Figuring out your audience is an essential part of your creative work. Who likes your art is a great indicator of who is willing to buy your work. While this may not seem as fun as a nice afternoon making art, spending time to define your audience is important. I have laid out a few tools, demographics, and reasons why this is important to any business. This is a multi-part mini blog series that will help get you started building an audience, utilizing tools to locate your specific audience, understanding why this is all-important, and where to use this data once you have discovered it.
When you begin to build your audience, you will begin by reaching out to your family, your friends, and close creative comrades. After gathering your closest people for support, you will reach out farther to extended family members, coworkers, and people from the past. When you gather the beginnings of your audience, you will notice those who will stray away and those who jump aboard with support. As this group of people shifts, you will begin to figure out your true audience. This takes time and patience; over a few years this will dramatically shift. Who your audience was (or is) as a beginner or hobbyist, won’t be the same as when you are more professional.
In his introduction, Show Your Work, Austin Kleon begins with a discussion about the audience. “You don’t really find an audience for your work; they find you. But it’s not enough to be good. In order to be found, you have to be findable.” Although I can agree that your audience will find you, there are tools available to you so you can better understand who your audience is. It’s kind of like making art without writing an artist statement, the work doesn’t just speak for itself, and the audience just doesn’t show up. Being findable has a lot to do with marketing, but the audience portion is just as important and takes a bit of grunt work. This is where various networks (and their analysis tools) will help you figure out who your core audience is.
Gathering Audience Members through a Mailing List – So let’s get started with beginning to find and build your audience. The best way to start collecting supportive followers is through a mailing list. This will be the most basic audience gathering tool to start with and the easiest to do. Type up a basic lined list in a Word Document with your name at the top and any important information you wish to share. For example, if you plan on mailing them weekly, monthly, bi-monthly, quarterly, etc. Let them know what they are getting into by joining your list. We are bombarded by emails and ads all day, so having permission for someone to receive your email is important for not only professionalism’s sake but also as part of the Anti-Spam Laws.
Leaving out a sign-up sheet on a clipboard at an opening or during a studio visit for them to add their contact info is the best tactic, make joining your list their decision. I take out one sign-up sheet per event and when the event is over, I write on the sheet what event, exhibition, or day this list came from. That way I can track where I find my audience best. I also have a few friendly emails listed at the top of the list to get the list going. It’s harder for someone to add their name to an empty list rather than one that seems to have a few names on it. I always check first with my friends or family before writing down their emails as dummy emails on my list.
When you are using a mailing list software such as Mail Chimp or Constant Contact you can look at the reports tab to get a better idea of how many people are reading your e-newsletters. It will also provide you with a list of who opened your email. This analysis tool is important to see if your newsletters are effective and give you a sense of who your core readers are. Here is a snapshot of my reports from an invitation I sent out for an open studio event I had. It compares my open rate (clicking to open my invitation email) and click rates of links within my invitation (in this case to my website) to the average. I can also see if I had any unsubscribers and who specifically decided to opt-out of my mailings.
As we continue to learn how to build and target your audience, the next few blog posts will dive deeper into the subject. We will discuss Facebook Insights, Google Analytics, and market segmentation through census data. We will even go into how to affect and change your audience before understanding how all of this information can be used best to your advantage and leverage when building your business or making an important decision.