Cathrin Machin is one of Australia’s fastest growing contemporary artists, with a reputation for boldly engaging the primal questions of reality and existence. An Astro-artist working with oil and canvas, Cathrin’s work is simply mesmerising. But aside from her natural gift with the brush, Cathrin is also a master of what we at creativehub call the ‘New wave’. That is artists who have seen great success in their careers through embracing social media, new technology, a global audience, and marketing techniques that defy the gatekeepers of the art world.
Talk us through your approach to selling art online
Absolutely. So I want to work as an artist, I don’t necessarily want to work as a print seller, as such. However, selling prints is what enables me to fund all of my other projects and is absolutely key to any artist’s success.
So I only do time-limited sales. By this I mean I compress an entire year’s worth of sales into a period of about 7 to 10 days on my online Shopify store. This approach to selling online makes it very efficient to organise and promote as you can create a lot of excitement, a real environment of passion leading up to the launch. I’ll get onto that in a moment. But taking a step back, there is also a psychological element to selling this way, it’s great for conversion!
Whilst the store is live I use countdown timers on the products, so you know how many days are left to buy. Why? If something is available to buy all the time, you don’t have to make the decision to purchase now, you can just do it next week. And then by next week, you’ve already forgotten about it. That’s a big problem for a lot of artists. The amount of abandoned checkouts you get is sky high because people are like, “do I, should I?”
With my sales, once that 7 to 10 days is over, you can’t get access to those artworks again. So there is a real incentive to buy if you like the piece.
I’m so passionate about my artwork, and I know it’s going to make people really happy once they get it. So I do these time limited sales to really focus on what my purpose and mission is in life. I take that message, and I promote it like hell.
Tell us about your promotion strategy
I think that with a lot of these timed-sales 90% of the work is done before you launch. Actually, a tiny amount of stuff is done after launch! It’s about the build up, getting people involved, creating that environment of excitement and sharing your passion. That’s the whole point of the artwork in the first place, right?
There is a real benefit to having this compressed into a short period of time, and that is you can prepare a lot of content in advance. Before you launch your store you want to be doing the promotion 2 weeks in advance minimum, preferably 3 or 4. You want to be putting out as much content as possible, you want to be talking about the sale at great lengths. You have to just give up the fact that some people are going to be like, “Oh, she’s talking about the bloody art store again.” The reason I’m okay with that is that because I don’t run the stores all the time, so I feel I can push really hard during this period, and then you know, we can just talk about how cool space is after that.
What advice can you give for creating engaging social content?
If you want to become good at using any social media platform, the best thing you can do is be very conscious and aware of how you interact with it yourself. Gary Vee talks about this idea of 10×10, so take a social media platform and operate it for 10 hours and make 10 pieces of content. After this you’ll truly understand it.
This is true of any platform, whether it’s TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, whatever. Whilst you’re using it ask yourself, Why did I scroll past that post? How quickly did I scroll? At what point did I decide to? This post was interesting, why? Become hyper aware of your own interaction, and specifically of the things that you found interesting, or more importantly, why you skipped past something.
I did this and created a spreadsheet. The posts I skipped past I noted info such as their length. Similarly for the successful posts. I was looking for patterns! You have to be really curious, because this is the key to success for dominating any social platform.
Doing this taught me how to produce content that is correct for each social platform. So for instance, TikTok is a fantastic platform if you utilise it correctly. My technique for TikTok is something I call ‘the grand reveal’. That is basically interesting little clips where the viewer is not quite sure what is going on, then bam! Have a big reveal of the final piece.
The key to engaging content on TikTok is it has to be short and punchy, the shorter the better as far as the algorithm is concerned. This is because it really counts if someone’s watched the whole video all the way through rather than skipped.
In general, you want to be sharing content about how you’re making your work, behind the scenes stuff. More importantly, look straight into the camera, get your face on camera… especially photographers, photographers are the worst for this! Naturally they are more comfortable behind the lens. But customers need to connect with your passion and your excitement for the thing that you’re doing. Don’t worry If you think you look ridiculous, people are always going to think you’re ridiculous, it doesn’t make any difference. You might as well be successful and ridiculous!
Talk about what you are really passionate about, talk about the adventure. That might be what you love, what you use. It could be as simple as talking about you as a person. Half the time people are investing in your art because they’re investing in you. So let people get to know you.
Every time they see this content they’ll smile, because they know that they got to support someone that they believe in. That they played a part in the journey.
Content creation is time consuming. How do you manage this?
So for TikTok you really need to be thinking specifically in the TikTok mindset of how you’re going to film it. But with Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, you can basically just document everything you’re doing. Document yourself setting up your artwork, setting up your Shopify store, the conversations of trying to figure out what sizes to offer. Creating the artwork itself. Document all of that process and you’ll have the content ready to go when you need it.
Show the amount of effort you put in, tell that story. People often don’t understand just how much we put into our art, so you have to make them aware.
How do you talk about the actual artworks for sale?
Hold the prints in your hands. Reassure your customers of the quality, this is my number one rule! Talk about the density of the inks, get them used to the details, talk about the quality. A big portion of what I do is I talk about the paper I use, the German Etching Hahnemuhle paper. It has the nicest feel…such a weird thing to say.
Treat your artwork with care, always wear gloves, treat it with a level of reverence. These are important artefacts that you’re creating. Who knows, in 10, 20 years, when you’re a super famous artist they could be worth a lot of money. So treat them like they’re already there, 20 years into the future!
Also preview it for the customer, how it could look in their home. Put the artwork in a frame, mock it up on the wall in Photoshop. Really show them.
How do you get traffic to your online store?
Your email list is your number one tool for selling as an artist. No matter what you’re selling, you need an email list! Every single platform for me links to an email list sign up, I use Klaviyo. I love it. This is where I communicate and launch my timed sales.
So my sales are limited in time, but they are also exclusive to those who have signed up to my email list. You can’t get access to my store without the link and a secret password! Why on earth would I restrict it like that? It allows me to create a really exciting buying experience.
With any email marketing, number one piece of advice, make sure everyone double opts in, so that you’re GDPR compliant. People have to confirm that it’s a valid email address otherwise, they’re not actually effectively signed up.
In the month preceding the store launch you want to be dropping them a “Hey, I’ve got this whole catalogue of exciting things, it’s going to be launching, it’s only going to be available for a short period of time. If you want to purchase something join the email list to get the password”
I write these emails as if I’m writing to a friend. I don’t do anything fancy. Most people won’t be able to tell if I’m emailing them directly, or if I’m emailing them en masse. They look like a normal email, and that’s done with great purpose! I treat it like a real inbox, so when people reply, I always respond to them. It’s about creating a personalised experience.
So build your email list. In every single post, it doesn’t matter, TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, whatever, always have the link to sign up. And be really clear and honest about it, don’t hide it in a load of text.
How do you convert these sales? Talk me through the store launch process
It’s all about the countdown. Creating this exciting experience, this anticipation, a buzz. Before a launch you can see the Twitter feed going crazy with people refreshing their inbox, waiting for the password to come in.
3 days before launch I’m saying on social media things like, “I’m going to be sending an email to everybody today, just to check that you’re getting my emails – if you can’t see my emails, and you find it in your junk, put it to your saved list”.
This gives everyone some warning that the launch is almost there, because come sale date, if you’re not in there quickly, the limited items are going to be gone. Artwork is a supply and demand based economy in some ways. I don’t like to boil it down to being as cold as that, But it really is. The reason why artwork goes up in value after an artist dies, is because no more of it can be produced. It’s as simple as that. The way I sell my work in this way allows me to create a similar demand.
Then we’re doing the whole, 3 days to launch, 2 days, 1 day, 12 hours, 6 hours, 3 hours…I even do a live stream roadshow, where I stream on all the social platforms. We do half an hour on Facebook, then the next half an hour on Instagram, the next half an hour on TikTok, talking about the fact that we are literally about to launch.
Then Bam! The store opens and the surge comes in.