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.