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How to Turn One-time Art Buyers Into Happy Return Customers For Life

When you sell a piece of art, common sense says you should try to keep that customer not only as a source of future purchases, but also as an enthusiastic advertiser of your work.

The following article explains a few things I’ve learned about keeping buyers thinking fondly of you and coming back for more.

Communicate often with your buyers

When someone buys your art, be sure to get an email address.

This should be obvious in today’s internet-driven world, since email makes communication so much easier, but on occasion I’ve failed to do this and have found that if I have to resort to flyers, postcards or letters, I tend to drag my feet, losing that window of opportunity.

Being able to immediately inform your growing list of patrons about your activities and honors helps build a special relationship between you and them.

You might think it’s bragging to send out an email with a recent sale, or news article, or advertisement, but really, it’s simply smart business sense—each time a buyer sees another one of your achievements, you are reinforcing their original decision to buy your art. They also have something to talk about and share with others, even if it’s only small talk.

On the other hand, if you make a sale and then consider the matter closed, expending no effort to create a “fan club,” you’ve lost a major source of possible repeat business.

All of your previous buyers should be aware of anything you are doing, and what is coming up next. If you have an idea for a new series, you can even send a “heads up” email as to the direction you are exploring. You might not realize how just interested people become in your work when you do this—and when they’re interested, they will talk about you with their friends.

Stay on your best behavior at all times

Good manners are very important for artists.

I have made huge mistakes at gallery showings in the past, and as a result, have watched potential patrons go from loving and being interested in one of my pieces to walking away in a sort of neutral haze.

That’s when I learned the art of mirroring. Try to reflect back to the art lover what they see, without monopolizing the conversation around your own vision of the work.

Yes, those who attend an opening are curious about what your work is saying and why you created it, but more importantly they are trying to connect with it based on what they see and what it means to them.

Most potential buyers have a valid and legitimate interpretation of your art, even if it’s not your own interpretation. And what do you gain by “straightening out” those who are wrong? An interested customer becomes an alienated customer who probably will forget the whole affair. . . or worse, they might remember your actions and speak negatively of you to someone else.

Today, I encourage viewers of my art to tell me what they see. Amazingly, doing that blesses me and them both, and has contributed to a nice word of mouth business.

In addition, it’s also a good idea to send a thank you note to each and every person who makes a purchase from you. Take it one step further and send a type of “critique” page asking them why they made the purchase, and whether you can use their opinion of your work in your advertising.

Those testimonials will encourage others as to your professionalism, and, I believe, adds even more value to the relationship between you and your buyers.

Leave ‘em wanting more

Each time I create an original work of art for someone, I like to make suggestions on when and where they could use my services later. I know that artists who create only for gallery showings may not wish to add this piece of advice to their customer service agenda, but in my experience, this technique has opened up a lot more avenues of income that I would have missed out on otherwise.

All it takes is mentioning some of the different applications of your art—everything you have ever created falls in this arena. For example, I have lettered boats and painted modified stock cars at a local raceway. I also design logos, illustrate books, paint faux finishes and custom ceilings, customize furniture and teach at a local non-profit.

Now before you think I am a crazy artfreak of nature, I don’t do all of this now, but I have done it in the past. And when your buyers start thinking of you as the go-to person for all their art needs, he or she has placed you in that very special category of “professional” in their lives, much like their doctor, plumber, mechanic or dentist.

In other words, I want all my buyers to know I not only do murals, but I can probably do whatever they need. I actually have had customers say to someone on the phone, “Well, my artist is here right now. . . ” That has such a nice ring to it.

And realistically, couldn’t every one of us stretch out past what we have already created, to suggest a commissioned work for our customers?

Art is everywhere, and sometimes customers have no idea that you, as an artist, are capable of so much more than what they see on a website or gallery wall.

Ultimately, the more your buyers know about you, the more like family you will become, and the longer your relationship will endure.

Maintaining communication, showing your willingness to help with artistic projects or special gifts, and asking for honest feedback will set you apart from just “any old artist”—giving you the best chance to turn your buyers into enthusiastic customers for life.

*Note: this post may contain affiliate links*

As independent artists, we're always trying to make a name for ourselves—and the first step to becoming "known" starts with having your own brand, or identity. One of the most important things an artist can do to build his or her brand is have a professional-looking logo and business card. (Here's the front of my business card.) . . . read more

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