How to Expertly Market Your Tattoo Shop
To own a successful tattoo shop, you have to be great at two things: tattooing and marketing. The first is probably your passion – you spend hours studying, practicing, and perfecting your craft. That marketing part, though? For many shop owners, it doesn’t come quite as naturally. But love it or hate it, you can market your tattoo shop successfully even with little to no marketing or business background. To jumpstart your shop’s marketing strategy, we’ve got tips for growing your tattoo shop, plus some tough-love wisdom from marketing success story Casey Hart of Foxwood Tattoo Collective.
Building Your Tattoo Shop Brand
After years of hustling, Casey Hart has reached the “easy” stage of marketing her business. She’s always booked months in advance, with so many potential clients that she couldn’t possibly say yes to them all.
But she didn’t get there by accident.
Hart’s marketing mindset set her up for success even in the early days when she was just starting out. While she knows that it may be frustrating when your books aren’t as filled as you’d hope, Hart advises artists to look at that extra time as an opportunity to expand their business and brand:
“So, the question is, ‘How do artists that are just starting out and not tattooing very much make money?’ The answer is you don’t…at least at first. The answer is you sit, and you wait, and you take all those walk-ins and you do everything to make sure that you are selling yourself. You have to sell your artwork. Why is my tattoo better than everyone else’s? Why should you sit in my chair and not that guy’s?
So, if you’re not tattooing, you’re making priorities for all these [other] things like making business cards, designing a T-shirt, or communicating to clients exactly how you offer an amazing experience.”
9 Ways to Grow Your Tattoo Shop
Sound easier said than done? To help you out, we’ve broken down that “marketing mindset” into practical steps you can start taking now. Here are 9 ways you can grow your shop, including strategies used by Hart herself.
At the risk of stating the obvious, social media is one of the most important marketing tools at your disposal. A haphazard social media strategy isn’t going to cut it, though. While you may not need influencer-level devotion to your socials, you should be intentional about taking quality photos, presenting yourself professionally, and posting regularly across multiple platforms.
For detailed tips on making the most of your accounts, check out our Tattoo Artist’s Guide to Instagram, artist Jake Karmol’s TikTok success story, and our guide to Improving Your Brand as a Tattoo Artist.
Hart has a hot take on social media that you may also want to follow: don’t DM! Say what? DMs can be a major time suck for very little return on investment. Instead, Hart makes it clear in her bios that she only takes inquiries through email. This directs clients to her website, weeds out potential clients who likely weren’t serious to begin with, and reduces the time she spends managing her accounts.
Review Site Optimization
Review sites like Yelp and Google My Business are often a client’s first impression of your shop. Be sure to claim your business on Yelp if you haven’t yet and update it with accurate business information, high-quality photos of your work, and a link to your website.
Positive reviews will come with time and quality work, but you can speed up the process simply by asking satisfied clients to leave a review of their honest opinion. It doesn’t have to be awkward or pushy. When a client comments on how much they love a piece, try saying something like, “That’s awesome — I’m so glad. And hey, if you have a minute, it really helps us out if you can leave a review on Yelp or Google.” Most satisfied clients will be more than happy to do so.
Google My Business
Speaking of Google My Business, creating one for your tattoo shop is essential. In addition to providing potential clients with reviews, a Google My Business account improves your local SEO (more on that below) and helps you rank on map searches. It also makes it easy for clients to find your contact info, location, and business hours.
But don’t stop at the basic information. Go the whole nine yards and complete every section in detail, adding videos, photos, and keywords. Add a punchy “from the business” description that talks about your unique style and what sets your shop apart from the rest.
SEO Optimize Your Website
Unless you’ve built a national following with clients willing to travel to your shop (and you can make that happen), local SEO is your tattoo shop’s bread and butter for now. When someone in your area searches “local tattoo shops” or “tattoo shops near me,” you want your shop to be at the top of the list. So how do you get there?
Google My Business and Yelp are great places to start, but you’ll want to focus on your own website too. Start with the basics: make sure your website has the name of your city and surrounding communities as well as keywords relevant to tattooing (i.e., tattoo shop, tattoo artists, etc.). From there, local SEO management tools like BrightLocal offer very affordable plans that audit your website and give you specific steps to improve your local SEO.
For more tips on setting up your shop’s website, check out our Time Management Tips for Creatives featuring more insights from Casey Hart.
Email + SMS Marketing
If you aren’t sending emails and texts, you’re missing out on a chance to get repeat clients and attract new ones. Gather emails and phone numbers on your intake forms for clients. You can also use your website to gather new emails from potential clients: just include a space for emails on your contact form or offer downloadable items they might be interested in. For example, you might offer a “Guide to Choosing the Right Tattoo Artist for You” or an expanded portfolio.
When it comes to the content of your emails and texts…keep it simple. For example, a monthly newsletter could include what’s new around the shop and photos of your recent work. You can also send emails and texts with updates on your booking availability, i.e., “This quarter’s books are almost full – email me to reserve your spot today!” While these alerts may seem unnecessary if you already post regularly on social media, remember you have no idea which clients follow you or if your posts show up in their feeds. Emails and texts are just another way to ensure clients have you in mind.
Even in the digital age, business cards are still a must. Good old-fashioned business-card-canvasing is still a hustle method Hart swears by: “Put them everywhere. You go to Tropical Smoothie, you go on a bus, put a card there. There’s somewhere that someone can sit, put a card there. If it’s something somebody grabs anything from, put a card there. I put my cards in the straw dispensers, napkin containers, you name it. Put them everywhere. You’ll be booked in a year.”
Print on Fabric, Too
Casey Hart is also a proponent of artists designing their own T-shirts for two reasons: (1) it gets your artwork out there, and (2) it allows people who can’t afford to sit in your chair to support your business: “Artists that are younger or kind of in that hustle-bustle right now, there is a ton of work you could be putting into your t-shirts and into other artwork that isn’t tattooing but is advertising – things that people will buy and support your business. People that may not be able to afford a $200, $300 tattoo, but they could afford a $20 t-shirt from you.”
You can get tips on designing your tattoo business’s logo and print materials in our guide to Creating Your Brand.
Of course, no “marketing for tattoo artists” list would be complete if it didn’t mention tattoo conventions. When you do them right, conventions are a great way to network. Conventions also help you learn from other artists, get exposure, and do plenty of tattooing for a higher fee than usual. Our Ultimate Tattoo Convention Guide and our Convention Packing 101 Guide will help you get booked in advance, manage your time while you’re there, and present yourself like a pro. Speaking of pros, check our Insta for Mario Gregor’s tips for making the most of conventions as well!
Scheduling Time for Marketing Your Tattoo Shop
It sounds simple, but it might be one of the most important marketing tips new shop owners need to hear. When you’re starting out, it’s tempting to spend all your time tattooing. But doing so can leave you burnt out and make you lose sight of your larger business goals. You may not be getting paid to design your website, work on your SEO, or post to social media, but these things will increase your bottom line in the long run. So carve out that time and stick. to. it.
Stay Inspired (& Stocked Up)
If starting your own shop feels too risky, Hart has a reminder for you: “The demand for tattoos is huge. Ten years ago, a smaller amount of people wanted to get tattooed. Moreover, many people couldn’t even get tattooed because they were so worried about their jobs. Now, millennials are running the world. You can be tattooed with colored hair and piercings, and it’s fine. I actually don’t have much sympathy now on not being busy because the demand is just too insane.”
Remember: with some patience, hustle, and marketing strategies, that general “demand” will be a demand for your shop and your tattoos. And when the clients start rolling in, we’re here to keep your shop stocked up on the industry’s highest-quality tattoo supplies at the best prices you’ll find online.