Artist Pauline James-Paterson has had an amazing few months. In January 2015 her business Splashyartystory had a 1000% increase in turnover. That extra zero is not a typo.
— splashyartystory (@splashyartytart) February 1, 2015
Using targeted social media Pauline exceeded her sales targets and built a loyal social media fan base that has put her freelance artist’s enterprise on firm financial footing. Here’s how she did it.
This time last year Splashyartystory – a small business selling reproductions of Pauline’s original watercolours – was making most of its sales through Etsy and Ebay. Tired of losing income to pay the fees from these services, Pauline decided to invest in a new website which would host an online shop allowing her to sell direct to customers. When the site went live in August 2014, she wanted to make sure that she could recoup the investment in the website.
Pauline runs a classic creative microbusiness – she is the artist, marketer, shipping supervisor and business manager. To improve her marketing and drive sales, Pauline attended a Culture Republic digital communications workshop in Dumfries in December. The event, offered in partnership with Dumfries and Galloway Council, was delivered by Culture Republic.
Pauline’s situation was this:
- Splashyartystory’s products had high appeal but low visibility
- There was a great online content, it just wasn’t reaching people
- Her brand values were clear, she has a friendly personality and an open conversational tone, it just needed a wider audience
She left the workshop with a plan of how to use social media to drive sales. And did it ever.
What happened next
Pauline headed back to her studio with the bones of a communications strategy from her day at the workshop. She decided to start with a little bit of targeted Facebook advertising and boosted a post for a contest to give away one of her most popular paintings – a purple thistle.
— splashyartystory (@splashyartytart) January 14, 2015
The first ad ran for 3 weeks and according to Pauline “it just went nuts”. Her Facebook page went from 500 likes to 5500 likes in 5 days. Her sales increased by 1000%. She could only just keep up with the orders by working 16-hour days. It was so successful that Pauline had to think seriously about where she wanted the business to go. For her, painting is a lifestyle business and she didn’t want to scale it up and have it take over her life.
One note – there are strict guidelines around competition terms and conditions on Facebook. Pauline has become an expert at staying within them, but her first attempt inadvertently breached these and the post was taken down (that’s why you can’t see it in this article). This has been a key learning for her. If you are thinking of trying a competition yourself make sure to visit Facebook’s Ts&Cs to keep yourself right.
Because of the sales boost in January, Pauline has been able to consolidate her business. She had the capital to invest in a canvas printer of her own – previously she was outsourcing the printing to a company in England. Because of this change Pauline’s profits have increased by an additional 30% per picture sold; she’s able to supply all of her orders in a much shorter time period and she’s able to supply her canvases off the stretcher which suits her international buyers much better. Pauline has also moved into larger premises and taken on a part-time employee to help with fulfilment.
Pauline’s found a way to keep growing her online community and generating constant sales but which is sustainable for a one-woman shop. Because the competition worked so well she has been running regular giveaways – she plans to do one a month or so leading up to the festive period. Here’s a recent example:
COMPETITION. Not one but three THISTLE AND WHITE ROSE canvases to giveaway. All you have to do to be in with a…
This effort added more than 100 new likes to the page, over 1000 likes to the post, 740 shares & over 1500 comments. The method that works for her is to boost a competition post for only for 3 days and only run the competition for 5 days. This helps keep the response manageable (she learned that three weeks was far too long). For Pauline, contests generate sales immediately. She says she adds 100 – 200 people on average doing this and she earns the cost of the advertisement back within an hour.
Build a strategy that works
One key thing Pauline took away from her Culture Republic workshop was to set SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time bound) objectives. After the training session she returned to her studio and posted her SMART objectives on the wall as a daily reminder. Pauline reports that the discipline of being timely and relevant in particular inspired her to look for current events and affairs as useful triggers to be able to talk about her work and share examples. Here’s an example from around Burns night:
We are fast approaching Burns Night and I set myself a challenge of trying to make a haggis look sexy….not an easy…
The other learning was to identify who her key audiences were and make sure the content that she was posting was particularly relevant them. Pauline says when Dianne suggested that she look at her audience profile she “felt like going ‘Oh, Duh!’” because it wasn’t something she had done yet and it made perfect sense to her. The very next day Pauline sat down and went through all the sales for the year. What she found was that her customer base was 20% male and 80% female. A typical customer is a woman, aged 20 to 60, who is interested in home interiors. If the customer is a man she found he was often buying for his wife. Pauline responded by subscribing to decorating magazines and looking at trends for home decorating. She responded with new work that was on trend in terms of colour – a painting in shades of grey with just a splash of colour.
My "harmony of greys" seascape with a splash of colour in the form of a red poppy. The poppy doesn't have to be red of course…..
…if could be mustard….. which is a bang on trend colour
Pauline also noticed that a significant section of her audience are expatriate Scots who like the Scottish subjects and provenance of her paintings. She started a series of thistle paintings, which began with a thistle and rose (signifying England) to include a thistle and other national plants like a shamrock, a daffodil or a maple leaf.
It wasn't really my intention to do a yellow rose version of this but quite a lot of you requested it and many of those…
That post in particular generated an emotional response from her audience who shared personal stories of the significance of yellow roses for them.
One key to her success is that Pauline is very responsive to her customers – she tries to get back individually to each person who makes a comment on her page. It takes about an hour every day. And, if there is enough of an appetite for a particular subject she will make a piece that gives the people what they want.
Would love to see a thistle and a kangaroo paw or wattle for Australia…
Today's cunning plan is to paint the thistle/golden wattle combination for my lovely Australian customers. The good…
The Thistle and Golden Wattle to celebrate a Scottish/Australian connection is finished.
Pauline reflects that after her Likes jumped up to over 5000 her business really took off, but it still takes constant work. Now she is adding fans regularly and sales have become steady, but people still need constant reminders and redirection back to the shop. Even though sales information is listed clearly at the top of her page, she regularly responds to enquiries asking, “where can I buy this”. Pauline’s posts are designed to keep her work at the front of people’s mind, she doesn’t want the page to become static. If her posts are not engaging then Facebook could see her as less relevant and take her out of people’s news feeds.
Pauline’s newest effort sees her branching out into YouTube tutorials
She is cross posting these onto her Facebook page and using them to drive awareness and engagement with her work. So far the feedback has been enthusiastic!
Prior to this, other social networks had been taking a back seat and Pauline has been concentrating on Facebook because she’s found it to be the best route to her core audience. Other businesses may find that other networks like Instagram or Twitter or Tumblr (or a mix of these) will work best depending on your audience profile. Similarly you may find that other types of Facebook ads will be more or less effective. The key is to plan activities based on a strategy and then implement it.