Selling fine art originals priced at $1,000 and up is a niche business. Often, marketing original art is in a niche within a niche. The subject matter, medium, and prices are merely starting points for defining niches that apply to selling original art.
What Is a POP?
POP is an acronym for Pocket of People. I learned the concept from the late Peter Spaepen, who was a genius marketer and talented teacher. He built his Tiny Is Mighty course with Andre Chaperon using his considerable intellect and unparalleled insights from Seth Godin.
Seth tells us to find a minimum lovable product and build our business on it by developing our smallest viable audience of people who are most likely to love the ways we delight, change, and serve them. Andre advises:
- Figure what will resonate with your POP (easier said than done).
- Ship the work.
How to Start Small Until You Are Ready to Scale
Artists can interpret this advice to build their first sales by marketing print-on-demand framed art and other merchandise. That is a concept I believe will work for many artists. It’s not the only way to launch and get sales, but it’s a good one that perfectly aligns using a minimum lovable product to sell to a small viable audience.
My philosophy is to make it easy for artists to get their business afloat while keeping expenses and marketing to a minimum. I think of it as a springboard to bigger sales of original art. There is symmetry as these minimum and small concepts fit within the context of the artist’s tending a POP, which fuels sales and dynamically adjusts to evolving situations.
Original Art Is for a Select Few
That is to say, original art is a one-of-a-kind luxury item that is the antithesis of a mass-market product. It’s obvious mass marketing techniques are ineffective in selling fine art.
The niche of money is essential. Buyers must have the discretionary funds to purchase original art. Drilling deeper, you find the purchaser of original art priced in the low thousands may lack the funds to bid on million-dollar artworks sold by auction houses. Income and net worth stratifications create niches within the niches of the affluent market.
Firstly, besides money, buyers must have an affinity for your subject matter and medium. People won’t buy art they don’t like. Secondly, buyers nearly always must love the work enough to pay for it and put it on display in a prominent space.
Desire and money to buy are the distinctions your buyers share. Many other traits and preferences define POP characteristics. This is a start. The rest is how far do you want to take it? Most of us know how far instinctively.
Your self-actualization is pretty good usually. Honesty with yourself makes using marketing to get what you want easier. Filling a need is the only reason to use marketing ever. Saying what you want will help you describe your POP. It works together.
Original Art Buyer’s Motivation
For certain, there is more to a POP than finding people with money who show an interest in your work, although those are desirable qualities. Specifically, as you identify and connect with potential additions to your POP, keep in mind your members must have a taste for buying original art, whether developed or not. Often the best prospects have an interest in the arts and are inclined to support them. Or they are passionate about your subject matter and backstory.
The Freedom of the Niche
As business people, artists, and humans, the more we tune out noise and distractions, the more productive we become. With our anxiety scaled back, we have less to worry about and find more time and energy to devote to what truly matters.
Changes can be almost bewildering at first to find oneself in a quiet place where the right things get attention and accomplished on time with ease.
The reason is some of us, whether we admit it or not, are chaos junkies. We subconsciously crave the crazy. Hunter Thompson called it the Jackrabbit Syndrome. We seek the rush of adrenaline and cortisol to jolt us alive.
Fortunately, if that’s you, there are options to mend your loony art marketing methods. Understanding the value of and working to create a POP for your art is a start.
There Is Nothing Easy About Selling Original Art
First, let’s acknowledge that selling fine art is rarely easy. There are too many reasons that make selling original art routinely and reliably a high level of difficulty.
- Most buyers only acquire original art a few times in a lifetime.
- Prospects have money and love your work but have a low level of interest in acquiring it in the moment.
- Original art carries a price tag that nearly always requires spousal/partner approval.
- Partners and spouses often have opinions about where and if art is shown.
- The price typically is high enough to deter spontaneous sales.
Selling original art is a long-term proposition that requires connecting to your POP and keeping your prospective buyers engaged until they are open and ready to buy your art.
Those and other reasons make selling original art a continuing relationship proposition. Ask any gallerist. They will tell you it is impossible to earn a living on sales that occur from first impressions. Although sales sometimes happen that way, most buyers require time to reflect as you engage in selling original art to them.
The Era of the Independent Artist Is Upon Us
Long-time readers and followers know I am a champion of indie artists. You see, I believe visual artists should market their work to sell it to buyers directly. Truthfully, there aren’t any other options that protect the artist or give them better chances for lasting success.
To clarify, it is advisable to cut out or cut down the number of third-party distributors whenever possible. There are too few galleries now to support all artists, and there were never enough back in the day.
The internet and technology give us a global village to market our work. Advantageously, consumers are changing their buying habits to a preference of ordering from the source directly. Fittingly, artists can use low-cost tools to build a POP through social media and similar means and communicate with collectors and would-be buyers through email.
Why a POP Makes Selling Original Art Easier
Marketing to a POP reduces the number of ways sales can run off the rails. The fewer touchpoints, people, and businesses involved, the more straightforward transactions become. Yes, a gallery owner can apply pressure and offer the proper assurances to persuade a reluctant buyer. And, since they represent many artists, you can only hope you get your fair share of attention.
Selling fine art through galleries is not a panacea. You must market to find and gain acceptance. Therefore, you split half the revenue less your shipping costs. Success requires monitoring each gallery for sales, returns, discounts, and making sure you are in its marketing plans.
Put the same effort into building your POP and nurturing it is more rewarding in multiple ways. Most importantly, you own the relationship with your patrons and prospects. Galleries rarely share contact information with artists. However, when things go south as they are inclined to do at times, the artist is back to square one, starting over.
How Do You Build a POP?
If you move to a new location where you don’t know a soul, how would you begin to get known in your community and find friends and acquaintances? Likewise, when building a POP, you go through the same motions but perhaps with more intensity and focus.
To begin, adding one person to the POP at a time is how it goes. It takes dedication and patience to create a business model based on marketing to a POP. And it’s very important to know: the payoff is that each addition to your POP represents greater financial freedom and success in selling original art more than any comparable method.
You know enough from what you’ve read here to use your common sense and grit to build your POP. All you need to do is decide and commit to keeping it going.
Artists Have an Alternative to Going Alone
I created the Art Marketing Toolkit Project to help artists find the best ways to get their work to market. However, I believe in teaching and encouraging artists to understand their choices and select the tools and techniques they will use.
From experience, I know modeling your marketing to your needs is the only way you will stick with it. I believe when you make your marketing stew with ingredients you want in the mix, you’re most likely to enjoy the process entirely—and to build lasting success with it.
There is a reason membership in the Art Marketing Toolkit Project (AMTP) is priced at $4.99 per month. Mostly, it’s a philosophy of leaving no artist behind and because I believe art marketing shouldn’t be expensive. When you join, you become part of a worldwide community of artists who get weekly training with live Zoom meetings from me.
Popping in the AMTP
What I most want for artists in the AMTP is for them to be blessed with success on their terms. You decide what you need, what makes you happy, and which tools, tips, and training from the AMTP align with your capabilities and desires.
Build your success around your needs and your vision for what it means to you. Ultimately, it’s your decision whether you want great acclaim and ongoing sales with escalating prices and demand or a few sales per year to help pay for art supplies or something in the middle.
Take what you want and leave the rest. And all along, you can revel in the company of like-minded artists who will help you celebrate selling fine art wins, offer sympathy for your losses, and share their knowledge with you.
Our focus is on helping members learn how to build a POP that will power their business. I cordially invite you to join. At $4.99 per month with no contract, you have nothing to lose and much to gain.