How You Can Increase Art Sales
I have magical memories of visiting my grandparents' home at 317 West Wildwood in my hometown of Fort Wayne, Indiana. The small two-story white clapboard house had a porch swing where I would pass hours swinging and singing. Eric Rhoads
The small backyard was big enough for my grandmother's lush green garden, a giant peach tree that produced the most tasty white peaches, and an arbor littered with frosty purple concord grapes, which we always sampled before they were ripe. I shiver when I think of that sour taste, and I close my eyes when I think of the amazing flavor of the sun-ripened grapes a few short weeks later.
Atop the grass at the base of the back porch was the large round cement top of an in-ground cistern that was used to capture rain water. My mom told stories of washing her hair with rainwater from the cistern, but I never really understood its purpose until my grandfather explained how it was a backup because, in the early days, city water was unreliable and often tainted. Of course, if it didn't rain in that spot, the cistern didn't collect water.
Everybody needs a strategy to capture the rain, which in your case is a metaphor for capturing those who want to buy art. But most galleries and artists are like the lone cistern, sitting in one place and waiting for the rain to fall. Is that the right strategy today?
A Remarkable Recession Success
This week an art gallery owner who has been having tremendous success in spite of the recession proudly told me he increased his sales 973 percent in the past year. (I don't have his permission to use his name.) As I've studied this gallery, which was started right at the beginning of the recession, it became clear that they were ready to catch the rain when others were hunkering down for a storm.
When a storm approaches, some people will batten down the hatches while others will seek opportunity. For instance, this gallery owner's timing was perfect; launching when the recession hit (which most people thought was crazy), he realized that he would be entering a market with less noise. Rather than launching when business was good and all galleries were advertising, he launched when business was bad and the majority of galleries had stopped advertising aggressively.
Fear Begets Failure
Our instincts tell us that cutting back when times get bad is the right thing to do, but sometimes cutting back means your customers don't see you. As I recently said about fishing, if you don't have your line in the water, the fish won't bite. Typically, the businesses that cut back get addicted to saving marketing money and end up invisible to their clients, other than those they can reach through self-generated direct e-mail marketing. But because there is no visibility in trade journals, they are not bringing in new business to replace customers in the existing database who have lost their ability to buy. The result is that sales falter, deeper cuts occur, and many cut themselves out of business. Yet a recession's best opportunity is to seduce the clients of others who are not advertising.
During the 1991 recession my father told me, "If you're going to go out of business anyway, go down in flames." In other words, take every possible action to bring in customers, advertise, market, and sell like crazy to try to save it.
Is The Recession Over?
Now the sun is peeking through the clouds, and spending has loosened up a little. Many galleries are reporting increased spending (especially in the high end), and though the recession may be far from over or could double-dip (no one really knows), you need to be ready to capture the rain.
If more people are coming into the market to buy art again, what are you going to do to capture them? If you simply assume things will go back to the halcyon days, I suspect that won't happen. Your future dollars won't fall into your cistern but will come from increased efforts to capture the rain from multiple resources. You need to find out where it's raining customers and make sure you're there. Though there are more buyers than there were a year ago, you cannot expect them to seek you out, or even remember you. You need to reach out to them, stay visible, and get your cistern under more sources of rain.
If you've been lying low and surviving, you need to start increasing your visibility as early and as broadly as possible. What if it rains hard for six months and then stops for another year? Fill your barrels now.
Local May Not Be Enough
If you've been reliant on a "local" strategy, don't assume all your buyers will be local anymore. Some markets continue to get worse while others seem to be thriving. If you're not reaching the thriving people and are waiting for the things to change in your region, you could wait to no avail.
For instance, a gallery in a summer tourist location that is counting on success this summer would be well advised to make sure it is seen and known nationally as well to draw customers outside of market. It's insurance in case the locals don't buy.
Yes, I Am Nuts
A friend recently asked if I was nuts because I recently relaunched PleinAir Magazine during the recession. But it captured rain I was not getting before, and the debut issue was met with record subscriber numbers. We sold out at Barnes & Noble -- they called begging us for more copies -- and we launched with very strong advertising support. What if I hadn't launched it? Business as usual would have missed this golden opportunity.
Recession May Be A Way Of Life
Andrew Ross Sorkin of the Financial Times recently told me that 10 percent unemployment will become a permanent way of life. If he's right, your income will have to come from those who will hold their income. Plus, in the life of a typical business, you'll be in recession about 35 percent of the time, which means if you hunker down, stop promoting, and don't expect a profit during recessions, you'll miss out on profits 35 percent of your years in business. It's not wise. As a gallery owner or self-employed artist, you need at least two operating modes, one for good times and one for lean times, but each mode requires bold action.
We've all been told to put away money for a rainy day. While that means money to live on when no money is coming in, it also means money to use to stimulate business when business is soft.
How will you capture the rain?
I have magical memories of visiting my grandparents' home at 317 West Wildwood in my hometown of Fort Wayne, Indiana. The small two-story white clapboard house had a porch swing where I would pass hours swinging and singing.
1. Fine Art Connoisseur: Reaching the most affluent collectors on earth, including the upper 1 percent of American wealth, which includes over 300 billionaires and 1,500 households with a net worth over $10 million. Information on all of the above is available from our marketing experts. Contact Charlie Bogusz, Director of Advertising, at 970-227-4878 or email@example.com.
PS: Here are five cisterns of opportunity available from my company that might be helpful to your business:
2. PleinAir: Reaching collectors of landscape paintings and the artists who create them. This is a powerful and passionate movement.
3. Artist Advocate: A magazine offering galleries operational advice and a showcase of artists seeking galleries.
4. American Forum for Realism: An event designed to bring together collectors, artists, museums, schools, and the entire eco-system of realism for the purpose of developing a solid plan for a solid future. Sponsorship opportunities and exhibit spaces.
5. The Plein Air Convention: From PleinAir Magazine, this is to be the largest gathering of plein air artists and collectors in history. Sponsorship opportunities and exhibit spaces.
1. Fine Art Connoisseur: Reaching the most affluent collectors on earth, including the upper 1 percent of American wealth, which includes over 300 billionaires and 1,500 households with a net worth over $10 million.
Information on all of the above is available from our marketing experts. Contact Charlie Bogusz, Director of Advertising, at 970-227-4878 or firstname.lastname@example.org.