1. Remember the Basics:
Because we are all very close to our businesses, we assume people know what we do, who we are, and what is featured in our galleries — but this is simply not true. Though you should continue to "work" your customer list, also develop a strategy to attract new faces and new customers. People are moving all the time, and out-of-towners are visiting.Your outreach program should tell your story in fresh ways that will bring in the new people and reinvigorate those who have not been in for a while.
2. Traditions Can Become Tired
Have you been doing the same things year after year? Though tradition breeds comfort, it also breeds complacency. Have people stopped attending your openings or events because they have become too predictable? Shake things up. Invite interesting people or VIPs to create buzz. Though a fresh artist or a new show is often enough, it can't hurt to use a hot caterer, promote a celebrity guest, or feature an intriguing speaker.
3. People Love to Watch and Participate
People are fascinated by watching sculptors and painters work. Set up guest artists weekly and find ways to spread the word though the community. Host something fresh every week or two throughout the summer. Consider running some special family or kids events. Create local art programs outside the gallery so parents can browse inside while kids are busy with outdoor art lessons, coloring, or crafts.
4. Become a Destination Locally and Nationally
Community calendars and event and tourism guides are used by both locals and visitors. We pick them up first thing when we arrive in the Adirondacks each summer. It’s smart business to maintain visibility through ads, event notices, calenders, etc.
Also don't forget the advantage of a national audience. Many galleries are part of a summer itinerary, and those who promote nationally can become a destination for families looking for a place to go. Look for national art destination guides — (for instance, we have a guide to Cape Cod, Nantucket, Martha's Vineyard, and the Hamptons in the July/August issue of Fine Art Connoisseur. ) These are a good place for your ads to prompt visitors to plan a visit. A national strategy is equally important year round, because a collector can pick up the phone or go to your website and buy without ever visiting.
5. Remember Retail Basics
Though most galleries shy away from being perceived as retail, there are many basics that apply to any business.
• Create interesting window displays and change them frequently. Make sure they are well lit and inviting at night.
• Move displays around frequently. People notice things when walls and paintings have been moved. One gallery I visit every summer in the Adirondacks has not changed in 20 years, and therefore I don't even walk into certain sections.
• New decor helps people see your space differently.
• Make the environment welcoming. Retailers know that music and scents stimulate buying. Many people are intimidated by galleries, so a simple sign that says "Please come in and browse" may sway those daunted passersby. A billionaire once told me, "art galleries intimidate me, so I never go in unless I already know the people."
• A plate of cookies works wonders to stimulate sales in small retail locations. The enticing aroma says people are welcome here and invites them to spend more time. Companies like ScentAir specialize in retail scents and can find ways to spread the smell outside to draw people in.
• Watch your body language. Retail researchers say a welcoming smile has a strong impact on sales. Avoid crossed arms or standing guard. It drives people out the door. According to the book Buyology: Truth and Lies About Why We Buy a smile actually triggers a desire to buy in the brain.
• Don't judge a book by its cover. Billionaires can have long hair, unshaven faces, and sloppy clothes, especially on vacation. Make everyone feel welcome.
6. Summer Loan Program and Party Circuit
Invite affluent patrons in and suggest they pick a painting to try for July — no obligation. If they grow fond of it, they'll buy it. Local charity events are often held in affluent homes, so more galleries are offering to hang art for the event, which is an excellent way for large crowds to see your artwork. Find a tasteful way to let them know who provided the art and that each piece is available. Keep local decorators aware of your art while summer homes are being redecorated or built (we suggest a luncheon or mixer for local decorators to get them into the gallery).
7. Art Education Seminars and Events
Education is powerful. Holding events in or out of the gallery — featuring experts, guest lecturers, or seminars — is a powerful tool for creating deeper interest in art. Promote an "Understanding Art" or "Art Basics" course for beginners, hold sessions on specific historic or living artworks or styles, or host forums with multiple experts. People love free, interesting things to do. Each is an opportunity to build your brand, create publicity (newspapers like "things to do" to print), get people in your doors, and spur interest in art. Use pieces that hang in your gallery to develop discussions.
It never hurts to try something new, and I hope these ideas stimulate your business this summer. The most important basic of all is to remember that you won't catch any fish if you don't put your line in the water. It’s important to stay visible at all times. This article from the New Yorker is a good reminder about marketing in down economic times. Happy summer.
Fine Art Connoisseur
PS: We welcome these recent new advertisers Vose Galleries of Boston, Hammer Galleries, Questroyal Fine Art, Godel & Company, Tree's Place, and the Fine Art Dealers Association (FADA) to Fine Art Connoisseur . And thanks to our many advertisers who continue with us!
Also, we just learned that an ad in our magazine was directly responsible for a multi-million-dollar purchase by a billionaire collector-reader recently. I'd be happy to tell you more personally.