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How to Sell Art to the Affluent Market – Part One


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

I don’t need to say to you; there is a growing wealth divide in the U.S. and elsewhere. The buying power of middle-income consumers is down. While this post is not about wealth inequality, it’s a real thing and both a growing trend and problem in the U.S. and elsewhere.

If your income status is middle class, you are likely clipping coupons and more price-conscious than ever. Today, you find people shopping in Walmart, who, a few years back, wouldn’t have been caught dead there.

The top one percent alone holds more wealth than the middle class. They owned 29 percent—or over $25 trillion—of household wealth in 2016, while the middle class owned just $18 trillion.

Download List of 7 Essential Tools Artists Use
Download List of 7 Essential Tools Artists Use

This situation has not always been the case. 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.

There is a time and place for discussion on the evolution of inequality. What to do about it is not the point of this post. Our concern is to help artists like you find ways to sell your higher-priced works to people with the disposable income to afford them. Plainly put you want to know how to sell art to rich people. You don’t have to be like the people you sell to or even like the people you sell to have success marketing art to 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 almost certain to hinder your efforts marketing to rich people. Sometimes our attitude is so subtle we aren’t conscious of the effects it makes. Awareness of your feeling towards money and how you react to income disparity are real things.

It pays to understand and control your feelings, so they don’t temper opportunities to market your art. A side benefit is that it’s easier for artists to raise their prices when they control their feelings. It creates confidence and combats the doubts and demons we all encounter.

Birds of a Feather Flock Together.

An educated guess is you probably 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 up, which is the affluent class, aka rich people.

Download List of 7 Essential Tools Artists Use
Download List of 7 Essential Tools Artists Use

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.

Do you want to know the No. 1 habit self-made millionaires share? It’s also the most often overlooked. The most important — and most missed — is the habit they share that helped them grow their wealth. In large part, it is their commitment to forging valuable relationships with individuals they aspire to be: positive, success-minded folks. In other words, you don’t have to be a millionaire to become a positive, success-minded part of their world where they are most likely to buy your art.

It Is 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 the concept of building a loyal following of direct buying collectors. I contend artists who set and achieve this goal of developing direct buyers immunize their careers from the inevitable downturns that happen when galleries close, social media darlings fade against new trends, and other distribution channels fail.

Loyal Direct Buyers Are the Key to Long-Term Career Success.

Developing a collector base among the affluent is a massive benefit to your career. Fortunately, consumer trends, communication tools, and technology make getting this done not only possible but easy compared to art marketing techniques of past generations.

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

Ditch Your Bias.

If you are not wealthy yourself, you may find yourself feeling socially self-conscious. If this is you, do not feel bad, you are not alone. These feelings and perceptions are a common disorder.

It will help if you let your imagination in on the fun. Start thinking and daydreaming about capturing the feel of having discretionary income well beyond your current means. Get rid of any disdain you might have about materialism, conspicuous consumption, or other negative traits towards the spending habits and lifestyle of those wealthier than you are.

Download List of 7 Essential Tools Artists Use
Download List of 7 Essential Tools Artists Use

I guarantee the managers and salespeople in the ritziest showrooms for luxury items are not on the same financial plane as their customers. Everyone—buyers and sellers—understands this situation. It comes down to human nature. Some buyers will be easy and others complex, which is the same reality in selling lower-priced goods. The difference is that you will feel intimidated until you let your hesitations go and learn to relax, be confident, and realize the richest mogul still puts his pants on one leg at a time. That is not a situational thing; it is an attitude thing, where you have 100% control of how you choose to react to the situation.

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 if you let your circumstances put a chip on your shoulder. The first step for those who do is recognizing you have a bias. The second step is being pragmatic and adult enough to get over your preferences. To market to those outside your current income status, you need to take the steps required to understand your customers deeply and profoundly. You do not have to be like them to sell to them. You need to know where they are coming from and how they look at life.

Fine-Tune Your Pricing.

You must design your pricing to land in the optimum sweet spot between class and mass. Intelligent retailers, these days, are beginning to focus on what some describe as the HENRYs market. HENRY is an acronym for High-earner, not rich yet. These consumers earn an income of $100,000 to $250,000 annually. Their buying habits vary, but many look for value rather than status. For instance, they might pay a premium of $2,500 – $4,900 for a Tag Heuer watch but reject shelling out $10,000 – $20,000 for a Rolex, which in their eyes is overpaying for the status.

Conversely, low prices have the most negligible influence on whether the affluent will conduct future business with you. Competing on price is a loser’s game. If you are doing it now, stop immediately. It would be best if you sold to luxury buyers on value, not price.

Make A Great First Impression and Build on It.

If the first impression is the high point of the relationship, you will fail at creating lasting, meaningful, and profitable relationships. From your initial contact, your job is to take charge of building long-term, professional relationships. Everyone on your team must buy into this relationship-building principle.

Everyone who supports you must immerse themselves in doing whatever it takes to build lasting relationships with rich people who are your top buyers and others your organization has dealings with. The stronger your relationships, the more sales you will make to your core audience, and the more referrals you will gain from them. Some put it as having the mindset of providing a Ritz-Carlton service with the proficiency of FedEx.

Find ways to set yourself apart. Perhaps you offer free-hanging service within a set range of your studio. You could offer to let your buyers trade their existing art for a return fee. For instance, you might provide 50% of the original price if the new work is higher than the original. You could offer to lease your art or put it on temporary loans for events, home staging, or other such needs.

Financing Your Art

Your Henry prospects may have the means to pay in full or use a credit card to buy your art. Nevertheless, many will appreciate your offer to provide free, no-hassle financing. A one-third down payment sends the art home. The following two prices are due in 30 and 60 days from the date of sale. By showing trust and respect to your buyers, you strengthen your relationship. It makes additional sales more likely. And, it might be the clincher you need to sell that high-priced masterpiece you’ve been using to make all your other work appear more affordable.

You could provide a free consultation for buying works of art from other artists or help with framing or reframing new or existing artworks. Think about working out a deal with your favorite framer to get your customers a discount or expedited service from the shop. You get the idea. Find a way to make buying art from you a value-added proposition.

Make Your Website Work for You

Your website is a significant factor in first impressions and beyond. When it comes to influencing luxury buyers outside of personal contact, it is your primary tool. Sites are commodities these days. It’s not how much you spend with your website provider but instead how well you use the tools included in their offering for you to use.

Think clean, simple, and elegant. You can add design elements, but don’t overdo it. When a visitor notices and admires your website instead of your art, you’re off the wrong foot. Be professional. Use a custom domain and email address associated with it.

Find Ways to Rub Elbows with The Affluent.

The easiest way to get to know people and let them know you are straightforward, be around them. I’m betting many of those reading this post do not have the income to join an exclusive country club and may not want to become a member at one either. That is okay. There are plenty of other ways to associate with the affluent market without matching their income. For example, you can join an association where the wealthy are also likely to be involved.

Researching the best group to join is the smart way to avoid wasting your time. Here are some criteria to consider:

  • Are members of the affluent market attracted to the group?
  • Will you have frequent opportunities to meet new people in monthly or, at least, quarterly gatherings?
  • Are there subcommittees or other offshoot activities that put you in proximity to group members?
  • Do you have a personal interest in the purpose and goals of the association?
  • Is joining geographically and financially feasible?

The list of possible organizations to ponder is numerous. Your first round of research could include:

  • Alumni associations
  • Chambers of Commerce
  • Charities and fundraisers
  • Churches, synagogues, and other religious organizations
  • Civic organizations
  • Gourmet restaurant and food suppliers
  • Garden clubs
  • Sports and exercise clubs
  • Antique cars
  • Wine tasting events
  • Economic clubs
  • Fraternal organizations
  • Hospitals and other major medical organizations.
  • Museum associations and other arts-related organizations are natural for artists to join with the multiple purposes of doing some good for their community and themselves.

Who Else Sells to the Rich People?

  • Architects
  • Travel agents
  • Financial advisers
  • Real estate agents
  • Luxury automobile dealers
  • Auction houses
  • Wine merchants
  • High-end boutique
  • Caterers
  • Specialty chefs
  • Event planners

The above list gives you valuable suggestions on other occupations that sell to the affluent market. Use it to help you spot potential referral partners or collaborators. For example, if you paint wine-related scenes, you have many options from above to consider for partnering to help each other.

WOMMA Is the Best Marketing Stratagem.

Word-of-mouth marketing (WOMMA) positively is THE best way to gain quick access and acceptance to a group or a person through an introduction, recommendation, or referral. This dynamic is especially useful when you receive an enthusiastic introduction. When someone likes you, knows you, and loves your art, they will champion you and your artworks without prompting.

The more art they buy, the more they become vested in the success of your career. A chapter in my mentioned above, Guerrilla Marketing for Artists book, covers networking in depth. Networking is where you find new buyers and where asked for, and unsolicited referrals come to bolster your art career.

Amazon for Rich People

There are sites dedicated to help and sell to the wealthy. The James Edition is sometimes called Amazon for Rich People. Listings for the original art of Donna McLain in its Extraordinaire category with her mixed media piece, “Infinity of the Universe,” was “price on request” from her German gallery, Interstellar Art GmbH. She has had similar works on Saatchi Art priced up to $60,000. That’s legitimate digital validation for her work.

If I wanted to get her prices and sell like her, I would investigate and learn everything I could about her. How did she get into the German gallery? Does she have patron benefactors? How well does her work sell on Saatchi Art? Does she have a manager or outside representation? Where else does she show her art? Learn those things and more. Then learn who are the other artists in her German gallery and find out the details about them.

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. In the meantime, you’ll get my 7 Marketing Tools Top Artists Use workbook.

AMTP Priceless Art Marketing Information

I launched the Art Marketing Toolkit Project (AMTP), believing marketing information should be affordable for all artists. While I understand how to market to luxury buyers, it’s my goal to help as many artists as I can worldwide. That’s why I set a single monthly membership fee of $4.99 with no contract. It’s a latte to some and precious money to others, and I won’t leave any artist behind.

Learning art marketing gives you skills with lifetime value. Understanding what is truly important to you and leaning in to live your best artist’s life are even more excellent skills and value.

My mission is to help all the members acquire and implement these skills at a pace that works for them. If these concepts sound intriguing, please accept my invitation to become an AMTP member. $4.99 monthly with no contract is the best investment you can make in your future.

Read Part Two Here

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Download List of 7 Essential Tools Artists Use

Tags

Affluent Market, sell art


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  1. 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. 🙂

  2. 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 $$.

  3. 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.

  4. 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?

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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!

    1. 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.”

      1. 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.

  8. 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?

    1. 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!

  9. 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…

      1. 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

  10. 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

    1. 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.

  11. 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?

  12. 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

    1. 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!

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