This Post is by Clint Watson, founder of FineArtViews. Follow Clint on Twitter.
Today's message is going to be a dose of "tough love." We love artists and sometimes that means telling it like it is. I've been harping on this subject for months and I don't seem to be getting through. So, I'm going to put this is bluntly as possible for every who is asking, "why am I not selling art?":
If you don't have an email list and aren't using it on a regular basis, then I'm not surprised if your art isn't selling.
There I said it. I'm sorry to be so blunt, but it's true. You might be an exception who is selling well without an email list, but, if so, I would guess that you either sell through galleries and/or are pushing your marketing messages out to your Collector Clan on a regular basis using some channel other than email (in which case you could still easily increase your sales by doing what I'm about to tell you).
At FineArtStudioOnline, we believe so strongly in email newsletter marketing that we built, at our expense, a world-class email newsletter marketing module that all of our customers can use at no extra charge. We did this so our customers wouldn't have to go out to places like Constant Contact, Vertical Response, or Campaign Monitor and pay an additional $19/month (in the case of Constant Contact) to add email newsletters to their websites. Don't get me wrong, those are all great newsletter services, it's just that we, frankly, want our artists to actually sell their artwork. And with that goal in mind, we didn't want to give our customers any excuse for not sending email newsletters. And we felt that having to deal with another service and pay additional fees would be too big of a hurdle for some artists to jump. So we took away all your excuses and built everything you need in to our service. The only thing we can't force you to do, is to actually do it.
So, now that you have no excuses, here is what you need to do, now, if you want to start selling your artwork.
1. Add a "Join Email List" link to your website.
This link must automatically add people to your email list. Having it simply email your personal email address is not good enough. Having a simple "Contact the artist" form on your site is not good enough. You need both - a contact form AND a "Join Email List" Link. (If you're a FineArtStudioOnline customer, you can add the "Join Email List" link by simply adding "Email Newsletter" as one of the categories in your Navigation Bar Settings). Go do this right now....yes, it's that important.
2. Ask people you already know if you can add them to your email list
Here's how you "jump start" your email list - call or email people you already personally know. Tell those people you've started an email newsletter about your artwork and ask them if they would like to be on your email list. As each person replies with a "yes" (and most of them will say "yes"), stop, right then and ADD those people to your email list management software. (For FineArtStudioOnline customers, you can add people in the "Email Newsletter" section of your control panel, simply add a "Subscriber").
3. As soon as you've added your first person (or first group) - send an email newsletter
You have to start sometime and it needs to be now. Even if you have only ONE subscriber - send an email newsletter. (FineArtStudioOnline Customers - click the "Start a New Newsletter" Link - it will walk you through the process). What do you write about? Pick one of your artworks, type a short paragraph about what inspired you to create it and send it out. Make sure to include the image of the artwork in the newsletter itself. You newsletter management software can assist with that.
4. Use proper newsletter management software - do NOT send a regular email with your subscribers' email addresses in the "BCC" field
5. At the bottom of each newsletter, encourage your readers to forward your newsletters to friends
Do not forget to to this - this is a major way your newsletter list will grow.
6. Be sure to include links in your newsletter back to your website
I'm surprised how often I see artists send a newsletter with no link back to their website. Be sure you include links to your website. Better yet, include links to the specific pages on your website for the pieces you talk about in your newsletter. (This is another reason to avoid Flash art portfolios - you can't link to specific pieces - but that's a subject for a different message). The links are especially important when your newsletters get forwarded to the friends of people on your list.
7. Send your newsletter on a regular basis
I would recommend twice a month as a minimum, preferably weekly. No that's not too often. Keep them short and informal so that they're not a big chore for you. Don't even think of them as "newsletters" - simply as "messages from the artist."
8. Track the results with real newsletter software
Are your newsletters bouncing? If so, go correct those email addresses. Are people unsubscribing? If so, work on making your newsletters more personal, timely and relevant to your readers. Are your newsletters being delivered and opened? You need real newsletter software to truly track all this stuff. This is why just sending from your regular email program or a simple sendmail or PHP script is not an optimal solution.
If you think this all sounds too simple to work, go read the case study about Brian Kliewer and how he sold 81 paintings in 100 days with an email list of 84 people.
Of course, you don't have to do the things I've outlined here - only do them if you actually want to sell your artwork.
Now, go change the world.
Software Craftsman and Art Fanatic
PS - When considering services to host your artist website, ask them if they have a true email newsletter system in place. A true email newsletter system allows subscribes and unsubscribes automatically. It allows you to create and send newsletters easily. It is sends messages properly and throttles them so that your messages don't end up in spam filters, and it allows you to get detailed tracking on the deliverability and results of each newsletter you send. You must have this capability to market and sell art online. If your web host doesn't offer it, then you will have to go pay for it somewhere else (assuming you want to sell art). So, if you're comparing web hosting services be sure to factor in the cost of getting set up properly to send email newsletters if they don't offer it.