Last week I gathered my family for our annual visit to a local history museum that we love very much. We’ve been members for years. In fact, I’d received a membership renewal e-mail the week before, which is why the museum became top of mind, prompting us to visit. Thinking I’d be at the front desk to check in anyway, I’d simply renew my membership on the spot, which would probably be faster than taking time online. (I know, it sounds backward.)
We arrived, were asked if we were members, and of course I said we were, and that I had just received a renewal notice. “Sir, you’re not a member. You must be mistaken. You don’t show up in our system.” I was frustrated, but I recognize that people often spell my name wrong, or try to use the name on my credit card, which is not what I go by. Still no results. The looking went on for 10 minutes while my family waited impatiently. Finally, the woman at the desk, sounding angry and frustrated herself, said, “You’re not a member, never have been a member. Would you like to become a member? All you need to do is fill out this form.”
Not wanting to take more time, I simply said, “I’d just like to buy tickets.” At which time I was told, “You’ll have to go to that line over there.” I said, “There is no one at that desk.” “Oh, she’s around somewhere, you’ll have to wait.” I waited, the employee returned, and I overpaid for tickets because I didn’t have my membership.
Sadly, when I get frustrated or disquieted, I lose my joy for a few minutes, and I was grumbling under my breath about the museum. And I kept finding problems. Ultimately, though we go there every year, we decided it was not all that great anymore, so we probably won’t return. And I started to question my own memory. Maybe I wasn’t a member. Of course, that changed today, when another membership renewal notice came by e-mail.
What has this got to do with marketing art?
Every first impression matters. It sets the tone.
If someone goes to your website and can’t find what they are looking for, it sets a tone of frustration. They may have gone there looking for a particular painting, or to check you out, and the second they get frustrated, they leave, and they probably won’t come back.
Or you’re in a booth in a tent show. Someone sees something they want to buy, but you’re busy with a line of other customers and they can’t get your attention, or they hear “I’ll be with you in a minute.” They may wait, or they may tell themselves they will come back later, or they could leave in frustration. Maybe they are in a rush and can’t wait. In any case, you may have lost a sale.
Maybe someone sees your work somewhere and sends you an e-mail, but you’re out at a show and not checking your in-box. What you don’t know is that they are having a big party on Friday, they want that big painting on your website, and you’re not responding. Or perhaps they call and get your voicemail and they don’t leave a message, or they find your message box full — or they simply want to talk to you right now.
You may be thinking, “I’m only human. I can only do so much.” True, but customers think differently. And in these days of instant communication and Amazon purchases, they expect what they want, exactly when they want it. Not five days from now.
In person, first impressions matter too. You’re at an art show and the customer doesn’t feel you’re dressed appropriately, doesn’t like the quality of your frames, thinks the lighting in your booth is bad. Little things have a big impact.
Though you can’t please everyone all the time (and some people are just cranky), just remember that first impressions set the tone for your brand in the customer’s mind. You may have spent thousands of dollars over many years building a brand in a customer’s mind, yet once they decide to take action, their impression changes based on their first real encounter. Either it reinforces your reputation and brand, it’s neutral, or it hurts.
Though you’re “just one person” and “just an artist who can’t do everything and can’t afford help,” know that you could be losing business. If the phone rings three times and isn’t picked up, they may call the next artist on their list. If you answer “Hold, please,” you’ll lose half of the people who call. If the type on your website is too small to read on a phone, they will probably leave.
To solve this, do a first impressions audit. Ask yourself about every customer entry point and if it is customer-friendly and fine-tuned to give customers what they need the moment they need it. Ask some friends to evaluate everything. See if you can improve it. Though it may cost you money to fix any issues, consider it money well spent in order to capture customers.
First impressions matter, and if you’re in the business of selling art, you’re in business — and that means customers expect the same from you as they would any other business. One painting sale lost a year is too many. If you do an audit, you can fix a lot of little things, and that could mean a change in your sales.