Learning How to Sell More Art Is a Critical Skill.
Since you are reading this post, I’m sure you are interested in learning how to sell more art and start making more money now. Good for you! The notion of starving to make high art is hogwash. So is dissing artists who make art intending to sell it.
You have to make compelling and attractive to get it sold.
If you are not doing that, you have got yourself a pleasant pastime, which is a legit option many highly talented artists take. Give yourself permission to make that choice with neither shame nor blame.
Virtually every artist I know wants to sell more art. It is a natural thing. Besides the significant financial gain, it is a prime method of validating one’s art career to those who truly matter to you, which leaves out art snobs. I have yet to see one pay a mortgage or auto loan for an artist.
Let’s get down to some useful ideas on how to get your work to market.
Here are seven ways to help you sell more art now.
1. Target your buyers.
It’s hard to be successful if you do not know who your best prospective buyers are and where to find them. If you are in a niche, for instance, equine art, it is easier than if you paint landscapes. But, either way, you need to have an appreciation of who is most likely to buy your art.
You need to understand:
- Core demographics about your buyers. Are they men or women, or both? What are their ages? What is their income range?
- Do they shop locally, or are they spread out geographically?
- What are their buying habits? Do you get a lot of repeat buyers?
- Are they price-sensitive? Do they buy giclees, originals, or open editions?
The above items are just the first cut of developing a full profile of your prospective buyer. The more you can refine who buys your art, the more successful you will be.
- What kind of cars might they drive?
- Where do they work?
- What are their career aspirations?
- How often do they shop for art?
- Are they interested in keeping abreast of changing trends in the arts?
Digging deep on an avatar or buyer profile is like mining gold.
What are their hopes and fears? What drives them to want to be successful? Why are they interested in the arts? What do they do in their lives that makes them different from others who only buy art a few times, if ever, in their lifetime?
It may sound complicated and sophisticated to do this. I would agree; it is. Nonetheless, I encourage you to do all you can to get familiar with your prospective buyers. It’s going beyond favorable demographics. It takes you into psychographics. The time you spend doing this work will pay you back in sales many times over that you would never have gotten otherwise.
Understanding and employing the 80/20 will make you much more successful.
You will find 20% of your potential buyers generate 80% of your revenue. When you can discover the 20% who you can tailor your marketing efforts to precisely. Your buyer profile is the key to unlocking those sales.
Inside of every 20% is another 80/20 set of customers. As long as your list is large enough, it is predictable that each additional 20% will buy more expensive pieces and more pieces. When you gain this level of understanding about your buyers, you can maximize your sales with lower marketing costs. It’s potent, powerful, and worth doing.
2. Be where your buyers are.
Duh! If you are trying to find buyers buy advertising in pricey art magazines when your buyers are reading Country Woman, you have a problem. This point follows up the one above. Know who your buyer is, where they go and then be there with them. Network with them in person when possible, and online wherever they hang out.
Mingling, networking, and growing awareness are how you attract buyers in your niche.
You don’t jump into a forum or in-person conversation and ask, “I’m an artist. How do you like me so far?” You take the time to take the measure of the situation, and then carefully and conscientiously inject yourself into the situation.
If it’s ripe with prospects, you may want to join a committee or get involved in ways that make it readily apparent you care about the same things the other members of the group or association care about. Doing that builds your platform and will lead you to sales opportunities without having to ask, in many cases.
3. Understand your competition.
The more you know about your competition, the smarter a marketer you will be. I do not advocate directly copying what someone else is doing, but I do condone “creative borrowing.” It is something we all do. Look at any art movement, and you will find a bunch of works by various artists all taking influence from each other.
Study your competition from all angles. Use what you learn to outperform them.
You can learn from your competitors and use the information to be more insightful about the marketplace overall. When you include these insights into your marketing, you strengthen your plan. Moreover, when you understand what your competitors are doing, you can use the knowledge to position yourself uniquely against them.
Take it a step further and find out what your competitors are doing to be successful. Deconstruct their marketing, Figure out what you can do to take things to the next level beyond what they are doing.
Draft the leaders until you are ready to pass them. – Barney Davey
Racecar drivers draft the cars in front of them because:
- They can go faster and burn less fuel.
- They set themselves up to pass the leader or car in front of them.
4. Create stand-out marketing – utilize your swipe file.
You cannot bore someone into buying your art. – Barney Davey
Before you can get them to consider it, you have to get their attention. The best way to do that is to be creative and inventive when it comes to preparing your marketing materials. Watching what marketers in other industries are doing can be a massive help to you.
You should have both a paper and digital swipe file. A swipe file is a place to file away anything you see that is remarkable to you. If you find an ad in a magazine or an article that moves or inspires you, tear it out and put it in a swipe file folder. If you find a website that does likewise, use Internet Explorer to “Save As” under the File menu link to make a .mht complete Web archive file.
I recommend Evernote. It is an online web clipping service that allows you to clip full pages, articles, or anything you select on a web page. It has a powerful search to help you find what you need.
5. Make irresistible offers.
I am not in favor of cut prices to get sales. That is a long-term way to kill your business. Price cutting puts you on a slippery slope to doom and failure. You can, however, find unique ways to make value-added offers:
- Bundle prices for a group of images.
- Free shipping for sales over a specific price.
- Satisfaction Guaranteed offer. Live with it 30 days and return it for full price.
- Free hanging service for local buyers.
- Free art consultation – if a business doesn’t have a corporate art buyer working with them, offer your services.
The ways you can add value to a sale without sacrificing your price are endless. It just depends on how creative you want to be. Your swipe file should help you here as well.
6. Diversify your marketing.
It is more critical today than ever for artists to be in charge of their marketing. In the end, the only person who will care if you make sales is you. If you realize you have to trust and rely on yourself and accept that responsibility, you are better for it.
Spread around what you are doing.
- Keep looking for more galleries.
- Start marketing to interior designers and corporate art consultants.
- Start a blog and post frequently.
- Get into the licensing market.
- Look for design centers to place your art.
- Get your website running.
- Start a Facebook page.
- Join groups on LinkedIn.
- Get involved in local Meetup Groups in your area.
7. Offer big and more than once.
Offer big. No one has ever been hurt because they assumed a sale and made an offer for a colossal sale. On the other hand, many a blind pig has found an acorn because they kept looking. In other words, there are buyers out there who are open-to-buy and who have budgets well beyond the meager funds in your savings account.
Never sell with what’s in your wallet.
Get used to the fact you are going to sell your original art to folks who have more money than you. Never project your feelings about how much money is in your wallet at the moment of the sale. It’s a sure way to lose a sale nearly every time. You cannot presume to know what a buyer’s ability or budget is. You can assume they are fully capable of telling you no if they cannot or do not want to accept your offer.
How big is too big? Beyond being ridiculous, there is no offer too big. What is wrong with saying, “I can make you three groupings of three pieces each.” Go on to explain the design virtues of clusters of three. You can tell how great the Feng Shui value in such groupings can improve a home or office, or whatever makes sense for you and that buyer at the moment.
Spend some time to think about constructing at least two separate offers such as the above example and work on them, so you are comfortable with the notion and presenting it to them. Then practice so when you make such an offer that they come out naturally and comfortably.
I promise you these two things.
- If you regularly make big offers, you will find buyers who accept them, and you will be so tickled pink it happened the hardest part will be for you to remain calm while you process the sale. (Send me a note when it happens because I guarantee it will.)
- If you never make big offers, you will never enjoy the benefits and income that come from doing so. Or, as the now-famous Wayne Gretzky saying goes, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take!”
Remember, no does not always mean no. Many times it just means “I need more information,” or “I am not yet convinced.” Keep the conversation going and ask again. Try to probe for more details on the decision, or what the buyer is seeking. At the least, get both an email and a snail mail address, note those works that were of interest and communicate with them regularly. It is not uncommon in many galleries for buyers to take a year or longer before they make a purchase.
Put these ideas into action, and you will undoubtedly make more money and sell more art.
Double Bonus point.
Be humbled and thankful for your blessings. Regardless of your current position, it never hurts to be grateful for the blessings you have. You are blessed with talent and creativity to make art. You are blessed to afford to be able to make art. You are blessed to have time to read blog posts like this one.
Despite the world around us, that much of is plunged in darkness and hatred, we find ourselves living in the highest abundance ever known to humanity. We should not take this abundance for granted. Nor should we allow ourselves to fall under that spell of those who spread divisiveness, lies, and hatred — peace out.
- How to Sell Your Art Using Buyer Social Styles
- Discover How to Sell More Art Using the Big Offer
- How to Take Heart and Make Selling Art Awesome
Once again – great article Barney!
Thank you Barney, I am coming up on the busiest time of the year for my art business, and your thoughts on buyer profiles, and larger offers really hit home. i am going to do my homework! Keep up the brilliance!
Barney, I got a lot out of this article. Thank you! Particularly the reminder that we need to determine who our target market is, and then go where they go! I especially enjoyed the urging to make big offers. This is so true – it’s surprising how much money there is out there. As my business coach told me, “with the poor economy, there isn’t less money out there, it’s just migrated from one group of people to another. You have to go where the money went!” Sage advice.
Great post Barney – lots of great advice and most importantly encouragement! As always this article is a keeper! I consider all of the post you write as a blessing in my life!
Good info, but how do I find out who my buyers are so I can do these things you suggest?
You need to know who buys your art. You have to pay attention to who is buying your art. Are you in a niche? Who is buying from artists you consider your direct competition? It is a matter of observation and research.
Okay, Thank you!
Good luck with the presentation. Custom giclee printers can make a mural any size. It might have to be done in pieces like wallpaper.
Great article Barney. It is a good reminder for us to keep seeking our place in the art world. We all have a different slant to offer our clients. The key is to find our special place and go for it. Thank you for all that you share with all of us.
Great article! I’m still searching for my target audience. It seems more of a challenge when you don’t have a niche (or don’t know what your niche is). “Never sell what’s in your wallet” – very good advice.
Thanks Barney, an excellent and thought provoking article. Your expertise is certainly appreciated.
Thanks for the great advice, but it is a little more difficult finding affluent buyers here is the Caribbean. How difficult is it to secure a manager for international sales?
You are welcome. My guess for the level of difficulty in finding an international sales manager is very difficult. Research the demographics of the population of the Caribbean. I think you will find there are both full-time and part-time affluent residents. If you are seeing them, you are looking in the wrong places.
The last section of your article is the most important to remember. I am grateful I am able to do what I love, work at getting it out there, and enjoy the people who are interested in and buy my work.
Your blog always has something of value to tackle in my business. Just taking one piece at a time and working it, works for me. Then tackle another.
It is no mean feat to write an article a week that motivates improvement, particularly when it appears nearly altruisic. I bet though for every artist who reads your articles without a purchase there is one who goes that one step further and supports your work. That is the lesson.
I’m in an unusual market, but your advice still applies. Good article!