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Art Marketing is Conversations

by Clint Watson on 1/21/2009 1:29:06 PM

Today's Post is by Clint Watsonfounder of FineArtViews. Follow Clint on Twitter.

Since writing about Art Marketing for Artists Who Want to Change the World, I've had some more thoughts about art marketing:  Art marketing is conversations.

Ignore your friendly magazine salesperson and/or marketing "guru" who tells you marketing is all about "branding:"  "branding" is for sissies, branding is dead - MARKETING. IS. CONVERSATIONS. (Hint:  If you're having conversations, you'll "automatically" develop a "brand").  

Conversations are going to happen with or without your participation. 

There's an old saying in advertising, "Tell your story, or someone else will tell it for you."   But, if you don't participate in the process, the story that gets told may not be the one you want told.  

Consider what Brian Clark, of Copyblogger wrote, "People tell stories about themselves. They even buy things in order to say something about themselves.  They donít give a hoot about your story unless it furthers their own personal narrative. If it does, your story comes along for the ride.  If notÖ too bad for you.  Youíre not the star of this story. Smart marketers donít even try to be the star.  Smart marketers want to be indispensable supporting characters...People respond to marketing stories when they either identify with the hero, or desire to become the hero. Your story must put the prospect front and center as that hero."  

This is another way of describing Hugh MacLeod's Blue Monster idea.  People want to tell their OWN stories to each other and connect with each other.  You just want to become part of that conversation and have your story.....your art, your artist story "come along for the ride."

Your followers are going to talk to each other and you want to be able to encourage that behavior.  Helping them connect with one another is a good thing.

Hindering conversations is a bad thing.  And this is where we turn to the subject of art galleries.

"Marketing is conversations" applies to you art galleries as well.  I'm speaking to art galleries now.  Art galleries listen - get this fact in your mind and accept it:  Your clients ARE going to talk directly to your artists.  Be part of the conversation or bury your head in the sand and ignore it (and be excluded).  The Internet has changed the equation.  This subject came up recently in my twitter stream and artist John T. Unger said, "Making the intro (of the collector to the artist) insures the gallery stays in the loop. NOT making the intro has more potential to hurt their sales."  John's exactly right:  If you introduce your clients to your artists, you're guaranteed to be part of the conversation.  If you don't, you're guaranteed to be excluded.  Which option do you want?

Art is all about communication. When a buyer purchases artwork, he/she is ďpurchasingĒ the artist as well as the artwork. The stronger the client-artist connection, the more likely the person will become an ongoing collector.  The progressive art dealer realizes that instead of hindering these connections, he should foster and encourage them. Indeed, building relationships is the essence of the dealerís job. Instead of hiding the artistís web site, why not enthusiastically share it with clients and encourage them to visit it? Instead of blocking access to an artist, why not pick up the phone and introduce the prospect to that artist? Heck, why not even give the artistís phone number to prospects? Each of these actions would make a sale more likely; after all, wouldnít YOU feel special if you were invited to personally call the artist?  Galleries and artists need to quit playing games and work together as a team and trust each other.

If I were an artist today, I wouldn't work with any gallery that tried to limit my freedom to have conversations directly with collectors online and offline.  I also wouldn't work with any gallery that didn't agree to provide me with contact info of people who purchased my work so that I could strengthen my connection with my collector clan.  To reciprocate, I would make sure that each of my galleries trusted me completely.  I would NEVER, NEVER, EVER sell directly to collectors that discovered me through my galleries.  I would NEVER sell my artwork for a price lower than what it would sell for in a gallery. 

Now go change the world.


Clint Watson
Software Craftsman and Art Fanatic

PS - If you ever break trust with your galleries, realize that the story surrounding you may no longer be the one you want told.  Remember conversations are going to happen with our without your participation.


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Related Posts:

What REALLY Drives Web Traffic - Word-of-Mouth and Advertising

Art Marketing for Artists Who Want to Change the World

11 Art Marketing Questions Answered

Artists: Lead Your Collector Clan

What if Google Went Away?

Topics: Art Commentary | art marketing | Best | Hugh MacLeod | Inspiration 

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Mary Lawler
via web
Dead on, Clint. I couldn't have said it better. I USED to own a gallery too, and it wasn't popular then to have artists conversing with buyers for fear of being left out of the loop and losing sales, yet we found just the opposite. The more the artists made themselves available to the buyer, the better they did, and we were not cut out of the sale. Because of our open policy artists didn't sell behind our backs they always directed a client to us for the sale. As an artist I would much prefer to tell my own story, visually and verbally. For me that is one of the advantages of my web site, - I get to write the blog, I write the descriptions, I answer the email and respond to the comments. I get to converse with people from all over the world, where once we were limited by geography; the internet, for better or worse had opened up opportunities previously unavailable.

agbezin dele george
k. you did hit the nail on the head, i cant help but rejoice to know some galleris have access to this articles, i have been a victim of such harrassement but i got better off finding the collectors and having to deal directly. i think lots lots of artists over here share my view.
lagos, nigeria

agbezin dele george
my idea of a gallery boils down to a relationship that endures due to the agreement reached and not a situation when the galleries have no tots of giving the artists a sense of belonging by allowing them to be part of the decision that concerns them.
well its good to tell ones story by oneself, you know no one can tell it better....
dele george, painter
lagos nigeria

Marsha Savage
I enjoyed this aricle and actually reprinted it to show to my gallery. I have been trying to convince them to put a link to my web site on theirs. I have one to them on mine.

I demonstrate there about once a month and meet many of their clients. The owner schedules me and is usually pleased and thinks I do a good job conversing with the customers. So, I don't understand the reluctance on the part of the owner to keep me connected with the clients.

We have discussed the gallery owners' feelings that they think the artist will sell behind their back. Even though I express that this would never happen. I don't want to do the selling, I want the gallery to do their job.

I do love the interaction with the customers though. And, I think they enjoy the stories and getting to know the artist. I do believe that I have sold many works just because the customer now knows the artists. We connect! So, I believe your article is exactly "right on!"

BP Hageman
Here's a question about those conversations. I have a gallery, that by all reason, I should leave. The owner no longer advertises, she doesn't hold shows, but she sits in a great location on a well-traffic'd street in a monied community. She is completely clueless about the Internet except for using email. I may be able to get her to trial the gallery version of FASO. But my experience with her says she is a GREAT conversationalist with every customer who walks into her gallery...and that's what sells works. So NOW, I'm hoping to persuade her that her conversation can be in the e-mode. Any suggestions on how to get her going?

I work in an art gallery and the reason we are reluctant for our artists to be contacted directly by the collector is because so many have indeed sold behind our backs. Of course there are loyal artists out there who have integrity. But at the same time how do we protect ourselves from those who are determined to sell behind our backs, and how can we have an "open policy" that works?


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