THE INSPIRATION PLACE PODCAST
Today we’re diving into one of my favorite topics which has made a huge difference in my own art business and that is how to build your email list.
Before I dive in and really get started, I do want to let you know that there is a freebie associated with this episode. So to get your hands on the freebie, you can go to schulmanart.com/12, since this is episode number 12, and in that freebie you are gonna get your hands on links of everything I use for printing and photographing. So if you really want more of a masterclass and you haven’t seen my masterclass yet, I do have one of those as well, that is schulmanart.com/printclass (all one word) or you can just head on over to schulmanart.com/12 if all you’re interested in is my equipment list. So that will let you know my printer, my scanner, all kinds of things like that, everything I use to make prints. So that is what today’s episode is being sponsored by, just some free goodness for you to help you on your art making journey.
Now, let’s get back into email. Why you should be sending email and then what this topic is really gonna be about is how to build your email list when you are a visual artist. So first of all, let’s talk about the typical scenario where you’re selling in person and someone has come by. As they are ending up looking at your art, they might say something to you such as “Do you have a card?” or “Do you have a website?”. Now, let me tell you, first of all, half of the time this is really just their polite way of saying goodbye without making a purchase and not hurting your feelings. But other times they’re sincerely interested in seeing your art later. The thing is, if you just give them your card, that’s the end of it.
When I first started out, I used to believe that all these people I’ve been giving my cards to are going straight home, logging onto the internet, looking me up and giving their credit card ready out to make a sale. Well guess what, it just doesn’t work this way and if you’ve been to art shows yourself, you know that you collect cards that either sit in your purse or that you throw out by the time you get to your car. So, there is a much better way, and that is what we’re gonna to talk about in this episode.
First of all, why you should be gathering their contact information and then how to get it. So what I do instead when somebody says to me, “Do you have a card? Do you have a website?” I say, “Oh yeah, sure. But if you want me to invite you to my next art show, why don’t you give me your information?” And this is what I do next, which I really feel is critical. I know some artists will just take a clipboard and they have a list where they expect people to put their name and email. And I know, from my own experience, I don’t like to add my name to a list where other people can see my email address and it just feels a little sloppy, a little amateurish, and a little tacky.
Here’s something else you can do that is far superior, it’s gonna make you look like a pro and it’s gonna make a better experience for your customer. What I do is I make up postcards, which is I wanted you to have the information about all my printing and how I order that kind of stuff. So like I said in the beginning of the show, you can get that information at schulmanart.com/printclass or in show notes at schulamanart.com/12. So what I do is I make a postcard, and the way I’ve made these postcards is that I’ve modeled it after what a magazine subscription postcard looks like. So, if you open any magazine up, those postcards that fall out that ask you to subscribe to their magazine, that’s how I modeled it. So on the top I have my logo, I have a checkbox that checks “Yes, I wanna receive email from you” and then I have a place for them to put their name, their email, and their mailing address. I make sure that these postcards are printed matte because if it’s glossy, they’re really hard to write on. And the backside is blank, which is perfect for me so that I can jot down any notes about what this art collector might be interested in so that when I do follow-up, I can remember what to say. Now, if they do give me their mailing address, the next day, I will send them a thank you note – a hand-written thank you note. Imagine that. But you know how few people do that and how much you stand-out when you do that and also, how more likely it is that they’re gonna follow up and make a purchase. And I know this is true because it has happened.
I also add their email to my Mailchimp mailing list database, and I make sure I mark off where I saw them. So, I will have fields checked-off for the name of the show and that way, the next time I have a local show, I can invite all the people, not just the people who are geo-tagged as being in the area of where my show is, but also people who live near those in-person events because I know that because that’s how I acquired their mailing information. Now if you wanna see what this postcard looks like, I have also included a picture of that in the show notes on my blog at schulmanart.com/12. So be sure you head on over this after this episode to check it out.
Now the next thing you might be wondering is “does this really work?” and the truth is, I find it takes about 6 months between the time someone signs up for my mailing list, whether that’s online or in person, and actually makes a sale. But I do know that the people who come to my art shows who sign my mailing lists and then come back because they have been invited, those are the people who are making purchases in my booth. And because people are making purchases in my booth, people who are new to me see that, and that creates a little buzz around my booth and that encourages more sales. I am so surprised that more artists don’t take advantage of email marketing. First of all, the signing fee for Mailchimp is actually free if you have less than 2,000 subscribers. Although I recommend that my friends and artists who I coach to sign-up for the paid plan. They only charge you based on how many subscribers you have, so I believe to get started, it should be about $15 a month and that $15 is definitely worthwhile.
But let me talk about what happened at my last show that completely amazed me. A woman came over to my booth and I seem to have recognized her. I don’t know if I had recognized her from the show or just because she lives in my neighborhood, but either way, I said to her, “Hi! Have you been to my show before? You look familiar.” And she let me know that she was there because of her friend but her friend didn’t send her an email, and in fact, she didn’t know when the show was. She had to keep looking it up and trying to figure out when the show was. So I said to her, “Hey, if you join my email list, I’ll send you an invitation.” So she said, “Of course.” Now this is somebody who wasn’t even interested in my art. She just wants an invitation to the show. So why wouldn’t people who are selling their art add these people to their mailing list? You’re not bothering them, they wanna know when the show is. People who go to art shows enjoy going to art shows and they wanna be invited. Now not everyone is gonna hand you both their email address and their regular mailing address. It’s funny. Some people will give you their email address very readily but not their mailing address, and some people vice-versa, that’s okay. By the way, they are both very valuable. So if they only give you their email address, you add it to your email list. If they give you their mailing address, you can send them a physical invitation next time you have a show. I don’t do this every single time I have a show but if I have a solo show, I might want to invite everybody who I have a mailing address for, or I might want to invite only people that have bought art from me or people who have brought prints from me.
Now, how do you keep track of this? This can really be cumbersome after you’ve sold hundreds of prints over the years and this will happen to you too as long as you keep at it and you’re consistent. So what I like to use is a system I call Artwork Archive, and I actually have an affiliate link for you that will give you a discount when you sign-up. So to get the discount on Artwork Archive, go to schulmanart.com/archive or once again you find a link to that on my blog in the show notes, schulmanart.com/12. I love Artwork Archive because then I can sort my database of both clients and collectors and prospects, in other words, a prospect is somebody who’s just signed up to hear from you but never bought. And I can sort them based on geographical location and what they have purchased. So depending on the show, like I said, I may want to invite just collectors, collectors and people who have brought prints, or maybe everything. I need a way to organize this. Another thing that is great about the Artwork Archive is when people do collect, I can add a picture and a record of everything they’ve bought including the prices – everything. Everything gets attached to them. So if I have something similar, I can follow up with them directly. I can send them an email and say, “Hey! I have a brand new painting that would look great with your collection.” And by the way, they don’t have to be on your email subscription for you to send a personal email, that is totally legal – to send a personal email to somebody whether or not they are subscribed to your bulk mailing list.
Now you may be wondering which email marketing program to sign up for because there are a few. They have all their pros and cons. My philosophy is just pick one and stick with it. So if you’re already using something, like I don’t know, ConvertKit, that’s a popular one, just stick with it. It’s probably not worth it to switch to Mailchimp. The only thing that is worth it though to switch is if you are using a spreadsheet. And I hate to say this because actually I know people who do that and you know who I’m talking to. First of all, it’s not legal to do that. You’re not supposed to bulk email people without giving them a way to opt-out of your list. What they might end up doing, they might not tell you they may want to unsubscribe because I heard people say to me “Oh, it’s no problem. When they want to unsubscribe they can just email me and tell me and I can take them off my list”. Here’s what’s probably gonna happen instead. They’re gonna stay on your list but instead of responding to you and saying I wanna unsubscribe, they’re gonna mark your email as spam or they’ll just stop opening it and their Gmail service provider or Yahoo! will start filtering it to spam. So if you get enough of those, you know what’s gonna happen? Most of your emails that you send out, even if it’s personal email, is gonna end up in people’s spam folders. So even the people who wanna hear from you are not gonna hear from you because your email is going to spam. So do it the right way. Use a cheap mailing service, like MailChimp, and add people the right way. First of all, it’s gonna be a lot easier for you and it’s legal and it’s not very expensive.
Alright, now I’m gonna talk about ways to get people to join your email list. And I’m gonna focus primarily on the in person way because that’s how most of the art is going to sell. So the primary way is to simply ask them. And you don’t have to wait until you have an art show to do this. Because anytime you are talking about your art, and people say to you “Do you have a card?”, that is when you can do the same thing I do on the art show and say, “Hey! If you like I can send you an invitation to my next show?”. You pull out one of those postcards, because you have a bunch of them stashed in your purse with a pen, and you ask them to join your mailing list. I also forgot to point this out. Why giving them a postcard is a nicer experience for them rather than adding a name to a list? For some reason, when you are putting your name down on a list, it feels, to the person who’s doing it, like earning. Whereas when you give them the postcard, (are you listening to my language?), when you’re giving them a postcard, even though they fill it out and give it back to you, it just has a different energy around it that makes it feel like you are giving something to them. And it also signals to them that you are treating their contact information very carefully and that creates instant trust with your potential art collector.
Let’s move on to number two. Another way that really works, and this method also works online, is you create a free art catalog. All you have to do is go on to a site like Visaprint or Canva or something like that, and just create a quick and easy brochure that has pictures of your artwork, descriptions of your artwork, and prices. That’s it! Now, it could be physical mailing, which works very well, or it could be a digital PDF, which also works very well. I’m gonna pause for a minute and talk about a few things that do not work very well that I’ve heard other marketing coaches and other artists try, it just does not work well. One thing that does not work well is to give out a coloring page. The only way giving out a coloring page is going to be a good idea is if you are selling a coloring book. And so basically, that one coloring page is the free sample of the whole book. But if you’re selling fine art, like landscapes, giving a coloring page is not gonna attract your ideal customer and is just a waste of time.
Okay, back to other ideas. You could offer exclusive subscriber discounts. Discounting art is controversial but I have done this successfully to build the email list. What I have found though, is people tend not to use the coupons, so I stopped creating and using them. However, it was an enticement to get people on to my email list when I was listing my art on other venues like Etsy. So I would post a link that if they wanted to save on the art, they could click on that link that added them to my subscriber list and send them an automatic coupon. So that does work for building your email list.
The fourth way that I have seen other artists very successfully build their email list is offer early access. This is something that hasn’t really worked very well for me because I just don’t have the discipline to hold on to a collection until it’s complete before I start announcing it to the world. However I’ve seen it work very successfully for other artists, for example, Emily Jeffords or Amira Rahim. Both of those two artists are very good about teasing their collector base and letting them know that they need to sign up for their email list to get first dibs on a painting. They build a lot of excitement up. They have a grand opening that the paintings are going on sale on a certain day and usually the collection sells out very quickly to the hungry art collectors who know that they have to snatch something up within days or even hours if they wanna get something.
My fifth suggestion, my fifth and final way for getting people to sign-up for your email list is the free postcards. This has worked exceptionally well for me. In fact, so well, that I actually had to turn it off. So what you do is, either on Facebook, Instagram, one of those social media places where you are gonna be seen and you’re not, or in person, but places where you are seen where you have followers who have not yet turned into subscribers. You offer to send them a postcard with your art on it if they sign up for your email list. One caveat though is, I do say to them, that they still have to be on my email list in three months. So the way I do that is I will run the promotion but I won’t send the postcard out until three months later. And I only send it out to the people who are still on my email list who signed up for that give-away. Now, I don’t send the postcard to everybody on my email list just the people who signed up for that special promotion and have also given me their mailing address.
So those are the five best ways to build your email list when you are a visual artist. And most of those are low tech solutions that you can use in person.
Now you may be wondering why I am so passionate about building your email list. In fact, you might not even be convinced that this is something that you should be focusing on. But one of the biggest business mistakes I ever made was not starting my email list and building my email list from the very beginning. During those early years, when I was selling art on eBay and then on Etsy, Oh my gosh, when I think about all the missed opportunities from not adding those names to my email list, it just makes me want to throw up because I know the people who when I do start adding their names to my email list, how they come back and buy from me year after year after year. I do remember those good old days when I was making sales all the time just by listing my art on eBay and then on Etsy. And those good old days came to an end. So it’s not because my art changed. I’m sure it’s because, like many of you have discovered, now there’s plenty of things to do on the Internet. When I first started, eBay was the only thing to do on the Internet and they didn’t have other distractions like Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, Snapchat. Oh my goodness, we can go on and on. So when somebody does make a sale, you really need to stay in touch with them.
By the way, when I did finally decide to start building on my email list, incredible things started to happen. I started to fill my workshops, collectors came to my art shows as I outsold all the other artists which is what I was hinting out at what had happened last weekend. This isn’t because my art is any better than anybody else’s. It’s because staying in touch helps build relationships and people like to buy art from people they know, like, and trust. Whether my art collectors prefer to buy their art from me, either online or in-person, they still like the emails. I have a collector who attends every single one of my art shows just to see what’s new. She often makes purchases of original art and she loves getting my emails. It makes her feel special to be invited. Yeah, sure, it goes out to a thousand people but to her, it goes just to her, and that’s how I write every single one of my emails, as if it’s just being read by just one person. Never start an email off with ‘Hey guys’, ‘Hey friends’. It’s always being sent and read by one person.
Now let’s address the other elephant in the room, why don’t more artists build their email list? Is it because you’re afraid? Are you worried about bothering people? Either you are afraid to ask for their email address or maybe afraid of bothering them. Like I said, it’s not bothering them. They love your art. They wanna see your art. Getting your emails are free to them. And if you’re doing it properly, if they’re getting too much email, they can unsubscribe at any time. But I do know that my favorite brands, Kate Spade, Anthropologie, they email me, I don’t know, four to five times a week. I don’t unsubscribe from them as long as they’re sending me pretty pictures of things that I like to look at with nice little hints of how to use it, I stay on their email list.
That brings me to another question, once you get them on your email list, what should you be sending them? And another question I get asked is how often you should be emailing people. Well if you are wondering how often, the answer is you’re not mailing often enough. You should be mailing your list once a week, that’s ideal, and definitely not less than once a month. And remember I said to sign-up for the paid version of Mailchimp? That’s because as soon as you add someone to your email list, you want to be sending them a welcome email and a few emails that follow it up with emails that introduce them to you and your art so that they get to know you. You don’t wanna add them to your email list and have a whole month go by before they receive something from you. Because you know what? By then, they might have forgotten who you are and that’s why they unsubscribe.
Okay. So let’s talk about what you should be sending them. The very first email that goes out should welcome them to the list and let them know what to expect. So that usually should be, “Hi! I’m Miriam Schulman. I’m from New York. I do kinda XYZ kinda artwork” and let them know a few personal things about you. And you know, not too personal but like you have kids, you have a dog, you have a cat, that kind of thing. And then let them know that they’ll be hearing from you about once a week, maybe more often if you have something special to say. And then, the question is, “Now what do you send them?” Well, you send them pictures of your art. You send them stories about why you created it, what inspired you. I ran an email campaign recently to sell my 2019 Calendar. And guess what? They completely sold out by email before my art show this weekend. So email definitely works.
I have sold prints and originals online. Although I do find that the largest commissions happen in person. But that still means you have to keep in touch and people seem to prefer email. Don’t get lazy and think that social media is gonna do it. You know not everyone is seeing all of your posts on Facebook and Instagram and lots of people like to take breaks from social media but they don’t take breaks from their email. So that really is still the best way to get in touch with somebody and the best way to continue the relationship. And besides, it’s the easiest way for them to hit reply and talk to you.
So let’s wrap-up and summarize what you learned today. We talked about how to ask people to join your mailing list and five different ways to build your email lists. We also covered what tools I recommend, such as Artwork Archive and Mailchimp, to keep track of your customers. You’ll find these affiliate links that will save you money. For Artwork Archive, it will save you $10 off your plan, if you join using my link schulmanart.com/archive or you can hop on over to my blog schulmanart.com/12. We also talked about how often to email your list and more importantly, what to send them. I also hoped I’ve convinced you that having an email list, if you’re trying to sell your art, is important and people do wanna hear what you have to say.
Well, that’s it for now. Next week, we have a very special guest. We have Mike Michalowicz of the book Profit First, The Pumpkin Plan, and most recently, A Clockwork. And he is coming on to talk about how to automate your business, get help in your business, and we’re also being very very specific in talking about how to do that if you’re an artist. So I hope you’ll join me next week, same time, same place. And if you wanna make sure you don’t miss the episode, please subscribe to the podcast. If you are on iTunes, all you have to do is hit that purple subscribe button and it will automatically download to your phone. There’s no need to enter an email address for that, it’s completely free. Of course, I hope you join my email list. And to do that, head on over to schulmanart.com/12. There will be a sign-up for you to get that freebie we have talked about of all the equipment I use for making prints. And then you’ll get to see, of course, how I treat my customers on my email list.
So that’s it for now, have an inspirational week.
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