How to use the “Art of Conversation” to Market Your Art

Published on Jul. 12th 2011


You may have the best art in the world, but if you’re talking to the wrong people, you won’t have a business. Conversations with the right people at the right time, in the right place, about the right things can lead to relationships. It’s those relationships, carefully nurtured, that lead to sales.

One of my clients, Valerie Edwards, explains how having that art marketing “conversation” was even a source of fear:

“Art galleries, publishers, clients, newspaper reporters. . . talking about my work with strangers, being the center of attention—it was overwhelming. Aletta helped me to face my social anxiety and understand that this is a common fear. She walked me through it, giving me sample social situations and verbal replies for guests at my first reception. When ‘show time’ arrived, I talked non-stop for two hours and sold a painting for $1,000.00!”

The thing that I tell all my clients is that you can learn to have those conversations and market your art successfully. There are just three parts to a successful conversation.

The Beginning: Making contact

The best conversations happen when you and the other person share a common interest. That’s enough to get the conversation started. Then treat the other person with respect and be curious about them.

What you say to get a conversation going is not as important as making it easy for the other person to respond. To do this, you can:

• ask for information

• offer information

• give a compliment

• ask for an opinion

• use appropriate humor

It’s that simple. Once you’re in the conversation, you can move on to the second part:

The Middle: Keeping the conversation going

Now that you’ve said hello and exchanged basic information, the best way to keep the conversation alive, is a genuine interest in the other person. Get curious about them—how they view the world, what they do for a living, what they do for recreation, what makes them unique and what they like about art.

It may seem like a paradox, but what keeps conversations going is to listen twice as much as you talk. This applies equally to conversations in person and online.

• Ask open-ended questions that can’t be answered with a “yes” or a “no”

• Listen actively by asking for clarification, rephrasing what you have heard and offering examples

• Be ready to answer common questions about your art and your artist lifestyle

Not only does this make the other person feel heard, it gives you valuable information to nurture the relationship. It’s also an excellent way to collect words and phrases to use in your marketing that will resonate with your right audience.

Body language also helps support your words when you are in a face-to-face situation.

• Find a comfortable distance to talk and interact comfortably—not too close and not too far. (The right space differs for everybody.)

• Lean slightly forward to hear clearly and to show that you are paying attention

• Keep your eyes focused on the other person’s face and let your eyes communicate interest

• Smile, nod, or let your facial expression show concern that matches what the person is saying

Interestingly, there’s an online equivalent to body language, too. Posting general responses to blog comments is like standing at the edge of a group and lobbing in comments. On the other hand, responding to each individual comment is the equivalent of standing a couple of feet away and having a personal conversation.

Exiting the Conversation

I call the third part of conversations “exits” rather than endings. It’s important to know how to exit gracefully, so it becomes a transition to the next conversation or action.

Make sure to:

• Thank the person for the time they spent talking with you

• Acknowledge the enjoyable or useful exchange of information

• Summarize what you talked about

• Agree on what will happen next

Make sure to get contact information for everyone you meet, and ask them if you can add them to your mailing list. Unless you know how to reach them, and have permission to do so, you won’t be able to continue the conversation.

Important! take your time in all three stages.

You wouldn’t rush a piece of art, so don’t rush the conversations. Artists who jump too quickly to talking about anything to do with selling their art often scare away potential sales. Art is certainly an important part of the conversation, but it works best when it becomes the “jewel in the crown.” Start by communicating with the person wearing the crown. Once you have connected as people, it’s easier to connect as buyer and seller.

At the end of the day, you just might begin to enjoy having marketing conversations. . . and who knows where that could lead!

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