Each week our network of art business expert answer your questions about growing an art business. This week they cover creative ways for artists to grow and use their email list. Subscribe here to be notified every time a new Q&A is published. Have an art business question? Ask here and we’ll send it over to the people who have spent years growing their own art business and helping other artists do the same.
Sarah from New York City asks “Do you have any creative tips for using email marketing? Any examples of outside-the-box things that have worked for other artists? I feel like there is much more that can be done than simple monthly newsletters, and I’m trying out new things. Any ideas here are welcome!”
ANSWERS FROM THE EXPERTS
“Hi Sarah – I wish more artists asked about email marketing! Your email list is hands-down the best ways to build relationships with collectors and get recurring sales long-term, so I’m glad you’re looking for ways to make email work for you.
One of the first things I recommend is to ALWAYS make it easy to sign up for your email list. (I know this isn’t quite what you asked, but let’s get it out of the way first.) Anytime a person visits your website, or browses through your exhibit at an art fair, they should have the chance to give you their email address. Even if it’s just a clipboard you leave out for their contact details. If you don’t make that possible, it’s a missed opportunity.
If you want to increase sign-ups at events or on your website, try to offer something for free, right when they join. Some artists give away small prints of their artwork, or hold a monthly drawing for a small painting. The more people you can add to your list, the better.
Once they’re on the list, the more you know about them as a collector (or possible future collector) the better. This is where building a relationship can help. You can start by sending out a survey link (I like Google Forms because it’s free) and let people fill out more details about what they’re looking for, and then follow-up personally with them later as you create artwork that fits their needs. If you need to incentivize that with another drawing or giveaway, do so! I also recommend using MailChimp for your email list service, since it’s free for up to 2000 addresses. A few years ago I wrote a 4-part series explaining how and why I use them, and you can check out my first post here if you like.
One of the main reasons I’m still using MailChimp today (which ISN’T included in that post) is the ability to segment your email addresses and make groups. This allows you to send specific emails to specific groups, giving you more personalized control over the things you send out. You can create groups for people located in your area vs far away (which helps when inviting people to your upcoming shows) or segment your list based on people’s responses to your survey (ideal price range, size of art, subject matter/interests, preferred colors, previous buyer, etc). Sending out bulk emails to hundreds of different people can be a little less-than personal, but with groups and segmentation in MailChimp, you can add those personal touches while still automating a lot of your emails and saving time.
Speaking of automation, they also allow you to set up drip-campaigns – I won’t go into that here, but it’s a great way to keep your new subscribers engaged by immediately scheduling several emails for them to receive over the next few weeks and months, and hopefully lead them towards making their first purchase. Anyway, enough about MailChimp.
I’ll leave you with just one more suggestion: Rather than focusing on “sales” as your goal when sending out an email, switch it up and try to get people to respond & interact with you instead. Here’s why I say that: When a person signs up for our free 30-day trial at Foliotwist.com (my website service for artists) the ones that are the most likely to end up as paying customers are those who write back to me and have a conversation. This is true for pretty much any sales process – people buy from people they like. If you can chat with someone by email or over the phone, and show you’re a real person, they’ll like you better and be more interested in your art! So I recommend asking open-ended questions in your emails, sharing recent social media posts you may have just published (which allows them to comment and interact with you there), hold fun competitions or group chats about your creative process, and in general, try to facilitate a back-and-forth rather than just sending one-way emails. I hope this helps, Sarah! And do keep on experimenting with your email list – I can tell you’re on the right track! :)”
“Hi Sarah, Great question! I love to use email marketing, and actually wrote a comprehensive course on the subject, which you can find here.
Emails can be an incredibly effective way to stay in touch with customers and prospects, and close sales over time (since most sales are not make on the first contact, you must stay in touch with your list!) One way that artists can drive interest and make a connection is through the use of videos. This could be on your website “About” page, your blog, etc.
And why not include a video in your next email campaign? A well done video offers the viewer a new and different way to experience what you do and to learn about you as an artist. I use Constant Contact, which offers the option to drop a video link right into an e-blast, and a thumbnail will show up right in the message. When a recipient clicks, a browser window will open to play it. Use your subject line to tease that you have a new video that shows you in action in your studio, at an exhibition – or wherever you decide to shoot it. I’ll bet your opens and click-throughs really increase!”
“Hi Sarah! I’ve actually seen artists have a lot of success with regular inspiration emails. For instance, a daily illustrated quote or a weekly creativity prompt. The trick is that it has to be a separate email list that they could subscribe/unsubscribe from independently of your normal emails. That way if it’s too many emails or not the right type of emails for someone, they can receive just the normal emails.
But if we’re talking business, and I’m always talking business, you want to email launch your art at least 4 times a year. This involves taking your fans through an experience of getting to know a piece and getting excited about that piece before it (or its print) becomes available for sale.
I wrote a really thorough article about it a few years ago over on Marketing Creativity here. It’s an oldie but a goodie. You can adapt this to a tighter timeframe with fewer emails or cut out some of the non-essential emails. The point is that you’re following a bell-curve kind of process that gets your fans slowly more and more excited leading up to the day they can buy your art.“
“Hi Sarah! I’m excited to read that you are looking into ways to make your newsletter more engaging for your audience, because email marketing remains the number 1 way to sell your art online! There is definitely more that you can do with your emails than simply send monthly updates. Every artist is different and every audience is different, so you need to see what resonates with your people because what works for one artist, might not work for you.
Have you ever asked your followers what kind of content they would like to receive from you? Getting feedback from members of your list and keeping track of the data from each email campaign you send can be powerful information that will help you create content and build the “know-like-trust” factors with your audience. You see, email marketing shouldn’t be used only for selling, it should be used to help a potential client get to know you, and then like and trust you, so they’ll become confident enough to purchase from you when you make them an offer.
Be generous with the content you create and share with your fans, ask for their feedback and build engagement. Those are the steps you need to “rinse and repeat” to have success with your online sales efforts. And remember, use your voice! Artists often underestimate how much us, “non-artists”, love to know what’s going on behind the scenes in an artist studio. Be authentic and you’ll attract people who will truly appreciate what you have to say and will be glad to reciprocate with a purchase.”
In our workshops, we teach artists to do a 3 email “indoctrination” series, helping their collectors understand who the artist is, what they do, and why their art is relevant to the collector.
Email one: introduce yourself and your art, let the collector know how often they’ll hear from you, and what kind of things you’ll talk about in future emails. It’s perfectly fine to be funny, engaging, and casual as your personality dictates.
Email two: tell a story about a specific piece of art. Pick one of your best sellers or something that you think is particularly good. Tell a one-paragraph story about something interesting that happened while you were making it, or about the emotional origin of the work. At the end, invite people to purchase the work with a link to your sales or e-commerce page.
Email three: address some of the common concerns people have about buying art. Why is it priced that way, will their friends like the work (testimonials), what will the work look like in their home (showing pics of your work in others’ homes is a great way to do this), and others that might be unique to your art, with a link to buy the same individual piece as the previous email. Following a structure like this over time, 1 – 3 emails per month, can make a massive difference in the efficacy of your email marketing.