“Marketing is no longer about the stuff you make, but about the stories you tell,” writes one of the world’s most famous marketing minds, Seth Godin.
What he means is that today we are accustomed to processing an enormous amount of information in a short amount of time through various channels. Whereas in the past, we would be confronted with three commercials during a movie break, today there are hundreds of brand messages that reach us more or less directly through Twitter, Instagram, Google, our email inbox, and so on.
Storytelling is the new way for good digital marketing. It is mainly images that are anchored in people’s minds. “Images are processed between 6 and 600 times faster than language.”
There are many stories out there, you may think. Surely, you regularly talk to customers in your gallery or at an art fair and have a sales conversation. Good gallery owners are good salespeople. They should know how to tell good stories that also work in marketing, right?
Not entirely: Storytelling means building an emotional connection with your target audience first, and then using it to “sell” in the second step.
Here are my suggestions for 4 Do’s and Don’ts you should consider when it comes to good art market storytelling:
The 4 Don’ts
1 – Speaking to customers in jargon
While it’s important to showcase your expertise and knowledge as an artist or gallerist, using jargon and technical language can be confusing and alienating for potential buyers. Instead, try to communicate your ideas in clear and accessible language that everyone can understand.
2- Confusing storytelling with a sales pitch
While the ultimate goal of storytelling in the art market is to sell art, it’s important to avoid making your story sound like a sales pitch. Instead, focus on sharing your personal journey, inspirations and motivations, and let your potential buyers draw their own conclusions.
3 – Talking about something “cool” that happened recently
While it’s great to share exciting news and updates with your audience, it’s important to keep in mind that not everything that’s “cool” to you will be relevant or interesting to your potential buyers. Instead, try to focus on insights and perspectives that can help them better understand your art and connect with your story.
4 – Not knowing what your customers want and not addressing it
Finally, it’s essential to understand your potential buyers’ needs, preferences and interests, and tailor your storytelling accordingly. If you’re not sure what your audience is looking for, try to engage with them through social media, surveys or other channels, and use their feedback to inform your storytelling approach.
The 4 Dos
1 – Speak in images
Rather than relying on dry descriptions or explanations, try to communicate your ideas through vivid and evocative imagery.
2- Leave room for imagination
Leave room for imagination: While it’s important to convey your message clearly, it’s also crucial to leave some space for your audience’s own interpretations and experiences. This can create a more dynamic and engaging dialogue between you and potential buyers.
3 – Be honest
Authenticity is key when it comes to storytelling. Be true to yourself and your art, and avoid exaggerating or inventing details that don’t align with your personal narrative. This will help you to build trust and establish a genuine connection with your customers.
4 – Be constructive
Storytelling is not just about self-expression – it’s also an opportunity to inspire and educate your audience. Use your platform to share insights, perspectives and ideas that can help your audience to better appreciate your art and the wider cultural context in which it exists.
I once worked with a German Gallerist: I had met her at a lecture she gave about the local art scene. She had a noticable regional accent, spoke very personally and was so enthusiastic and cheerful, that she infected the whole audience with her good mood. Pretty uncommon behavior one can say, knowing that the art scene thrives on coolness and restraint. Nevertheless, this woman holds a doctorate in art history and has invaluable experience in the market. And I adored her for he behavior from the first moment.
What I’m trying to tell you with that story?
It can be the little things that make you stick out from the crowd. And that will make your personal brand.
Why is personal branding important at all?
Personal branding has become an increasingly important aspect of success in the art market. With so many talented artists vying for attention, it’s essential to have a strong and distinctive personal brand that sets you apart from the competition. And this does not only apply to artists, but to art dealers and art gallerists, too.
What is personal branding?
Personal branding is the practice of creating a unique image and reputation for yourself that sets you apart from others. It’s a way of defining who you are, what you stand for, and what you offer to the world. In the context of the art market, personal branding can set a more personal tone to your social media and other channels you communicate through with your customers. And help build a more personal and binding relationship with your customers.
Additionally: in context of artists is essential because it helps yo to build a loyal following of collectors and fans who are interested in their work.
Do I need to be big on Instagram or Social Media to be a personal brand?
Well, that is a tough question to answer and I struggle with it everyday. Why? Because even though I love Social Media and follow numbers of people whose feeds I can relate with… I myself am not an outgoing person. And prefer to portray other people instead of seeing me on a photo. But, because I am new to the art world and not yet connected as well as I wish I would be, I know I have to make an effort in connecting and building trust.
And there’s no better way than doing through Social Media.
The good news is: Building up a Social Media account is no rocket science. It’s persistency, patience and staying on the ball.
In the beginning, no one will see what you do – hence, it doesn’t matter if your posts are perfect. The key is to do at least one little story or one post everyday, or at least 5 days a week. Then you will get more and more attention and you will get used to using the network, too. It will become a habit. And that’s the key to success.
I will talk about social media in another post more detailed.
If you are well connected in the art world and have other channels where you can underline your personal brand, that’s just fine. You will not necessarily need to build up an Instagram account. It is always better to do both because you will definitely get more attention, but if you lack time or staff, better focus on building up the marketing channel that already works well. A newsletter for example can be a very powerful tool for that. And cooperations or PR.
What are the benefits of personal branding?
There are many benefits to developing a strong personal brand Here are just a few:
1 Increased visibility
By developing a strong personal brand, you’ll increase your visibility in the art market. This will help you to attract new collectors and fans, and to build a reputation as a successful and influential artist.
Personal branding allows you to differentiate yourself from other artists in the market. By defining your unique value proposition and creating a distinctive visual identity, you’ll stand out in a crowded market and attract collectors who are interested in what you have to offer.
3 Increased credibility
A strong personal brand can also increase your credibility as an artist. By communicating your values and expertise consistently, you’ll build a reputation as an authority in your field.
4 Increased sales
Ultimately, personal branding can lead to increased sales for your artwork. By building a loyal following of collectors and fans, you’ll have a ready market for your work and be able to command higher prices.
How to develop a personal brand?
Here are some steps you can take to develop your personal brand in the art market:
1 Define your unique value proposition
Your unique value proposition is what sets you apart from others. It could be the artists you represent, the form of art you represent, the way you curate exhibitions, the way you host events. Whatever it is, you need to define it clearly and communicate it consistently to your audience. This will help you to stand out in a crowded market and attract collectors who are interested in what you have to offer.
2 Create a distinctive visual identity
Your visual identity is an essential part of your personal brand. It includes everything from your logo to your website design to the way you present your products, hence the artworks. Your visual identity should be consistent across all of your online and offline platforms, so that people can recognize your work and associate it with your brand.
3 Build a strong online presence
In today’s digital age, having a strong online presence is essential. As mentioned above, this includes having a website, social media profiles, and an email list. Your online presence should be consistent with your visual identity and unique value proposition, and should be regularly updated with new content.
4 Engage with your audience
Engaging with your audience is key to building a strong personal brand. This means responding to comments on social media, attending events where you can meet collectors and art people in person. By building relationships with your audience, you’ll create a loyal following that will help you to achieve success in the art market.
5 Be consistent
Consistency is crucial when it comes to personal branding. You need to be consistent in everything you do, from your visual identity to your messaging to your online presence. This will help to establish your brand and make it memorable for your audience.
Social media has become an increasingly important tool for galleries and businesses in the art market over the years. It allows them to reach their customers, create relationships, and increase their exposure. With the right social media marketing strategy, art galleries have the potential to reach new audiences, promote their brand, and drive sales.
When engaging in social media marketing, galleries should focus on creating compelling content that captivates their audience. This can be done by providing helpful advice and valuable information related to the art market, as well as visually stimulating images or videos. It’s also important to blog regularly and share this content across all the main social.
1 – Determine Your Goals
The first step in creating an effective social media marketing strategy is to determine what you want to achieve. What are your goals – do you want to increase brand awareness, drive more traffic to your website, or increase engagement with your existing customers? This will help you focus and tailor your content.
2 – Know your target audience
The second step in creating an effective social media strategy is to identify your target audience. Who are your customers and what type of content will they engage with? Knowing your target audience will help you create content that resonates with them and also determine which platforms and channels will be most effective for you to use.
3 – Choose the right channel(s)
Choosing the right channels for your social media strategy is essential for maximizing your online presence and reaching your target audience effectively. You habe now identified your business goals and the demographics of your ideal audience. Different social media channels have unique strengths and are preferred by different demographics. For example, TikTok is popular among younger audiences: Do you reach the customers you need that have interest in your art and the money to purchase it?
Be bold and leave out social media channels. Instead, focus on a channel that precisely matches your goals and target audience, and play it professionally. By strategically selecting, you can optimize your reach and engage your target audience more effectively.
4 – Create a content strategy
The next step is to create an engaging content strategy. This includes brainstorming ideas for content that will be interesting and engaging to your target audience. Also take into account the type of content that works best for each platform. Planning out in advance what kind of content you will be sharing on each platform can help make sure that you are staying consistent.
Showcase your art: Share high-quality photos and videos of the artworks in your gallery. Provide background information, such as the artist’s name, medium, and inspiration behind the artwork. This helps to educate and engage your audience.
Share behind-the-scenes glimpses: Offer a sneak peek into the artist’s creative process or show what goes on behind the scenes of your gallery, such as preparations for an exhibition.
Highlight events and exhibitions: Use social media to promote upcoming exhibitions, art fairs, or other events related to your gallery.
Use a consistent style and voice: Use a consistent visual style and tone of voice across all social media channels to build a strong brand identity for your gallery.
5 – Engage with your customers
The fifth step for a good social media strategy is to actively engage with your customers. This can include responding to comments, answering queries, and providing helpful advice related to the art market. Additionally, you can also use social media as a platform to promote specific events or new artworks, or simply as a way to stay connected with your community. Engaging with your audience is key in order to build relationships and keep them coming back for more.
6 – Measure and analyze
The fifth and final step is to measure and analyze your results. This is where you can determine whether or not your social media marketing strategy is successful. By analyzing and measuring your social media channels, you can gain valuable insights into your audience and their behaviors, and optimize your social media strategy for the best results. There is no need to pay for expensive third party tools in the beginning. Use analytics tools provided by the social media platforms, such as Facebook Insights or Instagram Insights. These tools provide detailed data on your audience demographics, reach, engagement, and content performance.
Good art marketing is often said to be a budget issue. Where there is no budget for a marketing professional, good marketing cannot take place. However, this budget is missing for smaller galleries.
In addition to the countless daily tasks that business managers, sales directors and/or gallery assistants must acquire, marketing is another competence that has to be professionalized. How is this supposed to work?
The good news is that marketing is not a science that one has to have studied.
Marketing is not magic. Yes, it requires work, but, above all, a good strategy!
With a good strategy, you can do good art marketing without professional staff and large budgets – and grow sustainably.
What many teams however do wrong: they lack this concrete strategy!
They do not know their goals and simply try to keep up with the rapidly moving market and digitalization. TikTok? Big museums are doing that now, we need that too! Instagram? Must Have! Virtual gallery tours? Absolutely! But what specific goal are they pursuing with it?
Let’s take a quick step back to ask ourselves one important question:
What is marketing actually about?
No, it is not about stocking an Instagram channel with appealing pictures, regularly organizing exhibitions and sending an invitation to the existing customer base.
Marketing is about reaching more people, converting them into new customers and bringing existing customers back to purchase!
The first is called “generating leads”, the second is called “retention”. To do this successfully, you have to know your goals exactly. Generating leads, for example, works very differently from retention marketing.
If you know your goals, you can more easily break down the required measures necessary to achieve your goals.
From top to bottom! Without a strategy and goal agreements, which is what so many companies do wrong, marketing will be empty.
For example, a new customer is much more than a achieved sales of X euros. Would it not be exciting to find out how much it costs to acquire a new customer? How much marketing budget is needed? Would it not be interesting to find out where the new customers come from, what their interests are, how old they are, how they are socialized? And would it not be especially interesting to find out where and how to reach these new customers?
For example: If you know that you have never sold art on Instagram, but that art sales are usually generated through the website; if you know that the process of the transaction on the website is cumbersome and involves a high organizational effort for the team … then it makes sense to set the goal of revising the website and prioritizing this process – before caring for an attractive Instagram channel.
If you know that you attract many visitors to the website, for example, through Google search, links or social media – but that these leave again without making a purchase – it makes sense to set the goal of improving the conversion rate on the website.
Or, if you know exactly who your top customers are and what artists or art they are interested in, it makes sense to inform these top customers individually about current works rather than sending them general newsletters. What I mean by this:
Every company, every art dealer, every gallery is different: the goal is therefore to find out which marketing tools work for your own company.
And professionalize them. A continuous, goal-oriented optimization process leads to long-term success and revenue, rather than having to dance aimlessly at all weddings.
These are my tips for a good art marketing strategy:
1 – Be open to change
The rapidly moving art market and rapid digitization require quick adaptability. I still frequently observe a lack of willingness to change on the art market. The excuse “we’ve always done it this way and it’s always worked out well” no longer applies. At the latest since Covid and the loss of fairs and gallery visitors, it should be clear to everyone that it is an advantage to be able to respond quickly to changes.
2 – Know your customers
Customers are the A and O of successful marketing. The better you know them, the more precisely you can address them and do good marketing. Their data, their purchasing behavior, and their “user behavior”, meaning the way they move around your gallery, on your website, in your newsletter, give insight into possible re-purchases and possible new customers.
3 – Solve concrete problems
An example: you observe that your high-priced works are only bought by existing customers? That the majority of your address data is art lovers who regularly come to openings and visit your newsletter, but never buy? Then you should think about a low-priced “entry-level product”.
4 – Develop a clear positioning
… to stand out from the competition! The clearer your customers know what they get from you and nowhere else, the better!
5 – Analyze your data
As mentioned above: the behavior of your customers, your “users”, allows you to draw valuable conclusions about your marketing strategy. You don’t have to subscribe to expensive tracking tools and be a Google Analytics expert! Simple data such as the opening rate of the newsletter or the duration of the website visit are already a very good start.
6 – Define clear goals
Based on the information and data you collect and analyze, you can formulate clear goals that will help you plan concrete measures and their scope, and calculate the resulting costs/budgets. They will help you plan the business year in advance.
7 – Develop a marketing plan
Does everyone in the team know what to do? A good plan is not only the A and O for good marketing. But also the A and O for a smooth and organized workflow. This saves time and resources and ensures that everyone is on the same page.
David Hockney, 20th March 2021, Flowers, Glass Vase on a Table (2021, left) and 28th February 2021, Roses in a Blue Vase (2021, right), both iPad paintings printed on paper, each from an edition of 50. © David Hockney
Last summer, I visited the wonderful exhibition “Matisse – Hockney. Un paradis retrouvé” in Nice. Hockney’s colorful flower paintings, which he had painted in recent years, were displayed as masterpieces: bright bouquets hung in old ornate gold frames against dark painted walls. Only on closer inspection did one realize that they were digital images, painted on the iPad.
The 85-year-old Hockney spent the lockdown in a country house in Normandy and painted daily on the iPad. He sat there with a view of nature and waited for spring.
The story is as beautiful as the pictures. But why am I telling it? Because it reveals so much about good art marketing!
Good storytelling is more important than ever today! Why? Because it reaches people emotionally.
The American marketing magazine Adweek presented a study showing that customers are willing to pay 11% more for a work of art if they know the story behind it.
What stories can you tell? About you, your team, your art?
And what do art buyers look for? Art that just looks “pretty” above the dining table? Or art that they can tell a story about? Of course, the latter.
It is the personal stories that touch us the most. And make art accessible!
Storytelling removes barriers. Between the buyer, the gallery owner, and the work of art.
For example, we love stories of people who unexpectedly became famous. Like the story of Paul Schrader, the German shooting star painter who became an artist “overnight” from a lawyer.
Why can we all remember the name “Banksy”? Because the story of the anonymous artist who secretly leaves graffiti in public places is good. Quirky, adventurous.
So what does your company stand for? There must be plenty to tell!
Larry Gagosian is still known today as the world’s leading art dealer, with the image of a hands-on salesman, because he and the press repeatedly tell the story of how he sold posters on the streets in Los Angeles when he was a young man.
Hauser & Wirth gallery represents something completely different. They see art as a cultural asset and believe that it should be accessible to art enthusiasts beyond the boundaries of wealthy collectors. They invest large budgets in scientific articles, scholarships and organize exhibitions of museum quality.
Two very different gallery stories, but they remain “sticky” or memorable.
Everyone who is interested in art knows about the “blind art dealer”.
What about you?
What are your customers looking for from you that they can’t find anywhere else on the art market?
To find out, you should start with the answer to ONE question: the WHY.
If you know why you are selling what you are selling, you can create your own “mission statement” and tell a story that customers will remember.
Here are 5 questions that will help you create a brand identity, the WHY:
Why do I/we exist?
How did it come about?
Who are my/our main characters?
What problem do I/we solve?
What have I/we already failed at?
The last question is particularly nice, as it makes you relatable. And that’s what makes a good story.
Which email will be opened more frequently? The one with the subject “Art-News in April” or the one with the subject “Exclusive Special Edition by Artist XY”. The answer is quite simple? It is of course the second one!
A newsletter is a strong art marketing tool to convince potential customers to buy art.
And to motivate existing customers to repurchase art. This is called “retention” in marketing jargon. In e-commerce, the industry I originally come from, retention is a huge issue. For a simple reason:
Gaining new customers again and again is not only expensive (advertising costs), but also incredibly demanding.
On the other hand, existing customers have already given you and your art gallery their trust – so you should definitely take advantage of this in the marketing of art!
My experience in e-commerce is that a good newsletter can significantly increase sales in a predictable manner.
You get valuable insights into the behavior and needs of your readers and customers – and can adjust your offer accordingly. The same applies to good art gallery marketing and a good art newsletter!
Here are my 8 tips for performant art newsletters:
1 – Know your goal
What is your goal with sending the art newsletter? Do you want to invite guests to an opening or sell a specific painting? Or do you want to ask your subscribers some concrete questions to get to know their needs better (a great tool I have successfully used with long-term customers)? You should always keep the goal of your art newsletter in mind when creating it and prioritize the content accordingly!
2 – Choose a good subject
The opening rate of your art newsletter is half the rent – and your invitation to the reader to open and read the newsletter. If a reader opens a newsletter in his inbox, it means he is interested in its content.
A good opening rate is around 20% depending on the industry. If it is lower, you should think about your subject line! Does the reader understand what it’s about and does the subject meet his needs / interests, he will open it.
Is your art gallery offering a special edition for the Christmas season? Is your subscriber invited to an exclusive preview? Great, write that in the subject!
A newsletter subject like “Art news from Cologne” or “Gallery News” is too general. General emails are usually deleted before being opened in the face of the newsletter flood one receives daily.
By the way, personalized subjects work particularly well. Subjects with emojis are also eye-catching and increase the opening rate. Of course, the subject must also match the image of your art gallery or your brand as an artist.
3 – Keep it short and to the point
We are flooded daily with huge amounts of information through digital media and our attention span has become short. Accordingly, we now dedicate only a little time to reading a newsletter. The contents of your art newsletter should therefore be short, it is best to mention your goal in the first section: invitation / offer, etc.
Set the text out, in each paragraph it should be immediately clear what it is about. Do not hesitate to bold or highlight important keywords so they are better recognizable when scanning the art newsletter!
4 – Don’t forget the call to action
The call to action is what I most often miss when reading art newsletters. Unfortunately! The “call to action” is the specific request to take action. Coming from e-commerce, I know that it is crucial for the purchase or feedback of your subscriber.
Challenge your reader clearly and unambiguously to take action: sign up for the opening / purchase an object / request an object. See the example from Artsy above, in good newsletters the call to action is already in the subject line.
And here I have to repeat myself: every day we receive thousands of information, we have become lazy and overwhelmed – clear calls to action help! A button with the call to action in a color that stands out from the newsletter works best.
5 – Use images
An art newsletter without images doesn’t work. Thanks to social media, we are used to consuming image content, ideally moving images. So be sure to use images – especially in the art industry it makes sense!
Be sure to use your logo in the newsletter for quick recognition and link it to your website.
Attention: Make sure the images are saved in web format and embedded in the art newsletter, at 72 dpi. Otherwise the image file is too large and the newsletter can be classified as spam or not opened correctly.
6 – Set links correctly
Don’t forget to link text and images in the art newsletter. This ensures that the reader can click on your website and do what you have set out to do.
Later you can trace (track) which link was clicked how often – important information to draw conclusions for future newsletters.
Also make sure to set the links “correctly”! For example, an image should not link to your homepage, but to the relevant landing page, i.e. the subpage on your website that is about this image / art work / object. I experience it again and again that links are set incorrectly and mislead the reader – they then break off irritated and surf on another site. You definitely want to avoid that!
7 – Pay attention to mobile readability
Newsletters are usually read today from a mobile or tablet. I still experience it regularly that gallery websites are not optimized for mobile devices. Even with newsletters it can happen that the design is not suitable for mobile devices.
8 – Tell a good story!
I cannot emphasize enough that, whether it’s in your art newsletter, on your gallery website, on your social media channel, or in a regular sales conversation…good storytelling is key to good art market marketing and successful art sales.
We remember stories – and we remember personal stories even better.
Include yourself, your team, or the artists you work with in your storytelling! You don’t have to share anything from your private life, but perhaps you could share about a special art event you recently attended, or an exhibition that you particularly enjoyed. Or even better: make a personal connection to the call to action in your art newsletter, which is meant to achieve your set goal.
Why do you particularly like the work that you are offering your art customers in the current newsletter? What did you think when you first saw the work? What does the artist say about its creation – can you share a good anecdote?
The perfect addition: perhaps there is a photo of you in the studio, or alongside the work that you want to sell in the newsletter – visual language enhances good storytelling! I know, not everyone likes to use a photo of themselves in a newsletter, as it can be intimidating. I myself am camera-shy and try to avoid showing myself whenever possible. However, I know that this is not ideal: the Instagram algorithm loves photos with people in them. But we can discuss that another time. The same goes for newsletters.
Whatever you decide – whether or not to include photos of yourself:
Bring a personal touch to your art newsletter!
Even if it’s just a personal greeting and a warm farewell with your handwritten signature. Only then can you build a long-term relationship with your customers and subscribers, and strengthen your sales.