Image by eleanor.black
Admit it. You hate math. Algebra gives you chills. Statistics makes you queasy. Calculus makes your blood run cold.
In college I took Calculus for Non-Science Majors. It just about killed me. I was in the math lab every day begging the graduate students for help. Advanced math befuddled me. I sat through class thinking, “When am I ever going to use this?” As I started getting into internet marketing, however, I learned that numbers do have real value.
It all started with Google Analytics. My very first website was running for some time before someone told me, “You really need to stop using a hit counter on your site. That’s just tacky.” I installed Google Analytics on my site and voila! Suddenly (like, over the course of a year) I was a data wizard. I knew how many people were visiting my site. I knew how they got there, how much time they spent, and what they clicked on. Numbers suddenly became very interesting to me, because the numbers told me how to make money.
Numbers Sell More Art
Whenever I’m speaking to artists about their marketing plans they invariably ask me, “What’s the best way to market my work?” To that I always respond, “Experiment and measure.” Artists have a habit of throwing their art out scattershot and hoping something works without sitting down to analyze it.
I met a painter who had spent thousands at art fairs and didn’t realize she was barely breaking even until she sat down and looked at her finances. She changed her focus and moved her work online. She’s now selling more.
A photographer I spoke to let his prints collect dust at a coffee shop for six months without knowing how many people had seen them. He didn’t sell a single print. He focused on his website and his sales doubled in the first year.
Another painter looked at her web traffic data to find out what her most popular paintings were. She moved them to her home page and immediately saw a spike in sales.
An artist who was chronically ill spent thousands on expensive medical treatments and years doing research on her condition. No one had an answer. She then spent three months recording her daily health status and activities and found a pattern. She’s now back to being a productive artist with lots of energy.
Any of these sound like you?
Simple fixes like taking some time to look at your numbers can save you heart ache, money, and lots of time.
How to Read the Numbers
Don’t Be Scared
College math was complicated. Website statistics are not. Just look at how many people are visiting your site, what they’re looking at, how much time they’re spending, and whether they bought something. Each of these pieces of data will give you something you can do.
If you know what part of your site people are clicking on and how much time they’re spending, you’ll know what your most popular content is – and what it’s not. For example, on my blog, I track my blog posts over time to see which ones get the most traffic. If some become more popular than others, I will often write follow up posts, going into more depth on a particular topic.
Google Analytics is free and is one of many similar software solutions that will track this data for you. You can also use CrazyEgg to see a visual overlay of where people click on, and even mouse over, your website.
Measure Just One Thing
If you are overwhelmed by data, try counting just one thing. You’d be amazed at how much you can learn just by tracking, for example, the number of people who buy something whenever you send out an email announcing your new art for sale (you do this, right?).
I use MailChimp.com to manage my email newsletter. It tells me how may people opened my newsletters, and how many clicked on the links to my websites. You can also use it to do something called A/B testing, where you send one email to part of your list, and the same email with a small variation like a different subject line to the other part of your list. This lets you test various ways of marketing so you know which ones works better.
The artist who had a chronic health condition invited her friend who was an actuary over to help her make sense of three months’ worth of tracking data. The actuary showed her how to find patterns in just a couple of hours. Enlisting the skills of your left-brained friends is a good idea.
Using Google Documents to track the patterns that she found in the data, this artist was able to speak to her physician about her condition and provide additional insight that the doctor then used to make small adjustments to her treatments and medications. These small adjustments made a major difference in her quality of life.
I still hate calculus – but I really like data.
What Numbers Do You Need to Track?
What about you? What do you measure in your creative life?
What key metrics do you already measure in your business?
What other figures could you benefit by measuring?
About the Author: Cory Huff is an actor, director, and blogger. He teaches artists why selling art online isn’t all that scary at TheAbundantArtist.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @AGoodHusband.