Wondering how to sell art online and be totally relevant while everybody else struggles?
If I'm only allowed to say one thing about running an art gallery, it's that we need to reinvent how we find and capture our audiences.
While (what seemed to be) the rest of the world was venturing out into cyber space to establish their brands and transform the way they interact with their customers, art sellers and galleries have been stuck on a skipping broken record... playing the same tune over and over, and over again.
Here are 4 things that you can start doing today to change all of that:
Close your eyes for a minute...
...and think about how you find patrons to your art gallery or creative works store.
Let's start by figuring out what you have going for you. Is it a good location & visibility? ... a strong window display? Do you send mailers and coupons? Do you run ads? Do you have a website?
Okay, I imagine it's a little of everything. But what about social media? Are you active there? If so, what exactly are you doing with it? And why? Do you blog? If so, do you know why? Is it doing anything for you?
Now, let's talk about what needs to change.
1: Kick Tradition to the Curb
I know this sounds a bit offensive to the traditional art curators of the world, but I don't mean that we should short-change tradition when it comes to how your customers and visitors feel when they experience the art you showcase and sell. Yes, you want to convey a high level of quality and exclusivity. You want your artworks to fill our senses, not just visually, because when we immerse ourselves in it, it stirs us and connects us to the artist... and to your gallery. So, no, I'm not insinuating that we lose those qualities.
I am also not implying that we drop the brick and mortar galleries in place of websites.
Kicking tradition to the curb means we stop attracting our audiences using the old ways - like advertising with print-ads, fliers, mailers, billboards, spam, and other disruptive, expensive, and uncomfortable methods of outreach. It also means that we stop relying 100% on location and good signage to draw attention to ourselves.
Let's face it: the internet isn't going anywhere. And your future patrons are all over it.
Now, I get that there are a lot of negative connotations tied to being online, because nothing really replaces that tactile experience one has when seeing your art live and in-person... not to mention, there's something about showcasing art online that simply feels... dirty... and cheap... isn't there?
But that's only because you're probably doing it wrong.
Being online should enhance your local customer exposure, while making it possible for people on the other side of the planet to experience & purchase art that's exclusive to your gallery, including limited edition prints and originals. It should mean that every journey through your gallery, whether online or in-person, is unique and personal.
Seriously... kick it to the curb.
2: Get Your Website Design up to Scratch
Okay, so hopefully you've shaken off the traditional outreach that is holding you back, so we can talk about what's next.
Your website is the core of your entire digital presence. It makes you credible, it helps you move artwork, and it is a litmus test to the public's perception of you and the works you carry. It should do more than serve as a backstop to those who already know who you are, as in, it should engage your visitors, and be easy to navigate. These are the bare minimums.
A GREAT gallery website will have:
Artists First: I'm so sorry to say, but your story isn't what interests your patrons. It's the story of the artists you showcase, and whose works you sell. Your "about us" section should be the last item on the menu bar, and spend its time talking about the talent, not you. People will know your brand because you consistently elevate the artists you represent. There's no need to dilute your audience's attention with your back-story.
Awesome Imagery: You're an art gallery, so this should be a given, but maybe because it used to cost so much to develop them, most galleries' websites have very basic layouts that offer very few opportunities to integrate their artworks into the overall design. I see a lot of two-tone, text heavy, visually un-stimulating imagery, and little else.
Search Capabilities: Many of you organize the works you sell and showcase by artist names, and we have to click through a bunch of different screens to find the pieces that interest us. But sometimes we don't know exactly what we're looking for, but have an idea of it. Basic search capabilities and well-organized artwork will solve this problem. Maybe I just like the color blue. Is it possible for me to go on your website and search for paintings that have a blue theme to them?
Search Engine Optimization: People should be able to find you by searching artists you showcase. We should also be able to find you by searching for more descriptive phrases, like "metal industrial sculptures," should you carry metal industrial sculptures. (looking for professional SEO services? Click HERE)
Targeted Approach: In addition to your usual walk-in or collectors, who are some of your best customers? Who would you like to see more of? I know that there are some great potentials for repeat customers with interior designers and hotel chains, for example, and your website can target them in addition to individuals.
Blogging is a great way to connect with your visitors and engage them to the quality of your gallery. But it's also a great way to attract NEW visitors by using topics that are focused on your SEO strategy.
This is an area that even your biggest competitors are failing to grasp, which means there are incredible opportunities for those who are used to being overshadowed by the big guys.
Your blog comes in many forms, but is ultimately there to add value to those reading it. You can offer insight on seasonal decor, trending artists you're showcasing, and tips that make it easier for interior decorators to connect with their customers and deliver art that ties their designs together. (remember our targeted approach?)
We're always Googling for answers to our problems, so why not get in front of the Googles our patrons are executing, so we can solve theirs?
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4: Social Media
"I can't believe you're not on social media yet!" (is what I would say if you still weren't social)...
This is such a funny area, because it has so many galleries stressed to the gill, yet, it's one of the most intuitive ways for you to connect with your audience.
By being active with your social media management, you increase opportunities for your followers to engage with you. You'll be able to pull them back to your site when you show an image from one of your top artists, and they'll be able to promote you by sharing your posts with their friends and family.
Did you know that Facebook has over 1.3 BILLION active users? That's 1.3 billion... with a "b"
Of course, there is a method to this, as you don't want to fall back into the ways of disruptive marketing and advertising tactics. (more HERE)
Your outreach should mirror your art.
Think about it. The art you showcase is meant to stir emotion in those who are lucky enough to experience it. You want every interaction to fill our senses and feel like we're experiencing something we can't get anywhere else.
So, why start the relationship between your would-be customers and your gallery by engaging in outreach practices that have been around for decades, are annoying as heck, and do nothing but drive wedges between the two of you?
Digital is great. Just give it a chance. Your art gallery sales figures will prove it.
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