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How to Kill an Ad Campaign

Why Getting Sick of Your Ads Will Hurt Your Business

 

“I’m sick of my ad. Can you come up with something new?” said an advertiser I was working with years ago at my radio station.

 

I had a choice. I could give him what he wanted and take his money, or I could tell him something he didn’t want to hear at the risk of losing his money. I decided to take the risk and provide an educational moment.

 

“Why are you sick of it?” I asked.

 

“All my friends at the country club have heard it, all my employees have heard it and are suggesting I change it. Even my kids are telling me I’m running it too much. Frankly, I’m a little tired of it.”

 

“Do you mind if I ask you a couple of questions?”

 

“Sure,” he said.

 

“When you see ads with a person wearing a little white moustache, what do the ads say?”

 

He replied, “Got Milk?”

 

What is it that Nike says on all their ads?

 

He replied, “Just Do It.”

 

What happens with an M&M?

 

He replied “It melts in your mouth, not in your hand.”

 

Alka Seltzer?

 

He replied “Plop, plop, fizz, fizz, oh what a relief it is.”

 

The biggest mistake advertisers make is getting sick of their slogans, their ads, their campaigns. And believe me, they have to resist: Milk processors and dairy farmers used “Got Milk” for 21 years starting in 1993, Nike used “Just do it” for 26+ years starting in 1988, M&Ms  has used the same slogan since 1954, and Alka Seltzer since 1971.

 

Ad agencies are notorious for destroying heritage campaigns for something fresh and new — and sales usually go down. Look how many ad campaigns and slogans McDonald’s has had — dozens. Yet the one we all still remember is “You deserve a break today.” That campaign ended in 1975.

 

It may take some time to get the right campaign created and tested, but your goal should be to find a slogan, a concept for your ad, that is strong enough that you can run the same concept forever.

 

Our friends-and-family test always fails us because they already know you, they already know your business; they already know everything they should know about you. But the person down the road doesn’t know you exist. Your job is to repeat your promise, your uniqueness, your special offer, to that person over and over again.

 

“But surely they’ve heard it by now. So why keep running it?”

 

I always get that question, and the answer is simple. In the 1980s it was believed the average person had to hear or see something at least seven times within a short period of time before they would take action on it. Today, due to all the clutter, experts believe it takes 13 times to get someone to act — it’s almost doubled.

 

We assume because we ran an ad that everyone saw it or heard it, but that’s simply not true. Let’s say that you’re running ads in my magazine Fine Art Connoisseur, which reaches lots of ultra-wealthy consumers. It comes out six times a year. Though people do receive it, what if they flip through it without seeing your ad? What if they are away on a business trip when it comes out and they miss an issue? No media on earth can guarantee that someone will see and absorb something.

 

There are three elements to the success of an ad. It has to reach the right audience (not necessarily the largest audience); it has to have creative that grabs your attention so that when someone is flipping through, taking less than a second per page, you jump out, grab their attention, and make them read it; and it has to be run with frequency.

 

Let’s say they flip through the magazine the first time you run it. They notice your ad, but they don’t stop to read it. The next time they flip through, they pause briefly and think, “I’ve seen this,” but then they keep going. Next time, maybe they pause and think, “Hmm, I should read this sometime.” And the next time, they pause and read it. When they see it again, they might think, “I should pay more attention to this.”

 

Repetition is nothing more than familiarity, like meeting a new person, seeing them time and again, and then, once you trust them, becoming friends. Then and only then does the friendship deepen enough that they enter your world more completely.

 

There are many other elements that ads need to contain, which I’ll touch on in the future, but the most important thing is to get people to notice and pay attention. Only then does and ad begin to do the selling.

 

Once that trust and awareness have been established, that’s not an indicator that someone is going to buy. Now they need a reason to buy. It could be an impulsive, “I really like that painting. I want to own it.” But if they get to that point before trust is built, they will probably tell themselves, “But I don’t really know anything about this artist, so I’ll pass.”

 

You see, interest in buying ebbs and flows. Timing is everything. If someone is in the middle of moving or downsizing, another painting is not what they want at the moment, but three weeks later, when they are in the new condo, buying new furniture, and thinking, “We need something new for over the couch,” they might pay closer attention next time they see your ad.

 

In my first Art Marketing Boot Camp video, where I describe the basics, I show an escalator with people going up and going down, to represent that people are always in and out of a market. If money is tight, or if something is going on in their lives, like illness or a family issue, they are not buying. If they come into money because college bills ended, they got a bonus at work, they inherited some money, got a raise, or sold a business, they may feel the desire to spend.

 

Big brand advertisers never stop advertising. They understand that people are always in and out of the market. I don’t want or need a new car today, but in a year my kids will get their license and will probably get my old car. Advertisers understand that there are always changing circumstances. Though they also repeat and repeat to gain top-of-mind awareness, they also know you must be there when the decision to spend is made.

 

I often tell the story of my friend Raul, who suddenly found himself with a lot of money. Because he loved Sargent, he decided to buy a Sargent painting. Though he was a reader of my magazine, he called and said, “Who carries Sargent? Where can I get one?”

 

Ironically, the company that sold Sargent had advertised a couple of times and then dropped out because they felt they were not getting any results. A year later, I got this call and I referred him to these people. He bought two Sargent paintings, spending millions. He was lucky he knew to call me. But what about the other 500 who wanted to do the same thing and never found the seller?

 

Of course, today the answer is “Google it,” but how do you know who is trusted? Reviews? Maybe, but this is where brand-building is important to focus on those most likely to buy (known art buyers) so they recognize your name when they do Google something.

 

Another friend, a major collector and an avid reader, told me he wanted to buy a Holbein painting. I suggested he go to a particular major fine art fair in Europe. “What’s that?” he said. We were in his office and he had a stack of art magazines, including mine. I flipped through them and found an ad. “Oh I’ve seen that but didn’t know what it was.”

 

This is a case where perhaps the advertiser assumed everyone already knew about the event. But it had not reached him, either because he did not see it enough times or the message did not cut through. Later, I researched it and found the fair had only advertised twice, about 30 days before the event. They assumed everyone already knew them, so they were not doing enough repetition to get their message across. In a case like this, an advertiser needs to use bold, attention-getting creative.

 

Usually an advertiser bails out before an ad is working because they assume everyone has seen or heard it, but in reality people are just starting to see it. Great campaigns take time to get attention and rarely work instantly, but once they start working, they work forever. People may have heard the message, but not been in the market. But after years of hearing it, when they are in the market, they buy.

 

That’s how advertising repetition works.

 

That advertiser I was telling you about earlier used just our one radio station, because that was all he could afford. But with repetition, he sold so much merchandise that he had to move to a bigger showroom. Then he out grew that one, so he opened a second store, then a third, and by the time I left town, he had built to six or eight stores and was the biggest furniture seller in town.

I’ve not stayed in touch, but chances are some ad agency somewhere talked him into changing his message and his ads — but hopefully did not destroy the business we built.

 

Whatever you do, do it with repetition. Don’t get overly concerned that people have seen it or heard it, because they go through many stages before they are aware enough to buy, and then they need to be in the market at the right time for them.

 

By | August 8th, 2017|Business, Direct Marketing|0 Comments

The Land of Danger for Art Marketers

 

Imagine walking through the Sahara desert. In every direction you look, you see what seems to be miles and miles of sand. The hot sun is beating down on you and you’ve run out of water. You’ve slowed your pace, and you’re in danger of collapsing and baking in this Sahara oven if you don’t find water soon. Then, as you see the sunlight reflecting off water on the horizon, you muster all your energy to run toward it. But as you get closer, you find there is no water. It’s merely a mirage.

As artists working on our own marketing and branding, we often feel like we’re in the desert. We feel barely able to make it, but then something gives us hope, something gives us the feeling that we’re making great strides — but it’s only a mirage.

Recently I was having a discussion with a company and I asked the marketing team about what percentage of the market was aware of their brand. Boldly, they said, “We know that at least 75 percent of the people in the art world know us.”

It was a mirage.

I was feeling especially kind and non-confrontational that day, so instead of challenging them and giving them a much-needed dose of reality, I simply asked how they knew.

They told me about all the things they were doing and all the places they were doing them. Frankly, it wasn’t much and hadn’t been going on for long, and they had barely scratched the surface. By asking questions, I was finally able to get them to come to that conclusion on their own.

Their perception had been that they were known, even a household name, but it was all a self-imposed mirage. The reality is that they were barely known, if known at all.

As a marketer, your self-confidence (or your ego) can kill your business. When you think you’re doing well, when you think you’re doing everything you can, you start to believe that is enough.

Recently, right after I was on stage and speaking at the opening of the Plein Air Convention, a young woman walked up to me, introduced herself, and asked politely, “Who are you, and what do you do?”

Gulp.

I’m at my own event, with my tribe, I’ve spent tons of time and money on marketing, I’ve told my story a thousand times, yet this person was unaware.

I felt completely stupid and realized I had become overconfident.

The next morning, when I went on stage, I started Art Marketing Boot Camp with my story, because if there was one person there who didn’t know it, chances are there were others.

As someone recently told me, “You cannot tell your story enough.”

Remember that marketing team? After all my questions, I told them that there was a very big chance that they were known by only a small percentage of the entire market. Others might be aware of the company’s name but not know what it does.

We all grow so close to our marketing that we sometimes make insanely stupid assumptions, like…

  • Everyone knows who we are
  • Everyone knows our story
  • Everyone knows exactly what we do
  • Everyone has read everything we ever put out
  • Everyone has visited our website
  • Everyone has seen our artwork

But we need to understand that there are always people entering and exiting the market. Through attrition, our customer list is always changing, on average by 10 percent each year, and in bad economic years, by 30 to 50 percent.

That means you have to…

  • Constantly be telling your story
  • Constantly be helping people know your product or art
  • Constantly bring new people into your list
  • Constantly stay visible

We wrongly assume that because someone sees a story or an ad, they have “captured the message.”

The reality is that most people don’t pay close attention. They don’t read things we think they should read. They skim a lot of things.

And since the average person has to be hit over the head about a dozen times with seeing or hearing your message before they become a prospect, you have to be constantly pushing and repeating that message.

And don’t assume they saw or heard it every time you ran it.

Also, repetition fades with time, so you have to compress time by being seen more frequently over shorter time periods.

There are other critical pieces. You see, every campaign is about four things:

  • What you say and how you get attention
  • How often you say it
  • How often your target prospect sees it
  • Who you say it to, which has to do with where you say it

On stage recently I asked the audience how many had seen ads for “MyPillow.com.” In a room of 1,000 people, only about 30 hands went up.

I’ve seen these ads on TV probably a hundred times in the last year, yet only 3 percent of the room was aware of them.

After seeing the ad for the hundredth time, my wife finally bought the product.

Every buyer has their own timing. Your campaigns need to repeat your story and message to the point that you are personally sick of it and think others are as well.

Even then, you’ve tapped only a small percentage of a market, and sold only a small percentage.

It all works due to the volume of people being reached and the constant repetition of the message.

I’ll bet if I asked the CEO of the company that makes MyPillow, he would say the world knows about his product because of the thousands of people reached and the large number of orders coming in. Yet he would be embarrassed and frustrated with the 3 percent of the room I surveyed.

His marketing person, on the other hand, would probably understand that more time will be required to reach more people, and even then, not everyone will be aware.

The point?

Don’t get overconfident and think the world knows about you or knows the details about your product.

Overconfidence will lead you to think you’re big when you’re not, and will lead you to reduce or stop your marketing because you believe that, or because you’re seeing some results.

Marketing is like a jet that never lands and has to be continually refueled in the air. If you land it, you lose momentum and it’s much harder to take off again — and you’ll see a reduction in business before long.

A great marketer understands the land of danger and the mirage of assuming people know who they are and know their story. A great marketer never lands.

By | May 3rd, 2017|Business, Direct Marketing|4 Comments

How Art Businesses Die

Though we like to think of ourselves as artists, if we’re selling paintings, we are running a business.

According to trainer Tony Robbins, businesses go through the following cycle:

  • Birth
  • Infancy
  • Toddler
  • Teenager
  • Young Adult
  • Mature Adult
  • Mid-Life
  • Aging
  • Institutionalization
  • Death

Rather than explaining these cycles in depth, I’ll just say they are much like life. Each of us and our art businesses are at a different point in the cycle. If you’re just launching or planning your art business, you’re pregnant and about to give birth. If you’re a teen, you make reckless decisions. The longer you’re in business, the more you mature, until you grow old.

The part of the cycle I want to discuss today is death — when your business is no longer sustainable and there is no one to support it.

My goal is to help you, or those you know, to prevent death — to keep art selling.

All Cycles Are Predictable

One thing always follows the other. The problem is that we often cannot see when we’ve gone from one part of the cycle to another, and if we’re not paying attention, it’s often too late.

Recently I met an artist who had been a queen in the art world. She was a big seller, she’d made a lot of money, but she came to me for marketing advice because nothing is selling anymore.

How is it that an icon, a success, enters the part of aging where the breakdown in the business has been accelerated?

As I asked this woman some questions, it was clear this had been happening gradually over time, but she had not recognized the signals. And she was in denial about her current circumstances. She was placing blame on the economy, claiming that “people just don’t buy art anymore,” which is completely untrue.

In her case, her business had been aging for years, but since that fact went unrecognized, the aging continued until she may have reached the point of no return.

Though I’m always one to believe any circumstances can be changed, I also believe that once we get comfortable with a certain lifestyle, once we get to that point in our careers, we’re often unwilling to do what it takes to reinvent. We get set in our ways.

Not Seeing Obvious Signs

This lovely woman had not seen the key sign — gradually slowing sales. She had been in a number of galleries, but many closed over time and were not replaced. “People are just not buying your work anymore,” she was told.

The reality is that she did not reinvent herself when the signals of mid-life appeared, and never considered that aging would be next. She did not see that some of her galleries were dying, for the same reason she now faces … they did not reinvent themselves. Had she replaced her aging galleries with new, vibrant ones, she may still have been selling work.

“I tried to get a couple of new galleries,” she said, “but the new galleries had no idea who I was and how big I am in the art world. I tried to tell them how big I was, how I sold hundreds of paintings at high prices, but they did not seem interested.”

What had happened is that success killed this woman’s career.

What? How is it possible for success to kill a career or business?

This woman was so successful that she stopped doing what had made her successful in the first place. When I asked her about her early career and her struggles, she told me how she worked the galleries, how she advertised heavily to get collectors even when she had no galleries, and how that resulted in her getting invited to shows and events, which made her better known. It also made her known to the galleries.

Business Was Booming
Within a few years, she had several galleries, and she couldn’t keep up with all the work they were selling. This feast went on for several years. Because she sold so well, the galleries were advertising her work. That continued to build her name, which made her prices go up because she could produce only so much. In fact, demand became so high that the galleries didn’t even need to advertise. All the collectors knew who she was and wanted her work in their collections.

Over time, sales started to slow down. It took a while, but she would sell a little bit less every year. The galleries told her all her collectors were saturated and there was not as much demand for her work. Of course, they gave that as the reason they did not advertise her anymore. There simply was not the demand there used to be. Yet they still sold some — it’s rare that sales just come to a halt. Death in most cases is gradual.

From Queen to Virtually Unknown

I pointed out to her that new galleries did not know who she was because she had not worked to continually brand her name. I pointed out that as an artist, you have to take some control over your success. When the galleries stopped advertising, there was a gradual decline in her sales. I don’t believe it had anything to do with demand or oversaturation. I believe it was because they no longer promoted her.

A fact of life, as an artist or a gallery owner, is that when you fail to do the things that made you successful, you fail to get the results you used to get. When you achieve success and comfort, you can be slowly dying and not realize it.

She Killed Her Own Career
I believe this woman killed her own career because there are always new people coming into the market and other people leaving. In a typical year, it’s probably 20 percent attrition. That means you have to bring in 20 percent more people every year, because if you lose 20 percent of your customers a year, it only takes five years until you have no more customers.

Furthermore, the galleries not advertising sped up the death of her career. They were comfortable with her sales and did not feel they needed to advertise because everyone knew who she was and who the gallery was. They were dead wrong.

How Customers Act
In my first Art Marketing Boot Camp video, I show an up and a down escalator to make the point that people are always leaving and people are always coming into the market to buy. People leave because they age or die, they run out of wall space, they run out of money due to retirement or going to a fixed income or another change in their circumstances, like the loss of a job or needing to save money for college for the kids.

On the other hand, new people are coming into the market because their kids got out of college and they have money again, or they got a raise, or a bonus, or an inheritance.

New people coming into the market don’t know you exist. They don’t know that galleries that have been around for decades exist. They don’t know who has a good or a bad reputation. They have all of that to learn.

A Million Bucks and Nowhere to Spend It
I once met a collector who asked me who to call because he had a million dollars to spend on art and wanted to buy a John Singer Sargent painting. Imagine that. There were people who had been known for many years as experts in Sargent, yet he was not aware of them because they had not been advertising for decades. I had to tell him where to go. (He bought two Sargent paintings.)

Habits of New Buyers
When new buyers (they are not collectors yet) start to get interested in art, they start picking up books or magazines, or start Googling and studying what they find. They discover artists or galleries that are visible at the time they enter the market. New people enter every day, yet most artists or galleries are not there when those people begin to look. Those who happen to be there at the right time start branding themselves and eventually, over time, get a chance at a relationship with that new buyer. Those who are not there stay invisible.

Of course, there are years when 20 percent is a low attrition rate. In a year like 2008, there may have been a loss of 60 or 70 or 80 percent of customers who never returned to the market.

The Impact of the Election
We’ve seen this happen in election years. Both sides play up fears that the world is not going to survive if their candidate is not elected. Consumer confidence is everything. State of mind impacts spending if you think everything is about to get bad. So people lay low for six months or a year, and sometimes even for a few months after the election, until the sting disappears. In fact, we know a lot of artists who had not seen any significant sales for months and only just recently started to see things selling again.

People with art businesses need to anticipate this and be ready for the storm, whether it’s a short- or long-term storm.

In every storm, there are always people spending money, but you have to hunt them down and find them.

Taking Advantage of a Crash
I know of a very smart and successful couple who started a new gallery in 2008, after the crash had happened. Everyone thought they were insane, but they understood human nature. In 2008, almost all the galleries and many artists stopped advertising because business was bad. This couple doubled down on advertising and managed to draw massive attention from the people who were still spending. The environment was less cluttered, too, so they got more value out of their ads. Like a giant magnet, they drew customers away from other galleries that were quickly forgotten because they were out of sight, and out of mind. This gallery was booming as a result.

It’s counterintuitive to spend when things get bad, but there are always buyers. Even the Depression saw massive spending among the wealthy.

Success as a Sign of Near Death?
My dad, a successful business guy, always told me that companies often go from having their best months ever to having their worst months ever almost overnight. The reason is that they hadn’t recognized problems when those problems were revealing themselves. Plus, when times are good, people tend to take more time off, take longer vacations, do more remote management and more spending, and put less money away for a rainy day. Plus, business is so good they assume they don’t need to advertise or even do as many shows. They don’t follow the practices that made them successful.

Momentum Is Powerful
What they fail to understand is that success is the culmination of momentum created by years of doing things right. Momentum does not stop immediately, but if you don’t continue to feed it, your business starts to slowly die, because you’re not staying visible, and not bringing in enough new customers.

By the time they recognize the problem, it’s usually too late. There is no money or no energy or desire to work as hard as they used to.

Uphill, Downhill

It’s like a car that chugs up a hill, but keeps trying till it gets to the top. Then, once at the top, it heads to the bottom, going faster and faster until it’s going so fast the driver doesn’t need to do anything. But if the driver fails to keep the gas on, they’ll coast until the next hill slows them down and, eventually, they stop.

Death can happen to any business, including yours, whether you’re an artist, a gallery, or any business outside of the art world.

Clues Even When You Are Thriving
The best time to pay close attention to the danger signs is when you’re thriving. Because once you hit your mid-life crisis, things begin to break down. Entropy begins. You have to decide if you are going to reinvent yourself and rejuvenate your business by getting aggressive again, by promoting again — or will you decide to just ride it out as long as you can? That is when you really begin to die.

Once things get bad, you’re in denial. You can’t see the problem clearly, and tend to blame the market, the election, “people not spending anymore,” the state of the art world, etc. You feel like a victim, and you begin to attack and blame others. That’s when good employees bail out, because they’ve been saying it all along: “We need to do things differently.”

Death is usually self-imposed.

It’s rarely about market conditions alone. You see smart operators who are ready for the storm of a bad economy or changes in technology or changes in consumer behavior.

A Tough Decision

My friend was faced with a decision and had a tough pill to swallow. Once famous, once rich, once world-renowned as an artist, she was no longer known by the galleries or collectors, and a whole generation of people in charge of art shows and events had never heard her name. She had not been visible for about five years, and she had been forgotten.

To her credit, she did not just lie down to die. She asked what she could do and said she would do everything she could to get another decade or more out of her art career.

We’re working on a plan, and soon the world will know her again. I’m convinced her wonderful art will sell and she will be embraced as she once was. She is fortunate to be in a position where she is able and willing to work at and invest in her career. And she now wishes she had never stopped promoting herself and given up control of her own career.

How to Prevent Death

Whether you own a gallery or are an artist, your best chance for survival is to always assume people are in and out of the market and that you’ll need a plan to stay visible, stay relevant, and bring new people into the fold each and every day. You need to return to the things that made you successful, and you must always be paranoid and never get too comfortable, no matter how well things are going.

You and I both know artists who have been relevant and at the top of their game for decades. It does not just happen. They work hard at staying visible, doing shows, and continually reinventing themselves and exposing their work to new people coming into the market. If they did nothing, they would be unknown today as many once-famous artists are.

Lifetime Commitment
If you’re young or if you’ve got a lot of years ahead, you need to assume that visibility is a lifetime commitment. Too many people think they can run a couple of ads and everyone will flock to them. Your career is a marathon, not a sprint.

Just like you pay the electric bill every month of your life to keep the lights on, you need to pave the way to keep customers flowing to you for a lifetime. When you slow down, the customers may keep coming for a short period, depending on how much momentum you’ve built, but when the momentum ends, there are no more customers.

Death in life isn’t preventable … but it’s preventable in business.

Even old, established companies can die because they get comfortable and arrogant and don’t continue to do what made them successful in the first place. Yet those in a continual state of customer acquisition and occasional reinvention stand a chance of a long and healthy business life. The same is true for artists and galleries.

I wish you great success.

By | April 16th, 2017|Uncategorized|7 Comments

Clobbered By My Own Advice

 

The Power Of Repetition 

ClobberedPup

My kids desperately want a dog, but their mother and I have mixed feelings about taking care of their animal once the kids go off to college in three years. But at every turn, when we ask them a question of any kind … like, “What do you want for dinner?” or, “What do you want to do this weekend?” the answer is always, “I want to go get a dog.”

Just yesterday my wife saw twin dogs online that are available for adoption. Suddenly the kids went into sales mode to convince us to get one of those dogs.

Last night as I walked into my studio there was an 8” x 10” glossy of the dog on my easel. When I went to bed, there was one on my pillow. When I got up this morning, there was one at the breakfast bar. And today when I came to work, there was one on my keyboard.

Though I’ve been pretty opposed to a dog for all the practical reasons, I have to admit, each time I see the picture, it melts my heart a little more and I get a little closer to saying yes. In fact, I’ve already gone from a firm “no” to a “maybe,” and I’ve even agreed to go visit and meet the twins this weekend.

Of course my kids have clobbered me with the advice I’ve given them about marketing. Repetition is powerful. The more people see something, the more it warms them up.

Back in the dark ages when I first learned marketing, the average marketer needed four repetitions to sell something. Then it went up to seven. Now, with all the noise in media, some experts say the number has doubled to about 15 impressions.

Ever wonder why you see things on television or hear things on radio over and over again?

The first reason is that it takes a certain number of impressions to sell someone. For discussion, let’s say it takes 10 impressions. Does that mean you only run 10 ads? Nope, it means the ad needs to reach an individual 10 times. If you ran 10 ads and the prospect happened to see only five of them, then it’s not enough. The prospect needs X number of impressions to be sold.

The other reason frequency is important is that circumstances change and moods change. For instance, a dealer once told me about a man who kept coming into his gallery for years but never bought anything. Then one day he came in and dropped a half million bucks. When questioned, the man said, “I had kids in college and no extra cash. Plus, I just sold my business for a lot of money, so now I can afford to collect.”

You see, tire companies or car dealers repeat constantly on television because they know you may not be in the market today, but if you blow out your tires, or decide you want a new car tomorrow, they need to be there when you begin to move into shopping mode. Most of us ignore all those ads until we decide we’re in the market, then we start paying attention.

One more reason for repetition is what is called top-of-mind awareness. You may not need tires now, but the goal is to hammer a message into your brain so that when you do need tires, you know exactly where to go. (But just in case you don’t, you’ll always find tire ads in the sports section of the local paper or on your local station.)

I believe people go through a few stages to get to a purchase. The first is attention — you have to get noticed. Then they move into the interest stage. They may think, “Hmm, maybe this is for me. I’ll have to pay closer attention next time.” Then they move to the desire stage. “Yes, this is for me. I should do something about it someday.” Of course, some then move into the purchase stage. “I’m going to buy this one day.”

Most marketers blow it because they forget that everyone has their own timing, and therefore you need to be there all the time for those who are coming into the market.

For example, let’s say you have an article coming out about your art in an art magazine like Fine Art Connoisseur. It’s not uncommon for a gallery or the artist to advertise in an issue with an article. But you’re assuming instant action. People don’t work that way. They may be thinking, “I’ll keep an eye on this artist,” but then your ads are not in the next issue, or the next, and there’s nothing to remind them of you or your work.

I once talked to a collector who told me he saw an article on an artist and decided he wanted to buy one of the paintings in the article. He set the magazine down, fully intending to go back to it, call, and inquire about the painting. But later, he couldn’t find the magazine and he didn’t remember the name of the artist or the gallery that advertised. He never did find the name of that artist.

Yet if that same artist had repeated her ad in the following couple of issues, she would have increased her chances of reaching and reminding this collector, and others. The ad could have even said, “As featured in the April issue of Fine Art Connoisseur.”

Why is repetition important?

Every person needs a certain number of impressions to take them through the levels of attention, interest, desire, and purchase.

People are always in and out of the market. One day they have no money, the next day they have money from a bonus, an inheritance, or some other event.

Moods change. A person can feel poor the day they have to replace their roof and feel rich the following week because their business made a big sale. Also, if they happen to see your ad on a day when they are in a bad mood, you need to make sure it keeps being seen so they see it in a different mood. That’s why I like to re-send direct mail campaigns.

You’re creating top-of-mind awareness so they think of you when they have money burning a hole in their pocket or a house that needs some paintings.

Branding. Building your brand takes repetition over years so that people will hold you in higher esteem, which will make you the choice if they are deciding between two paintings, will sell you as a status item (sorry, but it’s true), and will help you get higher prices because you’re well known. It will also drive people to you for events and shows, which then builds on your brand.

I’ll let you know the outcome of the puppy campaign, but my gut tells me I’ve already lost that battle. Certainly, repetition has softened me up.

By | March 31st, 2017|Branding|18 Comments

Your Thanksgiving Demo, and My Thanksgiving Wish for You

Eric Rhoads Thanksgiving Message 2017 for artists

 

A Note from Art Publisher Eric Rhoads

Dear Friends,

 

Life these days tends to go faster than a Porsche on the Autobahn. We’re all busy.


Thankfully, we’re forced hit the brakes and slow down around the holidays. It is at this time of year I try to cool my jets, rest up for the coming year, and take inventory of my blessings and my friends.

 

I feel especially blessed to have you, my art family. Art has changed my life. Just seeing life through the eyes of an artist, viewing life as color, light, form, shape, and atmosphere is a blessing. Translating beauty to canvas enriches our lives, as does painting outdoors en plein air, when we can be a part of nature.

 

I’m very thankful for the “new life” I was given when art entered it many years ago, and for the great friendships I’ve developed as a result of this journey. I’m grateful for your embrace of our magazines, events, products, and videos.

 

I often say you can’t have a bad day when surrounded by art, artists, and people who love art. I feel very blessed each day.

 

But I never say thank you enough, and it’s clear that my family (and the families of my team members) would not eat without your support. I try to remind myself of this every day and try to make it clear to my children that their band uniforms, books, electronics, and meals on the table are a result of a lot of good people who trust us to provide things they need to inspire them or make them better.

 

I am truly humbled by your support and the confidence you place in us.

 

You have allowed me to serve you, and for that I am grateful. It’s my goal to serve you with generosity. My life has been enriched by spending my time around people, like yourself, who have been blessed with a passion for creating or appreciating the arts.

 

You are special people. You see life through different eyes.

 

My great passion is to help others discover what we’ve each found in our own way. Life is more fulfilling with art-making at our fingertips. And it’s my belief that it’s not about inborn talent, it’s about convincing those who say, “I wish I could do that, but I’ve got no talent,” that they can learn it, because it’s a process simply requiring instruction, practice, and passion. Therefore when you’re approached, consider putting the brush in their hand and finding a way to convince them to take a risk on a chance for a better life by trying painting.

 

Perhaps, as you gather with family and friends this week, and through the holidays, you can change a life or two by offering a little Thanksgiving painting demonstration for those uninterested in football. Maybe you can inspire a child, a teen, an adult, or a senior. It’s never too early or too late. Your willingness to take the time to inspire others could give them the gift you were once given.

 

It is my prayer that your Thanksgiving is surrounded with laughter, love, and people who make you happy. It’s my wish that you use these times to rest, regenerate, find inspiration, and take a deep, well-deserved break to get ready for an incredible 2017.

 

Don’t fear whatever the future holds. We don’t know, we cannot control it, but we can continue to make the world a better place by opening the hearts of others through our art. It’s never been needed more, and I see no higher purpose for all of us than healing the world through artwork and inspiring others to find the artist within themselves.

 

Happy Thanksgiving, my friends.

 

Eric Rhoads

Publisher

 

Fine Art Connoisseur * PleinAir * Artists On Art * Fine Art Today * Plein Air Today * Plein Air Salon

By | November 23rd, 2016|Uncategorized|1 Comment

The Magic Lamp: Just Rub It and Your Art Career Will Soar

Magic lamp art marketing eric rhoads art marketing.com

 

Much like the Fountain of Youth, I think we all tend to seek out a “magic lamp.” All we have to do is rub it, and “Poof!” A genie will grant us the success we dream of.

 

Over decades as a marketer, I have sometimes fallen prey to the belief that a magic lamp exists — and I’m happy to report that yes, indeed it does. There is a way to rub a magic lamp and watch your career go “poof” toward success. It will take more effort on your part than you might have hoped, but if you rub the lamp, it will happen.

 

A “magic lamp” is usually the promise of something too good to be true, raising unrealistic expectations of success with little effort or small investment.

 

I’m always looking for shortcuts, and even when I know something seems too good to be true, it often tempts me. So I spend my money in hopes of magical results, and poof! Nothing happens.

 

The biggest seduction in art marketing is the belief that big audience numbers can equal instant success from a single ad. Yet every time I fall into that trap, I wish I had realized that the physics of marketing always matter. There are things that will give you that desired success, and things that won’t. Violating the physics of marketing almost never works.

 

Most think that advertising to a big audience is like rubbing the lamp. “If only,” they think … “If only I advertise to a giant audience, I’ll sell a painting, or a couple of dozen.”

 

So they prepare an ad, pay the money, and poof! The money is gone, and there are no results from rubbing that magic lamp.

 

Oh, in case you think an experienced marketer like me doesn’t sometimes fall for it, think again. One year I decided that the subscribers to a major auction house list would be great potential subscribers for one of my magazines targeting art collectors. It was a big number, and a very high price.

 

I ran a spreadsheet, and told myself that if just 2 percent signed up, I’d pay for the campaign and make money on it. So I paid $18,000 for one ad, and poof! Something amazing happened. My money disappeared and I sold a grand total of two $40 subscriptions. It cost me $9,000 per subscriber.

 

Of course I kept waiting for more results, rationalizing that some readers hadn’t seen it yet, or some hadn’t responded yet.

 

Nothing happened other than my feeling like a buffoon for throwing away a big amount of money.

 

If there is a magic lamp to marketing art, it is to follow the physics of marketing. I’ve found that every time the physics are right, the results are amazing, and every time I try to shortcut the physics, I fail.

 

Here is the formula.

 

Massive Frequency + Great Creative + Targeted Audience + Concentrated Audience + Time + A Ready Buyer + Stability

 

How big or how small an audience is really does not matter. It’s a trap we all fall into, but the reality is that a small audience could result in the sale of every painting you could possibly produce.

 

Though it seems logical to believe the odds are better because you are exposed to more people, more isn’t what you need.

 

The physics of advertising work very much the way friendships work, or the way business relationships work.

  • When you meet someone new at a cocktail party, it’s a quick hello.
  • If by chance there is some interest in getting to know the person, you may engage in a conversation.
  • Then maybe you run into them at another event, and remember you found them interesting.
  • That conversation may lead to a follow-up call or meeting.
  • Then maybe another call or meeting.
  • If, over time, the relationship gels, it can turn into a casual friendship.
  • Combined with time, that friendship might lead to a deep friendship, at which time trust happens.
  • The longer the time, the deeper the trust.
  • The deepest relationships tend to develop over long periods of time.

 

But there are also other factors to relationships, like chemistry and bonds through common interests.


In the early stages, you know you don’t dare abuse the relationship with a big ask, like a favor or an introduction. It’s just too soon to ask for anything, and doing so could result in the end of the budding friendship. If you ask for too much, too soon, or inappropriately, trust is lost. But the deeper the relationship, the bigger the possible ask.

 

Let’s examine the elements of the formula, the “magic lamp”:

 

Frequency:
Advertising and marketing is about frequency. The more they see you, the closer you get to a point of awareness, then deeper awareness, then the early stages of interest, then deeper stages of interest, then finally trust and its deeper stages as well.  

 

Frequency is different from repetition. Frequency is the number of impressions a single individual receives within a certain amount of time. For instance, you could repeat an ad in a publication, but if a person didn’t see or notice that instance of the ad, that repetition doesn’t count toward their frequency.

 

Marketers have known for decades that a person needs to have a frequency of seven before they will be ready to buy something. If you can get seven impressions — repetitions that are seen — within a shorter window, the process can, in theory, be sped up.

 

But if you’re selling art, the message has to get someone’s attention and appeal to their interest and the buyer has to be in the right mood and the timing right to buy.

 

Great Creative:

The problem is that most advertising is competing for the attention of the buyer. We are all exposed to thousands of ad messages every day. Which ones are going to get you to sit up and take notice?

 

The creative is the content of your ad, made up of your design, your headline, the art featured, the story or message you’re communicating, and the call to action.

 

In the art world, most ads tend to look alike.

 

I was once in a meeting with an advertising agency and the CEO of a company who wanted them to help him sell aluminum siding. His instructions to the agency: Don’t do a before-and-after picture. Why? That’s what all the other aluminum siding companies did.

What are you going to do to stand out? If you’re in a 100-page magazine with 40 pages of ads, why will someone stop and read your ad instead of the other 39?

The answer is in powerful creative concepts. Frankly, the most important part of any ad is the headline. Ninety-five percent of the results from an ad will come from a powerful headline that stops the reader in her tracks.

 

Once you have a great headline, the other elements come into play, like a great opening line, a real emotional connection through your story or message, and a call to take a specific action. Plus information on how to get in touch with you, and an incentive to do so right now.

 

Concentrated Audience:

Perhaps the biggest mistake people make, and one of the most common, is assuming that the people who read one art magazine read another. Though there is some overlap, it’s not all that large. So an advertiser will run an ad or two, not see results, and jump ship to a different publication. A couple of ads there and they jump ship to another, then another, and so on. It is imperative to concentrate your advertising in a single place. Otherwise you lose momentum and the opportunity to build awareness and trust.

 

Though using multiple publications or mediums is fine, you should only do it if you can afford to dominate and build the necessary frequency over long periods of time.

 

Targeted Audience:

Big audiences alone are not enough. You could go into Reader’s Digest, with millions of readers, but the chances of selling art would be slim. You could even go into an art publication with a big audience and still have a slim chance of selling. You need a publication or website or mail list that has a proven track record of selling paintings in the price range of the paintings you’re selling.

Many publications sell wholesale copies for a few dollars to build their audience numbers. Their subscribers love art, but they may not have two dimes to rub together. If they’re not buyers, the audience numbers might be good for your ego, but ego strokes won’t pay your rent.

 

Time:

Like friendship, it takes time to build awareness, interest, and trust before anyone will take action. People want to watch you, see if you consistently produce good results, see indicators that you are becoming successful or collectable. They might discover you, love your work and be keeping an eye on you, but are not responding because, in their mind, it’s not time yet. About the time you’re getting frustrated that you’re not getting any results is about the time people are just starting to pay attention. Marketing is a commitment of time — an ongoing commitment. As long as you’re in the art business, you’re in art marketing.

 

How much time? You’ll need to assume that as long as you are in business, you’ll need to keep a constant presence with the audience you have chosen. It takes about one year to start seeing results, but the second year makes up for the lack of sales in the first, and it builds on itself over time. The more your brand grows, the more trust, prominence, and collectability grow. Old Masters are famous both because they were, in fact, masters, but also because of the passage of time — their names have been known for generations. The good news is that there are many ways you can speed up time, with some good strategic thinking.

 

A Ready Buyer:

Art purchases are unpredictable. Sometimes the buyer sees a painting and buys it on impulse. Other times it’s because they have a need to fill — a home or office to decorate, a gift to buy. Just because someone sees your ad does not mean they are ready to buy right now. Everyone has their own timing. Maybe they get a bonus at work, they sell a business, their kids are no longer in college and they feel flush with cash. There is no way to predict this, and that is why the next point is so important.

 

Stability:

Imagine this. Someone looks at an art magazine, and has been seeing your paintings for a few months in a row. They’ve grown to like the work, but don’t always remember the artist’s name yet. Then a new issue comes in, and they see THE painting and decide they want to buy it. They mark the page and put the magazine in a pile, fully intending to go online or inquire about the price. But they get distracted, they forget, life goes on, and you fall off their radar. Then the next issue of the magazine comes in and they suddenly remember, “Last month there was an artist in here I was interested in. Who was it?” So they flip through looking for an ad that reminds them of your name or your painting. It’s not there. They move on, and you miss a sale.

 

Stability means a constant presence. Understanding that people won’t remember your name and that it takes a long time to get them to remember it, so you need to be there at all times. They may have a birthday gift to buy and know their spouse liked your work, but neither can remember your name. If you’re not always present, you’re not there when they come into the market to buy.

 

We discovered that this is true of articles, too. If someone views your work in an article, not only do you need to be present in that issue so they know how to find you, you need to remind them of yourself for at least one or two issues after. People get busy and forget to take action, and your presence in the issue acts as a reminder.

 

It took me decades of mistakes and experimentation in the advertising and magazine publishing business to understand how this all really works. It really is counter-intuitive.

 

If you want to build an overnight success, just know that physics still apply. Though there are strategies you can employ to speed the process, it still requires all the key elements of the physics of marketing. This is the closest thing I have found to the magic lamp, and if followed, it will grant you all your wishes.

About the author:
Eric Rhoads has been a publisher of ad-based magazines for over 25 years and is the publisher of Fine Art Connoisseur, PleinAir, and Artists on Art magazines. He writes a regular blog on art marketing at www.artmarketing.com and has produced five videos in the Art Marketing Boot Camp series on art marketing techniques and strategy, available at www.streamlineartvideo.com.

By | August 3rd, 2016|Branding|0 Comments

Mining Old Gold: The BEST Way to Sell More Artwork

The best way to sell more art from Eric Rhoads Art Marketing Boot Camp
A wise mentor once asked me what I thought would be the best way to grow my business. When I told him I thought I should bring in more customers, he scolded me politely and told me I was wrong.

 

He then asked me what my most valuable asset in the business was. Of course I told him it was my product and my people. Strike two. I was wrong again.

 

Selling art is, well, a business. Selling anything, even lemonade on the street, is a business. So if I asked you the same questions, what would you answer?

 

Last week, after teaching my Art Marketing Boot Camp on stage at the Plein Air Convention and revealing my new Art Marketing in a Box™ system, I was approached by a woman in the audience. She was a gallery owner and had a reputation as a top marketer. And it turned out that, based on what I revealed in this new system, she too hadn’t had the right answers.

 

Are you ready?

 

The best way to grow your business is from your real most valuable asset: your existing customers.

 

How can that be?

 

Ever heard of a collector who keeps buying paintings from one artist? Of course. It happens all the time.

 

The bottom line is that a new customer is harder to sell than an old one. You have to help them fall in love with your art, tell your story, and make them trust you enough to spend money. Existing customers already know about you, already love your work, have already trusted you enough to buy from you, and have a painting of yours hanging on their walls.

 

Yet the most overlooked opportunity is the past customer.

 

What can you do?

 

First, it’s important to know the names of your customers so you can develop a dialogue. CAUTION: If you have a gallery, they’ll need to know you won’t violate your agreement and sell direct.

 

Once you have names, you’ll need to stay in touch on a regular basis. People will forget about you faster than you think. This is why campaigns and newsletters are important. Stay in their minds.

 

Finally, think in terms of building a lost-customer activation campaign. Recently we took a list of former subscribers who had not renewed, contacted them, and had a high percentage re-subscribe. We had assumed that once they were gone, they were gone forever. We were wrong.

 

What can you do to “reactivate” lost customers?

 

Well, if you’ve not stayed visible, you need to start being visible again. You can send a simple note, handwritten would be nice, simply saying you remember selling them a painting in the past and you’d love to show them what you’ve painted recently. Then invite them over, or invite them to your website, or to join your newsletter list.

 

It’s that simple.

Yes, there are more sophisticated ways to approach this, which we will discuss in the future. But start small. It’s amazing how a simple outreach can bring old customers back.

By | May 3rd, 2016|Direct Marketing|3 Comments

Drawing a Line in the Sand as an Artist

Eric Rhoads Artists Drawing a Line in the Sand Marketing

Years ago my wife asked a couple to spend a holiday weekend with us at the lake. When the power went down on Friday afternoon and we realized we’d blown out the breaker box, the husband, an electrician by trade, generously offered to fix it. So we went to the local hardware store to buy the parts. He pointed out what I needed, and I pulled the items off the shelf. I then watched as he grabbed a handful of screws out of a bin, said, “We’ll need these too,” and put them in his pocket. He winked at me and said, “I’ll see you in the car.”

 

I was mortified.

 

At the checkout counter, I told the clerk my “friend” stole a handful of screws that I estimated to be worth a dollar or two, but, to be sure, I gave her a twenty. I apologised and went to my car.

 

I was also fuming mad.

 

When I got in the car, I asked why he stole the screws, and he started whining about how the store didn’t need the money, that it was just a few pennies, that it was a big chain that was ripping off customers, and lots of other excuses.

 

I then did something I’ve never done before or since, because I’m not a confrontational kind of person.

 

I told him he was a common thief and that whether it was dimes, dollars, or thousands of dollars he was stealing, it was all the same to me. I said I don’t hang out with common thieves and that if he would steal from them, he would steal from me.

 

As I drove to our house, I told him I wouldn’t embarrass him in front of his wife and kids, but that I wanted him to go into the house and say that something came up and they needed to leave right away. I told him I would not tell his family that he was a thief, but he needed to be gone within an hour.

That was the last time I ever had contact with him or his family.

 

Everyone has to draw a line in the sand.

 

If someone is a thief, I write them out of my life. If someone betrays me, gossips about me wrongly, is two-faced or lies to me, I try to eliminate them from my life. That is my line in the sand.

 

Every artist has a line in the sand they must draw, but it’s not often as simple as it was for me in the case of my thieving acquaintance. If a gallery steals from you or doesn’t pay you, or if someone betrays you or lies to you it’s easy to draw a line in the sand and end the relationship.

 

But the line in the sand I’m talking about for you as an artist might not be quite so clear.

 

Where do you draw the line when it concerns “selling out” as an artist? It isn’t always about ethics. It’s about what works for you and your career.

For instance, I publish a couple of art magazines. Artists always want articles because those articles help their careers, and we love helping them when we can. But sometimes artists offer to buy ads if we will run an article about them. We always turn them down. That is the kind of line in the sand I’m talking about.

 

It’s not illegal, or even immoral, to sell ads in exchange for articles. A lot of magazines do it and are quite open about it. We’ve simply decided that our readers won’t trust our content as much if they believe someone might be featured who isn’t otherwise strong enough as an artist or who paid us to be there. It’s a choice we’ve made to maintain our credibility, and we’ve walked away from a lot of money because of it. It’s not easy, but for us, that’s the line we won’t cross.

 

As an artist, you also have choices you have to make that are not about what is illegal or immoral in themselves, but that will be very personal for you.

 

The best example I can think of concerns painting what sells.

 

Your gallery owner calls you and says, “Those little red barns you painted sold better than anything else you’ve painted. Can you send us more little red barns?”

 

If you’re sick of painting little red barns, or they don’t inspire you anymore, you’re then faced with whether or not you draw a line in the sand.

 

Will you paint more barns because they help the gallery?

Will you paint more barns because more paintings sold means establishing more collectors?

Will you paint more barns because selling more is validation that people like your work?

Will you paint more barns because you need the money?

Will you refuse to paint more barns?

 

Where is the line?

 

One friend who is a brilliant landscape painter and who was selling well decided she was sick of landscapes, so she started painting buildings and figures instead. Her gallery mounted a show, and nothing, I repeat nothing, in the show sold except the few remaining landscapes. Her career took a dive. She had branded herself as a landscape painter and couldn’t escape it. Her line in the sand was between not making a living or going back to painting landscapes. She opted out of landscapes, continued on her new path, and endured a two-year dip in her career until her other paintings caught on. But she was happy she made the decision because her heart was no longer in landscapes.

 

I applaud anyone who follows their heart. But I would not have criticized this artist if she’d decided to go back to painting landscapes, if that was what she felt she had to do.

 

Early in my career I was a wedding photographer. I did so many weddings that I got sick of weddings and swore I’d never do another, even if I had to starve. My soul could not take even one more wedding. I dropped it cold turkey and found a job doing something else. I drew a line in the sand. I still avoid weddings to this day when I can, and if I do go, I refuse to bring a camera. But someone else may have decided to forge ahead, to keep supporting themselves or for other reasons. Neither decision is immoral or unethical.

 

What is your line in the sand?

 

In my blogs I write mostly about marketing and the value of building your name and your brand, and increasing awareness of your work. I teach techniques you can use to speed up your sales and your progress as an artist, and I’ve watched hundreds of people change their lives and see their dreams come true.

 

Still, some people view the very act of marketing as crass, or even wrong. Some feel they want nothing to do with the business aspects of painting. I even know artists who refuse to sell their artwork to willing buyers, because they don’t want to have their artistic purity challenged by the act of making a sale.

 

I think it’s important to understand that any of these decisions is perfectly acceptable.

 

It’s acceptable to market yourself and your art. It’s just as acceptable to wait, doing no marketing and hoping your work will be discovered and sell organically. It’s rare, but it does happen.

 

Most great artists who have accomplished some level of success are also brilliant marketers, though they handle it in such tasteful and subtle ways that it’s usually not recognized as marketing. Frankly, that’s the best way to market, if you can finesse the style. Other older, established artists did the bulk of their marketing long ago, when a lot of us weren’t around to see it, and we assume they never stooped so low as to self-market (or that they never needed to). Some were those rare cases who were genuinely discovered by collectors or a gallery, with no marketing at all.

 

Some are willing to market their careers and find it perfectly acceptable, while others won’t cross that line because they find it objectionable.

There is no right or wrong here. This is not an ethical issue. It’s a personal issue.

 

That is the most important take away: These are your decisions. If you need to paint more red barns to sell paintings so you can pay the rent, it’s not ethically wrong to do it (though it’s not a good idea to create the same painting again and again). If you still love painting red barns, so much the better — there is absolutely no reason not to paint something that satisfies you just because buyers want more of it.

 

Ultimately you have to search your soul for what works for you, what inspires you, and what is over the line for you.

 

I know a lot of famous artists who painted what their galleries wanted for a lot of years until their names and careers were established, and now they won’t do anything unless they want to do it. I know others who have always painted only what they want to paint. No one should judge you for the decision you make. As my dad always says, “You never know why someone does something until you’ve walked in their moccasins.”

Careers are delicate things. There is nothing that can overcome hard work, putting in the time to learn and grow and develop your career. But once that heavy lifting is done, that’s when you need to decide where you should draw your line in the sand.

By | September 28th, 2015|Ethics|21 Comments

How You Can Sell More Artwork by Becoming a Celebrity Artist

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Artists are always asking me how to sell more artwork, how to get their prices up, and how to become more successful. Usually they assume that they will improve their income if they improve their painting skills, but after a certain point, that’s simply not true. It’s no more true than a great restaurant’s improving its recipes a little bit more and thinking that means it can raise prices and sell more food.  

 

I learned a critically important lesson at a young age, when I started writing a column for the radio magazine I had just founded. I went from being a complete unknown to being somewhat well-known within a year, and each year, as my exposure grew, I saw my business grow in proportion to the awareness created. Then when I released my first book, awareness grew even more, expanding beyond the industry to some small level of consumer awareness because I’d been on national network TV and the Home Shopping Network for my book, and on hundreds of radio shows and in over 400 newspapers. It grew even further when the TV show Newsradio wrote an episode about me and my radio magazine (you can see it here). The more my perceived importance grew, the more my business grew.

 

If I were to ask most Americans to name a famous artist, they would probably say Monet or maybe Norman Rockwell, or even Thomas Kincade. If I asked them to name a famous living artist, I’m not sure what names I would hear. Unless they are tuned in to the art world like we are, they probably wouldn’t mention people we consider icons today. Those artists are famous within the circle of artists, but are not famous to most Americans.

 

Consumers are drawn to importance and celebrity, not necessarily because celebrities are better at a particular skill than someone else (other than PR). I still cannot tell you what Kim Kardashian is all about, but her fame is making her extremely wealthy. Money is drawn to celebrity and importance. People will wait in line to spend money at the restaurant of a celebrity chef like Wolfgang Puck, when the food next door may be equally good at half the price. It’s true of all things. Celebrity sells.

 

Most art dealers will tell you that sales in the art world are frequently driven by perceived importance. Either a consumer will visit a gallery because that gallery handles a name they already perceive as important, or they will be swayed to purchase based on statements like “This artist is hot.” “This artist is getting critical acclaim.” “This artist’s prices are soaring.”

 

Though most artists want to believe that quality will outshine brand name, that is very rarely true. Brands outsell non-brands. And brands are built by constant exposure over decades, usually intentionally and with non-stop advertising, but occasionally simply due to “showing up,” being frequently seen over a long period of time.

 

Importance and celebrity not only help sell artwork and increase pricing, they operate like a perpetual-motion machine. The more you are perceived as important, the more you sell and the more you’ll be invited to the right events. And, of course, the more that happens, the more your celebrity increases.

 

The process of branding is somewhat complicated, and there are a lot of elements to doing it well, but it is indeed a process, and it can be achieved through advertising and publicity. I’ve watched unknowns become well-knowns in a few short years because of it. Most collectors won’t think of what you’re doing as paid brand-building because in art magazines, the ads tend to be perceived as part of the content.

 

The strength of your sales and collectability are directly tied to the strength of your brand and your perceived importance or celebrity. Brand in art is really about trust (“Is it good?” “Is there critical acclaim?” “Do other collectors like it, and are they buying it?” “Are prices going up?” “Is it a good investment?”) Trust is built in branding much as it is built with new friends. It requires a lot of time together for people to come to know and trust someone new. The more you are seen, the more comfortable they become with you, and the more you gain their trust. That is the essence of celebrity-building.

 

There are four kinds of celebrity: local, niche (e.g., art collectors) national, and worldwide. For some, being the best-known artist in their town is enough to fuel their sales. For others, it’s about being nationally known, either by a niche group like art collectors or by all consumers — something that, of course, is harder and more expensive to achieve. And of course there is worldwide awareness as well. All are possible, based on the amount of effort you are willing to expend, but few artists become important without making an intentional effort. All the celebrities I know started with orchestrated PR efforts, advertising, and by doing something that got them a lot of attention fast. Stunts are a powerful way to get people talking about you. Do you think the feuds between Donald Trump and Rosie O’Donnell just happened? Probably not. It was invented by some great PR expert.

Consider what you can do to build your brand, your celebrity, and your importance. It rarely happens overnight, and it is a beast that dies if it’s not constantly fed. That’s why celebrities always want the press writing about them. Out of sight is out of mind. Building your perceived importance, and therefore your brand, will have a huge impact on your career.

By | September 17th, 2015|Branding|2 Comments

Six Tips to Get More Money For Your Paintings Without Hurting Sales

GETTING

Pricing is the least understood facet of any business, but it’s one that can easily be fixed — without a negative impact. Most of the artists I know are underselling their art, struggling, having to paint too many paintings to keep their heads above water. They are on an exhausting treadmill because their prices are too low.

How would your life change if your prices were higher? If your immediate reaction is that you would sell less work, we need to work on your pricing strategy.

Most people in business get into business because they want to provide a good, quality service at a good price. They want to offer what they would want. Yet the number one reason for business failure is that profit margins are too low because of low prices.

Of course, low prices are necessary in some businesses because that’s their business model. Think Walmart. Yet the perception of Walmart’s prices and the reality are often two different things. Some companies promote low prices on high-volume items to get people into stores, yet other items may not be priced than you can find them elsewhere.

But as an artist, you’re not in the commodity business where, you produce lots of low-cost items. What you produce is a single, unique, handmade item by a well trained craftsperson — you. But do you think of yourself that way?

I can buy a chair for $20. I can buy a chair for $200. Or I can go into a craft gallery and buy a beautiful hand-crafted wooden chair for $1,500, knowing it’s one of a kind. That chair won’t be for the person who buys chairs at Walmart, but there is a market, and there is a special person who will buy it.

You Are Not Your Customer

One of the hardest things to overcome for anyone in business, including artists, is understanding your market and understanding that you are not your market. An artist once said to me, “I want to sell my paintings cheap so that people like me can afford to own them.” Though that’s admirable, people like him are not likely to want to own them. A painting is a luxury item, and the people who treat themselves to luxury items are not the average Joe. When I asked this painter how his sales were going, he told me they weren’t going well. He couldn’t understand it, because, as he said, “My prices are much lower than everyone else’s.”

Tip #1: Low-priced luxury items typically don’t sell to luxury buyers.

Let’s look for a moment at the typical art gallery visitor. Perhaps it’s a couple, and both are lawyers making a half million a year. Instead of owning a Jaguar and a Lexus, they could afford to own four or five Kias. Why don’t they buy them and save their money? That takes us to tip #2.

Tip #2: Price is a signal of perceived quality.

In my art marketing seminar, a man told the story of being at an art show. A woman asked, “How much is this painting?” He responded that it was $4,000, and she said she would “take it.” She handed him a check for $40,000. When he told her she had made a mistake and added an extra zero, she ripped up the check and said, “I don’t want it, then. It can’t be very good if it’s only $4,000.”

Tip #3: Certain people always want the best.

There is always an element of society who perceive themselves as needing the very best, and if it’s not the best — often signaled by the price — they won’t buy it. They don’t need bargains.

One of my mentors, Dan Kennedy, says that rich people have quirks. They will be cheap in one area and extravagant in others. For instance, he paid a million dollars to own a classic collectable car that had been owned by his favorite celebrity. He had no price resistance when told how much it cost — he didn’t even negotiate. He simply wrote a check. Yet he also said, “When I buy shirts, I hate the idea of paying more than $30, so I always buy my shirts at Walmart.”

So how do you get your prices up?

I have two theories.

Tip #4: Build a luxury image and brand, and reinforce it constantly with everything you do.

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First, luxury selling is all about perception. A Louis Vuitton bag is not a purse, it’s a handbag. A large coffee at Starbucks is a venti, and it’s not served by a clerk, but a barista. These and other companies focus on selling image. My favorite Louis Vuitton ad (at the top of this blog post) doesn’t mention the company name. It’s all image. People buy image, and people want to reinforce self-image. People want others to see what they own. That’s why, when I visit some collectors, they’ll say, “Do you want to see my Mundy? Or my Schmid?” or their “Warhol or Hockney” or their “Sergeant or Zorn.”

Building your brand matters. Giving meaning to your name, ensuring your paintings are perceived as the best, is a critically important process. People will pay more for it.

Even in the lower price ranges, the person who buys a $1,500 painting is just as likely to buy a $3,000 painting. So if you’re in a gallery, giving up half your profit means doing without either $750 or $1,500. Which is better?

Let’s do the math.

Let’s say you sell 10 paintings a year at $1,500 each. Your total sales are $15,000, and your profit is $7,500.

Now, let’s say you raise your price to $3,000 and you lose 20% of your buyers, so you sell only eight paintings a year. Your total sales are $24,000 and your profit is $12,000. Which is better?

Let’s take it further. Raise your price to $4,000 and lose 30% of your buyers. Now you sell seven paintings a year, for a total of $28,000 and $14,000 in profit. You made double the profit of selling at the $1,500 price and you only had to paint seven paintings instead of 10.

The snowball effect also kicks in. First, your paintings get better because you can spend more time on them. Second, the gallery is making more money on you, so they push your paintings more. Third, because your prices are higher, you are perceived by the buyer as more valuable. Fourth, by painting less, you create scarcity, which actually boosts sales and prices. “Jane only paints seven paintings a year. You can own one of the seven” is a powerful statement, the kind galleries love to make.

Have Some Guts

I had dinner this year with a very famous artist who produces about four paintings a year and makes close to a quarter million a year from them. I asked how he got his prices up, and he told me that he had no idea what he should be charging for his paintings, so he just picked a number out of the air. He sold his first painting for $40,000 because he didn’t know he couldn’t. It only went up from there.

Most price resistance is in your head because you can’t afford to spend a lot of money on a painting. Your customer can. I have readers of Fine Art Connoisseur who don’t think twice about dropping 100 grand on a painting.

Tip #5: Go for it. Raise your prices. Be bold.

The way to get your prices up is to have some guts. And if you’re not raising your prices every year, you’re losing money because of inflation. Have you noticed how much more groceries cost?

Some galleries will give you resistance, and it’s the kiss of death if you have low prices at one gallery and high prices at another. So you have to notify your gallery of your universal price increase. If the gallery does not support you or believe they can get that price, it’s time to leave and find someone who thinks your new price is perfect. People cannot sell what they don’t believe in. Find believers.

Lipstick on a Pig?

I’ll end with a story a dealer once told me. He said he had a beautiful painting that sat in the gallery for a year, priced at $1,400. He could not understand why it was not selling, so he took it off the wall, put a $1,500 frame on it and raised the price to $14,000. It sold within a week. Same painting. Was it the frame or the price? I suspect it was both.

A painting in a cheap frame won’t be perceived as being worth much, but an elegant frame sends a signal. Who would you rather do business with? A financial adviser who drives up in a Hyundai, or one who drives up in a Bentley? It probably depends on your value system, but I’d pick the adviser who appears more successful. For people who use their cars in business, cars are like picture frames. If I’m selling a $10 million house, I want the agent in the most expensive car.

Price also impacted that sale. A painting is better if it’s more expensive — that is the perception of luxury buyers. The combination of great frame and great price cemented that deal.

Tip #6: Framing sends a signal to support your prices. Expensive frames allow you to increase even more.

In summary: You will lose some customers at a higher price, but you’ll make more money and work less. Build the importance of your brand with constant repetition over years and a luxury appearance. (A great trick is to put your high price in your ads, which instantly packages you as a more expensive artist. Again, this takes guts.)

I believe most artists could double their prices and not lose any customers. Your prices will rise. But it all starts with your understanding of pricing — and having the guts to do it.

 

By | July 22nd, 2015|Uncategorized|20 Comments