- by Barney Davey
When it comes to buying things, we all use a 3-part decision-making criteria. We tend to buy from people and companies based on these things:
Not always in that order. Think about the purchases you make. How often do you try something new and unknown when you have a perfect solution from a known supplier? It’s just too convenient to go back to the reliable source.
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Distant relationships can turn personal.
I will give you that we all like variety and to try new things. However, the bulk of your purchases from cars to colas is from companies you know, like and trust. You go with them because you are aware of and like their products. You are aware their prices are realistic and are confident of your value as a customer.
Of course, don’t have personal relationships with the Ford Motor Company or Coca-Cola Corporation. That said, contact their them through social media or their customer service contact points. You will find they most often respond in a personal manner.
A Nike shoe saga.
Not long ago, a colleague complained to me his new Nike running shoes had a defect. He was more than a little disbelieving when I told him to go online and contact customer support. He did despite his hesitancy. A Nike rep responded and sent him a return label to send the shoes back. Moreover, he also got a link he could use to design new pair shoes, which came in short order.
Delighted customers stick around.
He ended up thrilled. He loved the look of his new, personalized shoes. I can’t explain the thrill he got from his response from Nike’s customer service. As you can imagine, this incident took him from a casual customer to a devoted Nike fan. He will buy more shoes and talk about his experience with Nike now like never before.
What do you think happened to his LCV (Lifetime Customer Value) for Nike? I guess it increased his value to Nike by tenfold. He is an avid runner and weight lifter. He not only buys many pairs of athletic shoes each year, but he also buys tons of athletic apparel. In fact, that is what makes up most of his wardrobe.
He is a walking billboard for the company. He also now is a disciple for it. One who will spread the word about the company, its customer service, its brand, and its products. That value is near immeasurable and close to priceless.
What do athletic shoes and art have in common?
Almost nothing is the correct answer. The moral here that by taking care of its customers, Nike added to its bottom line for the year to come. My friend may buy a pair of Adidas shoes in the future, but Nike will always get consideration before he does. He knows he will never be stuck with a product that is not right for him or is defective. That is huge.
When it comes to who buys art, there are six broad categories. You can choose to market to them all. I have seen successful careers from artists in every imaginable combination of types. I believe the Collector category is the one that offers the greatest LCV for most artists. The typical artist has sales in several of these categories:
- Designers, decorators, and art consultants
- Mass marketers
The Wisdom of the SWAG Factor.
Using the SWAG Factor, I estimate 95% of all art gets sold through one of the above channels. Here is a brief description of each:
- Collectors– these buyers are the heart blood of your business, or should be if not already. They are the ones who want to know you. They wish to know about your art, and will be your supporters. They will not only will they buy multiple pieces from you. They will also turn their friends, family and associates on to your art – especially if you ask them to help you. (See below for my resources on how to find and develop collectors.)
- Galleries– a gallery will contribute to developing a collector base for you. The problem is the buying relationship is with the gallery. Most often, they don’t share buyer information with artists. It’s true, galleries have lost marketing power as consumer buying habits have changed. Still, having representation in the right galleries pays dividends. There is the enhanced cachet that comes with saying you have galleries that carry your work. Galleries have different marketing systems. They are not looking for buyers just for your art. The crossover interest from their other artists creates sales you would not get otherwise.
- Designers, decorators, and art consultants– this art buying segment is worth pursuing. Designers and decorators are repeat, buyers. Unlike galleries, who sell your art on consignment and only pay on sales, designers pay now. Consultants may delay your payment, but you will have a firm date of when. Designers have long memories. Dick Harrison, the co-author of How to Sell Art to Interior Designers, was an art rep for 20+years. Just the other day, he had a call from a designer inquiring about work she saw more than five years ago. Even though he is retired, he has maintained some inventory and had what she needed. As a bonus, he showed some other more expensive pieces. She ordered some of those instead of lower-priced items from her initial interest.
- Buyers– art buyers are those people who buy art for an immediate need. Usually they need to fulfill some design scheme in a home or office. They may do research, or buy on a whim. They are not looking for a relationship with the artist. You are going to need art buyers to help you sell all the art you make. It’s just that it’s hard to predict your sales to this segment. Many may buy from an online gallery where you have your art on display. You will earn a part of the deal, but not get the buyer’s contact information.
- Licensors – licensing repurposes your original art for use on other products. Think note cards, stationery, linens, bath accessories, home furnishings, and wallpaper. That just scratches the surface. Thomas Kinkade, Paul Brent, Bob Timberlake and Mary Engelbreit are multi-millionaires as a result of their licensing deals. Licensing is a specialized field. It takes lots of time and an active contact list to make it pay off for most artists. You can make it on your own in time. However, you will find most artists rely on specialists to earn income from the licensing market. Either way, learn from licensing gurus before you decide to go alone or look for a licensing agent. They include Tara Reed, Maria Brophy, Cherish Flieder, Lance Porterfield, and J’net Smith. Find them on Facebook, or read their blogs to start learning about licensing.
- Mass marketers– this group buys art in volume. Some are known as “volume buyers.” Most often, individual artists don’t deal with volume buyers. Instead, they get picked up by a poster publisher. Volume buyers aggregate art, picture frame molding and framing components. Their buying list includes glass, mat board, and other items needed for ready-to-hang art. Their order for prints start is in the thousands. They then sell the finished work to mass marketers such as Pier One, Target, and Walmart. They also sell flat art to online sites such as Art.com and Allposters.com. There is more to it than this brief explanation. To learn more, you should read my How to Profit from the Art Print Market book.
Lazy Way How to Sell More Art with Less Effort
Let’s get back to the subject of this post.
I believe collectors are the best way to sell more art with less effort.
I’m not saying it is easy to find collectors. It’s just once you have a relationship with a collector it is easier to sell them more pieces. It’s way easier than finding a new art buyer or another new collector. Think about it. You already that KNOW LIKE TRUST is how you sell just about anything. With established collectors, that work is already done.
With a collector, know, like and trust is already in place. You don’t have to spend time, energy, and marketing effort to establish them again. You just need to do these things:
- Keep making irresistible art
- Treat your customers better than they expect
- Set up a systematic way to keep them informed and interested.
Icing on the Cake.
You need a mix of the above types of buyers with collectors at the center of your marketing strategy. When done right, it is reasonable to expect a collector will buy 3-5, or more, pieces from you during your career. The other categories will fill in the sales you need. Collectors make your other categories icing on your cake.
How to Hire Unpaid Evangelists.
Some collectors act as unpaid agents for you. They will boost your career through introductions to other buyers. A few will become mentors or evangelists who enrich your career in ways you cannot even imagine. You only get this kind of career-changing action if you make it a priority to develop a collector base.
Collectors are like my friend who has boosted his LCV with Nike. A collector will enhance your business with reliable, predictable sales. Getting that from the other categories mentioned above is difficult. Collectors are your customers. You have a one-to-one relationship with them that cannot be taken away from you. Galleries will close. Social media will fail or fail you. Mass marketers and designers only need you at times.
Are You Ready to Make Developing Collectors the Centerpiece of Your Marketing?
Want to learn more about how to find and develop collectors? I have some options for you. The first is for the artist on a budget. Read my Guerrilla Marketing for Artists: How 100 Collectors Can Bulletproof Your Career book. You can order the softcover on Amazon. It is available in the Kindle store. You can read Kindle books on any desktop, tablet or smartphone. Just download the free Kindle reader. You can borrow it to read free with Amazon Prime.
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