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11 Art Marketing Questions Answered

by Clint Watson on 10/4/2007 9:19:12 AM

Gallery Opening by Ellie Taylor
Gallery Opening by Ellie Taylor
Dear Clint,

How do I discover who my audience is and is it relative to my web site?  My sales have been through galleries, and my experience is that the gallery gives me the name of the buyer, but how do you then tactfully engage in a conversation with that buyer? Or get their email?

The daughter of the second richest man in the world bought one of my paintings, it's a painting on my web site. According to the gallery she wouldn't want her name published. This kind've puts me in a pickle. Wouldn't this drive the price of my other paintings up if people knew this?

Do people prefer to buy from galleries or the artist direct? What is it that makes that difference?

Is there a model of how the ladder works for an emerging artist. Such as school, body of work, selling at art fairs, gallery representation, agent representation, museums, collectors? Is there a map of all these venues?
Where are lists of collectors and who are these mysterious people? How does a person market to them when they are nowhere to be found?

There are some great web sites like imagekind that have print-on-demand as an option to have an income stream. One of my buyers got her nose out of joint when I mentioned I was going to make prints of the original she purchased from me.

Should an artist that is trying to develop a crowd of collectors not make prints?

I'm trying to develop a passive income stream while painting many originals.

There isn't anything noble about being a starving artist.


Dear CB,

You've asked a lot of questions here, so I'll do my best to address them; however, it's important to remember that marketing is an art form in and of itself and there are frequently different routes to success.

Q1:  How do I discover who my audience is and is it relative to my web site?
You discover your audience on person at a time.  I know, I want me to give you a magic web site or formula to just "plug in" to a ready made audience.  Unfortunately it doesn't work that way, you have to build your own audience, or as we discussed earlier this week, build your own community.  The absolute best way to increase your audience is to communicate with people who already support you and ask for referrals...and again, this is best done individually one person at time.

Q2.  How do you tactfully engage in a conversation with a buyer?
Assuming you have contact information, send the buyer a personal note inviting the to receive periodic updates about new work that you are completing, make him feel like part of an "insiders" club now that he's purchased, invite him to go to your web site and sign up for an email newsletter for more frequent updates (that's a way to get email addresses).  If you have phone number info, call him personally to remind him that he should varnish the painting (and offer to do it for him if practical) and then use that opportunity to ask if he would like email updates and ask for the email address.

Q3.  Can I publish the names of buyers?
No, not unless they explicitly give you permission.  Sorry - but people take privacy very seriously.   Having said that, you should always ask for permission...and, more importantly, you when a buyer says something positive about your work, you should ask for permission to use the quote as a testimonial.  Testimonials are an extremely powerful marketing technique . . . if they are genuine.

Q4.  Would publishing the name of a high-profile buyer drive up prices?
In the minds of some people....but it's not really as important as you think.  As a collector, for example, I really don't care who else has bought your artwork, I care about what it does for ME, how it makes ME feel.  But for people who are buying for prestige reasons, having high-profile buyers does help a bit.

Q5.  Is there a model of how the ladder (of success) works for emerging artists?
There's no model that I'm aware of - it's different for everyone.  However, one thing all financially successful artists have in common - they are not afraid to do the hard work of marketing.  They stop looking for the "magic bullet" and roll their sleeves up and build their artwork and one person at a time.

Q6.  Where are lists of collectors?
There are not a lot, but you can purchase mailing lists of major art magazines like Southwest Art from list brokers like Edith Roman.  Other than lists like that, lists of collectors exist in each artist or gallery's private database - that's your job, to build your own in-house list, which will become your most valuable asset - would you share that with someone else?

Q7.  Who are these mysterious people?
They are housewives, professionals, doctors, plumbers, rich people, poor people, white-collar workers, blue-collar works and even kids.  In short they are everyone....and they're really not mysterious.  Everyone you know and everyone you meet is a potential "collector."

Q8.  How does a person market to them when they're nowhere to be found?
It's easy - they're everywhere!  How to market to them is a big question with lots of work.  All I can say is keep reading my newsletter and my blog (and read the archives) - how to market to collectors is what I teach artists every day.  Here's the secret: JUST DO IT.  The difference between success and failure is not something magic, it's a simple as this:  Successful artists just start doing it and keep doing it.....the unsuccessful keep looking for a magic solution and complain about the fact that they're aren't any buyers....but they really never DO any active marketing.

Here are a few resources to help you learn more about art marketing:

Q9.  Issues with Buyers and prints?
Legally you own the copyright to your images and can make prints without the buyer's permission.  In practice, you need to be careful how you present the idea.  Make sure you present it as an ADVANTAGE.  Tell the buyer how much more PRESTIGIOUS her piece will be now that it is a popular print.  Make sure that she knows that images that have been seen in print widely are generally worth more money - that's why the Mona Lisa would command a far greater price than a more obscure Davinci painting.  Also - GIVE her a couple of prints for free as a thank you - she can use them as gifts.  Most buyers will find it difficult to resist the idea when presented this way. 

Q10.  Print on Demand Services?
Regarding services like ImageKind:  I'm sure it's a great service and there are a few other services that are similar (in fact we've considered offering something similar), however - don't expect too much in the way of marketing from a service like ImageKind....their big value is the service they provide.  Although they may bring you a few buyers, mainly you need to consider that their print-on-demand and shipping is a great way to be relieved from administrative burdens....To be really successful you cannot abdicate your marketing to other people - you simply must promote yourself (and your prints) to your own list through your own efforts.

Q11. Should an artist that is trying to develop a crowd of collectors not make prints?
This is a topic that is debated quite a bit.  I, personally, have no problem with prints...just don't overvalue them and hype them to be more than they really are (can anyone say "Thomas Kinkaid?").


Clint Watson
Software Craftsman and Art Fanatic

PS - The image at the top of this article is by Ellie Taylor


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Topics: art marketing | Email Marketing | Marketing 

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Barney Davey
via web
Dear Clint,

Your are to be commended for the insightful advice you provide your readers with this post. I appreciate your mention of my blog, which I like to think offers its own insights.

Your point about growing a business being one at a time is so true. There are happy incidents, mostly none of which can be manufactured, that can cause a huge spike in interest and sales, such as an appearance on Oprah, but you can't build a business around angling for those things.

The slow and steady turtle of the famous fable is as true for artists as it is for other businesses. It is also true as a business grows it gains velocity and begins to grow exponentially. That is when things get fun. But, getting there requires a steady application of doing those things that offer the best outcome for creating awareness, relationships and sales.

It is less daunting in small bites. For instance, look for one blog or Web site every day where a comment can be made and your own URL left as a link. Send one letter every day to a gallery or potential customer. Send one idea for a story, or make a call or contact with a media person once every two weeks. Once a week, ask one person you have in your network of friends, family, business associates and customers if they know someone who can help you. The help could be an introduction to a gallery, to a designer, to a collector, to someone who is influential in picking arists for public projects, or who is in the media or knows someone in the media.

If an artist or small businessperson makes doing these things a persistent regular habit, I guarantee success will ensue and they will not have spent a fortune to make it happen. Aggregate such activity over one or two years and you will have reached and influenced thousands of people.

Keep up the great work you do Clint, your are an invaluable asset to the artist community. Happy Holidays! Barney

Michelle Scott
via web
Good day Clint, Thank you for your added insight into the marketing or our art work.

In South Africa it is a continuous battle to find places to exhibit and even to get a good price for ones work. Everyone wants something for nothing, because it is a handcraft, it is deemed to be worth less. I have a major problem with people who HAVE to have a discount on art work. They never ask for a discount in a grocery store or at the movies....! I have a value that I think I am worth.

"PRINTS" how can the public be educated to buy origional art versus PRINTS, if they are in continuous supply. I believe it cheapens ones work, not makes it more out there or valuable. Also painting the same work twice, when a person buys an expensive origional, they definately dont want to see that their neighbours or friends have bought the same painting.

Many happy hours painting to all fellow artists....:)
Michelle Scott

Art of Marketing
via web
It's good to see that the print on demand services are of some use.

Wallace Hugh
Very good information,Thanks for leaving it out here. When you say PRINT what exactly is a print? I hope it is more then a Computer printer. How aan we tell as consumers if they are computer prints
Thank you very much for letting me ask this.

Marie Solon Coerver
I've sold very inexpensive computer prints of my watercolors at festivals, but now I am not so sure about this. I have not made prints of my very best work and I think that I will only sell these originals in the future. Selling cheap prints of our original paintings may, in our collectors' minds, put them in the same category as "wall decor" they see in big box stores.

i am new to the selling and marketing of art. my medium is colored pencil drawings that come from my heart.

you have given me so much to think about and do for the last 6 months. i don't usually sell prints of my work because people do have a stigma about them.

please keep giving advice. thanks


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