Every time you finish a new piece, you have an opportunity to make a big splash in your network (and beyond) that becomes a catalyst for sales and plenty sharing of your art. But what normally happens? You pop a picture of it on your website or online shop and cross your fingers.
Cue the sad trombone slide.
The hard work doesn’t end at the easel. So what should you do instead? Well there’s a lot of prep work you could do to get people excited about the piece BEFORE it’s finished, making the splash even bigger – but let’s focus today on a piece you might have sitting in your studio right now awaiting its glory on the internet.
Assuming you’ve done nothing to tell your audience or others that this new piece is coming, the first thing you have to do is make a plan – how will the word flow out and how will you ensure you’re drumming up excitement?
The plan should involve:
1. before the piece is available for purchase
2. when the piece is available for purchase
3. after the piece is available for purchase
4. after the piece has been purchased
You may or may not have the delight of working through each step since sometimes a piece sells right away (you wouldn’t need to do #3) and sometimes a piece never sells (#4 wouldn’t apply). Let me explain what each step entails.
Before the piece is available for purchase, you should be throwing as much excitement onto social media as possible. Well, within reason because you don’t want to be the guy who drives everyone crazy with 20 tweets in 2 hours. But head to each of your social networks and post something a couple hours before the buy button goes live on the piece.
I’ve found it really generates buzz when artists mention the time factor, like, “My newest piece is just a bit macabre, perfect for all this Halloween excitement. Stay tuned to this page to be the first to catch a glimpse in 1 hour!”
It can also be great to use the time factor to get more people on your email list like so, “Ready for some new #abstractart? My newest piece goes live in 1 hr. Sign up here to see it first: [link to your email list]”
Photos tend to get a lot of attention as well. You can do the whole piece or just a detail shot or an in-progress picture, depending on how you’re planning the rest of the launch. For instance, if you’re telling your email list they’ll be the first to see it, you can’t post the full piece on social media first.
When the piece is available for purchase, hit those networks again with a timely update saying the new piece is live and a link to see it. Try to avoid mentioning the act of purchasing, which can turn people off. Stick to the fun stuff – seeing a new piece, exclusivity (if there is some), subject matter if there’s a particular reason that could be captivating to people, etc. Of course, if you’ve promised your email list will see it first, you’ve got to send out that email prior to posting on social media. This is why planning it all out is so important.
This is a good time to also reach out specifically to any collectors you know would be a perfect fit for the work. You don’t want to send a pushy email, but collectors appreciate when you think of them so long as it’s in earnest. DO NOT email a collector about a piece if you aren’t sure whether or not they would like it. Only email about pieces that the collector is likely to be over-the-moon about. This makes it special. Don’t forget to let them know you just released it, which indicates that the piece isn’t a dud that’s been sitting around for a while and you’re getting desperate.
After the piece is available for purchase and you’ve done some initial hype, if it hasn’t sold you’ll need to keep the momentum going. Momentum is key for things like this. The moment the excitement dies down is the moment the likelihood of a sale tanks.
Good techniques for keeping the excitement going are emailing your list (or emailing them again if you already have, but waiting a few days in between), making sure the piece is posted on social media at least once a day throughout the first two weeks, getting featured in the media – blogs, magazines, tv, newspapers, etc., a post on your own blog, running a highly-targeted Facebook ad, and offline techniques – gallery shows, posters, open studio parties, etc. You could even create a video of yourself with the piece, talking about it or showing all the in progress pictures so people can see how you went from blank canvas to total masterpiece.
Just keep talking about it. You’ll feel obnoxious, but everyone else will only see a tiny fraction of the publicity you’re getting. They’ll be caught up in your excitement, not sick and tired of you. And if they DO get sick and tired of you, don’t worry – they’ll tell you – and then you can pull back.
AFTER THE SALE
After the piece has been purchased, it’s easy to sit back and do nothing. You’ve accomplished your goal, right? Wrong. You sold that piece, but what about all the other pieces you’ve yet to sell? What about future pieces? What about building your community and your clout?
When a piece has sold, you still want to talk about it. Announce that it’s headed to a new home and even give the region (city, state, or country – whichever is most appropriate to your situation), but don’t name names unless you’ve gotten permission from your customer. Take a picture of it being packed up safely or a snapshot of you at the post office.
Ask your customer to take a picture when the piece is up on the wall and send it to you so you can show it off on social media. This is a trick that ALWAYS gets people excited: both the customer and the fans who have yet to purchase. Then follow through, remind the customer to send the photo and when they get it to you, post it right away on social media, on your blog, even in your newsletter!
WRITING THE PLAN
Once you’ve read through each of these steps, write out your plan in segments so it’s easy to follow. Don’t try to take on too much. Your first time around, implement just 1 or 2 strategies from each time frame so you’re sure to get it done. Give yourself dates and times for things like mini-deadlines and schedule as much as possible ahead of time, like your social media posts and your emails which can all be pre-written and set up and scheduled to go live whenever you want, according to your master plan.
IMPLEMENTING THE PLAN
Finally, pay attention! While you’re publicizing like this, it can be easy to get lost in your plan. If you let that happen, you might miss out on an opportunity to give extra attention to a potential customer. Customers often give us clues that they are considering a purchase in the way that they comment on a social media post or what they say in an email telling you how much they love your new piece. That’s an opportunity for you to gently prod them into asking questions about the piece, ultimately telling you what they are concerned about – which is usually what is blocking them from purchasing. Your goal here is not to make the sale, but to help this person decide whether or not this piece is perfect for them.
And that, my friend, is how you create buzz when you finish a new piece. All the hard work will give you lots of new fans, a very engaged community that supports you fully, and usually plenty of new sales! Enjoy your launch!