The rise of tattooing from a hardcore niche to a booming industry has been a great thing for the Hudson Valley’s many tattoo shops; it’s estimated that the number of Americans with tattoos boomed by 50% from 2008 to 2015. Growing that much, that quickly introduced some new challenges for business owners, who have more options than ever for attracting new customers online, and for the next generation of tattoo artists, who are actively looking for ways to start their careers.
These were the challenges that Mike Locasio, owner of Ink Inc. Tattooing in Kingston and Saugerties, laid out for us. Here’s what we did to help him:
Attracting Customers Online
Ink Inc’s existing website had been around since the early 2000s, and it showed. We designed a new, responsive website that showcased Ink Inc.’s artists, services and locations, and made sure to build it in a way that was optimized for search and loaded quickly on mobile devices. Every location and artist has a contact form, which makes it easy for new customers to send an email to book an appointment.
A big problem for tattoo websites is that updating them can be a chore for staff; there are constantly new pieces being made and it’s time-consuming to upload them. We used an Instagram plug-in that automatically pulls in the latest tattoos from Ink Inc. artists’ feeds; updating the website is as simple as posting on Instagram.
“Almost every day I get an appointment from the website, when before I was getting nothing.”
- Mike Locasio, Owner
Search Engine Optimization
By virtue of being around for 20 years, Google had figured out that Ink Inc. was an established, reputable business. However, the new website, complete with accurate geographic keywords, a few pieces of shareable longform content and links to claimed business and social profiles, took that to the next level. We're now able to track exactly how many phone calls, directions requests, and website views are driven via search.
Late in the year, Ink Inc. moved to a new location in Saugerties, which meant that all of the NAP (Name, Address, Phone) information on the Internet was incorrect about it. We claimed and updated dozens of directory listings and also created a valuable piece of geographic content to signal to Google that Ink Inc. is an authority on tattooing in the Hudson Valley.
We’re nearing almost an entire year of analytics for Ink Inc.’s website: in the first five months, it received 1,600 visitors from Google. After adding more and more content, and optimizing search factors off of the website, the site has received 2,634 visitors from search in the last five months.
Apprenticeship Lead Generation + Content Marketing
It’s hard for even the most talented visual artists to make a living; it’s even harder for them to do so after being saddled with college debt. On the other hand, tattooing has been cited by The Guardian one of the most stable and high-upside professions for visual artists. The problem, Mike told us, is that many artists don’t even realize tattooing is an option as a viable career, and if they do, it’s hard to find opportunities to get started. It often happens by serendipity and coincidence.
Our goal was to make those coincidences happen, and worked with Ink Inc. to attract new apprentices to the shop by building an awareness funnel. At the top of funnel are interesting, visual interview pieces with three tattoo artists at different stages of their career. We used Facebook advertising to target these pieces to young art students within 30 miles of Kingston who are interested in tattooing. In the middle of the funnel is a contact form, where people can request details about the apprenticeship program and receive a PDF. At the end of the funnel is a followup, where we see if the people who requested information have any questions.
We made sure the articles at the top of the funnel weren’t overtly salesy or promotional; they were just good stories about tattoo careers that happened to have a contact form at the bottom. They were organically shared almost 500 times on social media.
The campaign had an ROI of over 1000% for Ink Inc. New York, including the costs of writing the stories, creating the PDF, and promoting the stories on social media. Even though the campaign is technically over, the content is still attracting new inquiries because it ranks on Google for geographic searches for tattoo apprenticeships.
SUNY Ulster Tattoo Illustration Class Registrations
SUNY Ulster’s new Kingston campus is one of the crown jewels of Midtown Kingston’s revitalization, providing continuing education opportunities that are convenient for Kingston residents to access. In 2016, a program coordinator had a novel idea: seeing the proliferation of tattoo shops in the region, she reached out to Mike from Ink Inc. about creating a non-credit class on tattoo illustration. There would be no actual tattooing, but students would learn about about “tattoo design, layout, placement, conceptual ideals, dealing with clients, and how to build a strong portfolio.”
The 15-person class was only in the SUNY Ulster course catalog, where it was sandwiched in between accounting and Spanish. We were tasked by Mike to just help him get the minimum of five students so the class wouldn’t be canceled.
We decided that the most efficient path would be to showcase the novelty of the class in a press release to local media outlets. We made sure to work with all of the necessary stakeholders to shape and approve the press release.
The Daily Freeman, Time Warner Cable News, Mid-Hudson News Network and WRRV all ran stories on the class, and it took off. The stories went viral, and were shared over 2,000 times on social media. Mike was simultaneously on local tv, the radio, in newspapers and on social media talking about the class, and it was 100% organic. The class sold out almost immediately, and we hear that it will be offered again in the spring semester.