The ABC’s of Selling Your Art – A is for Audience

By Aletta de Wal in Art Business Advice > General Art Advice

When artists ask me how to market their art, the real question is often, “What do I have to do to get people to buy my art?”

How to sell your art: the guide

That’s a much better question.

Why? Because the emphasis is on people buying, and not on you selling.

True, if you fully engage in marketing your art, your just desserts are an attentive audience that appreciates the work you create.

But selling is in the title of this series because sales are the much-needed end result.

You can use marketing to bring your brand and your art to the masses, but only individuals can make the decision to buy. So sales are one step beyond marketing—they are the culmination of building and maintaining relationships with people who either A) enjoy your art, B) buy it for themselves or others, or C) tell others about you and your work.

Why is an audience important for sales?

I’m beginning this series with an article on Audience because, while everything you do in your studio is about you and making your art; everything else is about making connections with people as you go along your artistic journey.

Your ideal art market exists at the intersection of your audience—the people who like your work enough to either buy it or tell others about it—and the places, prices and ways that they like to see and buy art.

To grow your art market, it helps to build a bigger audience by communicating with more people about your art and your career. You can even design marketing strategies to reach this (quite broadly defined) group of people, by finding the commonalities they have with each other and with your work.

Over time and through these sorts of marketing interactions, some of the people in your audience will become fans or buyers. And fans are just as important as buyers! While appreciation of your art won’t pay the bills, it will warm your heart, and the referrals and good word of mouth can (and often does) lead to cash.

TIP: Finding out why someone appreciates your art and enjoys conversations with you makes it possible to distill your marketing efforts and reach others in the same way. When appreciation becomes mutual, sales and referrals will happen.

How to turn your audience into buyers

Selling to fine art collectors differs quite a bit from “regular” retail sales. Nonetheless, these three strategies from retail do apply:

1. Get more people into the “store” who might buy from you

Whether your “store” is a gallery, website, or art fair, it’s a wise choice to notify your email list and social media contacts of all upcoming events and interactions.

If you ignore this low-hanging marketing fruit, you will struggle to find sales.

2. Sell to a greater number of people who enter the store

Artists and gallery owners often rely on their memories to determine which type of work sells best, but recollections are not always accurate and may not show the whole picture.

So track your sales—not just dollar figures per month or year, but sizes, price points, subject matter and coloration.

What trends do you notice? If there is a downturn in sales, compare the works that sold in the past to new inventory. Are there noticeable differences? Look at galleries and venues separately as well. Does one location always quickly sell through your miniatures? Does your warm-toned work sell better online?

Use that information to market and sell more effectively in the future.

3. Sell more to the people who bought already

Experienced gallery dealers will tell you, “The first piece of your work a collector purchases represents the hardest buying decision.”

The concept is this: once a buyer has deemed your work’s intention, appeal, quality and value are meaningful to them, future purchases not only bring additional pleasure but also reinforce the original decision to buy.

In other words, first-time buyers want to buy more of your work down the road because it means (to them) that their original purchase was a good choice!

While this bit of insight to the human ego may seem crass, it’s included here not as a sales tool but as a point of perspective. It really is in our nature to want “more of the same,” and to want others to want it too.

TIP: Treating people well, thanking them when they select your work and following up with them about future artwork makes additional sales from within your collector base a natural, and welcome, occurrence.

Stay tuned for more articles in this series, coming soon from Aletta de Wal!


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