If you aren’t using your mailing list, it’s worthless.
Your contact list is your #1 asset, but you have to nurture it. You must grow it, feed it, and hold it precious. It is from your list that 80% of your sales will come, if you do the work.
That’s why I have called the process of list-building “cultivating collectors” since 2002. It’s not “get collectors quick!” or “sell art right now!” It’s cultivate, which is a slow and steady course of deliberate (and sincere!) action.
Let me give you an example.
In last spring’s Cultivate Collectors class, Barbara Lee announced her decision to hold an open studio garden party. There were two people she was particularly interested in seeing at her event. As Barbara explains:
- She met the couple in September 2011 when they visited her art festival booth. They said they might be interested in purchasing her work the following month when their budget allowed.
- She followed up with them in October with a personal email. They weren’t yet ready to purchase but encouraged her to stay in touch.
- Because of this consent, she added them to her email list and kept them apprised of her fall shows.
When it came time for her March 25, 2012 garden party, Barbara sent postcards in the mail. After receiving their postcard, the couple emailed her to inquire if the three large pieces they had their eyes on were still available.
Barbara responded to their email:
I sent them links to the photos at my website and gave them pricing. They were the first folks through the door the day of the open studio and bought all three! I think they might have been worried that someone else would beat them to it!
Barbara wanted to share the moral of her story: gentle persistence pays off. The deal took 6 months to complete and she didn’t have to do anything that felt like icky salesmanship.
3 Musts for Cultivating Collectors
Cultivating collectors almost always pays off when executed with the following in mind:
- Authenticity. If it feels icky, don’t do it. Building relationships isn’t about sales, but about people. Potential collectors will sense if you don’t genuinely care about them. And you won’t feel good about yourself if you’re pretending to be someone else.
- Frequency. You can’t contact people on your list once a year and expect them to engage with you. You must stay in touch at least quarterly, if not monthly or bi-weekly. Do you get this? If you just contact them once a year, it looks like a sales job. If you’re in touch more frequently (without the Buy My Art Now! message each time), it feels more sincere and appears less desperate.
- Consistency. This goes along with frequency. Don’t contact your list every other week for two months and then disappear for six months. You need to be dependable and your business must appear stable.