In last week’s post, I wrote “The price tag reflects the quality of the art.” Let’s talk about that a little bit.
One of the things artists usually forget when they price their work is that not only is the value of the work reflected in the price tag, but the price tag reflects the value of the work.
It’s in that little flip that we realize we have a little control over how customers perceive our art’s worth.
A good example of this is J.C. Penney, a department store. A few years ago, they decided to drop their prices. Their philosophy was that a shirt might cost them $10 to make, so it wouldn’t be right to sell it for $100. And they were guessing that customers would be thrilled to be able to buy the shirt for $20 and be able to buy more because the one cost so much less. They were anticipating a huge jump in the number of sales, which would ultimately add up to more money even though the price of the sale would be a lot less.
What happened? It utterly failed. They lost customers, they lost money, and the whole pricing shakeup was quickly abandoned.
They did some research into why this happened and it turns out that people think a $20 shirt is cheaply made and cheaply designed. People don’t want to own a lot of $20 shirts. They want to save up and buy that $100 shirt and feel like they own something special. Even though the clothes were the same, at the cheaper prices customers weren’t perceiving those clothes to be of good quality so they didn’t want them.
This is true across industries. Of course it’s more nuanced than just “always charge more”. Those same customers wouldn’t have been more excited to pay $1,000 for a shirt because that’s outside the realm of J.C. Penney’s customers’ concept of what a shirt can cost. So there’s a balance here.
But this is really clear proof that being cheap doesn’t mean you’ll sell more – and it often means you’ll sell less.
The only exception is if you sell commodities. If instead of selling art, you were selling a staple household item like butter or paper towels or even a clock radio, then people are usually looking for the cheapest price. If all the different butters are lined up in the grocery store, unless you know you like the taste of one better you’re just going to pick the cheapest – and if you like the taste of one better, you’re willing to pay a little more but not a lot more.
But art isn’t butter.
Art is an emotional purchase. The price tag matters – the piece has to be literally affordable for that customer – but ultimately most art customers are buying based on their emotional connection to the piece. So they want to think the art they buy is worth a certain amount, that it’s not just crap anyone could have made.
Your art has intrinsic value, and your customers can bring value (or take value away) based on their experiences and tastes, but you also have some control over the value from a more logistical standpoint.
You might raise the price of your art if the quality of your art outweighs the price tag, or if you want to subconsciously hint to your customers that your art is worth more money.
By pricing well, you can set the customer up to feel fantastic about buying a piece from you that they already wanted. If you want to learn how to do this, I would be thrilled to teach you – for free! I’m hosting an online lecture where I will thoroughly explain all the elements that go into pricing effectively so more people who love your work and praise you for it actually end up buying it too. You can sign up for the lecture over here.