July 22, 2012

Your Tribe

Aletta de Wal is an artist advisor and art marketing strategist in Los Altos, California. She is the mastermind behind Artist Career Training (ACT), a website with the mission "to help artists make a better living making art—and still have a life." For more than 20 years, Aletta has been providing consulting and coaching to artists at every career stage. We follow her blog, and recently found a wonderful little article there about finding and understanding your audience.

The information in Aletta's article is addressed to artists, because artists are her tribe. Our tribe includes artists, but also includes entrepreneurs of all stripes. Whether you are a sculptor, a painter, a musician, a financial blogger, a poet, a yoga instructor, or running a corner lemonade stand, the principles she talks about are relevant. And being as creative as you are, we're pretty sure you can figure out how these ideas map to your life. So let's dive in and see what we find.

Understanding who is drawn to your work, and why, is the single most important aspect of marketing what you do. Who is your audience? If you cannot clearly and concisely answer this question without hesitation, you have work to do. And even if you can answer this easily, you may still have work to do. Are your assumptions correct? Are there aspects of your market that you are overlooking? Has the game changed since you formulated your picture of your audience? Have you and your work changed since then? Understanding your audience is a continual process. You can never be satisfied to mail in your answer to this question.

And if you have not got a current and thorough understanding of your audience, you are swinging at your piñata slightly dizzy and blindfolded. Now and then you will get a solid hit, but only with a lot of wasted effort and flailing about. But when you have clear answers on this, you can find, nurture, and energize the natural followers of your work into an enthusiastic band of supporters and advocates—your tribe.

Aletta suggests that you ask yourself this set of questions, and make sure your answers are thorough and well thought out:

  • What kind of person likes your work?
  • Where do they like to see your work?
  • How do they decide when, where and how often to see art?
  • How much money do they spend on art and how often do they buy?
  • What else is competing with their art interest and money for purchases?
  • Are they computer-literate and web-friendly?
  • How and when will they display your art?
  • What kinds of art are most appealing to them?
  • Who and what media do they turn to for information?

You will notice that this set of questions addresses three categories of information that are important in understanding your tribe: demographics, psychographics, and technographics. She describes these categories with the following lists of traits.

Demographics Psychographics Technographics
Basic facts and figures Personal characteristics related to preferences and choices that you experience through observation and conversation Ownership, use patterns and attitudes toward information, communication and entertainment technologies
  • Male/Female
  • Marital status
  • Family Status (Children, Other Dependents)
  • Age Range
  • Residence Location (Home Owner or Renter)
  • Urban or Rural
  • Car Type
  • Education level
  • Occupation
  • Work Location
  • Ethnic background
  • Art Preferences (Subject matter, medium, size, price)
  • Art Budget (Annual)
  • Personality
  • Attitudes
  • Values
  • Interests/hobbies
  • Lifestyles
  • Why they buy art (investment, pleasure, memory)
  • What other artists they like
  • Why they like your work
  • What price range they find comfortable
  • What are the benefits of buying your art (match couch, raise status, wanna-be artist)
  • Computer Capabilities
  • Mobile Phones & Devices
  • Internet Use
  • Photo and video sites
  • On-Line social networks

You can't just grill people for all this information, of course, and as Aletta points out, much of it can only come from getting better acquainted with the people you encounter. Nothing can replace personal engagement in this process. It takes time. It takes focus. It requires engaging people whenever you can, and being observant. Aletta goes so far as to suggest that you sketch the members of your tribe. For some, this might be a very interesting and revealing excercise.

The benefit of all this research and analysis is that you will begin to see your tribe in a more comprehensive way, and be able to target your marketing efforts more effectively. We tend to pick the low hanging fruit and think that we know enough. For visual artists, that might mean that we think only in terms of past buyers and galleries. But this process allows us to go deeper, and see the full network of relationships we are engaged in professionally. We will finish this article here, with a peek at Aletta's mind map of the big picture view of the visual artist's audience. If your creative path is not in the visual arts, you can substitute your own players into the appropriate slots.

From the article, Who Is Your Audience?, Copyright © Aletta de Wal, Artist Career Training

Contact Us
Have you got an idea for Outside the Lines, or question for us? Drop us a line!

Peggy Sonoda

Michael Reddell
PO Box 160
Cambria, CA 93428

See our website for more information about us.
You can find this issue, along with back issues and other resources here. The password changes each month and is posted in the journal posts for the current month.
The username and password are case-sensitive.

Username for all subscribers: artist
July 2012 password: klee
Copyright © 2012 Windhook®. All Rights Reserved.