A message from Eric
Rhoads, Publisher of Fine Art Connoisseur Magazine

Did you ever wonder
why one dealer has a crowd hovering around their show stand much of the time
while other dealers seem to be passed by? Or why one dealer always seems to
sell more artwork?

What can you do to get your unfair share of customers from
your art fair investment?

What can you do to stimulate more sales following an art show?

Most dealers’ strategy is merely “showing up.” Yet following
this course is placing 100% of your faith in the show’s ability to deliver and
is still no guarantee that customers will visit your stand and buy from you.

Capturing The Customers

Show promoters want their fair to appear successful and
therefore the halls are often stocked with “lookers” who have no ability to
buy. Only a fraction of those in attendance are actually potential customers
with money to spend. Since there is not
enough money in the hall to fill the coffers of every dealer your role is to
make sure you get your unfair share of business


The Value of Brand

“Yeah, Eric, but that gallery has been in business for 30
years, has better art and is bound to get more traffic,” you might say. No
doubt, but what I’m really hearing is “people are more aware of that gallery.” Time-in-business
is the best tool for awareness yet we have all seen dealers with longevity who
are no longer considered relevant. We have also seen new dealers rise to
stardom rapidly.  Fair visitors flock first to brands, which
they know. 
Therefore the first rule of show success is keeping
brand awareness high.
This is not a single event but a series of events
ongoing over time. Smart dealers understand that keeping their name visible
continuously is critical, and hyper important for the six months leading up to
a show. Branding is a process not a single event.

How Brands Are Like Money

If your money is not growing at a certain rate of interest you’re
it is actually loosing value. Like money brands need to be in a continual state
of growth. Dealers who rely on their
established branding who are not reaching new customers are loosing brand
As new people enter the art market they have no brand loyalty and
awareness. I was recently asked who would be a good dealer from which to purchase
a John Singer Sergeant painting. The buyer was completely unaware of all of the
established blue chip dealers others would naturally think to call. Many dealers assume they are known and have
stopped their branding efforts or only focus on their existing database of
In their advertising they tend to reach the same markets over
and over instead of talking to new markets and casting a wider net to people who
may be reading different publications and websites. Branding to new audiences is critical for keeping a brand alive. New
art buyers are entering the market every day and they may not know who you are.


Invitations and

Beyond having a strong brand, which helps people to
naturally gravitate to your stand, it’s
critical to invite people in advance to visit you
. Most dealers do this by
sending free tickets to the show to their database by email or mail. Typically
invitations are not reaching those NOT on your database, therefore your pre-show advertising should mention
upcoming shows and highlight works to be on display in the show so you reach
new buyers not on your list.


Personal Invitations
and Incentives

Personalizing invitations strengthens the possibility of a
visit.  A personal note or a personal phone call to help the customer make your
stand a destination on their “short list” will increase visitation.  Incentives almost assure visits.
dealer sent key potential customers a beautiful Cross pencil with the
customer’s name engraved on it. In the note it said, “ Please stop by our booth
to pick up the matching pen.” His booth was jammed. The small investment in $100
pen sets to 50 key customers gave him an almost 100% visitation from these
customers. Incentives can be powerful. Even affluent people like something for
free if it’s of quality.


Opportunity Thrown

At the Palm Beach Show last week I saw a stack of the
dealers beautiful hardbound catalogues sitting on the exterior of a dealer’s
booth for anyone to take. Not only will those books end up in the hands of a
lot of “Lookers” who won’t be buying; it is opportunity wasted. A book or free gift (even wrapped candy) sitting
in plain view inside the stand will
draw people inside the booth rather than a quick walk-by
. This not only
exposes them to the artwork inside, it usually results in the customer asking,
“May I have one of your books?”, which is the perfect time to ENGAGE the person
in a dialogue. A response as simple as, “Yes you may have a book, are you
seeing anything in the show of interest?” can lead to a discussion like “Are you
looking for any particular artist?” or “What do you collect?” Dialogue of
course leads to meeting a new potential client, getting their name or business
card to ad to your data base, and can potentially lead to a sale. Your secondary goal should be to find ways
to gather names of collectors to ad to your database.
A visible guest book
is helpful too, however ideally it should have a place for specific questions
to not only gather contact and email information, but “check your areas of
interest to you”, or “what do you collect?”


Capturing a Sale
After the Buyer Has Left

Though you may be thinking the person who just left your
stand is seriously interested in an artwork you’ve discussed; the moment you
say goodbye you may have lost that potential sale forever.  Unless yours was the last stand visited your potential buyer
may fall in love with and buy something else after leaving your booth, even if
they intended to return. Also visitors
suffers input overload. They see so much art that they cannot remember what
they saw and where they saw it.


Here are some tactics
to increase your chances of a sale after the buyer has left your booth:



Your logo needs to be on your booth in plain view. At the recent Palm Beach
show all dealers had a same sign over their booth with their name. It did not
have their logo, their colors and their identity. Some dealers made sure their
identity and logo were tastefully emblazoned on the walls of their booth. This
is important because booths all run together in the memory. Logos are more
memorable and will be recognized as you follow up.


Memory of the Art They Liked:

I guarantee people visited your stand,
looked at a painting, saw the price and were interested yet never spoke to
Having an easily picked up card with the artwork and info on the
card near the painting acts as a reminder. Of course your logo and contact
information is on the card, including your cell phone number with the line “if
you see something in the show, which you cannot stop thinking about, here is my
cell phone number. Please call and we will put the piece on reserve and or
deliver it to you for review.” This will act as an after show reminder.

to Follow Up:

In instances where there was a serious discussion and business cards traded
remember that all business cards tend to run together and we easily forget whom
we met and what we discussed. Ideally you should write on the back of your card
the name and artist of painting discussed, and if possible staple it to a card
about the piece, and circle or write your cell phone number. Then say to the
individual, “I’ve put my cell phone here so you can reach me if you decide
you’re interested in this painting before the show is over. We will happily
bring it to your home for review.” Also instead of asking “May I phone you to
follow up” ask “When should I phone to follow up with you?” This gives you
permission to follow up and lets you know if the buyer is truly interested.

Fades with Time:

Most sales take place after a show. Trade
show experts say that rapid follow up is the most important thing you can do to
make a sale.
Because most exhibitors don’t return to their place of
business for a few days following a show and get bogged down in playing
catch-up upon return; follow up calls to potential customers often don’t occur
for a few weeks. Experts will tell you that interest begins to fade the moment
they leave the show and that if the
prospect discussion takes place within three days of when you met there is higher
probability of closing a sale
. Follow up within the first week is critical
and after two weeks most interest is lost. Since the average seller reaches the
buyer within three weeks follow up is less effective and your investment in the
show is wasted opportunity. Phone calls are more effective than emails, which
of course are easily deleated.

5.    Rekindling Interest:

If someone was truly in love with a
painting you can rekindle interest by emailing or mailing an image of the
painting within 48 hours of meeting the prospect. It’s better still to try and
get the actual painting to their home for review in their environment. But how do you rekindle interest to the
hundreds of potential buyers that were in your booth whose name you did not
Make sure you cast a wide net by scheduling advertising in magazines,
which mail soon after the show. For people thinking, “Where did I see that
painting?” your logo alone may remind them of their visit to your booth. An
advertisement showing images of paintings featured in your stand will act as
powerful reminders. Of course this advertising also gives you the benefit of
continual branding and an opportunity to reach the thousands who did not attend
the show.

Though these show strategies are routine to many dealers it
explains why their booths are often the most well attended and why they make an
unfair share of the sales. By following these simple procedures you can
increase your show sales significantly.