Imagine being a collector, seeing a painting on ebay for $100,000 and bidding on it. In spite of the documentation demonstrated on the ebay page you find out that you’ve been sold a fraud.
Though web marketing is a powerful tool, which increases your reach and potential customer base, there are pitfalls. Trust is the biggest pitfall.
A collector spending a high price (or not a high price in many cases) needs to feel comfortable that they are dealing with a legitimate, known art dealer who will not sell them a fake, and who will stand behind a purchase. This is true whether buying in person, by phone or on the Internet. TRUST is a critical factor with buyers.
If a potential buyer sees your advertisement of a painting she wants to own she will not respond to the advertisement to buy the painting unless she is convinced you can be trusted. Its not unlike family and friends. You would not meet someone new and ask them to babysit your kids until you got to know them. It is not until several meetings and interactions that you form a bond of trust with an individual. To some extent the same is true with the collector-dealer relationship. Trust is built through multiple impressions. If they have seen you multiple times trust begins to build. A SOLID BRAND mostly represents trust. Do you trust Graff Diamonds more than XYZ Diamond company? I do. Its about brand, about hearsay (people talk), and its about frequent impressions.
I had this discussion with a dealer who had been in business for twenty years. He said, "Everyone in the art world knows who we are. We don’t need to build trust, we already have it." He was not wrong. Yet I was consulting a collector who wanted to purchase a specific painting. This man had been collecting for five years and when I took him to the gallery for a visit he told me he was not aware of them and wondered about their reputation. I assured him of their reputation and they ended up doing business.
I mentioned this story to the gallery owner and his response was, "I thought everybody knew us. This must be an exception." When I asked him how they had built their reputation he mentioned that they used to advertise consistently, however their business was doing well, so they stopped heavy advertising a few years back and only advertised for special events. Obviously this new collector had entered the market after their campaigns ended.
I remind dealers that an established brand can ultimately be diminished without consistent visibility. I also remind them that attrition is the enemy. Old collectors die and new collectors are always entering the market. Do the new collectors know their brand? Don’t assume they do. I have met scores of new collectors as a result of the magazine. Most lack history and knowledge of the art world. I had a collector I consult recently ask me if I thought Warren Adelson was a good dealer. He was thinking of buying a painting. Of course I told him Warren was one of the world’s leading dealers yet this mega-millionaire had no clue and did not know if Warren could be trusted. I assured him he could. This man only recently had the free cash to begin his collecting and in his first year of collecting has spent about three million dollars on art works, yet he did not know about most of the dealers who had been established for generations.
I also tell dealers that each publication has some shared readership and some exclusive readership, meaning they have readers who do not read other publications. If you have been advertising in one place for 20 years then only the shared readership portion of the audience will know of your brand, the others may not. This is why I advocate frequency and consistency. Ultimately its about trust. Do they know you, do they trust you. If they cannot trust you they won’t buy. Of course once you get them on the phone you can probably give them testimonials or find ways to increase their trust, but if they don’t call because they don’t know you there may be no sale.