View Full Version : Advertising or spamming?

12-14-2001, 12:47 PM
In order to sell, people need to know what you have for sale. To let them know, you need to advertise, in one or more ways. For reasons I'm unclear about, advertising on the internet is known as spamming. And spamming to most is a no-no. A terrible sin.

I have a web site where I offer my art for sale. How do I let prospective buyers know about my "products" without committing that terrible act of spamming? How do I direct them to my web site?

I've asked myself what forms of advertising am I receptive to and what do I find annoying. Email ads are annoying to me and immediately deleted, usually without opening. Banners on web pages are definately annoying to me and never responded to. I have also tried banners with little or no success.

One thing that has worked for me, but is now not do-able is to list on eBay with links to my web site on the listing. That way, only those that liked my work would explore my site to see more of it. eBay has made that impossible by banning links to web sites on listings. I've looked at other auctions, but haven't found one that has much traffic. And they may have similar rules, too.

Any ideas?

12-14-2001, 01:15 PM
I guess one option is the 'webring' route but that can often be a little incestuous. It can have good effects though. Word-of-mouth with an address is still a solid way of advertising even in cyberspace


12-14-2001, 01:46 PM
Jack, at Ebay you can have an 'About Me' page where you CAN have a link to your website. So people interested in your work would click on the 'About Me' icon and from there they can go to your website. That's definitely worth doing.

12-14-2001, 02:06 PM
I've always had a "Me" page at eBay, but still there has been a very definate drop in my web page hits since eBay made the change in the rules. Apparently, many people don't like to take that extra step.

I also have a webring, but maybe the wrong one (metalsmith's)?

To sell, you must advertise....but somehow advertising has taken on an evil connotation on the internet. A darned if do and darned if you don't thing.

Still there must be a way that's not downright annoying to folks.

12-14-2001, 07:28 PM
Internet advertising has taken on a bad reputation because the "cost" of mailing an ad is paid not by the advertiser, but by the viewer - and so many illegitimate advertisers have flocked to the internet to abuse it, and users have taken the brunt of it.

We all get a lot of junk mail in our postal boxes, but the paper, printing it and bulk postage all costs something, therefore not all but most illegitimate marketers are screened out. Unfortunately, the internet doesn't have a similar screen.

The most preferred way to market online is known as "opt-in". That means a user has elected themselves to receive emails from you. Most do this via some vehicle like a newsletter. Always provide easy ways to unsubscribe.

The next level is called "opt-out". This is sending emails without prior permission but then saying unsubscribe here if you don't want to receive any further emails. This worked for awhile for legitimate marketers but then the traditional spammers made their mailings like this and in fact manipulate replies to be removed as a way to collect valid email addresses to sell to other spammers. So there's a lot of opt-out marketing going on, but it's quickly gotten a reputation as spamming as well.

I get about 3 emails a day saying "Thank for your subscribing to our list, blah blah" when in fact I never did and they are just trying to make it look like I've opted in when I have not.

The final level is just plain ole spam - sending advertising emails to people without prior permission AND providing no way to remove their name from your list.

Another characteristic of spams is its level of target. The more users on your intended list who will have a self-perception that they have no interest in your email, the more that will feel like its spam.

So, like most things, marketing online can be done properly without offending people, but it takes a lot of time and effort and usually more than people want to spend on it, so many go the lazy route and end up with some variation of a potential "spam" feeling to their mailing.

12-15-2001, 12:29 AM
Jack, you're right about the drop in visitors since eBay stopped allowing the link to a personal website on the description page. I noticed that too, but I still get a lot of viewers who go to my ABOUT ME page and find my site! Right now, eBay is very slow! I'm told that things will pick up around mid January to Feb....I certainly hope so.

I keep a list of all my buyers emails and send them a notice when I've been off-line for awhile to let them know I'll be listing new paintings. I include a note at the bottom to let me know if they prefer to not receive any "press releases". I also send everyone that is in my mail list (friends, relatives, etc.)a copy of my press release. I don't consider this spam....it's keeping in contact with people who have expressed an interest in my work or who have bought my paintings before.

I belong to a couple of web-rings...but I don't think they add much to exposure on the web. But reciprocal links from other sites do more for me than the rings. It also helps you to rank higher with the search engines. Be sure that your search terms are helping you when customers are looking online for your items! These are the "meta" tags at the top of your html for your website.

The one way I would not advertise is to just send emails thru those web advertising spam sites! You're right...they are immensely annoying!

12-15-2001, 10:14 AM
Jack, my method for collecting an "opt-in" list is a free monthly drawing. I state that if they register for the drawing, they will also be put on my list for occasional (about once a month) announcements. I have a list of 200+, and although it can be a pain to keep track of, its gotten me a targeted group that I know are interested in my art. Each monthly mailing, I have from a couple to a couple dozen 'non-deliverables' that I have to delete but SELDOM do I get a request to REMOVE them from the list. I average about 1 entry a day (or did before Sept.).

I've tried the webrings -- I personally think they're fairly worthless and can really slow down the page you have them on.

As far as I can tell, links from other sites is the best bet. Of course I have a very targeted group (cat people) which helps. I have a 'links' page where I post reciprocal links. I did pay one search engine $99 that was CAT specific to put my listing at the top of my related category (shopping/art). This seemed to boost hits, but not sales.

Hits versus Sales -- As of yet, I've seen very little relationship between hits and sales. It seems only logical, that the more hits, the more sales. But I haven't seen it yet!

One thing that has helped the activity on my site (and generated a few sales) is getting involved with message boards -- I've been on a LOT of cat related boards and it has definitely helped. HOWEVER the drawback is it is VERY time consuming and you need to become part of the 'community' before really talking about what you have for sale.

I'm just waiting for that 'magic' promotional tool -- easy, quick, inexpensive, generates LOTS of sales...I'm afraid it will be a long wait.

12-15-2001, 11:22 AM
Thanks for starting this thread Jack!! =)

Hairball, where can I get into this auction for your site? =) I agree about the message boards. That has been my best form of advertising. I also have a guestbook on my webpage with an Update Yes or No on it. This has allowed me to build a list, but I haven't taken advantage of it yet. I'm currently in school and don't have the time needed yet to market properly but I don't want to wait until I finish either. So currently I'm starting with word of mouth and message boards. So far for Ebay it's been really effective as I've sold pretty much whatever I've put out there so far. :D I am also slowly picking up some commissions.

Jack, the friends of mine that are actually making their living off their art do a lot of non-internet advertising. They take out ads in magazines, send press releases to the newspapers, participate in online message boards, write articles for online and offline publications, and send out newsletters. Most started out doing shows but either have already or are in the process of moving to only using galleries.

Carly, I didn't know about reciprocal links creating higher search engine rankings! THANKS! =) Also, I keep hearing about ebay sales being down. I've sold quite a bit, or so it appears to my newbie eyes. I've had 16 paintings sell so far and only two that ended with no sale. Now I'm only brand new at this as I posted my first auction on 11/16 so what is meant by slow? Are the amount of sales I've had considered slow, or have I just been lucky so far? Curious because I don't know what to look forward to and am hoping that I can keep this level of activity going. I was thinking that sales were up BECAUSE of Christmas. Is that not true? THANKS!

12-15-2001, 01:19 PM
The easiest way to find my auctions is do a search for "hairballs" -- I'm using that in every title.

This round of prints for sale isn't doing as well (too close to Christmas?), but if you search the 'completed items' you can see what I sold last week.

> write articles for online and offline publications

This is something I plan to try too. There are a LOT of small publications out there (especially in my area of cats) that are delighted to accept free articles. I've done newsletters (designed/produced) for other people/companies and their BIGGEST complaint is its so hard to get enough new, fresh material (articles) to fill them. I don't plan to necessarily write about art -- just cats -- but I WILL insist that I have a by line that includes 'hairballs.com'. I'm hoping that will be enough to make it worth the time to do the writing.

12-15-2001, 02:58 PM
Jack, This was my first year at eBay but already I've seen a trend with the sales and if you hang out in the ebay forums, you'll pick up a ton of info from members who have been around for several years.

Best times for sales...spring (beginning in February - thru May)and then fall (beginning in September thru mid November)

The Christmas slump happens because of the delayed time in buying and shipping. And of course, buyers want that instant purchase rush that you get with retail buying at the mall! Summer is slow (but I did well thru the summer last year!) because so many folks are on vacation and the kids are out of school. Of course that's generalizing, but it makes sense. Sales dropped a lot in August this year! and that was just before school began.

I had a retail business at one time...and found that sales dropped in August for the same reason but picked up again after school started! The regulars on eBay say to list fewer items during the slumps but keep your name out there! If your sales were good part of the time, then they will pick up again in the spring.

12-20-2001, 11:48 AM
Thanks, everyone for all the suggestions. Marketing is one of my weak non-talents. :confused: Yet it is at least as important as making the "product". Even art is worthless if it sits in your garage, unseen. I'd rather give it away, than store it. But that doesn't pay the bills or feed us.

I once had a boss who was sales oriented and he had a saying, "Nothing happens until someone sells something". I used to disagree with him, thinking that you first must have something to sell or, "Nothing happens until someone makes something to sell". Now I'm thinking they are probably equally important. It's the old question, "Which came first, the chicken or the egg".

I know there is a market for what I have to offer.....How do I find it? I've tried fliers, locally, and it was successful in getting me invited to shows. I've joined local art organizations and that has helped give me some exposure. I've probably tried most of what has been suggested here, except the news letter and mailing list ideas. Those seem time consuming and I still work for a living, which leaves me little extra time. I haven't tried advertising in the local advertising media yet, but have been looking at the options.

Recently, I've even thought about bartering.........Hmmmm. I wonder if my dentist would like a nice wall sculpture. ;)

12-20-2001, 02:10 PM


You might try posting a message about your art to such
Usenet sites as misc.misc and some of the alt boards.

12-21-2001, 04:24 PM
I have just started my "art career" (such as it is/was) again after a gap of 12 years so can't give you any Internet marketing tips on artwork ... what worked for me "pre-Internet" was actually getting my work out and seen by people who were likely to be interested in my type of work ... horse and dog people, ranchers and farmers ... and retired people who were in these fields.

I asked the local veterinarians ... western stores ... feed stores ... lawyers who did a lot of the ranch work ... if they would be interested in having some of my artwork to display. I had a couple of places ... two vets and one law office ... where I actually rotated pictures/paintings ... and traded some artwork several times to vets for work.

I didn't do much magazine advertising ... but I also raised horses and dogs and some of my horse advertising I did I used portraits I had done of my animals.

I have been advertising the horses on the Internet now for the past 3 1/2 years ... so I'm getting a feel for Internet advertising (and unfortunately no, you can't sell them thru eBay!) but I think I can use many of the techniques I've learned with the artwork now that I'm going back to that again.

I would say that a good, navigable website is one of the necessities ... if you aren't very good at website design it can really pay in the long run to have one done for you. I'd almost say a badly done website is almost worse than none at all!

I suspect, from what I've seen with the horses, that bulletin board sites may be one of the best venues ... as mentioned before, however, it can be time consuming and you need to be cautious about "over-advertising" ...

Another thing I've found useful with the horses (and suspect it may be equally useful with the art) are the elists that are subject-specific ... some permit "advertising" and some do not ... the rules will tell you when you sign up ... some permit images, others do not ... but you can sign your messages with a "signature" ... name & website URL. Some of the lists may have several hundred members ... so you do reach quite a number of people that way.

As Hairball has already mentioned, if you do a specific type of art I suspect there are a number of elists that have subscribers specifically interested in that ... whether it is cats, horses, dragons or steam engines ...

12-27-2001, 12:57 AM
I have done a lot of research on marketing recently, and here are my suggestions to add to what others have said:

Write articles (Think of a topic you know something about and contact magazines, newspapers, etc. to see if they're interested. Many will give you a "blurb" about the author in which you can include your website. After looking at your art, I'd suggest targeting gardening magazines, or "country" decorating/ home magazines.)

Send press releases to your local media (This work well if you live in a smaller town rather than a large city. Think of something newsworthy about your art and write to the newspaper about it.)

Include a picture of your art (and your website) on your business cards, and then give them to ANYONE who expresses any interest. You never know how they may get passed on.

Introduce yourself in a creative way that makes people ask questions. Eg. My name is Jack and I like twisted metal. (I'm sure you can come up with something better than that, but it's late!)

Give business cards to relatives and friends to hand out. I have students from all over the world (I do online tutoring) because my parents travel a lot and give my business cards to people all the time.

There are several great books on marketing by Marcia Yudkin. It is time consuming (and not something I enjoy doing very much either) but it gets the bills paid!

All the best!

12-27-2001, 06:35 AM
One book that I found the most helpful in advertising was a book called "Guerilla Marketing" by Jay Levinson.

I used it almost like a textbook ... and he has several others out now, including one that covers Internet marketing. Haven't read that one with the art "business" in mind, but he is a very talented marketing expert so I'm sure there are things that would be useful ...

12-27-2001, 11:22 AM
There are some great ideas here that should be helpful to all of us. I know it is helping me to find new ways of getting my art exposed to those interested. There are several ideas here that I'm going to work at.

Thanks to everyone that has responded so far. Please keep them coming.

12-31-2001, 10:57 AM
have you tried offering your work to your local furniture or outdoor shops as wholesale items? Also garden centers or other places where outdoor furniture is sold?

Your work is unique and one of a kind. That should make it collectible...you might use that as a marketing hook! And remember, the retailer marks up things (usually 100%). Consider a suggested retail price if you decide to offer work wholesale. This way, you set the wholesale and a suggested retail price....sounds more professional!

12-31-2001, 01:02 PM
Thanks Carly,

I have made some inroads with garden centers, or to be more exact, nurserys that have garden centers. I hadn't thought about furniture stores, however and that might be a very good place to display my work. Hmmmmmm! Model homes?