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Making the connection: customer relationships that build your business

Have you ever wondered why you often find a coupon inside your cereal box or get invited to a customer preview sale at your favorite department store? These companies know that their current customers are the best and most profitable customers they will ever have. So it’s not surprising that they go out of their way to keep these customers happy and come back again and again.

Believe it or not, the same concept holds true for your artistic career. While you don’t want to ignore potential clients, you will find that when you pay a little more attention to the clients and collectors you already have, it will really pay off – in higher sales and profits for your art business. The following 10 practical strategies will get you started.

1 – Understand how and why your customers buy art.

Put yourself in the shoes of your customers. What do they get when they buy your art? Maybe they feel good about having an original piece of art. Or they are happy to support an emerging artist. They may be eager to show their new painting to their friends. Start listening to your customers and asking questions, and you will learn a lot, quickly.

Don’t underestimate the power of being an art collector. You will know firsthand how your collectors feel when they buy your work and you will be a great role model for them. Even better, you will support other artists.

2 – Make the first purchase a fabulous experience

When selling a piece of art, remember that it is also an exciting event for your clients. Let them get excited about their purchase. Accept any compliments kindly. Then share something personal that lets them know that you are excited about the sale, too. Tell them how the sale is meaningful to you: it is the first; the first for someone in New Jersey; the first in this series or the last like this. A positive connection now can pay off for years to come.

3 – Be serious in everything you do

Treat your art like a business and treat your clients professionally. Be meticulous about meeting deadlines and keeping appointments. Always provide the materials or information you promised, complete and on time. And remember to personally thank your collectors when they attend one of your shows or support you in any way. A quick note or email will be appreciated and remembered.

Also, be serious when pricing your artwork. Keep your prices consistent – from the gallery to your studio and from city to city. And keep your prices no matter what; never discard your work.

Naturally, it makes sense to present yourself in a professional manner every time you show someone your work. That being said, never try to be someone you are not. Let your personality come through and you will be the best entrepreneur you can be – you.

4 – Make it easy for your clients to buy more of your work

I was recently at a friend’s house and admired a beautiful handmade journal that I had bought at a local craft fair. Thinking it would be a perfect gift for another friend, I asked him the name of the artist. When he didn’t remember, we looked inside the journal and discovered that the artist’s name and phone number were nowhere to be found. The result? Lost a sale.

Put your contact information on everything that comes out of your studio: letterheads, invitations, show announcements, note cards, etc. Stick a custom label on the back of each painting that includes your name, as well as your email address or website.

And send your new collectors home with an “Artist Pack” – a professional-looking folder with your business card, resume, artist statement, bio, articles about and about you, and more. You will be amazed at how often your customers will share it with their friends and associates.

5 – Request another sale

When the liquid shampoo came out, it offered consumers a convenient and easy way to wash their hair. “Soap and rinse,” the label said. But shampoo sales really took off when only one word was added. Your shampoo bottle now says, “Lather up, rinse, and repeat if you like.”

Repeat sales can also revolutionize your business. So display your work in your home and studio where visitors will see it. And when customers make a purchase, be brave – ask them if they’d like to buy a second (or third) piece. Ask your collectors for references to another collector, or to a store or gallery where they think your work might fit. Or suggest a commissioned piece that you would like to make for them. The key here is to ask for the sale.

6 – Update your customers

Another way to increase your income is to upgrade your customers to a more profitable product (“luxury” shampoo for colored hair, for example). It is really quite easy, once you get the hang of it. Here are some upgrade ideas that have worked well for my clients:

o Encourage your customers who normally buy giclee reproductions to buy an original painting.

o Present your existing clients with some of your most expensive or largest works of art.

o If you have collectors who have only bought your sketches or drawings so far, suggest that they buy one of your paintings next time.

7 – Cross-sell to your customers

Cross-selling is simply selling your customers something different, but related to, what they are already buying. Consider the example of shampoo. Wouldn’t it be relatively easy to sell hair conditioner to someone who already uses shampoo?

Now take a look at your own artwork. Cross-selling may mean selling a piece of your pottery to one of your painting customers, selling a painting to one of your sculpture collectors, or suggesting your art note cards as an upsell when a customer picks up their pet. . portrait. Be imaginative and you can increase both sales and profits.

8 – Get to know your customers and collectors

Remember that your customers are people first, customers second. Take your relationships beyond “business” and also develop personal relationships. If appropriate, invite them to social gatherings, send them a holiday card, or send them a postcard from their favorite vacation spot.

When chatting with your collectors, make a habit of listening to important dates and occasions. Then mark your special occasions with an art gift. Imagine having a small piece of your artwork forever connected in the minds of your collectors with your 50th anniversary, the birth of your first child or grandchild, or your child’s graduation from medical school. Sometimes a little goes a long way.

9 – Let your clients know you and your art.

Don’t you love it when you can see another artist at work and see for yourself how they do what they do? You’re not alone.

Almost all art collectors are curious how it is created. So it makes business sense to find ways to share your process with them. You can invite them to an informal demonstration. Show them pictures of the place that inspired you. Or even let them test the process themselves. Take the time to show your clients what makes you and your art unique.

Customers who understand how you apply your paint, why you use those weird looking long brushes, or how you get so many layers of color on your canvas are not only informed about what you do, they are interested in what you do. And that will translate into more sales and more referrals.

10 – Build strong and ongoing relationships with your collectors

Don’t be embarrassed to ask your clients for advice and opinions, whether it’s about how you display or hang your work, or about new projects or techniques you’re trying out. Take it one-on-one, or host a study open house (note that I didn’t say “study sale”) to find out what they think.

And when you’re done finishing a new series or collection, or you’re ready to hang up a new gallery, invite your best clients to your studio for a special preview of your new work. They will love it.

Most importantly, be yourself with your customers and collectors. Yes, you may know a collector or two who want to be dazzled by the rhetoric and deceptive language of art. Most collectors, however, will want to know their true selves. They will love hearing your feelings about your artwork, some of your artistic quirks, and even some of the mistakes you’ve made.

Once customers and collectors really connect with you and your work, they will come back for more. And that’s good for all artists’ business.

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