Today's Post is by Clint Watson, founder of FineArtViews. Follow Clint on Twitter.
Understanding the overwhelming desire of most people to belong to a group, a tribe . . . . a clan, moves the artists from the idea of simply "marketing" to the more powerful juggernaut of leading. And for those who "get it," the results can be astonishing.
Looking at the Powerful Desire to Belong
Most people make bad investment decisions. People are inherently emotional -- not logical. In fact, people who study the psychology of investing know it's true: people become emotionally attached to their investments and hold them far too long when the stock price goes south. You'll hear people say things like, "I haven't lost any money until I sell." Actually, um, that's wrong. You've lost money as soon as the stock price falls. Oddly, during the boom times, I never seem to hear people say, "I haven't made any money until I sell." Just the opposite, people brag about how much money they've "made" as soon as the stock price rises. That's because a rising stock price fits with the story they want to be a part of. And we all want to be a part of something. We want to connect and be part of the story. It's just human nature. When most of us buy a stock like Apple, we like to think that we're now part of the Apple "family"..... part of the Apple clan. (It's the same feeling when people buy Apple products too . . . a fact that Apple understands brilliantly).
I bring all of this up, not to remind you how badly your 401k is doing .... hey mine's doing badly too. But I wanted to illustrate just how powerful a need belonging to a clan is. After all, investments are an area where we actually try to be logical...and yet, most of us can't help getting wrapped up in the "clan" of our investments. But what about other areas of life? We organize into clans, groups, tribes in just about every area of our lives. It's human nature to do so. We want to connect with others who are like us. And we want to differentiate ourselves from those who are outside of our "clans." Look at the popularity of social networking: how many Facebook groups have you joined? Indeed, even those of us who simply use Facebook are part of a "clan." Heck, I practically had a virtual posse decend upon my blog when I dared to attack Twitter. Of course, now I actually use Twitter so I'm now part of the Twitter clan. Or for an example of even more passionate emotions, think about fans of professional sports teams. Why do people get so involved emotionally regarding the outcome of a game played by professionals (who would gladly play for the other team if offered more money)? Seriously, the San Antonio Spurs don't have any real attachment to me, but I feel like I'm part of their "clan." I even gloated on my blog a couple of years ago when the Spurs won the NBA championship.
The Desire to Belong and Art
If the desire to join clans is so powerful in virtually every area of life, imagine how powerful it is when it comes to art. After all, art is a basic human form of expression. Tribal art even derives from the desire to mark the tribe members as special and belonging to the tribe. The desire is so powerful that people actually deform themselves to show that they belong: Kayan women, who elongate their necks with brass rings, when asked why they do it, often say that their purpose for wearing the rings is cultural identity.
But it's not just Kayan women, we all want "cultural identity." My experience, as a former gallery owner, is that when most people purchase a piece of art . . . . . they are also "buying into" the story and culture surrounding the artist. They want to know more about the artist, they want to connect with other collectors who own that artist. They want to "join" the artist's "clan."
Leading Your Clan
This overwhelming desire to belong to a clan is great news for every single artist.
People who are truly interested in your artwork want to be part of your clan. Your job is to welcome them into your clan, to teach them the "cultural rules" of being your follower, and to communicate with them. In short, your job is to lead them. People who have purchased your artwork in the past, they are in the clan too. They want you to lead them. They want to be part of your story. What they do not want is to purchase your artwork and then never hear from you again (there are always a few collectors who will prove me wrong, but the vast majority of people who buy from you want to hear from you.)
Unfortunately, many artists are afraid to communicate with their clan. They don't want to "bother" people. They don't want to "toot their own horn." However, that's backwards thinking. By not "bothering" people you are not satisfying their powerful emotional need to connect with you and be led by you. You not giving them what they need. And they will fill that need: if you don't communicate your followers, then many will leave your clan and go join someone else's. (Incidentally, these artists who are afraid sometimes write me to tell me they've decided they "don't need a website" because it hasn't been "successful" for them. When I question them further, I find out that they never send out any emails, never make any phone calls, never send any postcards . . . . they never lead their clan. I always wonder if these artists also decide not to have a telephone since nobody ever calls to "buy a painting.")
Leading collectors (and potential collectors) who are in your clan is the most powerful marketing idea you can learn and the most powerful marketing action you can take. And the better news is that you don't need a big clan to be successful. If you have one follower, one collector, or one person who is interested in your artwork, then you have a clan . . . . and you better step up and be the chief.
My original idea for this post is much, much longer but I've already communicated the main idea, so I will save the specifics for future posts. However I want to share just one recent example:
One of our clients, artist Brian Kliewer, recently decided to start a project called 100 Paintings In 100 Days for $100 each. Simple idea: he paints a small painting each day for 100 days, and each painting sells for $100. It's basically the same idea as "daily painting" but time limited to 100 days. As of this writing, Brian has sold 23 paintings in 37 days. How? He led his clan. He sends an email each day to his email list (you better have an email list to stay in touch with your clan - if not, start one today). You're probably thinking, "yeah big deal, he's probably got a huge email list - but I only know a few people." Wrong. Brian's email list is 86 people. Remember what I said earlier: Leading people in your clan is the most powerful marketing action you can take. Good thing Brian didn't spend the last 37 days obsessing over his "web traffic" or agonizing over "Search Engine Optimization." Nope, he did what artists do: he made art and led his followers. (By the way: If you're interested in further details, I plan to do a detailed case-study of Brian's project in a future blog post. Today I just wanted to hammer home the main point).
Software Craftsman and Art Fanatic
PS - I sincerely hope you read this entire post. Print it out and read it later if it's hard to read on screen. It's taken my mind quite a while and hundreds of blog posts to fully conceptualize this idea of leading your clan. Looking back, I should have realized it sooner because I have discussed similar ideas in past posts, but only in passing. I guess I'm not the sharpest tool in the shed. However, now that the idea is fully formed, I can see that it is the foundation upon which much of art marketing lies, so I really do hope you understand what I'm saying.
PPS - A am coining the term "Collector ClanTM" and plan to use it in the future to describe this idea.