9 Ways Artists Find a Target Audience: The Best Tips!

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Kevin Hayler: Professional Wildlife artist, author, and traveler.

Creating art that you’re passionate about and then finding buyers is challenging, to say the least. How on earth do artists find a target audience? We all face this issue and in this post, I will help you find your ideal art buyers.

The target audience for art as home decor is women. Young couples are keen to buy for their new home, parents buy prints to theme the kid’s room, students buy posters, older couples buy original art and more expensive prints, and everyone buys affordable gifts.

Of course, that’s a generalization so let’s take a closer look.

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Finding Your Target Audience

As an artist, it’s essential to understand your audience. Your target audience is a group of people who are most likely to relate to your art style and subject matter.

Art is an emotional purchase

Art is a discretional, luxury purchase. No one needs art, it’s not one of life’s essentials, and anyone who says otherwise has never been broke. 

An admirer can always choose to buy art another day – when they have the time and means. Please do not fall into the trap of thinking the public shares your priorities in life. Very few people will go without to buy art.

Understanding your ideal customer will help you create artwork that appeals to them, and it’ll help you with your art marketing

Speaking for myself, I loathe all that marketing advice that encourages you to identify your ideal buyer persona, so let’s not get bogged down with all that stuff, however, I will say this:

The majority of art buyers are women

And before you cry foul, yes I know there are plenty of male collectors and art topics, but that doesn’t mean it’s men who are buying the art, it’s more than likely that the women in his life are buying him a gift.

I’m not talking about top-end fine art here. That’s a different world.

I’m referring to working artists selling affordable art for the home. With that in mind, there is only one demographic that matters.

Women buy pictures for the home, as shoppers, collectors, and as gifts. 

The only market research that means much is to determine the income of your likely audience and their particular interests. 

These are some of the criteria that will influence your chances of success:

  • Disposable Income: How much money does your audience have to spend? It’s the bottom line. 
  • Interests: Hobbyists and enthusiasts are most likely to stop and buy art on impulse
  • Values: Does your art align with the values of your audience?
  • Color: Like it or not, art is bought as home decor. Will it fit in and complement an existing color scheme?
  • Size: Large feature piece art will command a higher price but smaller art is easier to sell
  • Location: Local views and landmarks will have a local or souvenir value only

Will you sell originals, prints, or both? The demographic able to buy original art is limited and access to your customers is denied if you choose to follow the gallery path. 

The only way you’ll find out who your customers are is to sell to them directly.

You don’t have real customers if your art is sold through a third party, such as an art gallery or online marketplace. 

It’s in the interest of middlemen to withhold their customer information. In that sense, they have customers, not you. 

If you need some inspiration. Listen to Kelsey, a wise head on young shoulders

Identifying Your Ideal Niche Target Audience

As an artist, finding the right audience is crucial to building a successful career. But how do you identify your ideal audience? 

I suggest that you choose a niche that interests you and adapt your art style to make money. If you do it the other way around and follow the money in a niche that bores you, you are likely to lose interest very quickly and fail.

I’ve noticed that artists who follow their interests have a deep understanding of their subject. That comes across in their art and more importantly, in their enthusiasm.

Anyone knows how infectious it is to be around someone with a passion for their subject. As selling art is all about emotion and relationships, they have the edge.

Besides, you will get it wrong sometimes. Not every work of art finds a buyer. These failures are your market research. 

Your customers will let you know why they reject a piece. It may not be intentional but they will react and reveal themselves.

It may be something so nuanced that you will never figure it out on your own. It’s only after hearing a few throw-away comments that a common theme occurs. That’s when something clicks.

I have a good example. I drew a tiger many years ago with his claw gripping a bone. I published it as a print and my customers all mentioned that the claw didn’t look right. It didn’t sell.

I knew the drawing was accurate but what could I do? I’d printed it. 

I decided to write a comment next to the drawing and pointed out that the tiger’s paw looked uncannily like a human hand. My viewers read it, obviously thought the same thing, and were delighted to have spotted it for themselves. After that, it started to sell!

Artistic Style and Audience Interest

Your artistic style plays a crucial role in determining your target audience. It is essential to understand your artistic style and the type of audience that will appreciate it. 

For instance, if you create abstract art, your target audience will probably be people who have a contemporary living space, larger rooms, and a higher disposable income.

Your subject matter will also influence your target audience. If you love wildlife, as I do, your audience will be people who appreciate animals, the environment, and conservation. 

As a wildlife artist, I know my audience also appreciates representational art and I know they enjoy my stories of looking for animals in the wild. They don’t respond so well to zoo animals.

Lion Country - A pencil drawing by Kevin Hayler.
‘Lion Country’ A Pencil Drawing by Kevin Hayler
This is a wild lion we saw on safari in Tanzania. He wasn’t alone, he was with his brother. You can tell he was young because there are no battle scars.

When you have established a genre, you can niche down further and target favorite themes within your topic. 

For instance, I soon realized that when I started to draw wildlife, the subject that attracted the most interest was elephants. To make a good living I had to target the animals that the public loved most.

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The same reasoning will apply to other subjects. Doubtless, there will always be an aspect of any theme that will resonate more with interested parties. 

When you know your subject market research is so much easier.

Let’s say you love horses. You will know what makes horse lovers tick: 

  • You’ll know their favorite breeds
  • Where horse lovers hang out
  • What type of people exist in the equestrian world
  • Know all about young girls’ love for ponies

And the more you know, the more likely you are to find a sub-niche that you can target.

You may not wish to be bound endlessly repeating the same subjects, but at least you will have the “pot-boilers” generating an income while you explore other projects.

Use Social Media to Find Your Audience

Social media is a great way to find and connect with your target market. With its massive user base and powerful targeting tools, social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram can help you target the right people and grow your following.

To start, create social media accounts for your art and post regularly. Share your work, behind-the-scenes glimpses, and updates on your creative process. Use relevant hashtags to increase your visibility and attract new followers.

Engage with your audience by responding to comments and messages promptly. This will help you build relationships with your fans and followers, which can lead to increased sales and exposure.

Consider running social media ads to reach a wider audience. Facebook and Instagram offer robust targeting options that allow you to reach people based on their interests, demographics, and behaviors. 

Facebook ads can get costly I would advise you to show caution but if used wisely they can help you get your art in front of the right people and drive more traffic to your website or online store.

Once you have the following:

  • Look at the demographics and interests of people who already like your Facebook Page or have engaged with your content. Use the Page Insights tool to see details on your current followers.
  • Use custom audiences to target your existing customers and remarket to them on Facebook. Upload your customer emails or target visitors to your website through Facebook pixel.
  • Create a lookalike audience from your existing list or engaged Facebook followers. This is super useful. You can tell Facebook to find new people who are similar to those who already like your work.
  • When running ads, search for your customers’ birthdays and target their friends and family with gift ideas. 
  • Use Facebook’s Ad Library tool to spy on competitors’ target audiences. You may find relevant interests and demographics to target that are working for similar brands.

The key is using all the data Facebook gives you about your current audiences and similar users to find the types of people who are likely to be interested in your products or services. Take time to test different targeting approaches.

Look for Facebook groups who share similar interests and join in. Most FB groups will not tolerate spam promotions so be careful how you interact. Unsuspicious links are usually allowed. Try answering Quora threads and directing some Facebook comments to your article.

Quora allows links to your website and lets you post your art images. It’s a sneaky way to attract people away from the group chats without causing alarm. 

With that said Quora is a useful platform, especially now that Chatgpt can answer boring questions on your behalf!

Be helpful, ask questions, and become an authority in the space. This is all easy to do if you are engaged with the topic anyway.

Consider creating your own Facebook group and you’ll attract your own targeted traffic. Isn’t it better if your customers come to you?

These are the most useful platforms for self-promotion and finding your audience:

  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • Pinterest
  • Quora
  • Reddit

To be effective you must engage regularly. Too regularly in my opinion, but unfortunately, the algorithms work that way. They want you and your potential customers to stay on their platform. Marketing isn’t passive. 

Reddit is especially strict about self-promotion so be extra careful when you answer questions. 

Pinterest is an amazing opportunity if you have a website to link to. Pinterest is an image search engine that attracts a predominantly female audience looking for ideas and inspiration. 

Pins (essentially image adverts) are evergreen and can remain active for many years, driving traffic to your website. 

As with Instagram, the key to success is to post every day if possible. If not, regularly.

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Get to Grips with your Art business with Katy on Domestika

Female vs Male Art Buyers

When it comes to purchasing art, I have noticed distinct differences in the way men and women buy art. This section is based on 20 years of selling my art directly to the public so I’ve learned a thing or two.

If you don’t want to hear about gender stereotypes, look away now, because when it comes to sales they exist. If you don’t profile and generalize, you are throwing money away.

Female Art Buyers

Based on my direct experience,I can say with confidence, that you should target women in most cases.

When it comes to buying art, and prints in particular, women undoubtedly play the most significant role in the home.

Women tend to look for the following:

  • Pictures sold in sets, (pairs, triptychs, and sets of 4)
  • Matching Sizes: All the same sizes, orientations, and ratios.  
  • Color Coordination: Women are conscious of complementary and clashing colors. Neutral colors will sell better.
  • Themes: I hear women discuss theming rooms in a particular style and choosing the art to match. For example, a tropical theme, animals, black and white, and so on
  • Symbolism: Many women find delight in choosing a subject that represents the family members in some way. Having a family connection is important
  • Consensus: Most women (not all) seek consensus before making a decision. It’s important to have approval and agreement from a partner, or friends.
  • Emotion: Women have a tendency to choose softer, gentler images. Mother and baby subjects are among the most popular.

If you get a group of female friends all engaged in your art, the chances of multiple sales are high. Friends bounce off each other in a positive loop. Before you know it, everyone is searching for a reason to buy. Happy days.

Male Art Buyers

I find male buyers to be more decisive on the whole, they don’t like shopping and they make their minds up quickly.

Men behave in their own way. I’ve noticed these things:

  • Men are less inclined to engage in detailed discussions about home decor, arranging sets, or color schemes.
  • Men are usually content as long as they like the artwork. Very few have qualms about making space for it on the walls. 
  • The overall aesthetic of a living space is rarely mentioned.
  • Men look for practical reasons to buy. Too many men say “What would I do with it?”
  • Men tend to be more accommodating (or acquiescent). If their partner expresses interest in a particular art piece, they often adopt a “If you like it, let’s buy it” mentality. 
  • Men do buy art for themselves but do so on more selfish terms. If they like it and can afford it, they buy it. 

Personally, I like the way so many men are matter-of-fact about things. It makes selling easier.

Interestingly, men also demonstrate different preferences in terms of subject matter. They gravitate towards moodier and edgier imagery, they often embrace artwork with attitude. 

Building a Fan Base For Your Art: 1000 True Fans

As an artist, building a fan base is crucial to your success. Without fans, you won’t be able to make a living from your art. 

Have you ever come across “1,000 True Fans” I found this article when I first started out and it was inspiring.

This is a summary and I urge you to read the whole thing.

The article discusses the concept of “1,000 True Fans” and how it can be beneficial for creators to cultivate a dedicated fan base.

The idea is that if an artist can attract 1,000 people who are willing to support them by purchasing their work, attending their events, and spreading the word, it can provide a sustainable income. 

The article emphasizes the importance of maintaining direct contact with true fans and utilizing technology to connect with them. It also highlights the challenges and potential rewards of focusing on a niche audience rather than aiming for mainstream success. 

The author suggests that it offers a viable alternative between poverty and stardom for artists.

As Kevin Kelly points out, you only need $100 in profit from each fan, over the course of an entire year, to make $100,000.

It is brilliant.

Watch this video, it’s only 5 mins

It’s important to remember that building a fan base takes time and effort. You won’t gain a massive following overnight. But by consistently creating and sharing your art engaging with your fans, and targeting the right people, you can slowly but surely build a loyal fan base that will support you.

Get Yourself a Website

Where are your potential fans going to find you? You must have a website

Your artist website is the hub of your art business, it’s home to your portfolio, your bio, and your blog. 

You need a blog to cultivate your potential audience. Even if you have no desire to write specifically for search engine rankings, it’s still important to direct your mailing list back to articles on your site. That’s how you make money.

If you haven’t taken the plunge yet, do consider using GreenGeeks Web Hosting. They are first-rate, carbon neutral, with great customer support.

You write teaser emails and provide a link back to your website where your readers can read your blog posts in full.

This serves a number of purposes:

  • Extra visitors increase ad revenue on your site
  • Affiliate links can be a lucrative bonus
  • The traffic tells Google to boost your article in the search rankings
  • There’s a better chance that your customer will buy a new print or product.

Writing the whole article in your newsletter limits your potential income.

If you are going to go to the effort of writing a blog it’s crazy not to optimize it for search engines. You want to attract as many visitors as possible.

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Here are some tips to improve your website’s SEO:

  • Conduct Keyword Research: Before you start optimizing your website, it’s important to know which keywords to target.
    Use tools like Google Keyword Planner to find relevant keywords for your art niche. Build your content around the keywords that best represent your work.
  • Target Low Competition Keywords: Your new blog will not compete for competitive keywords. Target keywords that are easy to win. Search on Google. If the first page has forums, like Reddit and Quora, you can beat them.
  • Optimize Your Website Pages: Use relevant keywords in your website’s title tags, meta descriptions, and header tags. Make sure your website is mobile-friendly, loads quickly, and has a clear and easy-to-navigate layout.
  • Optimize Your Images: Nothing slows a site like large image files, reduce them with a plugin like Shortpixel or do it online. Include your keywords in the Alt text and in the file name.
  • Create Quality Content: Create content that is relevant, informative, and engaging for your audience. Use images and embed videos to showcase your artwork and make it more appealing to your visitors.
  • Use Google Analytics: Use Google Analytics to track your website’s traffic and user behavior. If a blog post does well, do more on the same topic and link them together. This will help you understand your audience and optimize your website.

By optimizing your artist website for SEO, you can improve your chances of reaching your target audience and growing your online presence.

If blogging appeals to you try this course by
Emma Jane Palin on Domestika

Blogging 101 tone, branding' and strategy
Blogging 101

It’s the best way to gain email subscribers. Place strategically placed sign-up forms throughout your site and offer a freebie in return for their email. 

You’ve seen it before, you can do it yourself.

Start a Mailing List

This leads on from the last section.

Creating a connection with your audience is vital in fostering and maintaining a personal and continuous engagement with your admirers and potential buyers. 

A mailing list could be a game-changer for your art business.

Why Start a Mailing List?

Consider these reasons why starting an email list makes sense:

  • You Can Build a Community: A mailing list allows you to build a community of art enthusiasts who appreciate your unique style. It provides a space where you can share your story and the inspiration behind your artwork.
    You will be able to create a deeper connection with your audience.
  • Make Tailored Content: With a mailing list, you can share content that is specifically crafted to cater to the preferences and interests of your niche audience. 
    You can segment your list to target different groups and keep them more engaged. For example, you might want to have a separate list for buyers of originals, another for buyers of prints, another for non-buyers who show an interest, and so on.
  • Direct Marketing:  It’s your audience. Unlike social media platforms where your posts might get lost in the noise, a mailing list ensures that your message reaches your audience directly, You are in control. 
    A mailing list is your only real asset online. All the platforms, and that include search engines are just rented or borrowed space. 
  • Promotions, Offers, and Announcements: Your mailing list serves as an excellent platform to announce new art releases, exhibitions and offers exclusively to your subscribers. These special offers will build a loyal fan base.
  • Understanding Your Audience: Mailing list platforms, like Mailchimp, offer analytics that help you understand your audience better. You can track open rates, click-through rates, and other metrics to gauge the effectiveness of your campaigns and adjust your strategy accordingly.
  • Ask for Feedback: Through your mailing list, you can easily solicit feedback from your audience, encouraging them to share their thoughts and suggestions, which can be invaluable in improving and refining your art and business strategies.
  • Build Long-Term Relationships: A mailing list allows you to nurture long-term relationships with your audience by keeping your audience informed and engaged through regular email updates.

Previous buyers are your best customers and retaining them is key to a sustainable art business. 

Hand-Written Testimonial in my comments book
This was one of my first comments books

Your mailing list will grow as you market yourself online, but I built a large list simply by having a comments book on my market stall and having a column where people could leave their email.

It works a treat.

Read this posts: How to Start an Email List For Artists: Beginners Guide

Share Your Unique Story

Once you have a clear understanding of your ideal audience, it’s time to bring more of yourself and your story into your online presence. 

People are not just interested in your art, they also want to connect with you, the artist behind it.

Share more about your techniques, ideas, and influences behind your work. Write about the passion that drives you as an artist. This will attract an appreciative audience who are not only interested in your art but also fascinated by who you are as an individual. 

If writing daunts you, listen to Sun Yi and learn how to tell your story with ease. Find his class on Domestika

The art of storytelling for freelancers and creatives. A course on Skillshare
The Art of Storytelling

By creating a personal connection with your audience, you can sell your art online and create lasting relationships with your supporters.

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Art Shows, Fairs, and Markets

Why reinvent the wheel? Do what works. It’s so easy to get sucked into the online art world and ignore the tried and tested ways of reaching your audience. Nothing is more effective than meeting people in person. It’s the best way to gauge what makes people tick.

Selling face-to-face should be part of your marketing strategy.

I sold my art prints from a street market for over 20 years, and I stopped only because of the pandemic. I built up a strong fan base and a big list of buyers without making any real effort. I started to collect emails very late in the day. 

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I discovered that the best way to get sales was to build real relationships with my customers. My regular customers became friends and it’s was a real pleasure to see them.

I was one of their pit stops when they were in town, and, in turn, they broke up my day nicely. They also bought my prints occasionally and spread their enthusiasm to their friends and family.

One of the reasons this worked so well was because I was a fixture and had no direct competition. This was a distinct advantage.

You will read articles extolling the virtues of networking and teaming up with other artists, but that can also backfire. Similar artists are also your competition.

Even if your art is more popular, your competitors will still take a percentage of your trade. If that happens, will you generate enough income to make it worthwhile? You have to weigh up the pros and cons.

I had other artists around me, and we all occupied different niches. I made wildlife art, others drew portraits and caricatures. We had abstract painters, landscape painters, and artists selling local views.

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They came and went over the years, but I had no direct competition. No one drew wildlife. I had the market all to myself. 

Logic dictated that I would be better off attending a dedicated event and getting in front of my target audience. It makes sense to target a particular interest group. Your audience awaits.

On the flip side, you have to pay heavily pay for the privilege, especially if you have to travel across the country, and then you stand a good chance of not standing out from the crowd. 

I thought it was better to be a bigger fish in a smaller pond. My audience was diluted, that’s true, but anyone interested in my type of art would walk by at some point. 

If nothing else, displaying your work in public will garner interest and it’s a golden opportunity to gain exposure and reach a wide audience. If all you do is collect emails, it will pay off further down the line. 

How Do Artists Find a Target Audience? Final Thoughts

In this post, I have endeavored to provide you with some practical and actionable tips to help you find your target audience.

Listen, this stuff is not easy. It’s hard work. I’m not suggesting that any of this stuff is a walk in the park. Earning a living with art is tough, I know that because I failed the first time around.

But you know what? I figured out a better way of doing things and gave it another shot. The people who succeed keep at it.

If you want results, you have to go after your customers. Be proactive, answer your mail, follow up with calls, meet deadlines, be reliable, be trustworthy, and over deliver – you get the picture.

Your art will not sell itself. You have to do it.

This is how I made a living for over 20 years. You can too, simply copy what I did – No hidden secrets

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How Do Artists Find a Target Audience? The best tips
The artist and Author Kevin Hayler

Hi, my name’s Kevin and I’m a real person!
I’ve been selling my wildlife art and traveling the world for over 20 years, and if that sounds too good to be true, I’ve done it all without social media, art school, or galleries!
I can show you how to do it. You’ll find a wealth of info on my site, about selling art, drawing tips, lifestyle, reviews, travel, my portfolio, and more. Enjoy

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