There are a few types of people who buy art and may be part of your target market. It’s important to know all the options and assess which ones fit your art and your preferred marketing strategies the best.
Let’s start with hunters. These are the type of customer who needs your art right now. They’re finishing up moving into their new office and want everything to look finished when their customers come through the door. Or they’re buying as a gift for a close friend or family member’s birthday. They’re looking for something very specific and they want it now.
Hunters are obviously unpredictable from your perspective. You can’t know what sorts of people are moving, redecorating, buying gifts, etc. So these sales are random and your biggest marketing methods probably won’t reach these customers.
But you can make it easy for them to buy so you seal the deal. Think about guarantees, handling times before the piece is shipped, and making sure they trust you.
The most obvious of all art customers are the collectors. These are the regular folks who buy your art to put it on their walls. They’re your bread and butter so most artists focus their branding and marketing on collectors.
To help collectors feel good about buying your work, make big improvements to the “experience” of buying so it doesn’t feel transactional and take care to add personal touches to your marketing so people can understand who you are, the hand behind the art. Don’t forget to ask them to tell friends and family about you, which they will do and your word-of-mouth sales will increase.
It can be daunting for emerging artists to speak to interior designers. But this is a surprisingly good opportunity to sell more art more often. If an interior designer knows your art, when a project comes up that’s a fit they will call you and the sale is very likely to happen without much work on your part.
But you can’t make those sales if the interior designer doesn’t know you exist. So you have to seek them out and provide them with some examples of your work and price range.
If you can keep enough inventory either of prints or even originals, retailers may be interested in carrying your art in their stores. It’s best to start with small, local businesses first. Offer them a wholesale discount, but don’t put your work on consignment. That might result in no sales where a wholesale deal is paid upfront and done.
There is a downside to selling to retailers, aside from the big wholesale discount. You don’t make a personal connection with the final customer, the one who hangs your art up in their house. So you can’t get their contact information, personally thank them, or tell them anything about yourself to help them feel like the purchase was special.
Consider discussing some options with your retailer to include a business card or other branding or to have the salesperson tell the customer a few tidbits about you when a customer is interested or buys.
There is an entire field out there for artists who want to rent their art to manufacturers of products. So your art could appear on duvet covers, tea towels, calendars, notebooks, even clothing! There are tons of different products your art could be right for and lots of manufactures making those products and looking for the right art.
To start out in licensing, you need to have at least one small “collection” or series that you could share with a manufacturer and you need to be prepared for the process from the lingo to negotiating a legal contract that doesn’t hurt you or your business. You can learn all that and more in my Artistic License course.
An oft-forgotten customer base is other businesses. While businesses will keep their art for years, they also stay in business a long time and do need to update their art every so often. You’ll never know when they’re looking for new art because they often go through an art-selling company (which frequently sell not-so-great art) so it’s best to approach them if you think your art would look good in their space and be attractive to their target market.
It’s unlikely the sale will happen when you approach them, but they frequently keep an artist’s name on file and call them months or years later when they are in the market.
This is a great way to make a lot of money in one fell swoop so it’s worth putting your feelers out there and seeing if any businesses are interested. It’s about the same amount of effort as it takes to reach a new hunter or interior designer but you sell a lot more for that effort.
There are companies out there who sell posters of artwork en masse. They print the art, matte and frame it, put it in a catalogue, and sell it thousands at a time to huge retailers like Walmart. It’s technically licensing, but a special section of the licensing marketplace.
This is pretty hands-off for the artist, but that does mean you make less money for each deal. You want to make sure before you seek out this type of deal that you are happy with how it will affect your reputation. The effect can easily be good or bad, depending on your target market and your own perspective.
Take a few minutes to pick which types of customers you want to seek out and if you want to spend more time on one or two than the others. I highly recommend you think about why that type of customer would be interested in your art and how you’d be able to make the process easy and fun for them. Then take a look at your strategies and make sure they match which customers you’re trying to reach.