Art has been a passion my whole life, and I took up painting as a hobby about two years ago. Since then, I’ve made some unexpected connections between this art and that of marketing.

1. Plan ahead. When I started painting, I jumped in and enthusiastically started covering canvasses with paint. After they dried, I would get them wall-ready by attaching D-rings and wires on the back. But the force necessary to screw the D-rings to the frames’ wood damaged a few paintings. More than once, my screwdriver slipped and tore right through the canvas. Thus, I learned the hard way to put the wires on before diving into painting.

I think this lesson is especially relevant to marketers. It’s so easy to get excited about our creative new campaign that we can forget to ensure all the pieces are in place before launch. Maybe you need to gather point-in-time analytics so you can accurately measure the campaign’s end results. Or test how your promotional email will render in Yahoo, Gmail, and Outlook inboxes before hitting send. Or put adequate staffing in place to handle customers’ response to the promotion. Whatever it is, getting your ducks in a row first will reduce later headaches.

2. Keep learning. Originally, I was a natural at my new hobby and created dozens of paintings. Eventually though, I hit a wall, frustrated with my limited and repetitive style. For some new knowledge and inspiration, I signed up for an abstract painting class at the Indianapolis Art Center taught by a master’s degree-holding professional painter. I entered my first class slightly skeptical, however, about what she could teach a creative and experienced artist such as myself.

She gave me advice within the first 10 minutes of the first class that I think paid for the whole seven-week course. And I’ve continued to benefit greatly since then.

Even if you’re an experienced marketer, there’s no shame in fostering your ongoing education or seeking out advice from other experts. In fact, it’s as vital for keeping up in the fast-changing marketing realm as it is for staying current in the capricious art world.

3. Get the tools you need. Like a bootstrapping entrepreneur, I opted for cheap materials when I started painting. Since I didn’t want to spend too much while I was still learning, I bought inexpensive, student-level acrylic paint. But over time, I realized that this cheap paint – especially my go-to jug of red – didn’t satisfactorily cover the canvas. During my first painting class, I brought in my paints to show my teacher, and she explained how higher level paints have higher ratios of higher quality pigments. She advised spending just a bit more to get the bright hues I sought, especially on the reds, which are notoriously difficult when it comes to pigment.

This is just as true for marketers. Sure, we don’t need to spend on every mobile app, every premier conference, and every high end piece of automation software. But there are tools out there that will help you be a better marketer through enhanced efficiency or effectiveness. Find the area where some investment can make the most impact. What is your red?

4. Think about your end goal. I was new to stretched canvasses in general when I started painting, and I didn’t know what to do with the sides. It seemed unfinished not to paint them, so I painstakingly matched the sides to the front. When I asked my teacher for her take, she replied, “It depends what your goal is. I typically don’t paint the sides because I’m focused on the two-dimensional plane of the painting. If you paint the sides, the canvas becomes more like a sculptural piece.” Her advice opened my eyes, and now I visualize how I want my paintings to end up – flat or 3D – before I get started.

Similarly, think about your marketing goals before kicking off. Are you trying build awareness, increase revenue, gain more donors, be seen as an expert? If you don’t connect your efforts to concrete goals, the shape of your campaign will be hazy at best.

5. Things don’t always turn out as planned. Armed with some new inspiration in my art class, I created a pair of expressive paintings that signified a departure from my old style. While I stood back and admired their vivid colors, the teacher stopped by for input and reminded me, “It looks great, but unfortunately acrylics don’t look as vibrant when they’re dry as when they’re wet.” Sure enough, the paint dulled quite a bit, but the paintings were still my finest yet.

Even the best-planned marketing efforts don’t always turn out as you expect, and that’s okay. It’s how we learn to work with what we have or improve our approach for next time. Just like painting, marketing is an art that takes time to master.

5 Lessons for Marketers from Painting
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