October 10, 2019 | Alyson Stanfield

Following Up After You’ve Sold a Piece of Art

People who buy from you once are more likely to buy from you again than people who have never bought from you.

And … It’s less effort to nurture relationships with people who already know, like, and trust you than to find new people to share your art with. Acquiring customers, in marketing terms, is a long and costly process.

©Perci Chester, Squealies for Wheelies. Steel, stainless steel, and automotive paint, 42 x 30 x 72 inches. Used with permission.
©Perci Chester, Squealies for Wheelies. Steel, stainless steel, and automotive paint, 42 x 30 x 72 inches. Used with permission.

Therefore, it makes sense to take care of the people who have purchased from you. Show them you appreciate them now instead of contacting them later only when you want something from them.

One of the biggest mistakes artist-entrepreneurs make is not following up with people who have given them money.

If you’ve been lax in this area, you might be leaving money on the table.

If you sell art from your studio, rather than through a gallery, you have no excuses for not following up appropriately. You have the name and contact information of your collectors.

Here’s a plan to awe your collectors–not just once, but over the course of your relationship.

Within 1 Week of Sale: Express Gratitude

Painting by Gwen Meharg
©Gwen Meharg, Forgiven. Acrylic on canvas, 50 x 48 inches. Used with permission.

Send a thank-you note in the mail. Use notecards with images of your art on them for all of your handwritten notes.

This is yet another opportunity to put your art in front of people who appreciate it. The cards, of course, have your contact info or website on the back.

Don’t exploit this as an opportunity to ask for anything else. Thank-you notes are for expressing gratitude only, not for additional sales or requests.

Two Weeks Later: Ask to Connect

In this email, suggest to your collector that you would like to stay in touch through social media, if you haven’t already connected there.

Explain, too, that you send a regular email with updates about your art and ask if they would like to receive it. If they are added to the list, you can keep the relationship warm through your planned emails.

If they don’t get on that list, they should receive a personalized sequence of email and regular mail to ensure they are not forgotten.

After 3 or 4 Months: Use Real Mail

Earlier, you sent a thank-you note in the mail. At this point, it’s your choice. It doesn’t matter what you send or say as long as it’s from the heart.

You might send a postcard, a photocopy of an article that was written about your work, or an invitation to an exhibition.

Artist Lisa Draper
©Lisa Draper, Drops in the Ocean. Mixed media, 24 x 30 inches. Used with permission.

If the purchase was substantial, you might consider a small gift, such as a set of notecards with your art on them.

Twice a Year: Choose Your Action

After you have followed up with email and regular mail communications within three or four months, your collectors can graduate to your VIP list.

You’ll want to make sure you are in touch with your VIPs at least twice a year.

Your collectors might receive a special mailing on an off-holiday (Arbor Day, anyone?) or their birthdays. Or perhaps they’d like a phone message or short video recording in which you share only that you’re thinking of them and are hoping they’re happy and well.

Don’t overthink this because that could lead to procrastination. It’s the thought that counts! Your collectors will be impressed by an unexpected contact from an artist they admire.

Ready to create a detailed follow-up plan that might lead to more sales? Check out Collector Relationship Essentials, which will give you an in-depth system for staying in touch with your top prospects.

This post was originally published on June 2, 2016, and has been updated with the original comments intact.

37 comments add a comment
  • KELLIE DAY

    GREAT article, Alyson, Thanks so much!

  • Excellent advice. It is easy to forget this (or lose the info) when the sale is done. Buyers have to be treated consistently so I’m experimenting with Zoho CRM to do regular follow ups. There is a free version to experiment with.

  • Thank you for this article! When a buyer pays you with a check (so you have their mailing address), but does NOT sign up for your newsletter, is it OK to mail postcards, etc. to that person? After an art show last year I did send a thank you note to that buyer. But since then I haven’t been sure about sending event postcards because I didn’t have express permission to *keep* her address and do so. Not sure if there are any legalities or just conventions about this situation.

    • Lisa: I think it might be iffy in Canada for some reason – some laws around that. But it’s perfectly fine in the US.

      Technically, you already have a relationship with them. Most people would add to the email list, but I think that’s iffier than postcards.

    • Hi Lisa,

      like Alyson said Canada has some very strict rules. If your customer has not opted in for your email list you can only send them emails for two years after their purchase. If you are in Canada do not add them yourself to your email list. Canada has some hefty fines for that. But there is no restriction on snail mail in Canada. Your postcards will be fine for ever. (smile)

  • I’ve had the same experience as Lisa. I also have collectors I reply to on Facebook who haven’t bought again in more than 3 or 4 years. I don’t have their physical addresses. They’re already on my newsletter list but I can’t seem to reach them beyond the occasional like they send on a facebook post.

  • Thank sooo much for this…I am not the best at this and I have to be. I connect with most on FB or thru my newsletter. I do send out personal cards at Christmas time. The first year I digitally enhance my art/their commissioned piece to make it personal and festive . After that it’s a card with my art on it with a personal message inside. I will follow your advice tho and make this a priority….thanks!

  • Nice and simple, this plan. I like it!

  • Alyson your suggestions are excellent. But here’s something a little different. My collector bought one of my paintings in 2014. I thanked her and the gallery owner who did not charge any commission. In January of this year she joined a gallery as a curator for all exhibits. She invited me and a few other artists to show in Evanston (about 30 miles from Chicago). Didn’t sell anything. In the meantime I finished a painting that I had not worked on for years. I was influenced by the news of the Zika virus. This painting has mosquitoes swarming in it with a blue bird ready to pounce. Although it has humor in it, like many of my other works, it doesn’t include Brenda Starr who is almost in
    all my paintings. Do I send a jpg of this to her even though it’s not the usual work? Also she has just curated another show called “Swarm.” I would like to share it with her but am not sure since it is different in the sense of the images. It’s too late to get into the opening. Please give me your feedback. Thanks so much!

  • Linda

    Fantastic article, thank you! I’ve saved it to my computer. I have a list for people to sign up to receive update e-mails and usually a few days after someone purchases my art I send out a thank you note. I make notecards featuring my art (blank inside) and sell them at my shows and use these as thank you notes. I like the idea of postcards, I’ve been thinking of possibly making some to use as invitations to exhibits, announcements of new paintings, etc.

  • Thank you, Alyson! I’d never have thought of it…

  • Mesa

    Thank you, Alyson!

  • Myra

    I have a particular line of jewelry that is designed around antique Victorian/Edwardian Meerschaum pipes (pipedreamer.net) This is my series that has attracted the most collectors. I have about 10 collectors in that group now, some of whom own 14 and 15 pieces of my work. I’ve created 164 necklaces in that series so far. A few years ago, I hosted a Thank You party for these special customers. There was no selling of jewelry that day, just thanks and lots of fun for all of us. They each wore one of their pipe necklaces.

    Since they didn’t know each other at that time, I made special name tags for each person in the shape of a Meerschaum hand shaped pipe. We enjoyed a Victorian Tea with authentic treats from the era. I also arranged for us to visit a world class collector of Meerschaum pipes in the Chicago area and we drove by caravan to view his collection of over 2000 pipes. He regaled us with great stories about collecting, and wonderful histories of particular treasures. Everyone loved it. It was my favorite party of all time.

  • Hi, I would worry that I might come across as vying for another commission, especially as there are so many artists doing my subject of pets and animal art – how do you show you care, you’re interested in them and not just hoping for more work? (No surprise I am just about keeping my bills in the black!!)
    Thank you!
    Best wishes all.

  • This had lots of helpful ideas in it. I do many of these things…but hadn’t considered using my own work as the thank you notes to send..now it’s on my list to create them.
    I printed this blog post out to make myself a plan!
    Also, the last suggestion…have to think about that one. Feels a little self involved/intrusive to me? But that feeling often gets in the way of me promoting myself and my work more effectively! Going to think on that one.
    Thank you…as always.

  • I’ve had a problem collecting snail mail addresses from people who buy in person at an art show. Etsy buyers are easy but how do you entice folks to give you their mail address – seems hard enough to get email addresses from some folks :)

  • If people buy something significant from me, especially an original painting, I find one easy way to get a snail mail address is to say, “May I have your address? I like to send thank you notes.” I suspect that a real thank you note is such a rarity anymore – most people freely give me their snail mail address. Half the time, I think they are just curious to see if I actually will send one! I also think that for most of us, getting something via snail mail that isn’t a bill (or junk) is a wonderful surprise. Also, most people who I send postcards to tell me how much they love them. A postcard with a colorful image of art on it? I see them on refrigerators! :) Hope this helps.

  • I love this advice and article. Road map action plans ROCK! Thanks for this really great breakdown, Alyson <3 I am bookmarking this page for future reference!

  • Alyson, thanks for the great article. Lately I’ve sold a few paintings that were purchased to be given as gifts. Should I send thank you’s and followups to the purchaser, giftee, or both? Thanks!

  • What if the sale is through a gallery and you don’t have contact info. I asked for information about the purchasers and was only given an email address. No name. Should I push for more from the gallery? I can understand why some people would not want their information given out.

    • Alyson Stanfield

      Connie: I’m glad you can understand. Galleries, just like artists, have privacy policies. That’s very nice that they even gave you an email address! You could email the person and ask if they’d like to hear from you (mentioning, of course, your privacy policy and your commitment to staying in good graces with the gallery). Then ask if they’d like to share their names. You could even ask if they’d like to be on your VIP list (and describe what that means).

    • Thank you, Alison, for your advice.

  • Great post! I’m going to follow through better on my besties!
    Thanks!

  • Alyson, as always, great advice!
    During an exhibit, I notate everyone I know or meet in my iphone. It’s easy to forget who came when it gets crowded and days go by. After the exhibit, I immediately have 5×7 postcards made of one of the works that received the greatest response from visitors. My local printer can make nice digital post cards within a day or two at a reasonable cost such as $38 for 50. I bring the painting to her (if it did not sell off the wall) and she scans as a nice full bleed image or fits a detail full bleed of the painting on the front. She has the back of the card on file. It includes my logo on the top and name, size, medium, along with contact info on the bottom, so all she has to do is change the name, medium and size to match the new painting. I write my thank you love note in the open space of the postcard. Then I print labels (from Mac contact groups, you can add an image of another artwork detail on the address label). I also put an image of my logo on a return label. Then I mail them within a week after the show, in envelopes. Most of my collectors buy more than once. Plus they refer me to other prospective clients. They often save the postcards.

    • Alyson Stanfield

      Christine: I love this! And … I hope that the image is always one that didn’t sell — so that you can find a new home for it.

  • I love Jill Soukup’s work! I follow her on Instagram and think she’s absolutely brilliant. So happy to see her work here on your newsletter.

  • Great advice, Alyson. I always send a thank you note but tend to send it with the piece that was purchased. But now I’m thinking I should send another snail mail note a couple of weeks later. I find it’s a lot more difficult to know what to send someone who buys from you regularly and who is also a friend. It’s easy to be too informal and not give those people the same attention you give to new buyers. Do you have any advice about that?

    • Alyson Stanfield

      Alison: I understand why you’d do this if you’re shipping the piece. If you aren’t shipping, definitely send the TY note in the mail later. Maybe 3-4 days later.

      If you send the note with the piece, why not follow up with an email in a couple of weeks – ask for a photo of the piece installed. Then snail mail a few months after that.

      For your repeat buyer-friends, why not offer a free service like installation or framing? Many artists (and galleries!) offer small discounts to repeat buyers and that’s probably enough. If they’re nearby, you could host a VIP party for them 1x a year.

    • Thanks Alyson – a great idea!

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