good image marketing strategy together, you must become conscious of how your work is different, define the kind of person who is most likely to buy from you and then create products, services and image marketing that will be attractive to them.
Start by analyzing your art, your business and your advertising. Ask yourself, “How am I, and how is what I’m doing, different than everyone else?” Try to see yourself and your business through the eyes of your potential customer.
Identify How You Are Different
Take a good look at your art, your business and your pricing and compare how it fits in with other choices in your area.
Start by checking out competitors’ websites and social media and comparing them to what you do. How is your advertising different? How is your work different?
If your competitors have physical displays or gallery showings, go to see them and see how they present their work. Check out the pricing.
If your competitors have studios, go to see them. Introduce yourself and try to make new friends and peers. Competition is not your enemy; it’s a mirror through which you can see yourself more clearly.
Once you have acquired a thorough understanding of what your competition is, sit down with your thoughts and become aware of how you are different – and if you don’t stand out, make a plan for how you can, showcasing the best you have to offer.
Get to Know Yourself
What are you really good at? What weaknesses do you have? For example, perhaps you are a really talented artist but you are terrible at selling your work.
How can you turn your weaknesses into your strength? How can you look at your weakness creatively and turn the experience of buying your work from awkward and difficult into one that is fun and satisfying for each and every client?
- Learn how to be more confident in yourself, your prices and your products.
- Write down the most common objections to sales and compose replies that lead to “Yes”.
- Pre practice your sales sessions in front of a mirror or selfie video. Get a partner to practice with. Analyze how you look, what you say and how you say it.
- Prepare for sales sessions with suggested products and buying incentives.
- Schedule important sales sessions with all buying decision makers present.
- Give yourself time to sell in a relaxed manner.
- Be conversational, smile a lot, solve objections and direct the conversation. Ask questions that avoid the option of “yes” or “no” responses towards choices and how to purchase. For example: Instead of saying, “Is this the one you want to buy?” try “I see you really love this one. Let’s see how we can make that happen for you. Where will it be displayed?” or “How would you like to pay for this; all at once or with our payment plan?”
- Ask for money confidently without lowering eyes or providing other negative body language or tone of voice.
If you can’t do this, accept it’s not your forte and partner with someone else to sell your work for you. You might be sharing your profits but if you have a good sales partner, it’s worth every penny. (Sharing a piece of a big pie is still more than having a whole small pie to yourself.)
Remember that other people do not think the same way you do. One thousand dollars to you might seem like a lot of money, but to someone else, it’s pocket change. You might not see value in eating out every day but to others it’s something to look forward to.
Feature your strengths with confidence and remember that if you are creative and resourceful there is a way beyond every weakness you have in your art, business or sales ability.
Identify Your Market
Knowing your target market is the foundation for successful sales and marketing! It is invaluable for creating the visual design of your advertising pieces and social media, choosing the language and phrases you use in your promotional pieces, selecting zip code demographics for direct mail, offering presentation options for your work, arranging where you might place physical displays, coordinating the kinds of incentives you offer for making larger purchases … how you ask for referrals … it gives you focus for success.
Naively we think (hope) that everyone wants to purchase our products or services, but that doesn’t translate into the information you need to develop a strong plan for reaching out.
With product and price list in hand, outline a demographic of who is most likely to buy from you.
- Who needs or wants your product or service but doesn’t typically have access to it?
- Who can afford you?
- What income demographic will find you not too expensive but also not too cheap?
- Who has purchased from you before?
- How old are they?
- Where do they live?
- What do they drive?
- How do they dress?
- What do they do?
- What are their hobbies?
- Do they have children or pets?
- Where does your target market go to eat, shop, vacation etc?
- What kind of social media do they participate in?
See Yourself As They See You
Evaluate your work, the presentation, the products and services, how you present yourself and the environment in which you work, show, sell and deliver. Image marketing means that people are buying a perception and experience as much as a product. The more you charge, the more perception of value and a pleasurable, fulfilling buying experience become part of your product.
Ask your friends and peers for their opinions. Make lists of the things that you are doing right and the things you need to change in order to be perceived as being different from the competition. Then do it.
If there are areas in which you cannot change immediately, find ways of working around them and use them as a marketing edge that makes you stand out in the crowd. For instance, if your target clientele buys in expensive, high end shops and you don’t have one, move your meeting place either to a rent per hour professional office space in a prestigious location in town, or meet with your clients personally in their home or office. Market it as a value added for your personal attention.
Become Appealing to Your Target Market
Easier said than done, right?
Once again, the Difference Makes The Difference when it comes to creating advertising and marketing for your target market. It’s important to study the advertising of other companies that are competing for your target market, notice what colors, phrases and offers are being used and then position your image that says “different” in an alluring way based upon your knowledge of your target market.
You might decide you are “edgier” than what your target market is normally exposed to, or more contemporary, or classic. Go ahead and go for it, but be careful not to go too far over the edge or you’ll miss the mark.
Find ways that you can provide added quality, value or service beyond what your competitors do.
Keep in mind that ultimately people do business with you based upon who you are more than what you do in business. Be yourself. Showcase yourself, your unique personality and let everyone know you will give your best.
Lower priced products usually advertise the product for less or buy more and save. This means that profit margins are usually smaller and your business will rely upon quantity sales. Set up for streamline production, sales and delivery. Most advertising emphasizes product for price and bulk value purchases.
Higher priced products usually advertise things like sensatory fulfillment, prestige, personal attention, quality and guarantee. Profit margins are higher, but it takes more time to get the sale. The higher the price, the higher client expectations are for personalized service and fulfilling buying experiences. Most advertising emphasizes the image, reputation, quality and investment value of the name as well as the product.
It isn’t better to be expensive or inexpensive; it’s just different ways of setting up businesses for profit. It IS very important to know where you and your products and services stand however so you don’t find out too late that you are targeting a bulk market without the ability or time to produce the quantity needed for success or targeting a high end market without the ability or time to provide the expected quality of product, investment value and buying experience.
Follow Through to the Finish Line
If you’ve done your homework and put together a good image marketing plan, all you should have to do is get it in front of your target market and your clients will notice you immediately. Generally businesses do this through a combination of social media, Internet networking, direct mail, local business networking and word of mouth from previous clients.
If most of your clients will come from your community, being visible and active in your community is the most important advertising you can do. Support it with coordinated Internet social media and website.
If your clients come from all over, Internet marketing is the most important. Make sure your website is search friendly and keep it active and filled with current events. Support it with great service and customer support.
Think of being different and effectively getting attention is a lot like catch and release fishing. Fishermen put a lot of effort into getting the right bait on the right rig in the right places to catch the kind of fish they want … but what happens when they get a bite?
They have to reel it in with knowledge, experience, patience and tenacity. They have to treat the fish with sensitivity and care in order to be able to release it to catch it again another day. Your success in standing out from the crowd is your bait. Once you have your new client’s attention it’s up to you to get them to bite, take care of them and bring them back again tomorrow.
Successful image marketing looks something like this:
In conclusion, I’d like to share that most businesses update their image marketing strategy annually, even if it’s just refining some wording, adding a new product, dropping a low profit item or exploring a new location to display the work.
The business of art is a business, but one that can be looked at and implemented in delightfully creative ways. Use your imagination, experiment with knowledge and enjoy the differences that are uniquely you.
Next, take a look at my 5 Keys of a Successful Photography Business.
Jane Conner-ziser is an award winning photographer, digital artist, premier educator and independent consultant. With over 25 years of experience, 19 of them in digital imaging and evolving technologies, the techniques Jane developed for facial retouching and enhancement and portrait painting from photographs are widely emulated by photographers and digital artists worldwide through her classes, online training and educational products. You can learn more on her website.
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