This post is by Jeanne Rosier Smith, PSA, ASMA, IAPS/MC, guest contributing author for FineArtViews. Jeanne is a nationally-known pastel painter living in Sudbury MA. Known for her seascapes, she teaches national and international workshops and shows work in galleries and museum shows around the country.
In January and February, 2020 looked like it was shaping up to be my best painting sales year ever...and then came March. Closed galleries, cancelled workshops, a nixed solo exhibition sucked the wind out of everything - a familiar story. As I scrambled to figure out how to market my art in a new landscape, Clint Watson (FASO/BoldBrush founder) and Dave Geada's (CMO) FASO AMP program came at a perfect time. Several of the key points in this program have really hit home and produced both immediate and ongoing results, so allow me to share what's worked.
To me the lightbulb moment was that art marketing success is really all about relationships: planting them, growing them, nurturing them.
Lesson 1: Learning How to Tend the Garden
Sometimes small changes in how we respond make a big difference.
Figuring out how to 'fertilize' the potential seeds in my path yielded fruit immediately.
My sales had dropped to nothing as of March 10. I had been following the AMP marketing program and had started to try to engage and connect more with my collectors and potential collectors. When I upload new work to my FASO website from those who've signed up to follow me, I typically get a few responses, and while I've sent notes of thanks back in the past, I decided to go ahead and venture out of my comfort zone a bit.
Responding to one of these messages, I told the client a little of the background story of the painting and then added that since it was new and still unframed I could offer it to her for an unframed price of 'x'. I've never before brought up sales in one of these exchanges as the prices are listed in the initial email and I always figured if they wanted it they'd buy it. Big mistake I guess.
She got back to me with more questions and I started my next email with "Thanks for getting back to me, I really do appreciate your interest and I'd love to help you own something - either now or sometime later." Then I offered to send pictures of the painting with the frames I have available.
She purchased the painting, with the frame of her choice. It's a small one which makes sense for these times, but I am thrilled to have found a better way to help people buy my work. She mentioned to me when making the purchase that the painting reminds her of her dad - another reminder that it is always a personal, emotional connection that draws someone to our work.
At Rest, 12"x6" pastel -purchased piece
I have since made several other sales in a similar process, by commenting that "I'd love to help you own something" when they comment they'd love to buy a painting sometime, and always responding with a story about the painting when someone expresses interest in a piece.
I have learned from Dave that taking the conversation further-asking the client more about how and why they respond in a particular way to a particular piece-is both useful and rewarding. I get to know my collectors much better, which is interesting, and they feel much more connected to the artwork. It may or may not result in an immediate sale, but I have three times seen a conversation like this develop into a sale within a couple of weeks.
I try to take full advantage of the 'social' aspect of social media in this way-connecting on my Facebook page and on Instagram with those who comment in a substantive way about my work, or inquire about it.
Lesson 2: Deepening Relationships
Since 80% of our sales tend to come from 20% of our collectors, another AMP directive I've tried to follow (thought it doesn't come naturally) was to reach out to my top collectors. I sent personal emails and hand-written notes, mostly to check in and nurture the relationship with collectors, some of whom have been following me for many years. While in some cases I sent images of new work I knew they might like, mostly I wanted to reach out on a personal level and let them know I'm thinking of them.
After reaching out to one great repeat collector, we had a bit of an exchange and she mentioned a couple of pieces she liked. Having learned from AMP about the power of storytelling, I wrote back telling her the evolution/story behind the work. She commented, "I keep trying to branch out but your work is so delicious that I keep coming back for more. Someone please stop me!" I've had several extended, more interesting email exchanges with long-term clients than I ever would have had had I not reached out.
Interactions with long-time, enthusiastic collectors can also be especially helpful in defining our art's purpose or impact. As I've started to listen more to my long-time collectors' comments, I've begun to understand how important a sense of joy and wonder is in my painting. My delight at finding that I have conveyed that to others so much that they can help articulate it for me, has been an unexpected bonus.
Lesson 3: Planting More Seeds
Once I realized how powerful and important it could be to create a relationship with a new collector, I realized I had a big opportunity to change the direction of my sales going forward.
In May, I created a body of 25 small works and held a pop-up sale, with 20% of sales to be donated to a food bank. I announced on Instagram that I would hold a pre-sale two days in advance for anyone who subscribed to my newsletter list. I had over 60 sign-ups for my newsletter from that campaign and I send out personal thank yous to everyone who signs up for my newsletter.
The pre-sale (9 paintings) sold out in one day. The sale of the remaining 16 paintings, two days later, also sold out. With each of those sales, I corresponded immediately with the buyer, sending a personal email of thanks, making an effort wherever possible to begin a relationship. I also sent a personal thank-you note in the package, and included a brief story about the piece.
Although the paintings were small and unframed, many of these were new collectors and some may become great collectors whom I can nurture over time, now that they'll be getting my newsletter. This is a great time to plant seeds. One of these new collectors purchased a major painting last week from one of my galleries.
Sea 12 6"x8" pastel Radiance 7"x11" pastel
Two key ideas from the AMP program have really clicked for me: reaching out to & connecting with the collectors of my work, and sharing stories - both my own, and my collectors'.
In the end, it's all about connection. That is what we all need most now in this time of isolation, isn't it? Who knew that could also help the bottom line.