10, oops, 17, Things You Need to Learn to Make It in Art Licensing

It started with 10, but then there was this… and that… and soon what you see. In no particular order:
 1. Content expires. You need to rewrite, redo and refresh. Constantly.
2. Customer acquisition is both the hardest and the most important thing you will do. Customers make a career.
3. Even your best customers will wilt and eventually fade away without attention. Nurture them.
4. Passion and innovation are worthless without good execution.
5. Marketing is a solutions process that encompasses the product, placement, price and promotion. Anything less is simply advertising.
6. How you did it yesterday is irrelevant, how you do it tomorrow will be different. Look for insight into what is successful today.
7. Every business relationship you have is predicated upon making saleable product and not upon the advancement of your career or brand.
8. Often licensed products don’t get made, or don’t sell well and are cancelled, so you need to accept that with a shrug and a smile and have your next idea ready.
9. Art directors have many excellent artists to choose from and will pick the ones that are easiest to work with.
10. The market is a filter. If you cannot get traction in the marketplace you need to be open to change. Kick your ego to the curb and listen to what the outside world is telling you.
11. Your customer knows their product capabilities, markets and end user far better than you do. Trust in their judgment.
12. You need to be all in. This means sparing no time or effort to master your craft, paying for the best software, investing in trade shows and travel. Halfway in won’t cut it.
13. Selling is an essential skill and if you are not good at it, or won’t take the time to learn the skill, then you need to find someone to do it for you.
14. The message often trumps the art. Economics trumps both. If the licensee cannot make and sell the product at a profit they won’t be interested.
15. Know thy customer: provide the right art for the right people. No one spends more than a few seconds on something that is not right for them.
16. There is a balance between being true to your art and doing what you want, and creating only for the customer needs and ignoring your muse. Too much of one will make you unhappy, and too much of the other will keep you poor.
17. The majority of what you create for licensing will never be licensed, so you need to create constantly and keep feeding it into the pipeline.
Anything to add?

Some Surtex Thoughts

Surtex is coming. This of course will come as news to you only if you have been locked in a basement with no access to all the art licensing hoopla that goes on out there. There is no end to the how-to’s, how I did its and what you should be doings available for consumption. Some are actually pretty good, some others, well, maybe doing one show is not enough to forge an expert…
SO, given that, here are a few extra tidbits they may not mention:
Don’t clutter up the booth with too many disparate or confusing images. The purpose of the art on the wall is to STOP someone so that you can engage them, not to educate them as they walk. You have about 5 seconds to get their attention before they pass by – think about that when you choose the wall art. The opposite – a super minimal booth – is also a mistake.
If you are new at licensing your focus at the show should be building relationships, not selling art. (Unless you sell outright, but that’s a different model). Ask your attendees lots of questions. You are interested in learning all you can about what they do, for a couple of reasons. People love to talk about themselves, and I mean that in a good way, so be fascinated with what they do and how they do it. Then, and only then, can you accurately gauge what work of yours may make sense for them. Until you know them do not ask what they are looking for because they probably don’t know. Your job is to discover enough information to tell them what they need to see.
Lock eyes, SMILE and say Hello as people walk by. Write that on your hand – it’s amazing how many exhibitors sit in the back of their booth and scowl through the entire show. The attendees have a lot of booths to choose from and you want them to find yours inviting. Have chairs out front and keep them open for clients, which may mean shooing the friendly neighbors away until they get the point. Stand up when you are not with clients – that’s the show version of “leaning in”.
Always have your one-sheet available, that single sheet with a few typical designs that tells who you are, what you do and lists your contact info. Use good design sense when you lay it out (white space is your friend) and remember you are not trying to sell with it, just making it easy for them to see what you do and how to get a hold of you. Have them out within easy reach for those people who do not want to stop and talk, and leave a few on the counter whenever you are not in the booth, including after hours.
Manage your expectations. There are nearly 300 registered exhibitors as of this week, and many of them represent more than one artist, some more than a hundred. Sixteen long rows of booths filled with designs from a couple of thousand artists, some with decades of experience displaying the best licensing art in the world. Can you say “intimidating”? Bring your “A” game, leave the rest at home. Show what you love and love what you’re showing because you need to exude confidence while you meet, greet, ask questions and build your contact list. Sales trainers talk about the 100-10-3-1 system, which basically means for every 100 contacts you make, your art will be actively reviewed by 10 of them, 3 will be interested and you’ll sign a contract with 1. Which means you need to get in front of a lot of people to make things happen, so don’t expect to be coming out of the show with a pile of contracts, that’s not how it works. Forget that benchmark and work on building future business.
It takes time to penetrate the market. The common wisdom is that you need to exhibit 2 or 3 times before you see any real results. Of course that translates into 2 or 3 years of significant investment, but this is a get rich slow scheme, a one licensed product at a time building process. Make that your goal and you will be a lot happier with the outcome of the show.