How to Turn Your Buyers and Collectors Into a Sales Force

Want more help selling your art?

You have a sales force right under your nose: Your current buyers and collectors.

Artist Katka Hubacek's Tree of Life. One of the featured artists for this post on how to turn your collectors into a sales force for your art.
©Katka Hubacek, Tree of Life. Mixed media, 35 x 30 x 12 centimeters. Used with permission.

The people who loved your art enough to buy it and live with it are your biggest fans, and are probably itching to share your art with their friends, families, and colleagues.

Make it easy for people to help sell your art.

Your first step to turning collectors into a brigade for selling your art is to stay in touch with them.

Sending newsletters, personal emails, postcards, and holiday and birthday cards keeps your name in front of them.

People are more likely to remember to recommend your art if you remind them that you’re still alive and working in the studio.

You risk being forgotten when you neglect your buyers and collectors too long. 

Aside from regular contact with the important people in your life, a special touch here and there will upgrade their experience with you and, simultaneously, improve your sales.

Here are a number of ways you can make it easy for people to promote you and your art.

Mixed media abstract painting ©Nicole Kagan
©Nicole Kagan, Be Still. Mixed media on canvas, 24 x 12 inches. Used with permission.

Suggest an unveiling.

Collectors are proud of their acquisitions, especially if it’s something they’ve commissioned. Gently suggest that they host an unveiling of your art. Try this language:

I've found that many of my collectors like to show off their new acquisitions. If you would be interested in scheduling an official unveiling for friends and family, I'd be honored to be there and say a few words.

With their friends in attendance, you can yank off the black fabric and give a short talk about the piece and the process of working on it. If it was a commission, say a kind word or two about working with the collector.

Be ready with business cards, brochures, or flyers about your work.

Have a show in a collector’s home.

Everyone likes to help an artist! If your collectors live in homes that others would envy, ask if they would consider inviting friends to a solo show and art sale in their home. Your art, of course.

Offer to coordinate the logistics and to pick up the costs of the event.

Voilà! Instant audience of new people.

Host collectors-only events.

Treat your collectors like the VIPs they are. Some things need to be reserved just for them.

Schedule a collectors-only preview before an exhibition or an appreciation night at your studio.

Artist's Marci Rule's Camellia #10, Augusta National Golf Club. One of the feature artists for this post on how to turn your collectors into a sales force for your art.
©Marci Rule, Camellia #10, Augusta National Golf Club. Oil on canvas, 24 x 36 inches. Used with permission.

You won’t be selling your art or meeting new collectors at these events, but your current collectors will be more likely to buy from you again and to recommend you to others after having been treated like royalty.

Or consider a Quiet Gallery Experience like the one Simonne Roy created for her subscribers and collectors when Covid made it impossible for her to host her annual gallery shows in her home.

Give note cards to collectors.

Multiply the eyeballs on your art by giving collectors a packet of note cards.

Use the artwork they purchased from you on the front of the note cards so they have a personal story to add to their correspondence. Of course, your name, short blurb, and website address should be on the back.

Every time your collectors use one of your note cards, they'll be introducing another person to your art.

Distribute business card boxes.

Build or buy special boxes to fill with your business cards. Give them to collectors for display near your art. (You can see that this must be a handsome box if you expect it to stay in view.)

When guests admire the art on view, your collector can easily place your card in their hands.

Ask for help selling your art!

You don’t get what you don’t ask for. You've heard this before, but your ask must be specific.

Ask collectors to bring friends to your openings and events. Ask if they have friends who might be interested in your work. Ask if they know of offices that need new art.

You’ll be surprised at how many people take you up on your ideas and help you sell your art.

Artist Kate Ward, feature for this week's post on how to turn your collectors into a sales force.
©Kate Ward, Chasing Aurora. Shibori indigo, sashiko, cotton embroidery, 31 x 41 centimeters framed. Used with permission.

Here’s something else you've heard before: It doesn't hurt to ask. This is true most of the time, but there are two occasions when asking is inappropriate:

  1. When you haven't done your homework and established a relationship.
  2. If all you're doing is asking.

To avoid these missteps,  stay in touch throughout the relationship rather than writing or calling only when you want something.

Don't waste this potential sales force. You aren't using these people. You are making it easy for them to show off their proud acquisitions.

You're making it easy to help them help you sell your art.

This post was originally published September 15, 2016. It has been updated with the original comments intact.

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19 thoughts on “How to Turn Your Buyers and Collectors Into a Sales Force”

  1. Great article, Alyson, and thank you for featuring my painting! I like all the ideas, particularly treating your collectors like royalty. It’s because of them that we can continue painting and creating!
    Thanks for all that you do for artists,

  2. You have inspired me to think deeply on this subject, and a new idea has popped up for me on this subject. Since I broke my leg in 3 places and cut the muscles on the other leg it has made me come up with new ways to get my art out there which is probably a real good idea. I keep creating new art but getting it out there for people to see while I’m healing has been my issue, but this article has made me use my creative ability for promoting my art better and even more creatively. Thank you Alyson! I will let you know how this is working and take pictures for others to see what’s possibly when you just have to keep creating and get your work out there.

  3. Thanks for these ideas. Whenever a collector purchases a piece of art, I send them a set of note cards about a month after the sale with a note from me thanking them for the purchase and asking how they are enjoying the artwork in their home.

  4. I had a friend years ago in Laguna Beach, CA.
    He started painting women, and his work was
    quite different than most at the time.
    Orlando A. Botero was his name.
    He invited my wife and I to an unveiling at his home.
    At the time his work was smaller than 16 x 20.
    Then he started doing large paintings in the same style.
    They were 8 feet by 6 feet. The unveiling of these was at a gallery.
    They were covered with velvet drapes, which come off when
    the initial gathering had settled. There were speeches and a buildup.
    He was a showman, charming, handsome, soft…
    not overly pushy like many at openings. I watched him and regardless
    of how many people were there, he introduced himself to every person.

    It was impressive. Another artist friend in Laguna Beach, Carlo Wahlbeck,
    had a show in Beverly Hills, I drove the work there the few pieces left I brought back.
    Like Orlando, he nearly always sold out, a charming showman
    $52000 was the check and I was extremely
    impressed… no work was over $800 each, I thought I could get there.
    Still working at it, people, collectors too… say they love my work. I just can’t seem to get anyone to buy it. Collector shows do work for the best of sales people, I apparently do not fit the mold, despite reading blogs in the morning, hearing talks and getting in there eye. There is something missing, I think it is me.

    1. Dear Stephan…Maybe you are trying too hard. Just be your wonderful self and those people who pick up on it will be your collectors.

    2. you made me sad too Stephen – i went and had a look – your work is good – accomplished – (so you dont have to worry about that being the issue ) – chin up dude – selling art is hard – its part of the challenge – there is a facebook page ‘art business’ where a few artist go to talk about the more technical issues of selling art online – perhaps you could pick up some helpful information there

  5. Thanks For the ideas. I have postcards printed for each larger exhibition. In addition I place postcards from previous shows and they usually disappear during the course of the evening. Your idea of making boxes for collectors/buyers is very good idea.

  6. This is a great post and a good reminder to keep our most valuable clients – our existing ones – top of mind. I just mailed out a birthday card to a collector today (a postcard of a new piece). I love the note cards to the new buyer idea! I hadn’t thought of that. My mother, who was a fantastic sales woman, always said you have to ask for the sale. Good advice.

  7. Sandra Cherry Jones

    You always have great ideas! I have followed you every since I first read your articles in Art Business News. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Thank you for a great post with good advice on keeping in touch with collectors. I was thinking about creating creating greeting cards (with images of my new works) to send to my collectors as Christmas presents.

    Thanks again!

  9. I am a jewelry artist and will be celebrating my 25th year next month. I have had an annual week long sale every October just as the Chicago air gets crisp and the leaves turn color. The start of sweater weather brings out happy customers. Two years ago, I began inviting 30 longtime and other important customers to come shop on a Sunday for a preview day to my sale. The sale continues by appointment all week and ends with an Open House the following Sunday. The “First Dibs Day” has been a huge success each year. The customers loved it and some came back again with friends during the rest of the sale, which was so appreciated.

    This year, I sent printed invitations using images of 5 different necklace designs. Each invitation had the necklace I thought each person would resonate with the most. I am working on gift bags for this preview day since this year is a special celebration. The bags are filled with fun, hand decorated or ribboned boxes, each containing small treats, like a jewelry polishing cloth, magnets with photos of my work (fridge jewelry!) a cake shaped box that will be filled with homebaked treats to take home as they enjoy doing each year, and last, a short personal note from me. I hope the small gifts will let them know I celebrate them and all they’ve done to support me over the years. I feel like I’m throwing them a thank you party! They buy a lot of jewelry on this first day, and many have been coming for all 25 years. There are a few fun quotes posted at my sales, one of which says “I have enough jewelry” …said no one EVER.

  10. Great post and lots of great ideas here. I’ve dabbled in them all but need to reconsider. I used to have a “Jewel VIP Club” and had a party at a store (clothing, jewelry, shoes) and the store has a special discount for anyone that bought one of my pieces during that event. It worked great! But then my business got too much to handle with all the wholesale stuff and I lost track of my VIP group. I do have guest sign in books from my small private shows and receipts, so this is making me think I need to revive that group and have a special party for them. Maybe I could share with them my new direction, getting back to my roots of selling my work as art. Maybe some of them would have some great ideas. I have some long time supporters. Some have bought from me. Some have not. The ones that have not still have really supported me and come to all my events years ago. I need to tap into all those people as I feel I’ve totally neglected them. I just need to wrap my head around this and figure out how to have a thank you party, special invitation only, to all those who’ve supported me for 12 years. I also have done notecards, wrapped them in a ribbon and given them to guests at events or sent out as a thank you. But I think I will get boxes for them now and list them as art pieces instead of the collection they came from. So I can fancy that up real easily as I make more new artwork. Great ideas here. Love Myra’s suggestion about the 1st Dibs. As soon as I get a body of work into an exhibit I would love to do that. A preview party. Also, it makes me sad to hear what Stephen wrote. Stephen you are not alone. Sometimes I just don’t understand at all why people do not buy my pillows. They’re pretty. They all love them. But selling them is the hardest. That’s why I’ve opted for Alyson’s ACSS course to get back to selling them as art. People understand the price pt then and I need to still work on why they’re not your ordinary pillow…why they’re my art…everything that goes into them. Thanks for all this food for thought!!

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