Gentle Persistence Pays Off

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.

Barbara Lee photograph of aspens
©Barbara Lee, Aspens – Hope Valley, California Sierras. Photograph.

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Build your relationships from the heart with authentic, frequent, and consistent follow-up. It will not only pay off for you monetarily, but will also leave a good feeling in its wake.

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13 thoughts on “Gentle Persistence Pays Off”

  1. Dear Alyson,
    Thank you for you article on cultivating collectors. I couldn’t agree more with your approach. I’ve been sending an e-newsletter (via MailChimp) once a month for several years now and send postcards at least twice a year to my list.
    I have two questions. Is once a month enough for the e-newsletter and two or three times a year for postcards? Not everyone on my list wants to get emails and prefers snail mail – so the reality is having these two methods of contact. I’d like to figure a way to have more current contacts on the e-list as well. I always note my e-newsletter on the postcards. Any thoughts on how to do that or is it just a waste of time?
    Another related question, what are your thoughts on sharing one’s list with galleries that represent your work? I’ve slowly cultivated my list for many years and feel very protective of it. On the other hand, it’s difficult and sometimes impossible to get galleries to pass on contact info of buyers of my work.
    Anyway, that’s a lot of thoughts. Thank you!
    Philip Frey

    1. Philip! You’re a Mainer! Good to “see” you here. Great questions too. Do you know David Baker? I noticed on Google Maps that Sullivan is right up there by Hancock and that you show at Courthouse Gallery too. Have a great day.

    2. Alyson Stanfield

      Philip: Once a month is fine! That’s great that you’re consistent. And I love that you’re doing postcards 2-3 times a year. Perfect.
      I do think there’s a disconnect between the postcard and signing up. They have to go to the computer and type it in. It’s almost not worth it, but doesn’t hurt to mention it once a year – especially if you give something away or have a special offer for email subscribers.
      If you have told your list that you won’t share their names with others, you should not share the list with galleries. Period. It’s the same reason (one reason) galleries won’t share their names.

  2. This is just what I needed to hear!! Thanks, Alyson!
    I just went through my email list and organized it. I sent out my first email to my collectors and customers in awhile…oops. The way you explain how to send out emails successfully has quelled my fears about bothering people. If I do it with care and content, I won’t be bothering, I will be helping them get something they want!

    1. Alyson Stanfield

      Congratulations for taking action, Sara! No need to look back. Just appreciate what’s ahead.

  3. Alyson,
    Thank you so much for all of your wonderful advice. It is what I need to hear everyday as an artist! And yes, email lists are so vital to an artists survival- a lot of tedious upkeep and work but well worth it in the end!!

    1. Alyson Stanfield

      Jan: There isn’t anything like CC class in the future. I may use that name, but it will be WAY different. I will be announcing new programs in December or January. Thanks for asking!

  4. exactly what I’ve been thinking but haven’t been doing. I have been updating my list but not using it effectively. I can see some changes in my future. Thanks.

  5. Dear Alyson,
    Persistence is golden. I love your article on the gentle variety. In business long-term is the only term. If your in it to win it you have put others ahead of yourself and treat them the way you would like to be treated.
    If you don’t like receiving an email from one of the lists you subscribe to everyday, don’t send to your readers daily. If you don’t like no content sales pitches that are empty arrows pointing in the direction of where to buy, don’t write them.
    There are a lot of different kinds of people in the world and I sincerely appreciate the gentle ones we have that fill our lives with enriching content. They certainly are in it for the long haul.
    My best to you,

  6. Pingback: Are You Nuts? « Art Biz Blog

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Your Artist Mailing List: Rethinking + Assessing

Get a transcript of episode 182 of The Art Biz (Rethinking Mailing Lists for Artists) followed by a 3-page worksheet to evaluate the overall health and usage of the 3 types of artist lists.

Where can we send it? 

To ensure delivery, please triple check your email address.

You’ll also receive my regular news for your art business.

Privacy + Terms