THE INSPIRATION PLACE PODCAST
Well, hello, it is Miriam Schulman here, your host of the Inspiration Place podcast. This is episode number 37. Today we are talking all about the romance of selling art. In today’s episode, you are going to learn how to meet your ideal art collector, whether that is the social media stage of the singles bar, or you are working with a matchmaker and how to go from that first date to happily ever after where you close the sale. So, let me take you through the process. When you are looking at a selling strategy, you will often hear marketers refer to sales funnels. Think of this as the way you take the general public and start filtering them through different layers. At the bottom of that funnel are your art collectors. In other words, the very small point of that funnel or when people actually buy from you. And the very top is the very large public.
I prefer to think of taking my art collectors through a courtship rather than a sales funnel. Sounds a little more personal, don’t you think? Specifically, I take a potential art collector through the experience of meeting my art and I flirt with them until they fall madly in love and propose to collect or commission a piece of artwork. At the beginning, my art might first be introduced to a potential collector in a bunch of different ways. This could be someone I know, or a stranger I have just met at an art show. They meet me and ask me about my art, or they have seen my art posted somewhere online, like on Instagram or Facebook. Just like meeting your true love on a blind date or in a singles bar don’t expect a marriage proposal over cocktails. Even if it is love at first sight, it is unlikely that your date will ask for your hand in marriage the first time they meet you. Which also means it is unlikely you are going to sell a high end artwork at that first meeting as well.
You will need to stay in touch and date your potential art collector for quite some time. Therefore, you will need to stay in front of your art collector. In order to do this, you must entice them to give you their contact information. That is right, you heard me, they have to give you their contact information. Think of it this way, when you are at an art fair festival and the artist is, “Here is my business card.” That is kind of like a guy at a singles bar saying, “Here is my phone number,” or a girl saying, “Here is my phone number.” It is much more important for you to ask for their number. Yep. It is just like dating. Sure. You could hope that they take the number that they didn’t ask for and actually call you. And you can hope that maybe this person shows up at the same bar again, but when you do stuff like that, it really is a gamble.
However, this is exactly what I see a lot of artists do. They develop a following on Instagram, but then they depend on Instagram showing their pictures to the world and showing their pictures to there would be sweethearts. Unfortunately, social media just doesn’t work that way.
You can increase the chances of getting people’s attention by sharing compelling pictures of your art on Instagram on a regular basis, but just remember, there is no guarantee that your potential art collectors is going to see it. So you have to get them to sign up for a mailing list. Although, I have thousands of followers on Instagram and Facebook, in fact, I think I have 18,000. These platforms are increasingly difficult to use to keep the attention of art collectors. Facebook and Instagram will only share a fraction of your posts to your followers unless you are paying for advertising.
Now, listen, before you whine and say, this isn’t fair, consider this from the end user point of view. In fact, you can consider this from your own point of view. I am sure you follow hundreds of friends and hundreds of brands and could you imagine how impossible it would be to see every single one of their posts, even if you wanted to. How much time would you have to spend on the platform? So what Instagram and Facebook does is they try to figure out which posts you really want to see and they do that by figuring out how often they have interacted with you. So, remember your followers are not just following you. They may be following hundreds or even thousands of their favorite brands, artists, celebrities and not to mention their friends and their family. So, when they log on to a platform, it would be impossible to see everything that is posted by everyone they follow, and that is why Instagram and Facebook prioritize which posts these followers see first.
When I log on to Instagram, the first thing I usually see are pictures of my nephew, that my brother and my sister in law post, and guess what? That is what I would like to see first, so thank you Facebook for knowing that. I also see pictures of my daughter. So, that is what I see first. These businesses, meaning Instagram and Facebook, which really, by the way, it is the same business, Instagram is owned by Facebook. They want to create a good experience for the user so that they keep coming back. If every time I logged into Instagram, I saw anthropology, I don’t think I would use Instagram as much. I mean, I like anthropology, I follow anthropology, I am subscribed to their emails, but do I want to see them first? Do I want to see that before my cute baby nephew? No. Do I want to see anthropology before I see a picture of my daughter? Absolutely not. That is why they do that.
They have an algorithm which first show users posts by their friends, and then they show them posts that have been popular based on the likes and comments that, that post has already gotten as well as new posts by users that maybe you have recently liked. So, if anthropology has a post that goes viral, then they might want to show that to me over, let us say Kate Spade, but they are not going to show anthropology before they show my family. And there are other ways they know what you consider important. If you have direct messaged brands or people, they know that you have more of a connection with them.
All right. So, now let us talk about the next really key thing about courting your potential art collector. Knowing that not everyone is going to see everything in your feed, and because time is so precious, you really have to evaluate your options carefully. Don’t try to be everywhere.
What do I mean by this? Remember, social media is just for getting attention. To keep your admires’ attention you want to put more focus on traditional marketing strategies like mail and email, and yes, you heard me, by mail I meant the stuff you get from your post-man. People complaining that 50 cents is a lot to mail a letter that is a bargain to get into the hands of a potential art collector. Just think about that. So, you don’t have to be on Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, remember Periscope? You don’t have to be on every single platform, just pick one or two that you truly enjoy to focus on for social media, because most of your time really shouldn’t be spent on these platforms anyway, and you definitely shouldn’t rely on them for sales or closing the deal.
Although you can and will get sales online, the best sales and the highest ticket sales will be initiated at in person events, where you can make eye contact and hold an artwork in your hands. Most people, especially non-artists who are most people who are collecting art, although, artists do collect art too, but most people have trouble imagining how that artwork that is shown on a very small screen, especially a phone as a two inch image is going to translate as a full scale painting in their home. Just like in Da Nang, some content channels are going to be better than others. Social media like Facebook and Instagram, they are definitely the singles bars. Sure, there is lots of people there to meet, but you are also competing with the blonde on the bar stool next to you. So, although you can get the attention of art collectors on these channels, particularly Instagram by the way, because it is such a visual platform. Oh yeah, and don’t forget Pinterest too.
There is a lot of social media channels. Like I said, you just pick one, but there’s lots of people there, but this is a very tough place to keep the attention of your would be our collector. So with that in mind, when you post Instagram show up as your best and most engaging self, and imagine that you are meeting someone at a party, don’t make it all about you, ask them questions and get them to interact with you and be social. Most importantly, if they take an interest in you and want your number, make sure that your Instagram bio includes a link to sign up for your newsletter. Only displaying a link to your website is not sufficient. Remember they most likely aren’t going to purchase a painting the first time they meet you and the website is where close the deal, not keep in touch.
Think of getting an email, just the same way as getting someone’s phone number. This is true whether the interaction is online on Instagram or Facebook or anywhere else or in person. That is why I collect email addresses at art fairs rather than hand out business cards. And by the way, throughout my podcast episodes, this one and other ones, I do use the word art fair, where some people might argue with me and say that no, Miriam, that is really an art festival, I do use the word art fair, art festival, art shows interchangeably. I do understand that, I think art fair is really supposed to be meant for something like Art Basel, whereas an art festival is really the traditional outdoor show that most people think of with the tents. Anyway, I digress, I did a whole episode on this. I don’t remember the number, but I definitely have the episode in the show notes, all about collecting email, the best way to collect email, best way to email market. And I also talk about it in episode number 30 with Tracy Lizotte about selling at art festivals, how to get their email.
So, you don’t want to focus on handing out your business cards because that really doesn’t work. Just like in dating, not everyone is going to turn over their email address or their phone number, which is totally fine. Don’t worry. This means that they are not your true love and they are just not that into you. And you will find someone else. Not everyone is a perfect match for your art and you really only need one person to buy one painting. It is a one to one interaction. Okay, moving along the matchmaker. Although I have sold art online and also to strangers, the biggest ticket purchases and my best collectors are still the ones that I have met in person. This makes sense because art is an investment.
It is an investment in the artist, as well as the art and already meeting someone in person is a shortcut to getting them to know, like and trust you. A collector will also build a stronger attachment to an artwork if they have an attachment to you. I have experienced this personally when I have collected art as well. Not only do I sell my own art, but I enjoy collecting artwork done by my friends and artists who I might have met in person. I truly believe in collecting art, even though I have more than enough of my own. I believe it is good karma, plus the art gives me pleasure. Throughout time artists with the means to collect art have always collected art. For example, Monet was a voracious art collector. In 2017, there was even a whole exhibition dedicated to his art collection. Yeah, you heard me, not Monet’s art, but his art collection. Monet owned over 100 works of art. Most were done by his friends like Renoir, Cézanne and others.
The in person interaction can be simulated on some level online. Your art is introduced to a potential art collector, most likely their friend has shared a post with them. This is why I call this the matchmaker technique. Here is a story of exactly how this played out in real life for me. My friend, who is awesome an artist shared with me her favorite artists to follow on Instagram. And I started following all of these artists. So, these artists included Jennifer Orkin Lewis, August Ro. By the way, I was fortunate enough to do a full episode with her, that was episode number 27, about her daily sketching practice. So, if you want to check out that interview, I will definitely have a link to that in the show notes. So like I said, my friend who is an artist told me which artists she follows and I went and followed them.
Lewis share pictures of her colorful watercolor sketches every day. There was always something new to enjoy, but more than that, she shared personal stories, which allow me to connect with her as a person. For example, I learned that she vacationed in the same Cape Cod town that I do. This is like discovering that the cute guy at the bar likes the same books or movies or better yet grew up in the same small hometown. When you form these personal connections with artists, you naturally become more drawn to their art. Finally, I got to meet Jennifer in person at her open studio event in her home. Coming into an artist studio is a very intimate experience that helps grow an even stronger bond. I know this is true when our collectors come to my studio and I felt the same pole when I entered Jennifer space. I knew that I had to collect something.
In fact, I made the decision to collect before I even found the right piece. I have seen collectors do that when they come to my studio too. If a repeat collector says something to the fact of, I want to see what is new, I can confidently show them something knowing that the sale is fait accompli. Ultimately, I left Jennifer’s studio with an original watercolor of a gorilla, which is now sitting in my kitchen waiting for a frame.
Framing and displaying it by the way is besides the point, I don’t really buy artwork for decoration. The thrill for me is in the collecting of it. By the way, if you are enjoying these strategies, my specialty is coaching other artists to take their talent and create a thriving business out of it, with practical strategies that go beyond the inspiration shared on this podcast.
If you want to profit from your passion or want a clear strategy to ramp up your existing creative business, but you are spinning and don’t know what to do next, I can help you. To schedule a free discovery call, all you have to do is sign up at schulmanart.com/biz, that is schulmanart.com/B-I-Z.
All right, let us talk about the marriage or how you turn this dating into your happily ever after. If you hope to turn a onetime purchase into a loyal collector, you will need to stay in touch after the sale. Although, it sounds old fashioned, I found that the best way to keep the romance going is through sending traditional mail pieces like postcards and notecards. Everyone who attends one of my in person events like an open studio or an in person art show, if it is outside, they receive a handwritten thank you card. I also make sure that I tag them in my database, which just so you know, I use Archive and I think I have a discount for new people to sign up for that, so I am going to link to that in my show notes as well.
So, you can go to schulmanart.com/37 and use that link to sign up for Artwork Archive and I believe you get a discount when you sign up that way. I make sure I tag all my collectors in my database as having attended a show and I can send them an email invite the next year, as well I send them updates throughout the year. Now, I don’t send physical mail pieces always throughout the year, but when a collector has signed up for my email, they are tagged in my database as ‘in person.’ And I use a combination of Mailchimp’s geo-tagging as well as my own tagging system to send me emails and email reminders to all my in person art events at local venues. So that way I make sure that everyone who has attended an event locally gets invited to my next local event. When I am having an in person show like an open studio or I am participating in outdoor art festival, anyone who collects or commissions art will also get an invitation in the mail.
So, I am definitely more aggressive about sending physical mail pieces to those people who have actually collected something or commissioned something. Whereas, somebody who maybe just added their name to my email list, or just giving me their email address, but never collected anything, they may only get the email. I also stay in touch throughout the year via regular email updates, which come at a minimum of once a month or as frequently as every week. And during December, I definitely up the frequency even more. Now, you may be wondering if this matters and my art collectors tell me that it does. We get so little personal physical mail these days that the hand written note with your art on it truly stands out. Although, I print these as affordable postcards, I spend the extra money to put them in an envelope to make sure they get opened rather than lost in the shuffle of junk mail and flyer mail.
When I see these same art collectors in person, they tell me how much they love getting my emails and especially the invitations. I also keep a bunch of these invitations in my purse for when ever an impromptu invitation opportunity presents itself. Inevitably, these last minute invitations such as the woman I chatted with briefly in yoga class the day before, these are the people most likely to attend my art events. This is why it is so critical to force yourself to get out of the studio in the days leading up to your show. So, what do I mean by that? Go to church, go to synagogue, go to the grocery store, go to yoga class, drag your introverted ass out of the house. Your art collectors are out there waiting to meet you.
So, let’s talk about closing the sale. To close a high end sale sometimes you are going to have to pick up the phone. Yeah, you heard me, pick up the phone. Go and Garry Glen Ross. This is the trickiest part since many people no longer answer their phone, but it is really the best way to make an art sale. This will work if they have already been going steady with you by reading your emails. If a collector has been following you for a while, then they may want to collect your art at your next art event. This is because you have been nurturing the relationship for enough time. I have found it can take up to six months to nurture an online subscriber until they finally collect art from me.
So, let me back up a moment, let us talk about why the phone works. If I am having an in person event, remember I said that the people most likely to show up are the ones that you see in person at the yoga class. Well, the other people who are most likely to show up are people who you send a text message to, or you pick up the phone call. This absolutely works. Call your friends, text your friends, invite them to come, even if they don’t buy anything. So, don’t feel badly like, “Okay, I am pestering my friends to come.” If it is local, your friends are more than happy to hang out with you. And what happens is now your art booth has people in it. So, when the art collectors come by, they are more likely to make a purchase.
I also make sure that people who have bought in the past know that the art event is going on. I can’t believe how many artists skip this important step. There is a woman who lives in my town who loves going to our local art show and she collects thousands of dollars of art. And most of them are not professional artists, they are amateur artists. She just loves collecting. I don’t know what she does with them. Some people suspect that she is reselling them. I don’t think so. I think she truly enjoys collecting and she probably has a really big house, but let us assume there is no insidious motive. She just likes to collect.
I remember the one year I called her up and I let her know the event was going on because the local art show event is not always well publicized, and even if it is that doesn’t mean everyone sees it or knows about it. And do you know how much she appreciated getting that personal invitation from me? And so of course she bought some of my art and she also bought some other people’s art too, because she likes to collect. So make sure you call people. I know they don’t pick up the phone, but you can leave a message, they will listen to your message. And if it is a really good friend just send them a text, invite them, say, “Hey, I would love if you stopped by and just kept me company and I can show you my new art.” It is okay.
Another way this plays out is a collector will return to the same venue year after year after year. When this happens, they will start to elevate their purchases. I love when this happens. This happened when I met Anne and David at their children’s music school, where I was selling my art every year at their annual holiday boutique. And I say was only because this past December, the music school stopped having a holiday boutique. I hope they started again this year. Anyway, the first year Anne and David met me, they bought a little hand painted box. It was a small thing. I don’t even sell these things anymore. It was a $30 item. After they bought it, their names went into my database for mailings.
So, I sent them emails and I sent them postcards. The following year, when they came back to the holiday boutique, they remembered me, not just because they bought something, but because I had continued to follow up. This year, the second year, they bought a print. Again, I stayed in touch and they were also getting emails right before the holiday show, letting them know that I would be there, every time you send these emails, it is not just a text email, they get a picture, a sneak peek, look what I am bringing, look how great this is, getting them excited. Finally, after living with that print all year and appreciating the kind of enjoyment that they got just from that print, they invested in an original painting and now collecting my art every year has become a sort of family tradition for them. So, that is another way it plays out.
Magic often happens with that second purchase. It is amazing. I have seen this happen so many times with my art collectors because now they understand that they are collecting your art. For example, I have an art collector named Jon who originally invested in a peacock and she also bought a tree collage, and then she bought a small pig painting for her kitchen. I began to learn and understand her mindset when she shared with me, she wanted another animal painting to add to her quote, ‘animal collection.’ So since then, she has also collected a chicken painting and has shared with me that she wants to collect more animal paintings. Oh, wait. Yes. You know what? I just remembered she also collected one of my giraffe paintings. I am going try to post pictures of some of Jon’s art collection in the show notes, which remember schulmanart.com/37. So, you can see some of the artwork she has collected.
This is why it is so important that you have a cohesive body of work. That doesn’t mean that your art doesn’t evolve, but can you imagine if I told Jon that I stopped creating these multimedia animal paintings and now only do abstract oil paintings. That doesn’t mean you can’t experiment and grow as an artist, as collectors will also delight in your evolution as Jon did, because my artwork has not stayed the same and she has commented how she has enjoyed watching my change, but they still want you to be the same artist that they once fell in love with. That is how you stay married, that is how you have a marriage for a long time with an art collector. How do you stay the same? Because you have been your authentic self all along from the beginning to the end.
I want to circle back to this whole phone thing because I feel like I didn’t fully cover it. Remember I said some of your best purchases are still going to be with the phone. This is going to be an imaginary situation, but I certainly have had similar situations in real life. Let us pretend that Jon did not make… By the way, Jon is her real name, but I am not giving her full name. Let us pretend Jon does not make it to one of my art shows. It wouldn’t hurt for me to call her and say, “Hey, Jon, I missed you at the art show, is everything okay?” She would probably delight in that. Another way the phone actually works out is when people have expressed interest in a portrait. Now, those of you who are doing commissioned portraits I urge you to be aggressive. Yeah, I said aggressive, not just assertive, but aggressive in your follow up.
When I was really hustling for portraits, I would keep after people who have told me they wanted it. Remember they told me they wanted it, until they either schedule the appointment with me or they said, “I changed my mind, I don’t want to do this.” And it is okay to hear no, it really is. Just get used to it. It is okay. Don’t forget J. K. Rowling had to hear no from what was it? 40 publishers before somebody said yes, before Scholastic said yes. Could you imagine if she gave up after no number 10. It is okay to hear no once in a while, but guess what? A lot of times you are actually going to hear, yes.
And now that you have all kinds of tools to help you, we covered this in episode number 28, there is a great scheduling tool, you can send them a link to schedule their photo shoot. How amazing is that? I didn’t have any of that when I first started out in portrait. So, there was a lot of back and forth trying to nail down that photo shoot date and collecting that initial deposit. You definitely can now use a lot of technology to get that done, but it really helps to follow up with phone conversation because the next best thing to in person is definitely hearing your voice on the phone.
All right, let’s wrap this all up. There are many ways to use the internet to find our collectors, however, all these followers online are real people and they are craving the human connection. You can use the internet as a tool to stay in touch and find collectors, but as in real life, you can’t rely on it as a substitute for making a connection. So, you got to think of Instagram as kind of Jdate, but no one is going to ask you to marry you over Jdate. Okay? Even dating apps still expect the would be partners to meet in real life. The entire romance does not happen over Tinder and our over connected noisy world, people are still seeking in person connections more than ever. And by the way, they love real art. They love things they can touch and see and feel. It is such a thrill now more than ever.
So, instead of worrying about being on all places all the time or being the most popular girl on Instagram, get to know your potential art collectors and let them get to know you through the personal touch. All right, folks, that is all I have for you this week, I hope you enjoyed it, I hope this helped you. I would love to hear from you, so you can send me a direct message on Instagram, I am at schulmanart.com. Another way you can find me is leave a comment on the blog. So, for this episode, schulmanart.com/37, leave a comment over there, let me know what you thought, let me know what you agreed with, let me know what you disagreed with, let me know what was the most helpful.
I also have a free Facebook group, there I post different conversation threads to help us get to know each other, facebook.com/groups/theinspirationplace or the shortcut schulmanart.com/group and I will put the links to this free Facebook group in the show notes. And my live streams, I see all the comments posted on all the live streams. I love talking and interacting with people that way, and also my free master classes, where I teach you on a subject for free and then I also tell you about whatever classes I have going on that you can set up for. So, that is it for now, I hope you have an inspirational day. I will see you next week, same time, same place. Make it a great one.
Once again, this episode was sponsored by the Six Figure Artists. If you are interested in hearing how you can earn more for your passion with concrete marketing and business strategies that work, head on over to schulmanart.com/biz, that is schulmanart.com/B-I-Z.
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