People don’t buy what you do or why you do it. They buy how it makes them feel. – Bernadette Jiwa
When I heard Jiwa utter those words on a stage in Denver last year, I had an AHA! moment. I had previously been sucked in by Simon Sinek’s famous TED Talk, Start With Why.
People don’t buy what you do, or how you do it. They buy why you do it.
It’s a powerful message that is hard to disagree with, yet it fell short for many artists, who were paralyzed for months or years over the inability to nail their Why.
Jiwa’s quote adds clarification. People buy how it makes them feel.
People buy your art because it makes them feel something.
To find your purpose (your why), all you have to do is remember the connection you are making with others through your art.
We are often too quick to ask for feedback.
We’re equally guilty of giving feedback when it’s not requested (or wanted).
I’ve been guilty of both – especially the latter – and I’ve learned a lot about giving and receiving feedback. I owe much of what I know about feedback to Cynthia Morris, an artist and coach.
Here’s what I’ve learned from her and from others.
When Not to Ask for Feedback
Feedback is serious stuff. You should only ask for it if you’re prepared to hear the answers.
At certain points in the creative process, your project is in a delicate state. You might have a direction and be excited about it or, alternatively, not know what you’re doing.
Proceed with caution when you’re at this point. Asking for feedback too early doesn’t give you time to nurture your baby. The wrong words could put a quick halt to any enthusiasm you had and before you know it, your bubble has burst. Ouch!
How to Ask for Feedback
A retrospective is an exhibition that shows off the entire oeuvre of an artist’s career. Typically arranged chronologically and later in an artist’s life, retrospectives treat art viewers to the progression of the work in a single space.
I try to visit as many retrospectives as I can for artists I admire, which sometimes involves traveling and going out of my way as necessary. You never know when they will happen again since it’s difficult to borrow or gather the work in one place.
Retrospectives aren’t just for viewers. They provide an excellent opportunity for artists to examine their accomplishments.
Even without an art venue for your retrospective, you can take stock of your life’s work by creating a virtual retrospective.
Virginia Folkestad discovers insights into her life’s work by using a visual timeline.
I was delighted to come
I’ve been surprised at how difficult it can be for artists to introduce themselves as artists. “I’m an artist” doesn’t seem to roll off the tongue easily for some people. And yet it’s critical to be able to say it with confidence. It seems to be easier for people with art degrees to pronounce their profession to the world. This might be because there is a piece of paper that says you completed a curriculum to the satisfaction of an institution.
You were told you needed an email list, so you asked people to subscribe, and then they just sat in your system for months. Your list has gone cold. Ice cold. You’ve realized the errors of your ways and are now ready to commit to staying in touch with your list on a regular basis, but you wonder: Will they remember me? What will they think if I just start contacting them after all this time?
There are real things in your art business and marketing you should apologize for. Apologize when you miss a deadline, are late to an appointment, or (oops!) accidentally use the Cc instead of the Bcc line for your email blast. Of course you should apologize when you do something wrong, but don’t apologize for things that aren’t hurting people or for things you have no control over.
If you call my business phone and I’m unavailable, you will get a recording that says I respond fastest to email. I love email. Like most business owners these days, I prefer it for my primary communications tool. There are numerous situations when you must stop typing and start talking. Here are five examples.
One of the most valuable things you can do in your marketing is to teach people how to look at and appreciate your art. It’s not just good for you, but a gift that will last throughout the lives of those who experience it. I learned long ago when I worked in a museum that teaching people how to look at art empowers them and gives them confidence. Teaching people how to look at art empowers them and gives them confidence. Empowering them with skills is invaluable – to both you and them.
Email is easy. I prefer email to the phone in almost every situation. Almost. Sometimes you have to talk. Email is not good for picking up on subtleties about situations and building trust. Unless we’re extra careful with our messages, email can be easily misunderstood by all parties involved.