Artists create, sustain online brands

  • Mark Hatcher of Peterborough demonstrates playing one of his guitars in the upstairs of his studio, which is dedicated to producing YouTube clips of the guitar’s sound. —Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • Melanie Chouinard of Milford works in her Wilton studio on a dragon figurine. —Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Monday, October 10, 2016 6:42PM

When you are trying to hook a customer that may never see you, your shop or even their purchase in person, the best way to do it is to create a large virtual world for them to explore.

If someone is looking to buy a guitar from craftsman Mark Hatcher of Peterborough, for example, they might visit his website first. From there, they could view YouTube videos where they can listen to artists play guitars he built. They would also find links to his Flickr account, a photo sharing website where he posts pictures of guitars throughout the building process, along with photos of his studio. And a lot of the people exploring those places are people that Hatcher meets and gets to know on acoustic guitar forums.

“Especially with artists, when you’re selling something you’ve made, you’re selling more than an item – you’re selling a piece of you. You have to have a brand,” said Hatcher. “I make a big deal out of where my studio is, the lovely town of Peterborough. That’s part of my brand.”

But in order to have an online presence, said Hatcher, you need to invest a very precious resource – time. In fact, Hatcher said, he splits his time in studio with his time online working on his marketing by about 60 percent to 40 percent, respectively. 

For those that think that’s too much time to devote to promoting their business online?

“They’ll go out of business thinking that,” said Hatcher. “You’ve got to climb out from under that rock.”

Melanie Chouinard of the Silver Branch in Wilton agreed. Chouinard, who makes hand-sculpted fantasy figures and accessories, started as an Etsy store who mainly advertised her wares through art shows and fairs paired with platforms like Facebook.

While about half of her sales are still online through her website or through Etsy, Chouinard said that she would never have gotten the funds to have her dedicated studio space at the Riverview Mill in Wilton without starting that online shop first. 

The main draw of online marketing, said Chouinard, is its far reach and the fact that there are many ways to promote yourself as an artist for little to no cost other than your time.

“With online marketing, you can reach a very large audience, very quickly,” said. “When I go to shows, which I consider a physical form of advertising, or do an online ad, that’s where I see returns.”

Chouinard, too, says she dedicates a chunk of her day to maintaining her online presence and posting photos of her wares. 

“You need to start somewhere,” said Chouinard. “A lot of people think they can’t have that presence online because they’re not computer savvy. But once I show them how to set up an Etsy account, for example, how easy it is, they say ‘This is great.’ But you need to take that step.”