An Artist’s Guide To Crafting a USP That Sells

A guest post by Andrianes Pinantoan

 

USP is short for unique selling proposition.

A USP is what makes you unique in the marketplace. It’s a strategic consideration I think every artist needs to get right. Why?

Because the success of every tactic you’re going to implement to sell your art, be it SEO, TV advertising, social media or even good ol’ face to face pitch, will depend on how good your USP is.

Here’s an example: Walmart, as you may already know, is known for their low prices. Every piece of communication that comes out of their marketing department stresses that USP. So if you’re looking to buy something for cheap, guess who you’ll go to?

Of course, that’s not to say that being “the cheapest of them all” is a good USP – that kind of positioning is difficult to maintain and you need to move an enormous amount of products to hit your profit goal.

Most artists I know of, instead, try to serve everyone and anyone who will have them. What that does is dilute not only your brand, but also your focus. For example, when you could have been engineering a marketing campaign to reach your desired market, you’re busy doing customer service with current clients.

How important is that kind of focus? Check out this study.

What Makes Someone Successful?

In 2009, two researchers, Timothy Judge and Charlice Hurst, published a 2 decade long study looking at factors of what makes a person successful. They looked at pretty much everything: family income, neighbourhood, parent’s education, the kid’s school grades, etc.

What they found corresponds with other studies of its kind. Well-to-do families with educated parents produce children who are more likely to succeed when they graduate. And those who graduate near or at the top of their classes are more likely to be better compensated.

But there’s a small subset of people who seem to defy the odds. These people are the typical American entrepreneur story: they came from nowhere, had nothing, but went on to change the world.

What Judge and Hurst found is that these people have one thing in common: the belief that their decisions shape their future – that belief in turn, allows them to make decisive decisions.

The Importance of Decisive Decisions

Now you may wonder why I told you of that study. Well, here it is: when you decide on a USP, you’re going to have to cut out certain segments of the market that you may be perfectly capable of serving.

The people Judge and Hurst found are really good at this. Because they make decisive decisions, they are able to quit pursuing other tempting, viable opportunities – an ability arguably just as important as being able to choose the right segment to pursue.

For example, Bill Gates dropped out of college to build Microsoft and Steve Jobs to build Apple. So did Larry Page and Sergey Brin of Google and Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook. I’m sure you can think of a few more stories similar in nature.

It’s uncanny how all of them didn’t take the more “sensible” road of doing it part-time – an option most of us would have taken due to our inability to make decisive decisions.

It’s almost as if they subconsciously realize the amount of focus it would take to take a fledgling operation to the behemoth they are now.

Crafting a USP That Sells

The effectiveness of a USP, therefore, is only as good as the amount of focus you put into it.

Now the question is what should you focus on? If you have ever attended a marketing lecture in a university, they’d tell you there are only 3 ways: compete on price, quality and value. Not very useful, is it?

So I read half a dozen books on the subject and here are 5 ideas I derived:

1.Culture

Culture is a word I like to use to refer to a business’ story. If you’re an artist with a small business, make sure you use your story to your advantage. Why did you start this business? How did you go about it? What obstacles did you have to conquer?

Storytelling is one of the best ways to sell. Check out this great example from Dodocase.

2.Personality

As an artist, people don’t buy your products. They buy YOU. (For large corporations, people buy their brands.)

So don’t be shy. Record a video, do a podcast, and write with personality. And most definitely show a portrait of yourself on your website and any social media presence. If you try to hide behind a brand, you’ll end up competing with businesses that literally have 100x your marketing budget.

After all, what can be more unique than you are?

3.Customer service

If the media is your main source of business tips, you’d think that the public only cares about price. But nothing can be more wrong. Not even in this economy. If anything, we demand better customer service – and most of us are willing to pay for it.

Take Zappos, for example. You can find the shoes they sell in a few clicks of the mouse, but people continue to buy from them, despite the higher price, due to their reputation for great customer service.

If you’re going down this route, I suggest you read Tony Hsieh’s book, Delivering Happiness. Remember, customer service is an investment: it’s going to cost you when you get started.

4.Changing the game

Do you remember M&M’s old tagline that goes, “Melts in your mouth, not your hand?” Isn’t it strange that a chocolate company didn’t advertise how awesome the chocolates they are selling tastes?

Because they know it’s a losing game. So they changed the criteria in which people buy chocolates. Suddenly it’s no longer just about how awesome a chocolate tastes, it’s also about whether or not it melts in your hands. And M&M won.

As an artist, you can draw attention to the materials you use (does your handcrafted bag last longer?), or your process (do you mix violin with jazz?) or even your guarantee (do stand by your product for life?)

What can you think of that can change the game?

5.Pick up a cause

This will not only set you apart from the crowd, it also has the potential to boost your sales if done right. Leverage what your customers are passionate about.

For example, if your primary customers are new mothers, supporting a cause to end child abuse, reduce infant or maternal mortality rate, is almost a guaranteed way for you to rally them to your side.

Of course, there are multiple ways for you to “support” this cause. Some companies simply “donate” a portion of their proceeds, which is a bad idea because know that money is coming right out of their pockets. They will assume you’ve increased your price just for the donations – whether that’s true or not is irrelevant.

A better way to do it is to volunteer your and your employee’s time in a local charitable organization. Document the experience and create a marketing campaign out of it. The more you’re involved, the more you’ll get out of it.

Which is why it matters how passionate you are with the cause you want to pick up. Don’t do it simply for a marketing campaign. People can tell. It’s like a bank trying to convince you they care about home ownership.

One last tip: if you run a local business, ally yourself with a local charitable organization. You won’t believe how effective this is as a USP.

So there, 5 ways to stand out of the crowd. Do you have any other ideas I missed out?

 

Andrianes PinantoanAndrianes Pinantoan is part of the team behind Open Colleges’ Business Courses When not working, he can be found blogging about psychology at Cerebral Hacks

 

 

 

Photocredit : Watercolour Girl image by Lorra Elena

You may also like

The Artonomy Top 5 {stuff we love}

The Top 5 art and art marketing related items we have found on the web recently {AKA our roundup of stuff we like}

Thomas Heatherwick ~ Just Awesome

Heatherwick designed the Olympic cauldron featured in the Olympic opening ceremony in London. A major solo exhibition of his work showcases his career to date. Via BBC

Creativity and the Fear of “Putting Yourself Out There” Seven ways to overcome fear and be more creative

Susan Cain is the author of QUIET: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.

I discovered her work a few months back and its extremely interesting to me to discover that I am a natural introvert and exactly what that means about how I work. Far from being a negative trait, introversion can be very powerful. However, it can often impact on artists abilities to put their work out for all to see and Susan discusses this in this very interesting article via psychology today.

Susan Caine’s TED talk

Following on, Susan Caine delivered a great TED talk about the power of introversion and creativity. Well worth watching. {if the video doesn’t show below please click here}

Case study: How a 22-year old made $28,139 on Etsy

Ben Kafton sells architectural drawing silkscreen prints on Etsy. This in depth study analyses in depth his cross selling strategies to maximise his income. See exactly how he did it. Via I will teach you to be rich.

How I Made $50,000 Selling Art on Facebook

Along the same lines, Natasha Wescoat is an extremely successful artist, selling and licensing her work online. Here she shares her Facebook strategy which enabled her to sell $50,ooo dollars of art through Facebook. Extremely useful. Via The Abundant Artist

 

image: LOCOG / olympic opening ceremony tumblr

You may also like

How To Keep Your Creative Flame Burning – 10 Top Tips

With everyday life bearing down on you it’s difficult to keep your creative flame burning.

Work, kids and general reality all conspire to eat up every last second of your time and cloud your thought processes, reducing your creative brain to mush.

It can seem impossible to find time to let your brain wander in the way that often leads to the best ideas. When you do get time to create you can find yourself with “white paper syndrome” leaving you in a state of panic as to what to do with your precious few minutes.

In this post I’ve gathered together a few ideas to help kick-start creativity.

One drawing an hour

Set a timer on your mobile and whatever else you are doing create a 1 minute drawing on the hour every hour. At the launderette? – draw your socks… at the pub? draw your pint… You get the picture. This really helps to force you to get creating. Even if the drawings aren’t great it’s the creative process that counts.

Photograph the small detail

Try and have a small digital camera with you at all times {mobile phone cameras are great for this} and be on the lookout for shapes, textures, silhouettes and details to photograph. Looking for these elements will make you more aware of the world around you and you will find beauty and inspiration in the most unusual places. The patch of amazingly textured rust on a car parked outside school when you drop the kids off. The spiders web on the bus stop shining and sparkling with frost. The flaking paint on a boarded up building you walk past every day on your way to work. Beauty and inspiration are everywhere. You just need to look.

Unplug & awaken your senses

Try and get away from the distractions of work/general life and awaken all your senses. This may mean walking away from the computer and doing something else. If you are stuck in an office, try and escape for a lunchtime foray into the park. Go for a walk and enjoy nature. Look at textures, notice smells {good and bad} listen to sounds. Pick up an instrument and play some music. Read a book, Awakening your senses can be really inspirational and lead to your creative thought processes flowing again.

Turn off the TV and go out and do something less boring instead.

Do you remeber the kids TV programme from the 70’s that advocated this? They were so right!. It’s so easy to slump in front of something mindless at the end of a hard day when the kids have gone to bed, but you often find if you don’t put it on, maybe listen to music instead you are in a much better place to get the creative part of your brain working.

It’s no secret that the TV is an absolute killer to creativity. Ignore its siren call. Put some music on and paint.

Learn a new creative skill

Learning a new skill which hopefully complements your existing skills will often re-energise your creativity. For example, as a Printmaker who specialises in Screen-printing, learning skills in Etching or Lithography would bring some new creative input to my process and possibly give my work a new dimension. Must get those courses booked.

Enrol on a course

Leading on from the point above – it’s a great idea to book yourself onto an organised course to learn a new skill. The fact that you have paid for the course will encourage you to keep going. I also find thatthe fact that you have “ringfenced” say 2 hours on a Tuesday night persuades you to go and do something and it’s not as easy to just get sidetracked by other things. Enrolling on a Life Drawing course or a learning a skill related to your work can be really inspirational.

Be inspired by Google

The internet is the perfect way to keep inspired by seeing new art. Set aside a few minutes to check out a new and exciting artist or reaquaint yourself with old favourites.

The Google Art Project gives you access to collections in galleries around the world and is an amazing way to visit a new gallery every day from the comfort of your desk. Why not make it a lunchtime break ritual?

Keep your sketchbook with you at all times

Maybe get yourself a smaller one that fits in your handbag – and keep writing things down. The funny conversation you heard in the dentists waiting room. The idea for a drawing that popped into your head as you were bored in a meeting. Make sure you record it all. There will be a point in the future when things are calmer and you have more time. Then you can go over what you have recorded and there will be some sparks of inspiration to work from. It will help prevent “White Paper Syndrome”

Get up early

This isn’t for everyone and the thought of getting up even earlier may be just too much… but I find I can have a nice half hour of peaceful time to think with a coffee before everyone else in the house is up. Well worth the effort of dragging myself awake. It works for me.

Just keep creating

It’s easy to stop being creative. Other stuff gets in the way and before you know it 5 years have gone by and you haven’t produced any work {believe me, I know}. The most important thing is to just keep going. Even if you only produce work very slowly it’s important to still keep making stuff and seeing yourself as an artist, printmaker or whatever you do rather than someone who “used to do a bit of painting”.

If you ever find yourself using that phrase to describe yourself at a party it’s definitely time to implement the tactics I have outlined above.

Please share with us in the comments what works for you to keep your creative flame burning.

Thanks to Tack-O-Rama for the fabulous retro image

You may also like