By: Jerry Yoshitomi
“What’s the best way to sell my work at ArtWalk Ventura?”
When asked that question, I tell artists that it’s helpful to consider the following nine principles, drawn from Bob Cialdini, the Heath Brothers, George Lakoff, Barry Schwartz, Kevin McCarthy, Kim Jinnett and other social psychologists. (If you don’t believe in using social psychology to sell art work, please stop reading here, as the remainder of this post will infuriate you.)
Also remember to do ‘A’ and ‘B’ testing as they do in all experiments. Try one method for the first 30 minutes and another for the second 30 minutes. See which one works best and keep that one. Keep experimenting with the way in which you’re most comfortable and those which elicit the best results.
Quickly, here are nine principles to start thinking about before we get to the crux of this post:
And here we go with the 21 tips to selling more 'ArtWork' at ArtWalk Ventura:
1. Think about everyone with whom you have a relationship. You might be able to reach them via Facebook, email, texting, Instagram, etc. Whatever the media, take the time, today, to let people you already know how excited you are to participate in ArtWalk. Upload a photo of yourself in front of your work. Provide details of where, when, directions, etc. for people who don’t know Ventura. You might even suggest great places to eat or have a coffee while people are in Ventura, or your favorite spots they might visit.
2. Ask people who’ve already purchased from you to take a photograph of themselves with the ArtWork and to post it on your page. That will communicate to all their friends how excited they are to have a piece of your artwork. Even if they can’t come to ArtWalk, ask them to upload their photos.
3. As people walk past your work, make certain that you talk with them. I suggest sitting in a stool, so that you are at eye level with people walking by, and that you sit in front of your art, not behind a table. You don’t want to have a barrier between you and the person with whom you’re developing a relationship.
4. Develop a ‘capture strategy’ to get their email address or cell phone number. You might print up small cards or pieces of paper (maybe 3” x 2.5”) where people can write down their email address (ask them to write it twice, so you can read it). In return, tell them that you’ll send them a ‘gift of art’ or a ‘gift of beauty’ into their in-box. This is called reciprocity. They can use it to show others and to even print it out for themselves. You want your artwork ‘out there’, just one won’t hurt you.
5. Immediately after ArtWalk, send an email to each person telling them that you appreciated them stopping by your exhibit and send them a ‘gift of beauty.’ Use an email system so that you can see how many emails were opened. If you can, put the emails into clusters based on the names of people (if you can remember, or can mark the cards after they leave – these people were particularly interested in the landscapes – send them an image of a landscape, for those who like animals...)
6. In terms of getting someone to input all the emails, ask your 8th grade nephew/niece to invite their friends over for pizza. You could probably get 500 email addresses uploaded for two pizzas and a couple of liters of Pepsi (and maybe a $20 Bill)
7. You might even have some ‘special’ things that you give to a few people who you think might be ‘buyers’. Maybe it’s a printed postcard with one of your images on it, or maybe something else. We are 50% more likely to make a donation to the VFW if they send us printed return address labels.
If you liked the first seven ideas, these are even more powerful:
8. We’ve all been tempted by principles of Timing and Scarcity: ‘This weekend only, ArtWalk Special’ are frequently used by others. I might consider posting on my Facebook page that everyone who comes before noon on Saturday will receive . And then for those who come later, you can offer them the early bird special even though they aren’t early
9. If you have fifteen of something to sell, don’t put out fifteen, put out three, and then replenish your stock periodically. And if you have 35 different colors of something, select 8 and keep refreshing. If there’s too much choice, people often don’t buy because they don’t want to make a wrong decision.
10. Consistency suggests that once making a choice or stand, we are more likely to follow-through with that commitment. Saying on Facebook that we’re going to join a gym means that we’re more likely to join a gym vs. making our own private New Year resolution. People have already ‘self-declared’ that they’re interested in art by coming to ArtWalk. A framing question helps people to get into the mindset of being a collector. So we might say things like: It’s great to see so many art collectors at ArtWalk, or have small stickers that people wear saying “I own art” or “I’m an art collector” or something like that. One of the questions to ask people is ‘what art do you now have in your home?” or if you’re selling jewelry, ‘what is your favorite piece of hand-made jewelry?’ The brain-mapping people tell us that when we think and then tell our story, the image of that piece of art is connecting in our brain, making it more likely that people will buy from you.
11. Bob Cialdini says that these principles are more powerful when applied together. For example, put out three different images on postcards (for example, a landscape, a seascape and a still-life of fruit) and encourage people to choose the one they want to take with them. Reciprocity is at play, as is consistency: they’ve made a choice in terms of the image they prefer and you can tell them about the image and maybe take out other images to show them. Once in conversation, you can also ask them if they’d like to take a second postcard to give to someone else. They might respond, ‘yes, my Mother would love the still-life’. That gives you another opening. You might even ask them if they’ve ever purchased a piece of art for their Mother. Be ready for comments like: yes, no, a long time ago, etc. and be prepared with responses to each. This is not unlike improvisational theatre. I’m thinking that Tracy Hudak might have some tips for us here.
12. We might also combine consistency, social proof and maybe authority to ask each of the members of the Ventura City Council, the City Manager, other Ventura City Officials and Members of the Ventura County Board of Supervisors about a favorite piece of art that they own, particularly one they might have purchased at ArtWalk. And let them know that we’ll feature them on this year’s ArtWalk pages when they select what they’re buying this year.
13. The Contrast Phenomenon suggests the importance of communicating how my life would be different if I had your image of ‘beauty’ to look at every day in my living room. So the testimonies are helpful, or even before and after photographs. A very sad family in front of a blank wall and then a very happy, vibrant family in front of your ArtWork.
14. To encourage people to stop, practice ‘liking’ something about them. If they are wearing a t-shirt, tell that you’re also a Dodgers fan, or even tell them ‘that’s a great hat’ or ‘are you a Bruin like me? When did you graduate?’ Everyone likes to stop and talk about themselves. However, be genuine, as people can see a fraud a mile away. I would never tell someone that I’m an Angels fan, because my eyes and body language would tell everyone that I wasn’t telling the truth. But I can say truthfully, that the Angels’ Stadium is more child-friendly than Dodgers’ Stadium.
I hope that you’ve tried some of previous fourteen ideas. Here are the final seven to complete the 21 steps. Please let me know which ones worked the best.
15. Practical: How are people going to get the ArtWork home? Do you have a nice bag to put it in, or does my $100 piece of jewelry go into a re-cycled Von’s bag? Will you deliver it to my house? Do you have a friend who lives nearby who can take it to them? If they want to take it on an airplane or have it shipped home, do you have an existing relationship with the UPS store so you know how much it will cost to pack and ship. (Maybe we could have an ArtWalk sponsor do this?) If you know the cost, you might even want to say that you’ll pay the shipping. I’ve seen packing and shipping as the ‘veto’ for the partner who really doesn’t want the stuffed bison head hanging in the living room.
16. Practical: Many people who come to ArtWalk might not have the $500 or even $100 in their checking account to purchase your ArtWork, so please do everything you can to make it possible for them to buy it. Art is an impulse purchase, and you want to make certain that the something goes home with them. All the money going into your wallet can probably wait, as it hasn’t been there before. Remember also that many people these days do not have ‘paper’ checking accounts. So if you’re committed to selling your work, I strongly suggest that you create a Square or other online method of processing payments. You might also consider having a simple form photo-copied so that someone can make a down payment and make periodic payments to you. One of the ‘liking’ principles is that you trust them to make the payments. This step will contribute to them speaking highly of you and making a future purchase from you.
17. Authority in the art world is often presented as ‘winner of a Guggenheim fellowship’ or ‘part of the U.S. Pavilion at the Venice Biennale.’ Authority is only valuable if it’s relevant to the person who’s deciding to buy your ArtWork. I’ve seen Authority presented as ‘Olivia’s Grandpapa’ with a photograph of Olivia putting together the wooden puzzle Grandpa made. Or it can be the photographs of other happy ‘collectors’ who also own your ArtWork. Imagine if there were a few photographs in frames of smiling people with your painting the background or are wearing your jewelry.
18. So Authority can be blended with Social Proof: Are other people like me also buying this work? There could even be a testimonial from someone who received your work from a friend as a gift. One of the things that ArtWalk might do in the future is to have ‘people’s choice’ awards for the most innovative exhibit, most beautiful, most whatever…. Or you can build social proof on your facebook page, with all your friends raving about the new artwork you’re exhibiting.
19. If you’re an artist who doesn’t want to have any new relationships and doesn’t want to talk to anyone about your artwork, then don’t try, because even if you try, you’ll fail miserably. Instead, recruit someone you know who loves your artwork. Have them ‘represent’ your work. It’s much easier for them to say ‘that piece of jewelry looks great on you’, because even though they’re representing you, they’re not the artist.
20. So at the end of the weekend, you’ll be exhausted, but hopefully you’ll have a few more sales and many more relationships that will lead to future sales. Although you’re exhausted, it’s imperative that you follow-up with your new relationships, post on their facebook pages, etc. You might even draft messages before the weekend that you send after the weekend. Or have surrogates send for you. Otherwise, if it’s too long of a gap, your new relationships will forget who you are.
21. Lastly, before ArtWalk begins, remember to rehearse in front of another person (or at least the bathroom mirror) what you’re planning to say. Do you look authentic, enthusiastic and committed to others’ well-being? If the answer is yes, you are ready!!
So there you have it. If you follow these 21 tips, you're well on your way to establishing relationships with future fans, supporters, collectors, and maybe even a friend or two. The best part? You will most likely sell some of your work along the way.
About the Author:
Throughout his career as an arts administrator, Jerry Yoshitomi has been involved in modest initiatives that have had significant long term impacts on the arts in the United States, Canada and Japan and more recently in Australia, New Zealand, the UK, Chile and Argentina. In recent years,Grassroots Fundraising has been a major focus of his work, encouraging organizations and artists to successfully seek small amounts of funds from large numbers of people. Now and Oxnard resident, he is pleased to share this thinking with the artists of Ventura County.