“Successful artists who thrive in their chosen B2B channels have a vision of the business they wish to build.” ~ Carolyn Edlund
Step 5: Get Creative With B2B
As an entrepreneur, you’re the one in control. How you build your business is limited only by your imagination. Working on something you’re passionate about that also attracts clients and serves their needs is possible when you have a concept that provides a “win” for all parties involved.
Artist Todd Scalise used an innovative approach when he founded Higherglyphics LLC, a small business based on the concept of creative placemaking. He designs and installs art in public places that transforms ordinary spaces into exciting environments.
The artist identified a need in his hometown of Erie, Pennsylvania and developed a market that didn’t previously exist. Centered in the rust belt with an industrial past that had long since faded, Erie needed to reinvent itself as a city with a rich history. Scalise realized that art was the perfect vehicle to create buzz for the city, increase civic pride and attract tourism dollars.
Taking a risk by self-funding his first endeavor, Scalise designed and installed the Annex Stairwell project, a 1,200 square foot, four-story narrative about the history of Erie in the local art museum.
The uniqueness of community art attracts visitors to the heart of a city like Erie where the real return on investment awaits. Community art stimulates more than just the soul – it also stimulates economic development. The Annex Stairwell Project has seen 7,000 visitors a year, and with a projected lifespan of twenty years, will help the art museum draw tourists into the foreseeable future. Earned media from the project has led to significant magazine, newspaper, and television exposure. The project was highlighted in the museum’s annual fundraising campaign and has been a significant contribution to the Erie Art Museum’s $10 million expansion.
There are additional perks for the client, too. “Once the project is complete and installed, merchandise is created from the project art.” Scalise said. “The merchandise provides a residual stream of revenue for the client, and increases their brand awareness. This in turn helps defray marketing costs, because there is no better form of advertising than someone wearing your brand.”
Success with merchandise sales is shared by the artist, who takes advantage of yet another B2B model – wholesaling. Scalise leveraged mages he designed and used in the Annex Stairwell Project. Those images are printed on products that are wholesaled to the Erie Art Museum store, then marked up to retail price, and sold to the public.
“The client isn’t the only one who benefits from the publicity. The artist does as well,” he said. “It is through this marketingstrategy that I have pursued new clientele, creating increasingly larger and larger community art projects.”
Subsequent projects have included an exterior mural design for Mercyhurst Preparatory School and a 2-year bicentennial visual public relations campaign to commemorate Oliver Hazard Perry’s victory over the British in the Battle of Lake Erie. Given his success with the Annex Stairwell, these projects were fully funded and paid by his clients. The risk he took by self-funding the initial project has paid off with experience in this market, a reputation for results and the trust of his target customers.
The idea of entering a B2B market may be daunting, but be assured that plenty of other artists are working successfully and profitably in these sales channels. People buy art from people and the commercial accounts you will be approaching are made up of individuals who may find your business concept and your art as exciting as you do.
Carolyn G. Edlund is an art business consultant, writer and speaker and the founder of the “top-ten” art blog ArtsyShark.com. In her role as the Executive Director of the Arts Business Institute (artbusinessinstitute.org) she presents professional development workshops for artists throughout the U.S. and abroad.