Over the 20 years that I’ve been an art dealer, consultant and custom framer, I’ve tried many techniques to attract new customers. Here are the most effective ways to increase awareness and sales and brand your business as your area’s premier art destination.
1. Establish your image
Your Website, brochures, business cards and invitations should all reflect your company’s identity. Does your gallery have a classic, traditional feel or a more modern and sleek vibe? The colors, fonts, photos and text of everything you do—from printed materials to Facebook posts—should all reflect your gallery’s individual personality.
2. Stay in touch
It’s crucial to always stay connected with (past, present and future) customers, and social media is a powerful, low-cost way to do just that. Create a Facebook page for your gallery, and use it to invite people to events, share photos of projects, post testimonials from satisfied customers and let everyone know what’s happening behind the scenes.
One of the best and most successful ideas I’ve had in my career was to create a weekly blog (www.adcfineart.com/blog). Each entry augments discussion of an art- or design-centric topic (like how to “bling” up your space with some metallic art) with beautiful photos that showcase art in both residential and commercial settings.
Another great way to get noticed is to create videos that showcase the artists you represent. These can be as simple as interviews with the artists in their studios, tips on art and framing or visits to local galleries. If you don’t have the time to do this yourself, there are plenty of tech-savvy people out there who could.
3. Partner up
You can’t do it all on your own. Get to know like-minded companies in your area (ones that work with similar customers but don’t compete directly with you) and partner up. Many of these companies will be happy to serve as a cheerleader for your company if you do the same for them. Some of the best companies to work with are commercial furniture dealerships (ones with interiors designers on staff), residential and interior designers and retailers specializing in rug and plant design. Ask if they can display your work or pass referrals and potential leads your way. In return, promote their businesses in your space.
4. give back
Work with local charities and nonprofit organizations that are meaningful to you to create events and give back. For example, I have friends who have survived breast cancer, so last year I hosted “The SCAR Project,” a photo exhibition featuring young women with the disease, in order to raise awareness.
I donated my time and effort, plus my gallery and its resources. After all was said and done, the event and the gallery had gained valuable press coverage and many new visitors, some of whom have since become regular customers. But more important was that the event itself was a truly meaningful one. Helping your community, especially the local arts community, puts you in front of like-minded individuals.
5. Bring your gallery to life during the day…
Daytime events are a great way to forge professional connections. By hosting a designer-only event in your gallery, for example, you can get in touch with your community’s interior design market. By partnering with PPG Porter Paints for a “Color Trends” seminar at my gallery, I was introduced to a number of designers whom I’d never met before.
Another way to connect with customers is to host a “Lunch and Learn,” where you pair a creative topic of interest with a meal. (Don’t forget to promote all your events using social media!)
6. … and at night
There is no better way for a gallery to promote its artists than with evening events, which (if done well) can generate excitement, nurture connections and, of course, increase sales! A few options for after-hour events include:
n Juried art exhibits with pre-sold
n Exhibits centered around a theme,
such as a holiday
n Collaborations with designers to
showcase their skills in your gallery
n Cocktail parties for charities or
nonprofits, where they promote the event and get a percentage of the sales from that evening
7. Take it outside
One of the best ways to reach new customers is to display art in places besides a gallery. For example:
n Organize a weekend “trunk show” at
a high-end furniture showroom or an interior design firm
n Display art at a home and garden show
n Buy a booth at a trade show
n Set up a “mini” art exhibit at an opera,
ballet or symphony performance
8. Rent your space
Not only does renting out your space bring in additional income, but it can also attract people to your gallery who might not have been in before. Depending on the size of your space, you can promote your gallery for many different types of events, including:
n Small, personal parties (birthdays,
n Larger parties (wedding receptions,
rehearsal dinners, charity functions)
n Corporate functions (meetings,
brainstorming events, holiday parties)
9. Tell the media
As you plan your marketing events, be sure to let the media know what you’re doing, especially if it involves charities. Press releases and personal phone calls are the best ways to connect with people who write stories about art, design and community happenings. Doing this takes time and effort, but nothing beats having a story about your business on TV or in the newspaper.
10. Never stop growing
No matter how long you’ve been in the art business, treat every day as an opportunity to learn more, expand your contact list and think creatively. Take courses on social media, sales, marketing and small business strategies; join your local chamber of commerce and networking groups; attend art and business events in your community. As you expand your horizons, you will find that you can meet allies, clients and friends in the most unexpected places. ABN
Litsa Spanos, president of Art Design Consultants, Inc. (ADC) is an award-winning gallery owner, educator, art consultant and custom framer. ADC was named the number one art and framing retailer in the country by Decor Magazine, and is proud to mark 2012 as its 20th year in business! For more information, visit www.adcfineart.com.