Ethical Marketing for the Creative Type, Part III

Generally speaking, marketing is all about creating your brand, that is, a unique identity that people will recognize and remember. It is what sets you apart from your neighbors and competitors. However, if you are a creative type, it is more of an extension of your personality in a lot of ways. An artist or fine crafter is not really looking for a brand per se, but more likely for a personal and unique style or expression that sets him or her apart from other artists and crafters. That unique style is your brand.

Just like success in marketing a manufactured product requires a commitment to your brand and to the strategy that goes with it, success in marketing your creative endeavors also requires commitment. And that is a commitment to your own expression and style. No sense in trying to copy or create what you think would sell more. Of course you can get inspired by what others are doing and selling, but is what you see really what you would like to be doing as well? In other words, you need a creative commitment to your true expression, regardless of where it takes you and how.

Of course, at this point you have to ask yourself whether you want to do this because you have to, because it is who you are, or if you just want to make money with the skills you have acquired, even if you have to compromise or give up what you really love. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that you couldn’t do what you love and make a living (of course you can!), or that you always have to choose between what you love and what sells. No, life is not really that clear cut, and you can always find a happy medium that suits your needs (maybe having a more commercial line along with your one-of-a-kind artwork or designs?). But I’ve found that it is crucial to have clarity of purpose and a strong commitment to what you do, because there will be times when things won’t go your way and you may find yourself choosing between sticking to your chosen art, even it if means tightening your belt for a while, and running for that regular job down the street, feeling defeated…

As a creative type, commitment does not just mean that you stick to your own style, but that you absolutely believe in yourself and what you do. This brings me back to my first post on this series (Ethical Marketing for the Creative Type), where I wrote about focusing on what you love. If you don’t have a commitment to what you do, you won’t be able to tap into your own expression or style, since you won’t put enough time and energy to find it, and if you cannot find your own style you won’t be able to commit to what you do. It all goes hand in hand, and that is why these posts are about “ethical marketing” and not just marketing. Being ethical, in this case, not only refers to using honest marketing techniques. It also implies being true to yourself and to your unique form of expression. It is about being honest with yourself and believing in what you do. Now, how does this relate to marketing? Well, here’s some more pointers for you as a continuation of my previous posts of this series:

3. View Your Web Design as an Extension of Yourself

First impressions are key, whether we are talking about personal relationships or marketing. And what is marketing, if not establishing a somewhat personal relationship with potential customers? You don’t just want to wow people visiting your home or intro page, you want to make them stay and explore it, and even come back to it. In my experience, people need to see your ad and hear about you many, many times before they actually act upon it. The same applies to your site. I’ve seen some very cool web design with fancy flash intros and images sliding and changing for contact info, services, and so on, that have no real content. It’s all visual. I may think that they’re super cool because I love that kind of stuff as an artist and web designer, but if there is no content to explore, then your visitors will be out of there in less than 20 seconds. And worse, the search engines won’t ever know you exist, making it impossible for potential online customers to find you.

4. Make Your Web Site Interesting and Easy to Navigate

Think of your home page as a huge business card and utilize the space to show what you can do, who you are, where you are coming from, and why you are so special and unique.  Furthermore, think of your whole site as a place where visitors come looking for something they want or need, and give them not one, but many reasons why they should choose you to help them fulfill those needs or desires. Just leave the car salesman style out of it.

Make your site easy to navigate. Have a menu that is clearly organized with your portfolio, or blogfolio, main features, or list of services. Gather your stuff into categories and subcategories. Add a search field so visitors can enter what they’re looking for, instead of having to look for it all around your site.

Prioritize. Organize your menu (yes, that’s what your visitor is going to go for first) in the order you want your visitors to know you. The “Home” page always goes first, but what goes after that is a matter of choice. You want them to jump to your shop, if you have one, or learn more about you, or follow your blogfolio, etc.? Remember that you are actually pointing out the way to what you want them to see. Of course, they can choose in what order they look at your site, but it is always good to direct them according to what you think is the best route. It also helps you prioritize and organize what you offer.

Have descriptions. Offer descriptions of what you are offering, what you do, what you have done, and what you can do (each in its proper place, of course). Have professional pictures, but not only pictures, even if you are a graphic artist. Create a balance between pictures and descriptions. Oh, and make sure you check your grammar and spelling! Nothing yells “unprofessional!” louder than consistent misspelling, bad grammar, or bad (fuzzy) pictures.

Give something for nothing: information about the materials you use, about your chosen style, and go beyond what you offer to share extra information that is related to what you do for free. Don’t you hate those sites that offer you information only in exchange for your email address or if you register for an account? I do. The energy I get from those is that the people behind them are stingy or the car salesman type. Not for me, thanks!

Make it personal. Talk about your style and how it came about. Share information about each of your designs, or services as if you were talking to a real person. Nowadays customers are more selective and have more experience on the web. Give them yet another reason to choose you by making things more personal. We all like that.

Put yourself in your visitor’s shoes. Your potential customers are glad to know who you are and what you do, but don’t forget that they come to your site looking for something that they want or need. So keep in mind that you need to focus more on them and their needs, and less on your accomplishments. In other words, share who you are but be more generous with the information you share that would benefit your customer, and leave the ego out of it. You search the web for stuff, too, so you know what I mean.

You probably get the picture by now: it’s all about interesting content, personal content, and content that is useful for your customer, that is well organized and easy to find. Yes, that’s what’s all about…

5. Make Your Web Site Easy to Find Through SEO

So now you have a wonderful site, you’ve put so much energy into it, but nobody knows about it. It is somewhere in cyberspace, amongst millions of other web sites! How do you get the search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo to index your site and show it on searches? That’s when you need to add SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, to your web site.

I won’t go in depth about this, since it’s a subject you can easily find information about on the web, plus it’s one of those aspects that certainly require a learning curve, if you want to do it yourself, but I will stress two main things about SEO that relate to what I’ve been saying all along:

Make Your Site Interesting and Relevant. The key to high rankings on the search engines is again content, content, and content. Google and the other main searches want to provide people with relevant information, that is, information that is relevant to what they are looking for. This can be tricky, of course, since everyone in the world has been trying to direct traffic to their sites with unethical (spammy) methods, but the search engines have algorithms that evolve and change over time, making it harder for sites with no useful content to rank higher on searches. So no matter what else you do for SEO, it won’t take you far if your site has no valuable content.

Be Ethical in Your Approach to SEO. Beware of SEO services that offer you quick top rankings for a few bucks. They will get you in trouble. Yes, Google bans sites that try to trick them with unethical methods. They may get you high rankings at first, but once Google finds out how you got there, they will ban you. So keep that in mind. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. SEO is an organic process that takes time, patience, and effort, just like your art does. So be ethical in your SEO process as well.

6. A Few Basic Search Engine Optimization Tips:

Title, description, and keyword tags. Make sure each of your pages have unique title, description, and keyword tags in the <head> section of the page (meaning the html source of your pages). This is what you see on the top of your browser and it is also what shows on search engines, so make sure it is not “Untited”!

Paragraphs and h1 tags. Use paragraphs and sections with keywords, as well as h1 and h2 tags on your content titles and subtitles, so that search engines know what your page is all about right off the bat, and how you prioritize the content on each page. If you don’t know what h1 and h2 tags are, then use bold type for those titles and subtitles.

Relevant keywords. Include keywords in your menu links, titles and subtitles, and also on the links that direct to other relevant pages on your site, such as where you have articles, your blog, testimonials, etc.

Links to your site. Have links with your keywords linking from other sites to yours. Link popularity has become a bit tricky since there was so much spam involved in the past and search engines are more cautious about this, but you can probably find directories, galleries, blogs, and other sites on the web that are relevant and can link to yours (sometimes for a fee, sometimes for a link exchange). A good way to have links is to write articles with your information and link, and post them wherever you can. If others like the article, they will post it again and again, and you will benefit from the links. Just keep in mind that link popularity needs to be an organic process for search engines to take it into account. If you suddenly have 100 links back to your site they will see that as spam. Plus, one good link (with well chosen keywords) from a relevant and high ranked site is much more valuable than a hundred links from irrelevant sites, web portals, and generic directories.

Social media and forums. Participate in forums and social media sites. Yeah, that’s the big thing nowadays. Choose a few relevant places to have your information and links to your main site. Plus, you will probably get some useful information from other creative types and make new contacts in the process. Create a page on Facebook, have a Twitter account, start a blog, post your profile on LinkedIn…

You get the picture. Get out there and spread your creative, interesting, and useful content, and do it in a way that reflects on who you are and what your unique style is! The energy you put into it all will come back to you. Yes, it’s time consuming, but if you are well organized you can do it. This is why I believe that it’s so important to have clarity of purpose, believe in yourself and what you do, find your unique creative expression and style, organize and prioritize things in your head, your web site, and your life, even for marketing purposes.

With an ethical mind frame, your marketing is simply telling the universe, this is what I do, this is what I believe in, and this is what I am willing to put all my energy into! Your creative effort will certainly pay off. And on those days when nothing seems to be going your way, and you start doubting and wondering if it is worth it, just remember that whatever you do is going into the “effort account” that will eventually overflow and bring you success. So keep up the good work!

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