Whether you’re an individual artist, gallery owner or publisher, selling fine art can be a tough business. Any artist can tout him or herself as the newest, hottest thing on the market, and any gallery or publisher can claim to represent the next great art world phenomenon. But there are two things that separate the self-proclaimed masters from the real players: Recognition and sales. Fortunately, the easiest way to score both is just a mouse click away.
Today, online promotion is an essential part of any art professional’s job. Though formerly the domain of techie types only, a range of companies and services make creating an online presence a simple and affordable option for even the least computer-savvy of the bunch. Below are a handful of simple ways in which some of today’s art pros have found success.
Create a Website
Whatever your business, a Website is essential. From registering a domain name to building a Website, there are countless resources available at very little cost. A company like GoDaddy will let you register a domain name, design your site from a number of professional templates and purchase hosting for as little as $5 per month.
Of course, there’s a science to creating a Website that will engage your current audience and entice new fans. When designing your site, the key is to identify your audience and create a site that best suits their needs.
Landscape artist Jennifer Vranes uses her Website, JensArt.com, as a way to announce her latest shows and work and provide information on how to commission or buy a painting. By presenting content that is relevant to her client base in a clean and organized manner, Vranes ensures that visitors to her site are able to comfortably navigate it in order to find the information they need, making it easier for them to find—and hopefully purchase—that perfect piece of art.
Of course, Websites are essential to more than just individual artists. After deciding to revamp its Website, Deljou Art Group (DeljouArtGroup.com), one of the world’s leading publishers of fine art, first analyzed the needs of its customers. As the company caters specifically to trade clients, password protection was important in order to protect the privacy of the dealers and distributors who use the site.
Sales director Anthony Deljou says that while their previous Website had “some wonderful options, such as being able to put together a presentation book… the new Website will allow our clients to work on multiple projects at any given time, [and will] feature a full-blown framing module, some very cool search tools and provide other features that will allow our clients to use the site more efficiently than ever before.”
Utilize Social Media Tools
Social media sites like Facebook make it easy to post pictures of works-in-progress, update others on gallery events and keep in touch with fellow artists. On her JensArt Facebook page, Vranes does all of the above, and her efforts have resulted in “valuable feedback from fans and commissions from interested clients who see the excitement and want a piece of the action,” she says.
Of course, having a Facebook page full of information that could help boost sales doesn’t do much good if no one knows the page exists, so encourage everyone you meet to follow your work online. Include links to your social networking pages in your e-mail signature so that everyone you communicate with—be it for business or pleasure—knows where to friend, fan or follow you.
Vranes uses Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to keep in touch with the art community at large, and understands the time commitment this requires. “It feels like a full-time job just getting your art out there,” says Vranes. “Artists are creative people who sometimes feel more comfortable hiding in their studios behind their easels. But like it or not, the world is evolving into a social place… We must adapt or be lost in the shuffle. This is an exciting time to be an artist.”
Artists are always looking for new ways to set themselves apart from their peers. Steve Barton, who creates “wavy” frames and canvases that enhance the sense of movement in his paintings, differentiates himself by creating short videos to post to BartonStudios.com. While some videos show Barton painting a piece before the viewer’s eyes or explaining the inspiration behind a new piece of work, others simply show him hanging out with friends.
The idea for these videos came about when Barton noticed that sales of his artwork in galleries increased when he was present. Whether sitting and painting at a gallery show for several hours or just mingling with visiting clients, Barton realized that people were more likely to buy his work when they could engage with him personally.
“Our collectors have always loved the experience of meeting Steve and getting to know what inspires him and his love for painting,” says Deborah Barton, Steve’s wife and business manager. “Creating and posting videos is a window into our life that lets the collector live the creative process.”
Advances in technology have democratized the video-making process. In fact, you probably have a video camera in your pocket (courtesy of your cell phone) or on your computer (via a Webcam) right now. The Bartons are lucky enough to have a videographer for a son, but they have some tips for those who don’t have the good fortune of boasting a filmmaker in the family.
The first thing to do is decide what type of video you want to make: Is it a tour of your studio? An invitation to a gallery event? An announcement of a new work? Once you’ve decided on the content, create a storyboard and a script and stick to them both. When it comes time to edit the footage, there are many free programs and applications, like iMovie or YouTube’s Video Editor, that make the process simple.
Once your video is complete, upload it for free to YouTube or Vimeo, send the link to your clients and post it on your Website for prospective clients to see. Don’t forget to let your social networking friends in on the video fun.
If you want to take your client interaction one step further, try using Skype. Use it as a tool to get comfortable in front of the camera by video conferencing with your friends or recording studio sessions, then move on to inviting your clients to engage in a video chat session or even take a quick glimpse at your studio in real time.
Though they can sometimes be overwhelming in information and frequency, e-mail blasts and newsletters that are clear, concise and educational can be an extremely effective marketing tool. Chris Dellorco (DellorcoFineArt.com) has found success with regular e-mail communications. The painter’s online newsletters, which he sends out through online marketing service company Constant Contact (pricing starts as low as $15 per month), help him inform a large number of collectors about his latest happenings in a matter of minutes.
“The great thing about online promotion,” notes Dellorco, “it its ease and low cost… I’ve absolutely had inquiries and sales as a direct result of an e-blast.”
Dellorco, who is represented by Elliot Blinder and Art Traditions, notes the importance of choosing a subject line that will prompt curiosity while still delivering a clear message, encouraging the recipient to open the e-mail. For example, if you are announcing a show, be sure to include the date in the subject line. Dellorco also says to be consistent with the formatting of your newsletters, as it helps to brand your work.
“It is important to keep the number of e-mails you send to a minimum,” adds Dellorco. “If you send too many, your clients [may] get irritated and unsubscribe.”
Be diligent about expanding your list of subscribers by asking clients and visitors to your Website if they’d like to receive your newsletter. “The trick with selling art is to get it out there,” says Dellorco. “No one is going to buy art unless they see it.”
Online promotion has become a necessary tool for art professionals seeking any measure of success in today’s marketplace, but the methods noted above are only the beginning. New trends and opportunities are constantly emerging that are taking the ability of artists to market, advertise and sell their art in new and exciting directions. ABN
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issues of ABN to help you keep on top of the latest trends and technologies that can help you succeed. Share your own stories of navigating the world of online promotion on our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/#!/artbusinessnews. See? Online promotion at work!