Cultivate Collectors and Reap the Benefits

Article excerpt

How would you like to turn more buyers into collectors? Buyers, as we know, are usually looking for something specific--something to match a sofa or fill a blank wall. There is nothing wrong with buyers. We like buyers! But they often don't come back for more.

Collectors, on the other hand, buy art in quantity. They are knowledgeable about what they are purchasing. They keep up with publications, attend lectures, belong to museums and art organizations and give money to them. They are passionate about the art they allow into their lives. They do a lot of the research and gallery-hopping themselves, while many also enlist the help of curators or art consultants.

To turn a buyer into a collector, communicate and educate constantly. You must build relationships rather than focus on selling. Think about where the buyer is coming from, what her interests are, and what her needs are.

Nurture Your Mailing List

Your mailing list is, without doubt, the No. 1 asset you have for cultivating collectors. No purchased mailing list can take the place of building your own, qualified list. Make sure your mailing list is in a sound, well-supported database. It should be accessible at a moment's notice and open whenever you're at your desk. Most importantly, it should be used and used often.

Think like a politician and keep track of the people you come in contact with and, especially, those who buy from you. Make note of their likes and dislikes. Know the names of their spouses and children. Contact them when you come across something besides your own work that might interest them, such as a special exhibition, an article, a lecture, or a mutual non-art interest. Send them holiday cards and birthday cards. Invite them to your home for a special dinner with other people who appreciate art. With all of the competition out there, personal relationships are more important than ever. Nurture and protect them. Your business depends on it.

Stay in Touch

You must keep reminding your contacts that you're in business and that you care about a relationship with them. The standard ways for artists and galleries to do this is through phone calls, postcard or invitation mailings, print ads, and the occasional e-mail blast. These are all fine and good, but do not take advantage of all the available technology. You can't afford to overlook new ways of marketing. Do you have a blog? Have you thought about adding a podcast, audio, or video to your Web site? Why not? What about automating your stay-in-touch emails with autoresponders?

While you're at it, jazz up your message. Our attention spans these days are miniscule. Malcolm Gladwell tells us in Blink that we form opinions and responses within two seconds. (See "How Will You Spend Your Two Seconds?", February Art Business News, page 36.) That's how critical your first sentence is, your gallery's appearance, and your Web site's home page. You have to capture someone's attention in two seconds. Give that person something he wants to look at or hear and package it in a way that compels him to share it with everyone he knows. Tell him good stories, interesting facts, and add some humor.

Do I have to say it? Think outside of the box. Just because galleries and artists have been doing it a certain way for decades doesn't mean it's the best way to market today. …