Know the Value of Your Collectors

When You Find Collectors It Pays Dividends!

Building a growing list of patrons who want to buy art from you directly is the best move you can make. Knowing how to find collectors is how to sell more art on a steady basis while avoiding the pitfalls of fickle galleries, constantly changing social media and untrustworthy third-party distributors.

What Is the Value of a Patron to You?

Do you know how much it costs you to acquire a collector? How much would you pay to add a collector to your list? Do not be embarrassed if you do not know. It is not an easy question to answer. Capturing and mining the required data is tough for all businesses. A precise answer is not possible.

1. Determining Art Collector Acquisition Costs Can Be Tricky

Let’s suppose you took a booth at an art fair for $800 and came away with four new collectors. You could say each cost you $200. But, that would leave out travel, lodging, marketing and other assorted expenses, which easily could double your cost.

The point of asking is to encourage you to track and categorize your marketing costs. To succeed at this, you also need to pursue aggressively learning how art collectors found you.

Want to learn how to sell locally and to people who know you? Join the Art Marketing Toolkit Project.

2. Being Proactive in Finding Useful Data Pays Dividends

While at a show, ask buyers and prospects if your marketing, show marketing, or another artist’s promotion pulled them in. In other communications, you can make a specific special offer related to your request for an address that will identify the source.

Being disciplined in tracking what attracts new art collectors will help you intelligently spend your marketing dollars. For instance, if postcards work then use them more frequently. If email works, then send more emails.

3. A Viable Email List Is a Most Valuable Business Asset

Be diligent about collecting both postal and email addresses. Your list of potential art collectors is your lifeline to success. A good way to ask for new list sign-ups and how prospects found you, is to offer something of value in return for their cooperation. For example, a mini-print, a box of notecards, free shipping, or a show special.

4. Keep Track of What Works

Collecting names arguably is the most important task you perform for your art business. If you are not making contact collection a high priority, start now. Make it easy for someone to give you their information on your blog, and your website.

Use an opt-in form from any of the many broadcast email providers. I use ConvertkitĀ because it is simple but offers marketing automation. If you want a service free to start to try Mailerlite. It offers marketing automation even at the free level.

5. Keep Testing and Refining Your Offer

Try splitting your offers and promotions to the same list. By testing, you will find the most effective way of making your offers. The more your offers hit home, the better your results will be.

6. Ask for Referrals

Don’t be shy, an easy way to start getting referrals is to encourage your prospects and buyers to forward you emails, pass your postcards along, or tell others to sign up for your special offers.

Be creative in thinking about how you can develop unique ways to help you collect contact information. The payoff will be worth the effort as it drives down the cost of acquiring new collectors. This may be the most useful and least used method of finding art collectors. Use that to your advantage.

Want to learn how to sell locally and to people who know you? Join the Art Marketing Toolkit Project.



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  1. Thanks Barney, good article and sensible advice. I purchased your book some weeks ago and am reading it and enjoying the approach


  2. Hi Barney, I have bought most of your books and the ones that you have recommended. Last week I bought “The Supermodel and the Brillo Box”. I downloaded your Art Collectors Mind Map awhile ago. It is a good mind jigger for ideas. I am having a hard time trying to figure out how to ask the buyers of my art where they work, what places do they hang out and what events interest them. The people that just buy a few cards, I feel silly even asking them their name and address for my receipt book. The last 30 x 40 canvas that I sold, I agreed the meet the buyer in a grocery parking lot to deliver the image. She asked if I would sign the canvas, but I didn’t know how to start a conversation out of the back of my car. I bought your book about asking Interior Designers to work with me, but only one has so far agreed to meet with me. I want this to work, but I am wondering if in the back of my mind, I am not willing to REALLY work for it.

    1. Hi Suzanne, I can feel your pain. I think you are trying, but maybe not in the right way. It makes sense you just can’t start grilling people about their lives. That sort of information comes from conversation. Good communication originates from a genuine interest in the other party. Having some pat open-ended questions helps, “I love to know where my art is going to be on display. Can you tell me what are your plans for this piece?” “I’m always curious to know something about my buyers. Do you own other pieces of original art?” “Would you like some suggestions for hanging this piece of art?” “Great, tell me more about what you are doing with it. Is it going to your home or a business?” Learn to share something about the piece you are selling. “You know, when I was working on this piece, this happened, or I had this thought, or I made this one tiny change because an important thought came to me while I was creating.” Anything you can impart that personalizes the work, the more likely someone will respond back with more questions. These scenarios all lead to you casually asking questions about your client’s life. FOAR stands for family, occupation, associations and recreation. You can get nearly anyone to talk with you by sticking to those subjects.

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