Artists: How to Build an E-mail List in 2021

Artists and craftspeople should consider the value of building an e-mail list. When you can e-mail people, you have your own medium that allows you to contact them as much or as little as you wish. (Once they have opted in.) 

E-mail is an excellent way to grow your business, sell more paintings, and deepen your customer relationships. 

Not sure HOW to build an e-mail list? In this article I’ll share lots of ideas and methods that can work for you. Keep reading, and I’ll make it simple to understand and do. 

Why, exactly, should you consider building an e-mail list?

Well, if you were suddenly stripped of all your Facebook, Instagram, and social media accounts, what would you do? What if all the websites and advertising vehicles, like art magazines, disappeared? What then?

Though this is unlikely to happen, we’ve seen artists make a simple mistake (like posting a nude painting) and have their Facebook accounts cancelled. All it takes sometimes is one complaint, and you’ve lost years of accumulated followers. Starting from scratch and getting those followers back may not be possible. 

Therefore I believe your e-mail list is so valuable that you should guard it with your life. Make sure it’s never shared and never lost. And, of course, your list must be treated with respect. Your e-mail list may be the most important thing in your marketing arsenal. 

But, just like a website that is out of date and not managed can hurt you, so can a weak or outdated list. You need to make sure you stay on top of your e-mail marketing list. 

And just like you don’t want a bunch of non-buying tire-kickers visiting your studio and wasting your time, you don’t want people on your e-mail list who will not become potential customers. So you need to attract the RIGHT kind of people who will become valuable customers and be willing to avoid all others. And you need a strategy, following my ABG (Always Be Gathering [e-mails]) method. 

Of course, you must nurture your e-mail list, not just do basic maintenance. If they are ignored, you will be ignored.  

Where do you start to build an e-mail list?

In the simplest possible terms (no, it’s not complicated), you want to reach people who are a fit, often called your “target prospects.” These are people you know love art, people who have bought art from you or others you know, or people who have expressed interest in your art.

Caution: You’ll make a lot of enemies (and be breaking the law) if you just start adding people to your e-mail list without their permission. People have to opt in (give you their permission to e-mail them). If you start sending to people without their permission, you will make them mad, and they might report you by hitting the dreaded “spam” button. This could result in your e-mail service provider NOT delivering any more of your e-mails, and could result in big companies like Google not delivering them either. It could take years to solve that problem.

Getting a Fast Start

Walk before you run. That means get some experience driving before you hop into a Ferrari. Things can go at high speed and you don’t want to crash. So start by getting some experience, and keep it simple.

Start by enabling a tool on your website that allows you to collect names. You can have a button offering something of value, like a newsletter or e-book, so people can click it and put in their information. You’ll have to build a form.

Caution: The longer the form, the lower the response. Your main goal is to get nothing more than an e-mail address and a first name. Anything more  than that will lower response rates; people don’t like to hand out information. (There are tools to gather more information at a later point.)

Once you have your web form up and running, there needs to be a button that opts people in to your list (and you’ll also need a privacy policy explaining how their e-mail will be used).

Once you’ve been collecting names of buyers and potential buyers for a while, you can drop them an e-mail and ask if you can add them to your e-mail list (please explain the benefits). If they say yes, you can add them or provide a link so they can add themselves.

Of course, you can use your social media to announce your e-book or newsletter and invite people to come to your new website to sign up.

If you advertise, invite people to visit your site for their free gift, e-book, newsletter, etc. Put it in every ad forever. ABG.

A speedy way to advertise to get people onto a list is to make it the focus of your ad two or three times in a row (offer a benefit!). And you can run ads on social that are designed to offer a benefit for a visit (“Visit my website for my free e-book”). You can do this with print, web, or banners, or with campaigns on Google or social media. 

If you have something specific to offer, you can promote and advertise a webinar on that topic and get people to sign up (which also opts them into your list). Then present the webinar, and possibly ask for an order for something else you offer — for example, signing up for a workshop. Make the webinar a sample.

Your Free Offer

Note: If it’s all about you, they won’t care. (Sorry, truth hurts). If it’s of benefit to them, they will care. Your free offer, free gift, e-book, etc., should benefit the reader. Will they give their e-mail for something valuable in return? Absolutely. 

In the direct marketing world, these are called “lead magnets.” They can be books, planners, guides, white papers, reports, checklists, materials lists, color lists, etc. Come up with something people want.

Note, we as artists tend to forget there are two worlds … the world of our friends (other artists) and the world of our customers (art buyers). In some cases BOTH can be customers, such as when we’re selling workshops or training. If that’s the case, have two offers — one per target segment. But remember, the more choices you offer, the lower the response. Maybe start with what matters MOST to you, like potential art buyers. 

Don’t Forget to Sell

Put some sell behind your freebie. Make a nice picture and write a small paragraph about the value of the item. You may want to use a pop-up so people see it right away when they visit (if their filter is not engaged to prevent it).


Should you offer actual gifts that cost money?  That’s up to you. You have to assume that only a small percentage of those receiving a gift will become customers. So if you give out 10 gifts that cost you $1 each, is it worth that much to get one customer? (Absolutely.)

Know Your Data

You need to know how much people spend on your artwork. If you sell one out of 10 visitors who get your free gift, it could be a big win. This is why it’s important to know your audience and your numbers. Track everything.

Get Interviewed

A great tool for getting people to sign up is to do interviews on other people’s platforms (their web shows, podcasts, Zoom teaching) and mention that you have a free offer for those who visit your site. Also mention your social media handles. Then you can link those shows in your social pages, which can bring new listeners and maybe new e-mails. 

Make sure your gift or offer is targeted or you’ll get lots of visitors who are not ever going to be customers. 

E-mail Signature

Don’t forget to put your offer in your e-mail signature and in your social media profile (“Sign up to get my free e-book on X by clicking on this link”).

You can also offer things like discounts (“Visit my website for 20% off, this week only”).

Sharing is important, so in your newsletter or your free e-book, make a request that people share it with others. Offer a link they can send.

And — if you’re able to be tasteful about it — if you see people on social media you want to meet (maybe a collector), send them a private message or a comment, inviting them to get to know you. 


Contests or giveaways are a great way to get leads. You can offer a painting giveaway and require e-mails to enter (let people know they are opting in to your list). Keep in mind that this is harder to use for qualified leads because some will sign up for anything free but will never buy anything from you. Also, know the law. If someone has to pay or buy something to enter, your contest may be considered a lottery (three criteria for creating a lottery: prize, chance, and consideration), and the laws concerning lotteries can be complex.

Set Goals

Oh, and set goals. If you are deliberate and tell yourself you are going to get 10 quality names a month, you will do it. By the end of the year, if you have 120 quality prospects, that beats having a list of 10,000 people who are not prospects.

Happy 2021

If you start now, you can start seeing results soon. Repetition of offers, shows, special events, etc,. can be very effective. Be creative, have fun, and make your e-mails fun to read and entertaining. If not, they won’t get opened (and that’s a story for another day).

By |2021-01-13T15:46:49-05:00January 12th, 2021|Branding, Direct Marketing, Sales|0 Comments

The Ultimate Power of Branding: Why a da Vinci Sold for $450.3 Million

Image: Christie’s

Chances are you saw the buzz about the painting called Salvator Mundi (Latin for “Savior of the World”) by Leonardo da Vinci, which was offered recently by Christie’s auction house.

The painting was sold to an undisclosed buyer for $450.3 million, the highest price ever paid for a work of art at an auction. Prior to this, Picasso’s Le Femmes D’Alger (Version “O”)  held the record at $179 million. Willem de Kooning’s Interchange is known to have been sold privately in September 2015 to Kenneth C. Griffin, a hedge fund manager, who paid about $300 million.

The history of pricing for Salvator Mundi makes this branding story even more amazing. The painting was once owned by King Charles I of England, but after his death it was sold several times, then dropped from view until 1900, when a British collector acquired it. At the time it was attributed not to Leonardo, but to one of his students.

In 1958 the painting was sold again, and then, in 2005, it was acquired by a consortium of art dealers who bought it for less than $10,000 because it was damaged and not attributed to the master himself.

With great patience, the dealers had the painting restored and authenticated as a genuine work by Leonardo. Via Sotheby’s, they sold the painting in 2013 to Swiss businessman Yves Bouvier, who paid $80 million. Bouvier quickly flipped it to billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev for $127.5 million, making a quick $48 million. (That transaction and others between the two buyers led to a tangle of lawsuits, still unresolved.) It was Rybolovlev who commissioned Christie’s to sell the painting, and it sold for $450.3 million.

So why did this painting sell for so much, and what marketing lessons can be learned from that?

  1. Branding
    If you were to ask people what they think is the best painting in the world, most would say da Vinci’s Mona Lisa or The Last Supper. People who know little about art will visit the Mona Lisa at the Louvre and not even look at anything else in the museum. That means the da Vinci brand is probably the most important of all artist brands. It’s the brand of the artist and his two most famous paintings that make this painting so desirable.

    But is that the only reason this painting went from $10,000 in 2005 to $450.3 million just 12 years later?
  2. Scarcity
    Part of the da Vinci brand is the scarcity of the paintings. Fewer than 20 paintings by Leonardo are known to have survived. People want what they can’t have. Christie’s referred to the painting as “The Last da Vinci” — the only known painting by the Renaissance master still in the hands of a private collector.
  3. Making the Painting Famous
    Christie’s broke all the rules for auction houses on this painting. Rather than sticking to the conventional approach to bringing a painting to auction, they hired a marketing agency, Gouzer and Heller. Christie’s knew this was a chance to make the sale of a lifetime, so, rather than relying on their own expertise, they hired professionals to make the painting famous leading up to the auction.

    The agency created a video that positioned the painting as “the Holy Grail” of the auction business and compared it to “the discovery of a new planet,” and the video soon went viral. They also brought in top experts to verify the painting and talk about how remarkable it is. Outside experts’ approval is more powerful than singing one’s own praises.
  4. Patience and Timing
    Christie’s took their time. Rather than jumping the gun and putting the painting up for auction the moment they received it, they carefully built out a series of viewings around the world. Thousands of people lined up to see the work at pre-auction viewings in Hong Kong, London, San Francisco, and New York.

    And the auction itself was timed to take advantage of the release of Walter Isaacson’s new Da Vinci biography, which was bound to help create interest in the painting (and now the painting is creating interest in the book). It never hurts to ride someone else’s wave.
  5. A Change of Setting
    Christie’s knew that Old Master paintings were not selling well and that attendance at those auctions has been thin. They determined that if they packaged this painting with the Old Masters, it might not bring the buzz and the price they wanted. So they put the painting in a contemporary auction known to attract the best collectors. Sometimes the best way to stand out is to stand where you’re not used to being seen. I always say, “Stand in the river where the money is flowing.”
  6. Star Power Creates Buzz
    Christie’s managed to get a number of celebrities to come to the auction, creating a buzz of anticipation and making the event more important. The auction ultimately had a capacity crowd and attracted the top dealers and collectors in the world. They even created special red paddles for the event, which became collector’s items.
  7. Publicity Makes a Difference
    Christie’s generated lots of press about this painting and its heritage before the event. Publicity created talk and desire to see the painting. Well placed articles by credible third parties can do more than any amount of advertising.

There is no doubt in my mind that this painting would have been the most expensive painting ever sold at auction no matter what Christie’s did, but the money spent on marketing probably doubled or tripled its value. Rather than selling for $150 million, it sold for $450.3 million. Whatever Christie’s paid for the marketing was well worth it.

This is the best example of art marketing in the history of art.

What can artists learn from this great marketing experience?

1. Understand that it is important to make and keep your reputation known. Branding is important to all artists, whether it’s done accidentally or deliberately.

2. Don’t rely on hope that people know who you are. Chances are you and I are not as well known as we think we are. Professional advertising and PR campaigns to build awareness can make a big difference.

3. Building a story, a legend, is part of brand-building. Keep your story in front of the eyes of collectors. If you stay visible over your entire career, you can leverage your notoriety into more sales and higher prices. Look for quirks and distinctions, and tell stories to build your own legend.

4. Scarcity matters. Look at artists like T. Allen Lawson or George Carlson. They don’t produce a lot of work each year, but when they do, collectors snatch it up because it’s rare. It also makes their prices higher. If you flood the market, you keep your prices down.

5. Quality matters. Always strive to be the very best you can be, and to become known as the best. Quality alone isn’t enough if no one is aware of you, but it’s absolutely important. Though one can market bad artwork and turn a mediocre artist into a success, I don’t recommend trying it.

There is ample evidence that millions of dollars have been made by artists you and I may not respect from a style or technique standpoint. Yet in most cases these artists did not get “discovered” to become famous. They orchestrated their careers with marketing by building their brands, building awareness of the importance of their work, and increasing their notoriety. The result is that many have been reaping the rewards for years. And after they become well known, they don’t just rely on the momentum they’ve created, they continue to seek ways to stay visible and well known for their lifetime. They understand that if you’re out of sight, you’re out of mind.

Is marketing “evil” or “manipulative”? Well, it can be, but I don’t recommend those approaches.

Marketing done right is really nothing more than helping others find you when they otherwise may never know you exist. Marketing can be done tastefully and with elegance, or it can be done brashly and inappropriately. You control how your marketing is presented.

Christie’s took advantage of the fact that millions of people make a trek to the Louvre each year, walk by hundreds of masterworks, and visit the Mona Lisa behind glass, take a selfie, then leave.

Though Leonardo was one of the most brilliant minds ever to have lived and one of the most masterful of artists, much of his perceived value has been driven by modern marketing efforts by the Louvre to promote the Mona Lisa, which is the biggest draw to the museum. Even still, Christie’s did not rely on that alone; they worked with outsiders to build on that and make that painting even more famous.

Never underestimate the power of a well thought-out marketing strategy. It can make an unknown artist known, or take an artist whose work isn’t selling and make it sell. It can get an artist invited to events and get people buzzing. If marketing is good enough for one of the finest and most respected auction houses in the world, if it’s good enough for Leonardo and Christie’s, it’s good enough for you.

By |2017-11-27T15:20:30-05:00November 27th, 2017|Branding, Direct Marketing, Fine Art|0 Comments

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 |2017-10-05T14:30:26-04:00August 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?”


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 “” 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 |2017-10-05T14:45:07-04:00May 3rd, 2017|Business, Direct Marketing|3 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 |2020-01-21T11:53:13-05:00May 3rd, 2016|Direct Marketing|3 Comments

Double Down on Direct Mail

An Art Marketing Message from Eric Rhoads


A wise mentor once told me that “whenever someone declares something as dead, its probably a great time to embrace it.”

Experts long ago predicted the death of direct mail. These days when social media is so cheap, email so cheap. Why bother doing direct mail?

Simply because it works.

In fact at a direct marketing conference recently the experts were saying “it works better than it ever did because there is no one doing it anymore.”

As I have mentioned in the past, a smart marketer never has all their eggs in one basket. Things change. Things can go wrong. Once long ago I had a business which relied on email to sell a product, when suddenly there was an email problem, which took months to solve. Sales stopped. Had I had other sources of marketing going it would have not only prevented the loss of sales, it would have been working for me as well.

As an artist Direct mail to your “customer list” is a great tool. Printed oversized postcards with images of your artwork are terrific tools to announce new artworks. You can keep the front beautiful and unencumbered and place a selling message on the flip side.

A Great Direct Mail Trick

I once launched a direct mail campaign. My goal was to cement four ideas in the minds of my target customer, who were potential advertisers of my radio magazine. So I made up four postcards, one for each point. I mailed one postcard a week with a different message each week. But every 4th week they got the same post card again. I repeated this campaign knowing that they would receive each post card five times.

Not only did we receive no complaints, we noticed an uptick in our business related to those messages the more times those cards hit. Repetition works.

Direct mail experts will tell you to do a mailing, then repeat the exact mailing to the same list a week or two later. It improves results the second time and again the third time. It’s been tested.


In media there is a tendency to declare things as dead or outdated and be seduced by the new. Though there is nothing wrong with the new, my goal is to get my product sold or my message sold, so I’ll employ lots of different media alternatives to get that done. Today I get almost no direct mail from artists or galleries, but I do get a couple and they stand out, and I tend to read them or keep them if the images are nice. Its an open opportunity you should consider.

By |2020-01-21T12:00:28-05:00July 17th, 2015|Direct Marketing|3 Comments

Christmas In July: A Money Tree for Artists


Want to Make Some Christmas Sales This Month? This story gives you a step by step plan.

Santa on water skis? Yes, I admit to doing it. In the 1980s, I owned a radio station. I had just taken it over and needed to bring lots of attention to it. So I invented the “Summer Santa” promotion. I had learned that our news director played Santa at Christmas time to make a couple extra bucks. He already had a suit. He already had a belly full of jelly, a jovial laugh, and a Christmas-like spirit. It was an instant promotion, and it was easy. Spot the “Summer Santa,” recite a phrase about the station, and win a Christmas gift in July. We took “Santa” everywhere, including the lake where everyone was spending time on July 4th. And yes, he did actually water ski in the Santa suit. I know because I drove the boat. Have you ever seen a wet Santa? It’s quite a sight.


Eric, Are You Suggesting I Do a Christmas in July Promotion?

No, not exactly, though there are some elements you can employ to get attention.


Money Does Grow on Trees
Instead we’re going to do something really Christmas-like together. Money does grow on trees, and we’re going to plant a money-making Christmas tree in July. Are you in?


Everything in marketing starts with a seed. Plant a seed, nurture and water it, expose it to sunlight, watch it grow and blossom, and it grows money.


Getting Early Attention from Christmas Shoppers
What does everyone do around Christmas time? They sell like crazy, they promote like crazy, and it is darned near impossible to get anyone’s attention at Christmas to sell something. So we’re going to get them thinking about a Christmas gift in July, when they're not thinking about Christmas.


Now I’m presuming that you’ve already got a list of previous buyers. If you don’t, this won’t work.


A Step By Step Plan You Can Do This Week To Stimulate Business
Here is the move. Ready?


You write a Christmas letter. You can make up your own, or you can copy mine. You mail it out to your list and wait for the magic to happen.


Oh, and the critical thing is that you send it to the spouse or partner of your buyer. For instance, if the one was the one who loved and bought the painting, send the letter to the other. If they both bought the painting, send it to one of them. Note, I did not say e-mail this. I want you to use mail. E-mail is too easy to delete.


Step 1. Get a red mailing envelope. Put your name in the return address area. Put these words on one side of the envelope: My First Annual July Christmas Letter. Open immediately.


Step 2. Enclose a candy cane. It makes the envelope lumpy and creates curiosity. You may want to wrap the packaged candy cane in some foam or paper. People cannot opening resist a lumpy envelope.


Step 3. Get some Christmas letterhead. You can usually find it at a craft store like Michaels, or at an office supply store like Staples or Office Depot. It’s stationery with a Christmas theme.


Step 4. Write the letter (copy to follow). Make sure to have a strong headline. Sign the letter.


Step 5. Easy to Find Contact Information. Make sure you have put your mobile phone number and e-mail on the letter so they can find you.


Step 6. Enclose a photo of a recent painting you’ve done. Place information on the back: “Thought you’d like to see one of my recent paintings. This one is called NAME and might look great hanging in your home.” With your contact information. If they throw out the letter they might keep the image. Nothing but the image should be on the front.


Step 7. Put it all in the envelope.


Step 8. Lick it, seal it, stamp it.


Step 9. Mail it.


OK, here is the letter. You have my permission to use it or adapt it, copy it into your word processor, personalize it, and print it. My letter below is written as though it’s personalized to the wife, mentioning the husband. You need to adapt to the persons and titles you are sending it to. (Note this could be sent to corporations too).


Why on Earth Am I Sending You a Christmas Letter in July?
I Promise It Will Make Perfect Sense in About 20 Seconds

  • Your Name Here


Dear Jane,


While you’re enjoying this candy cane and remembering last Christmas, I want to give you an idea. Remember how stressful Christmas shopping can be? Sometimes it just robs the joy from the holiday, trying to find the perfect gift.

But I think I’ve found it for you: Me.

Well, not me, exactly. But my artwork.


Wait, before you crumple up this letter, here’s what I was thinking.


You once bought one of my paintings, and I remember that your husband loved it. For this Christmas, I can do a custom painting based on something your husband really loves … a special place, a special memory, or something meaningful to him. Since he already likes my art and my style, he’ll love a custom painting done just for him.


In fact, I daresay it may be the most memorable Christmas gift he ever receives.


Of course, the reason I’m contacting you in July is so we have time to put our heads together on the subject. I’ll do some sketches till I get it the way you want it, then I’ll begin the painting. And it will be ready for Christmas. (I also do birthdays and anniversaries.)


Here’s the catch.

Yes, there is always a catch. Paintings take a long time to paint and a long time to dry, which is why I’m contacting you in July. Hey, that rhymes. Santa would be proud.


The catch is that I can do only three custom paintings before Christmas. Once I book those three paintings, I probably won’t be able to do more. So if you like the idea, give me a call, tell me the size you’re thinking about, the scene, the colors, and I’ll quote you a price and give you time to think about it without feeling obligated.


Your husband will get the world’s most special Christmas gift, custom-painted for him. I hope you like the idea. And I promise I’ll keep it a secret.

I’ve enclosed a picture of a recent painting to remind you of my artwork. But I can paint anything you want, painted in my own style. Just call the number below and let’s talk turkey … well, Christmas turkey.


Merry Christmas … in July!


Artist Name

Contact information

PS: This is our little secret. I haven’t sent the same thing to your husband. Imagine how his eyes will light up when he sees a painting of something meaningful to him. Maybe his childhood home, the old farm, your favorite vacation spot, his Aunt Nellie. Anything. But if you like the idea, call, because I can do only three custom paintings for this Christmas, if I start soon.


-end letter-

Side Benefits to the Letter

Will this work? Absolutely. And if nothing else, you’ll get talked about, create attention, and get a chance to put a photo of a painting you’re trying to sell in front of a potential buyer. It will be a great image piece because of your creativity, and, yes, you should get a few orders. Be sure to get a deposit and explain terms of deposit so you don't work for free. The deposit will get you some of your money up-front and the rest you'll get when the paintings are done, usually way before Christmas.

Can you do more than three? Probably, but you want to create scarcity and time pressure. Plus, no one wants what everyone can have. This is special.


You’ll need to be ready for the call. Know your prices and sizes and be ready to e-mail the information when they call. Most important, get them talking about what scene they want painted. Get them imagining the excitement. Get them thinking about where it will hang and how the recipient will think of them every time they look at it. It’s an easy sale, and a great way to communicate that you do commissions. (Don’t use the word commissions, though; that’s an unknown insiders’ term to most people.)

Will you have the guts? Some of you will, and I think you’ll see great results. The best results will come from previous buyers, and the more recent, the better the response. Don’t be afraid to send out a few hundred of these. You can always paint more, and not everyone will bite, but I guarantee they’ll be talking about you.

Oh, one more thing. If you mail the exact same letter 2 weeks later you will increase response.


Merry Christmas from your Summer Santa friend, Eric Rhoads

By |2020-01-21T11:57:35-05:00July 13th, 2015|Direct Marketing|2 Comments
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