Have you ever wondered why you often find a coupon tucked inside your cereal box, or get invited to a customer preview sale at your favorite department store? Those companies know that their existing customers are best - and most profitable - customers they'll ever have. So it's not surprising that they'll do whatever they can to keep these customers happy and coming back again and again.
Believe it or not, same concept holds true for your art career. While you don't want to ignore potential customers, you'll find that when you pay a little more attention to customers and collectors you already have, it will really pay off - in increased 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 your customers' shoes. What's in it for them when they purchase your art? Maybe they feel great about owning a piece of original artwork. Or they're happy to support an emerging artist. Perhaps they're looking forward to showing their new painting to friends. Start listening to your customers and asking questions, and you'll learn a lot - fast.
Don't underestimate power of being an art collector yourself. You'll know firsthand how your collectors feel when they purchase your work, and you'll be a great role model for them. Even better, you'll be supporting other artists.
2 - Make first purchase a fabulous experience
When you sell a piece of artwork, remember that it's also an exciting event for your customers. So let them be excited about their purchase. Accept any compliments graciously. Then share something personal that lets them know that you're excited about sale, too. Tell them how sale is meaningful to you: It's your first; your first to someone in New Jersey; your first in this series, or your last one like this. A positive connection now can pay off for years to come.
3 - Be businesslike in everything you do
Treat your art as a business, and treat your customers in a businesslike manner. Be meticulous about meeting deadlines and keeping appointments. Always provide materials or information you promised - complete, and on time. And remember to thank your collectors personally when they attend one of your shows or support you in any way. A quick note or an e-mail will be appreciated, and remembered.
In addition, be businesslike when you price your artwork. Keep your pricing consistent: from gallery to your studio, and from city to city. And stick to your prices no matter what; never discount your work.
Naturally, it makes sense to present yourself in a professional manner every time you show someone your work. That said, never try to be someone you're not. Let your personality come through, and you'll be best businessperson you can be: you.
4 - Make it easy for your customers to purchase more of your work
I was at a friend's house recently and admired a beautiful hand-made journal she'd purchased at a local craft fair. Thinking it would make a perfect gift for another friend, I asked for artist's name. When she didn't remember, we looked inside journal and discovered artist's name and phone number were nowhere to be found. The result? He or she lost a sale.
Put your contact information on everything that leaves your studio: letterhead, invitations, show announcements, note cards, etc. Affix a personalized label on back of each painting that includes your name, plus your e-mail address or Web site.
And send your new collectors home with an "Artist Pack": a professional-looking folder with your business card, resume, artist statement, bio, articles about you and by you, and so on. Youíll be amazed at how often your customers will share it with their friends and associates.
5 - Ask for another sale
When liquid shampoo first came out, it gave consumers a convenient and easy way to wash their hair. "Lather and rinse," label said. But shampoo sales really took off when just one word was added. Your shampoo bottle now says, "Lather, rinse, and repeat if desired."
Repeat sales can revolutionize your business, too. So display your work in your home and studio where visitors will see it. And when customers are making a purchase, be bold: Ask them if they'd like to purchase a second (or third) piece. Ask your collectors for referrals to another collector, or to a shop or gallery where they think your work might fit in. Or suggest a commissioned piece you'd like to do for them. The key here is to ask for sale.