Remember the Basics:
Because we are all
very close to our businesses, we assume people know what we do, who
we are, and what is featured in our galleries — but this is simply
not true. Though you should continue to "work" your customer
list, also develop a strategy to attract new faces and new customers.
People are moving all the time, and out-of-towners are visiting.Your
outreach program should tell your story in fresh ways that will bring
in the new people and reinvigorate those who have not been in for a
2. Traditions Can Become
Have you been doing
the same things year after year? Though tradition breeds comfort, it
also breeds complacency. Have people stopped attending your openings
or events because they have become too predictable? Shake things up.
Invite interesting people or VIPs to create buzz. Though a fresh artist
or a new show is often enough, it can't hurt to use a hot caterer, promote
a celebrity guest, or feature an intriguing speaker.
3. People Love to
Watch and Participate
People are fascinated
by watching sculptors and painters work. Set up guest artists weekly
and find ways to spread the word though the community. Host something
fresh every week or two throughout the summer. Consider running some
special family or kids events. Create local art programs outside the
gallery so parents can browse inside while kids are busy with outdoor
art lessons, coloring, or crafts.
4. Become a Destination
Locally and Nationally
and event and tourism guides are used by both locals and visitors. We
pick them up first thing when we arrive in the Adirondacks each summer.
It’s smart business to maintain visibility through ads, event notices,
Also don't forget the advantage of a national audience.
Many galleries are part of a summer itinerary, and those who promote
nationally can become a destination for families looking for a place
to go. Look for national art destination guides — (for instance, we
have a guide to Cape Cod, Nantucket, Martha's Vineyard, and the Hamptons
in the July/August issue of Fine Art Connoisseur. ) These are a
good place for your ads to prompt visitors to plan a visit. A national
strategy is equally important year round, because a collector can pick
up the phone or go to your website and buy without ever visiting.
5. Remember Retail Basics
Though most galleries
shy away from being perceived as retail, there are many basics that
apply to any business.
• Create interesting
window displays and change them frequently. Make sure they are well
lit and inviting at night.
• Move displays around
frequently. People notice things when walls and paintings have been
moved. One gallery I visit every summer in the Adirondacks has not changed
in 20 years, and therefore I don't even walk into certain sections.
• New decor helps people
see your space differently.
• Make the environment
welcoming. Retailers know that music and scents stimulate buying. Many
people are intimidated by galleries, so a simple sign that says "Please
come in and browse" may sway those daunted passersby. A billionaire
once told me, "art galleries intimidate me, so I never go in unless
I already know the people."
• A plate of cookies
works wonders to stimulate sales in small retail locations. The enticing
aroma says people are welcome here and invites them to spend more time. Companies like ScentAir specialize in retail scents and can find ways to spread the smell outside to draw people in.
• Watch your body language.
Retail researchers say a welcoming smile has a strong impact on sales.
Avoid crossed arms or standing guard. It drives people out the door. According to the book Buyology: Truth and Lies About Why We Buy
a smile actually triggers a desire to buy in the brain.
• Don't judge a book
by its cover. Billionaires can have long hair, unshaven faces, and sloppy
clothes, especially on vacation. Make everyone feel welcome.
6. Summer Loan Program
and Party Circuit
Invite affluent patrons
in and suggest they pick a painting to try for July — no obligation.
If they grow fond of it, they'll buy it. Local charity events are often
held in affluent homes, so more galleries are offering to hang art for
the event, which is an excellent way for large crowds to see your artwork.
Find a tasteful way to let them know who provided the art and that each
piece is available. Keep local decorators aware of your art while summer
homes are being redecorated or built (we suggest a luncheon or mixer for local decorators to get them into the gallery).
Art Education Seminars and Events
Education is powerful.
Holding events in or out of the gallery — featuring experts, guest
lecturers, or seminars — is a powerful tool for creating deeper interest
in art. Promote an "Understanding Art" or "Art Basics"
course for beginners, hold sessions on specific historic or living artworks
or styles, or host forums with multiple experts. People love free, interesting
things to do. Each is an opportunity to build your brand, create publicity
(newspapers like "things to do" to print), get people in your
doors, and spur interest in art. Use pieces that hang in your gallery
to develop discussions.
It never hurts to try something
new, and I hope these ideas stimulate your business this summer. The
most important basic of all is to remember that you won't catch any
fish if you don't put your line in the water. It’s important to stay
visible at all times. This article from the New Yorker is a good reminder about marketing in down economic times. Happy summer.
Fine Art Connoisseur
PS: We welcome these recent new advertisers
Vose Galleries of Boston, Hammer Galleries, Questroyal
Fine Art, Godel & Company, Tree's Place, and the Fine Art Dealers Association (FADA)
to Fine Art Connoisseur . And thanks to our many advertisers who
continue with us!
Also, we just learned that an ad in our magazine
was directly responsible for a multi-million-dollar purchase by a billionaire
collector-reader recently. I'd be happy to tell you more personally.