Making the Connection: Customer Relationships That Build Your Business

Have you ever wondered why you often find a coupon inside your cereal box or why you’re invited to a customer preview sale at your favorite department store? Those companies know that their current customers are the best, and most profitable, customers they will ever have. So it’s not surprising that they go to great lengths to keep these customers happy and coming back again and again.

Believe it or not, the same concept applies to your artistic career. While you don’t want to ignore potential clients, you’ll find that when you pay a little more attention to the clients and collectors you already have, it will really pay off—it will increase sales and profits for your art business. The following 10 practical strategies will help you get started.

1 – Understand how and why your customers buy art

Put yourself in the shoes of your customers. What’s in it for them when they buy your art? Maybe they feel good about having an original piece of art. Or they are happy to support an emerging artist. Perhaps they are eager to show off their new painting to their friends. Start listening to your customers and asking questions, and you’ll learn a lot, fast.

Don’t underestimate the power of being an art collector yourself. You will know first-hand how your collectors feel when they buy your work and you will be a great role model for them. Even better, you’ll be supporting other artists.

2 – Make the first purchase a fabulous experience

When you sell a work of art, remember that it is also an exciting event for your customers. So let them get excited about their purchase. Accept any compliment with kindness. Then share something personal that lets them know you’re excited about the sale, too. Tell them how the sale is meaningful to you: it’s your first; the first to someone in New Jersey; the first in this series, or the last like this. A positive connection now can pay off for years to come.

3 – Be professional in everything you do

Treat your art like a business and treat your clients professionally. Be meticulous about meeting deadlines and keeping appointments. Always provide the materials or information you promised, complete, and on time. And remember to personally thank your collectors when they attend one of your exhibitions or support you in any way. A quick note or email will be appreciated and remembered.

Also, be professional when pricing your artwork. Keep your prices constant: from the gallery to your studio and from city to city. And stick to your prices no matter what; never underestimate your work.

Naturally, it makes sense to present yourself in a professional manner whenever you show someone your work. That said, never try to be someone you’re not. Let your personality come out and you will be the best businessman you can be: you.

4 – Make it easy for your clients to buy more of your work

I was at a friend’s house recently and admired a beautiful handmade journal that she had purchased at a local craft fair. Thinking it would be a perfect gift for another friend, I asked for the name of the artist. When she couldn’t remember, we looked inside the diary and discovered that the 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 comes out of your studio: letterhead, invitations, show announcements, note cards, etc. Affix has a personalized label on the back of each painting that includes your name, as well as your email address or website.

And send your new collectors home with an “Artist Packet”: a professional-looking folder with your business card, resume, artist statement, biography, articles about you and written by you, etc. You’ll be surprised how often your customers will share it with their friends and associates.

5 – Request another sale

When liquid shampoo first came out, it gave consumers a convenient and easy way to wash their hair. “Lather and rinse,” the label said. But shampoo sales really took off when a single word was added. His shampoo bottle now says, “Lather, rinse and repeat if desired.”

Repeat sales can also revolutionize your business. So display your work in your home and studio where visitors will see it. And when customers are making a purchase, be bold: ask if they’d like to buy 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. Or suggest a commissioned piece you’d like to make for them. The key here is to ask for the sale.

6 – Improve your customers

Another way to increase your income is to upgrade your customers to a more profitable product (“luxury” shampoo for colored hair, for example). It’s pretty easy, once you get the hang of it. Here are some upgrade ideas that have worked well for my clients:

o Encourage your customers who normally buy giclée reproductions to purchase an original painting.

o Introduce your existing customers to some of your largest or most expensive artwork.

o If you have collectors who have bought only your sketches or drawings so far, suggest that they buy one of your paintings next time.

7 – Cross-sell your customers

Cross-selling is simply selling your customers something different from, but related to, what they are already buying. Consider the example of shampoo. Wouldn’t it be relatively easy to sell hair conditioner to someone who already uses shampoo?

Now take a look at your own artwork. Cross-selling can mean selling a piece of your pottery to one of your painting customers, selling a painting to one of your sculpture collectors, or suggesting your art note cards as an up-sell when a customer picks up their pet. . portrait. Be imaginative and you can increase both sales and profits.

8 – Know your customers and collectors

Remember that your customers are first people, then customers. Take your relationships beyond “business” and build personal relationships as well. If appropriate, invite them to social gatherings, send them a Christmas card, or send them a postcard from their favorite vacation spot.

When conversing with your collectors, get in the habit of hearing important dates and occasions. Then remember your very special occasions with a gift of art. Imagine having a small piece of your artwork forever connected in the minds of your collectors with your 50th anniversary, the birth of your first child or grandchild, or your child’s graduation from medical school. Sometimes a little goes a long way.

9 – Let your clients get to know you and your art

Don’t you love it when you can watch another artist at work and see for yourself how they do what they do? You’re not alone.

Almost all art collectors are curious about how you create. So it makes good business sense to find ways to share your process with them. You can invite them to an informal demonstration. Show them pictures of the place that inspired you. Or even let them test the process themselves. Take the time to show your clients what makes you and your art unique.

Customers who understand how you apply your paint, why you use those long, weird-looking brushes, or how you get so many layers of color on your canvas are not only knowledgeable about what you do, they’re interested in what you do. And that will translate into more sales and more referrals.

10 – Build strong and ongoing relationships with your collectors

Don’t be shy about asking your clients for advice and input, whether it’s about how you display or hang your work, or about new projects or techniques you’re trying out. Do it one on one, or host an open house at the studio (note I didn’t say “studio sale”) to find out what they think.

And when you’ve finished a new series or collection, or are ready to hang a new gallery show, invite your best clients to your studio for a special preview of your new work. They will love it.

Most importantly, be yourself with your customers and collectors. Yes, you may know a collector or two who want to be dazzled by the rhetoric and doublespeak of art. However, most collectors will want to know the real you. They’ll love hearing your feelings about your artwork, some of your artistic quirks, and even some of the mistakes you’ve made.

Once customers and collectors really connect with you and your work, they will come back for more. And that’s good for every artist’s business.

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