February 14, 2018 | Alyson Stanfield

The Value of a Whisper

Steve Cranford is the creative chairman of the New York agency WHISPER. When I asked him why in the world a marketing firm would be called WHISPER instead of SHOUT, he replied: “The most important information you can share is whispered one-on-one.”

That's profound. So simple and so true.

©Pamela Lordi, Champagne & Strawberries. Mixed media on cradled panel, 10 x 10 x 1.5 inches. Used with permission.
©Pamela Lordi, Champagne & Strawberries. Mixed media on cradled panel, 10 x 10 x 1.5 inches. Used with permission.

The most important information you can share is whispered one-on-one.

Think about it.

When you take out an ad or post to your blog and social media sites, you are broadcasting to the world. You're talking to hundreds or (hopefully) thousands of people who might see your message.

Because of this public forum, the language is less personal than you would use in a private conversation. Everyone knows you're talking to everyone else.

There's nothing wrong with this, but when you want results, I encourage you to whisper – to communicate with a single person.

©Pamela M Roberson, Separate. Pen & ink, watercolor, 21 x 15 inches. Used with permission.
©Pamela M Roberson, Separate. Pen & ink, watercolor, 21 x 15 inches. Used with permission.

Anatomy of a Whisper

A client told me she was getting great results for her special sale by contacting people individually, but bemoaned that her broadcasts weren’t achieving the same response.

It makes sense, I said.

People like to be treated as individuals. We like to know that you care about us and want a personal relationship.

Broadcasts – whether through email, Instagram, Facebook, or a blog – will never equal the power of personal attention.

If you are worried about bothering people on your list or if marketing has become a drag for you, it’s time to get more personal. It’s time to whisper.

Sending out hundreds of emails or postcards should absolutely be part of every marketing strategy today, but this shouldn’t be your only method for encouraging people to act.

Whisper to individuals on your list in the following four ways.

1. Add Personal Messages

Add personal emails, texts, and Facebook private messages to your marketing mix, like those my client wrote. These are messages that are addressed to a single person using the person’s name. Hi Sally, for example.

You can send personal messages to invite an individual to your event, to tell them you were just thinking of them, or to share information that you know will be helpful.

You might also send a private response to someone else's bulk email – perhaps one you never requested. Rather than being annoyed, use the moment as an opportunity to connect: This looks wonderful. I wish I could be there!

©Dianna Frtizler, Merrymaking. Acrylic, pastel, and charcoal on gallery wrapped canvas, 24 x 24 inches. Used with permission.
©Dianna Frtizler, Merrymaking. Acrylic, pastel, and charcoal on gallery wrapped canvas, 24 x 24 inches. Used with permission.

2. Send Real Mail

You know that I love real mail, but postcards can look almost as impersonal as bulk email. Send postcards one at a time rather than in bulk. This helps you focus on and appreciate the individual recipients.

Writing on the back of your postcards automatically makes them more personal. Anything handwritten will also receive more attention than printed-only mail.

3. Pick Up The Phone

When you receive an email inquiry about your art, pick up the phone and call instead of responding with an email. Your email looks like everything else in an inbox, but your voice – full of warmth and gratitude – is uniquely your own.

Wanna take it a step further …

4. Make a Short Video

You'll stand apart when you send a video to someone who:

  • Is having a rough time.
  • Has a big presentation, performance, or exhibition.
  • Is celebrating a birthday or anniversary.
  • Did something special for you.

©Marta Ribes, Las Tres Gracias. Acrylic on canvas, 40 x 28 inches. Used with permission.
©Marta Ribes, Las Tres Gracias. Acrylic on canvas, 40 x 28 inches. Used with permission.

Listen To The Whispers

Sharing your message in the above forms is a good start, but the most powerful attention you can give someone is to stop and listen rather than always being the message deliverer.

What’s important to them? What struggles do they have? How can you be of service?

Marketing to individuals rather than only in bulk takes more time, but yields a higher quality list of contacts. When in doubt, whisper.

33 comments add a comment
  • Alyson,
    I’m doing your Art Makeover conference in Golden because you sent a real letter in the mail! I had seen the emails and blog about it and wanted to do it, but once off the computer it was out of sight, out of mind. I knew full well what you were doing (by sending real mail :)), but I actually did the sign up because it did feel very personal and the letter was sitting on my desk reminding me that I needed to sign up. By the way, I am really excited about going and spending time with you and other artists from all over the country!

  • This is a great idea and I am going to act on it.

  • Nice article Alyson – I wish I had know you were going to be in Portland!

    All the best,


  • great post–I like the metaphor of the whisper

  • Theresa Grillo Laird

    Great post! Lately it’s been bothering me that I’ve connected with so many people on Facebook who became FB friends that I’ve lost track of them. I’ve been going through my whole list 5 or so at a time and just messaging them a friendly hello with a reminder of why we connected.It would probably be an even better idea to do this with my mailing list.

  • I loved your article, Alyson. Your approach to marketing art is so refreshing. You always bring us back to the reason we create art in the first place, to exchange life experience with other people. Who isn’t thrilled and amazed when someone sends a personal note or a handwritten invitation. Proof that I’m not invisible, someone knows my name or is actually thinking of me! I’m hoping that all my sales will flow out of a kind consideration for others.

  • I postal mailed a “whisper” to you yesterday. Love postcards!

  • Even when we do a big mailing for a show (1000+ postcards) I write a personal note on every one. If possible, I start with their name, something I learned from my grandfather, who was a great salesman. Surprisingly, this only takes 2 – 3 hours, and it is definitely worth it, for all the reasons you note. Thanks, Alyson, for another great post!

  • I’ve built most of my marketing around print & postcards over the years. I send them to the people listed in magazine mastheads and that has garnished a lot of stories for me. I also don’t waste my time with art related magazines or magazines related to my medium. Artist, for the most part, don’t buy much art. People who buy yachts, airplanes, build luxury houses buy art.

    Really think globally, where there is wealth there is interest in arts: Rome, Paris, London, Sydney, Vancouver, Toronto, Moscow, Tokyo, so forth and so on. They all have art and design publications and at least 1% to 2% of their population interested in the arts. It’s all about demographics and population numbers.

    I send out postcards for shows and exhibitions. After I sell a piece I have a complete “thank you” program where they will hear from me via postcards at least once a quarter for the next couple of years. Part of the “thank you” program is a small gift not exceeding $100.00. I usually make a donation in their name to a non-profit that they support or are involved with. If not, I find a car detailer in their area and send them a $100 gift certificate for one of their numerous luxury cars.

    Throughout the year I’ll send a one or two lines on a postcard to existing clients and potential client.

    For larger commissions, using MyPublisher, I make a book showing the process of how the piece was built and the back story. Collectors and clients go ape over the book. They leave it out and show it to their friends. It’s brought a number of commissions to me.

    Using the same book format, I obliterate the issue of the question “How long does it take to make the piece?” and am able to direct the conversation to other issues about the work. THIS IS A POWERFUL SALES TOOL.

    PRINT for work selling in the 4 and 5 figures is very potent. Print is luxurious. Print separates you from the other 97% of the artists.

    By the way, if you are selling through galleries and have no handle on your costs and don’t know what your Gross Profit is and your Net, you are most likely losing money, BIGLY!

    Equally important after using print, learn how to sell. The most important magazine in your library should be Selling Power. It amazes me that artists will spend thousands of dollars to do a show, but have no clue on how to close a sale, get past objections or how to take a good lead. BTW, if you have an address book for people to sign at a show or gallery, YOU ARE WASTING A LOT OF YOUR TIME and MONEY!. There is a much better way.

    • Great post, thanks for sharing your experience it’s so true and interesting too. Especially the “my publisher” for commissions…. will look into that! Not sure why capturing potential clients emails is wasting time and money? Thought it was supposed to be a good idea?

    • Jessica: I don’t believe it’s wasting time and money if you do something with the information – follow up personally. Most artists don’t do this.

    • Wonderful. Thank you for sharing this, Mark. Sounds like you have it down!

  • I am working on adding more videos to my marketing, but I never thought of sending a personal one. Great idea!

  • I’m new to seriously marketing my art and I love this approach – it’s what I do naturally, but you put it into context and easy to follow steps. And Mark Levin, your comments are very valuable as well. Thank you both.

  • A few years ago I sent Christmas cards with nice prints enclosed of large paintings two collectors were mulling over buying. I also offered a small discount (it being the Holidays). I heard back immediately from both. Sold and Sold. This article reminds me of how effective the whisper is.

  • Great article Alyson. I also find that when I send out my bulk email news update each month, I get a number of responses from people. I make a point to respond to each one individually, even if only with a one liner.

  • Love this advice and will think about it as I do with everything you suggest.

    XOXOXOXO Barbara

  • I want to know more about “my publisher”-where can I get the info-how tos, costs, etc?
    Some time back I got note cards printed w/ photos of paintings that my collrctor had purchased. At the back of the folded note card was the name od the collector and the name of the artist. I sent a box of 10 to each collector and they loved it!
    Love your advice Alyson-I think its a great idea in this day and age of too many mass mailings!

  • Aisling Meehan

    I’ve had more success indevidually messaging people over facebook about a show than I ever have blasting social media about it with events and reminders. With mosquito season creeping up on us, I’m thinking about sending squished mosquito art cards to some local businesses.

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