Tips on How to Sell Art to the Affluent Market

Let me tell you about the very rich people. They are different from you and me.

– F. Scott Fitzgerald

There is a growing wealth divide in the U.S. and elsewhere. The buying power of middle-income consumers is down, while the top one percent alone holds more wealth than the middle class. Before 2010, the middle class owned more wealth than the top one percent. Since 1995, the share of wealth held by the middle class has steadily declined, while the top one percent’s share has steadily increased.

This post is not about wealth inequality but rather about helping artists like you find ways to sell your higher-priced works to people with the disposable income to afford them.

How Do You Feel About Money?

Your feelings about money, wealth, and wealthy people make a difference. Neutral to okay or better is good. Anything less is likely to hinder your efforts to market to rich people. It pays to understand and control your feelings so they don’t temper opportunities.

Birds of a Feather Flock Together

An educated guess is that you target your marketing to middle-class buyers, even if on a subconscious level. We tend to go where we are comfortable – birds of a feather flock together. What you need to do is start thinking logically, like top retailers. They have begun focusing on the next level, the affluent class, aka rich people.

The affluent market consists of those U.S. households with an annual income of $100,000 or more. Wealthy earners represent the top 20 percent of consumers. Since there are roughly 125 million U.S. households, the entire segment constitutes around 25 million households.

10 Spark Conversation Tips infographic (728 x 45 px)

It’s Time to Discover How to Sell Art to the Affluent Market

In my Guerrilla Marketing for Artists: How 100 Collectors Can Bulletproof Your Career book, I devote much time to building a loyal following of direct buying collectors. Developing a collector base among the affluent greatly benefits your career. Fortunately, consumer trends, communication tools, and technology make getting this done not only possible but easy compared to the art marketing techniques of past generations.

Follow These Tips to Improve Your Original Art Sales to the Affluent Market:

  • Ditch Your Bias: Get rid of your disdain for materialism, conspicuous consumption, or other negative traits towards the spending habits and lifestyle of those wealthier than you are. Learn to relax, be confident, and realize that the richest mogul still puts his pants on one leg at a time.
  • Rise to The Challenge: You cannot effectively learn how to sell art to the affluent market if you are self-conscious about your income level or let your circumstances put a chip on your shoulder. To market to those outside your current income status, you must take the steps required to understand your customers deeply and profoundly.
  • Fine-Tune Your Pricing: Design pricing for the optimum sweet spot between class and mass. Intelligent retailers are beginning to focus on the HENRYs market (High-earner, not rich yet). They earn an income of $100,000 to $250,000 annually. Many look for value rather than status.
  • Make A Great First Impression and Build on It: From your initial contact, your job is to build long-term, professional relationships. Everyone on your team must buy into this relationship-building principle.
  • Make Your Website Work for You: Your website is a significant factor in first impressions. It is your primary tool for influencing luxury buyers outside of personal contact. Think clean, simple, and elegant.
  • Find Ways to Rub Elbows with The Affluent: Research the best group to join that will put you in proximity to the affluent market. Some examples include alum associations, Chambers of Commerce, charities and fundraisers, churches, synagogues, and other religious organizations, civic organizations, gourmet restaurants and food suppliers, garden clubs, sports and exercise clubs, antique cars, wine tasting events, economic clubs, fraternal organizations, and hospitals and other major medical organizations.
  • Who Else Sells to the Rich People?: Use the list of occupations that sell to the affluent market to help you spot potential referral partners or collaborators. Some examples include architects, travel agents, financial advisers, real estate agents, luxury automobile dealers, auction houses, wine merchants, high-end boutiques, caterers, specialty chefs, and event planners.
  • WOMMA Is the Best Marketing Strategy: Word-of-mouth marketing (WOMMA) is THE best way to gain quick access and acceptance for a group or a person through an introduction, recommendation, or referral. Networking is where you find new buyers and gain referrals to boost your art career.

How to Sell Art to the Affluent Market – Part Two

Look for the second part of How to Sell Art to the Affluent Market next week. If you are not a subscriber, click here to subscribe. That way, I’ll notify you when it is published.


Tags

Affluent Market, luxury marketing, sell art


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  • Hi Barney!!!
    I loved this article. I am building my fine art photography biz up again and really enjoyed your tips here on new ways to market. I agree it is always about the relationships!! Thanks again for all you do. 🙂

  • Well-heeled buyers and advocates often want the EXPERIENCE. They want to be able to tell their friends and family about you and your piece and how you established the relationship. That is the VALUE you are giving. Too many sellers think of value as $$.

  • I don’t know what you mean about cheating. Smart marketing is not cheating. Proactively working to introduce one’s art to affluent buyers can make the difference between success and mediocrity, or worse, failure.

  • I really enjoyed this article. Thanks Barney. It amplifies what I was starting to notice myself. 😀

  • What great advice. As I venture out to gallery shows and events where I know full well there are affluent prospects and collectors, I often wonder about their point of view, their perspective on life to better understand where they are coming from and being able to relate to them on a personal level. I know it’s a large topic, but could you expand on this level of society?
    You write:

    “You do not have to be like them to sell to them. You just need to know where they are coming from and how they look at life.”

    I have heard of perceived value with pricing towards the affluent, but at what point are you pricing yourself out of the general market where most galleries are marketing to?

  • What an amazing post Barney!! I agree 100% – I’ve been doing exactly what you have outlined for many years and it has really worked for me. The added bonus is that all of my collectors have become friends and I have made many many new friends & great connections with people that haven’t become collectors (yet) or may never for that matter. It’s a lot of fun to boot! Thanks for validating what I have been doing over the years.

    • Thank you, Fiona. It is always a joy to hear from you with your wonderful affirmations. It’s my pleasure to validate you are the bomb! 😉

  • This type of direct marketing has also worked well for us. One part of the equation is to move to an area where there are affluent people with 2nd homes or are likely to vacation in the area. People with high incomes are usually very busy and do a lot of their discretionary spending while on vacation! Studio galleries and studio tours in these areas tend to do better than expected.

  • I have the same general questions Brenda did, as well as specific ones. For example the perceived value question- I use real gold leaf in my paintings but sometimes wonder if its necessary in today’s world. I would think that someone with money would expect real gold, not the fake leaf. On the other hand the European artists get away with using the foils by calling it Dutch Gold!

    • Thanks for your comments, Carole. To Brenda’s point, I think if you price too low, you cheat yourself out of your fair share. Most galleries are targeting affluent buyers because they have success with that segment. I think artists should do likewise and as much as possible get to know and understand potential affluent buyers. Your question regarding using gold leaf versus Dutch gold is interesting. Does gold leaf look better, noticeably? Is there enough of it to make the fact it is part of the image a true selling point? Do buyers respond to it? In other words, does it create a tipping point in selling your work? If so, keep after it. If not, perhaps you should emulate your European counterparts. Should you choose to go that way, I would use the Continental implied Old World snobbery as part of my pitch. “I use the same Dutch Gold process in making this art as some of the most talented and successful artists in Europe do.”

      • Thank you Barney for clearing that up for me also as I use the “Dutch Method” too! Now I can address that issue if it comes up in a conversation.

  • Thank you for sharing your insight and vast knowledge about sales. Great article!

  • Terri McGhee says:

    I love reading your blog Barney.
    I have a question for you. Can you tell me how to get my metallic colored art designs printed on canvas giclees? If so, Do you know of a top knotch printing company that provides fine art prints that can print with metallic paints?

    • Glad you like the blog! I am not aware of metallic inks for inkjet printers. There are metallic substrates available. You may need to be creative in how you interpret your original into a digital prints. Call my friends at DigitalArtsStudio.net in Atlanta. 404.352.9779, or FineArtImpressions.com in Palm Springs, CA 800.419.4442. These are great places to start your research. Good luck with your quest!

  • I enjoyed your website as I am currently helping a uniquely talented artist Stephen Harris get “discovered”. He lives in a tent on a secluded peaceful island where he creates his wonderful works of art, away from the hustle and bustle of the modern world. Check it out…

  • Great article lots of interesting information. I was wondering do you think this applies to murals as well.

    • The most likely demographic to buy a mural has to be the affluent class, so I am sure the advice applies to them as well.

      • Diane Leifheit says:

        Hi Barney, I read your blog about once a week and go through two or three when I do. Its chock full of great stuff and yes I have the Guerrilla Marketing for Artists book. Just one thing. Please fix your graphic selling the book so there is a space between to and Find. I paint and do graphic design and my rule is always let someone else look at your design project for typos, dates and gaffes. The creator of a project whether art or design has to get away to come back and see the weird stuff.
        Thank you for your great insight. D

  • Teresa Fitzgerald says:

    Hi Barney,

    Thank you for being so honest and helpful. I have learnt a lot from your article as I am so NOT savvy in the sales and marketing domain. Some of us artists just find it very difficult to even go there. It feels to me sometimes that I am betraying myself. However I have come to the conclusion that I must give it a try or rather try harder.

    Kind regards and stay safe in this perilous time.
    Teresa Fitzgerald
    teresa_fitzgerald on instagram

    • Hi Teresa, you are welcome, and thank you for your kind words about my help to artists. I know marketing is hard, which is why I try to help. Consider joining the Art Marketing Toolkit. It is full of useful advice, videos, and downloads. Plus an active Facebook group for artists to share, and to get and give help. It’s only $4.99 per month with no contract. I made it affordable because I am more interested in helping artists than trying to make a lot of money from the.

  • Thank you for this great article. I so agree with marketing to those who can purchase your art. Suggestions on how to go about introducing yourself and your art to new affluent clients in the climate of Covid?

  • Carlos Arriola says:

    Good evening Barney
    I have just sign up tonight because I find your articles extremely interesting.
    I am mostly a pastelliste but never sold a single painting…just offer some to family
    and a couple of close friends.

    Hopefully with your advise I will start selling soon.
    Thanks and have a great weekend
    Carlos

    • Hi Carlos,

      Thank you for your message and for joining the Art Marketing Toolkit Project. A welcome email is on the way. Also coming in a few minutes is an invitation to the live Zoom session tomorrow. Please join the Facebook group using the link in the welcome email. Welcome aboard!

  • Jurjis Jarvis says:

    Very informative. I am a 4 time award winning fashion designer, always wanted to have an art exhibition, finally got to it January 2019. I have painted since then 3 collections. I ran into your website last year. I thank you for the incite full info.

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