You’re probably going to be tempted to skip this article because it’s a pretty simple concept and something you’ve heard before. But I encourage you to read through it anyway because it’s a truly helpful tool if you know how to use it well.
And most artists don’t use it well.
Most artists I talk with started out on Etsy, where it’s customary to include a short handwritten note with every order.
And that’s where the thank you note ends.
The farthest I see people going with it is writing on some nice paper:
“Thank you so much for your order! I think you’re going to love X Thing and use it all the time! – Laura”
While that’s definitely a nice touch – I won’t knock a simple handwritten thank you in the package – it’s a bit boring and it’s easy for your customer to see it, read it, and then forget about it.
I like my clients to employ thank you notes in more ways and with more thought. Here are my favorite ways to use thank you notes to build your art business:
We often overlook the people who have helped us learn our craft, both in a formal and in an informal setting. It’s not only kind (great karma!) but also helpful in furthering your business to thank your teachers. If you have an address, send a handwritten letter. It should be specific, thanking them for one or more exact techniques or ideas that they taught you and explaining how they’ve helped you in your artistic journey.
The key with all thank you notes is specificity.
Use good adjectives and be thorough in explaining the what and the how. Then finish your letter with a two-sentence update on what you’re doing now with your art. Sign it and leave your email and website at the bottom of the page so they can find you if they want.
THANKING ART WORLD AUTHORITIES
Curators, gallerists, critics, agents…. anyone working in the art world who gives you a piece of advice or takes the time to look at your work should be thanked formally, even if they didn’t actually give you an opportunity. The length of your thank you note can vary depending on how much they’ve helped. If they simply looked over your portfolio and didn’t provide you much (or any) feedback and didn’t put you in a show or take further action with your artwork, then just a few sentences on a notecard can do just fine. But if they’ve gone to greater lengths or helped you significantly, you’ll want to write a real letter.
For these, it’s very helpful to include a business card in the envelope as a reminder of who you are (assumedly your business cards do have some of your art on them) and easy access to your contact information in case they decide to help even more.
Sometimes these notes make such an impression on a person that they go out of their way to find you another opportunity.
THANKING CUSTOMERS RIGHT AWAY
Most people are already doing this, as I mentioned at the beginning of this article, but they aren’t doing it well. Remember that I said specificity is crucial to a successful thank you note? That’s why the thank you note you put in the package when you send your art to a customer isn’t having much impact. It’s designed to get a smile and then get tossed aside.
You want a thank you note with chutzpah!
When your customer receives the art they’ve bought, this is usually the highest point of excitement during their relationship with your art. You don’t want that feeling to wane before you’ve really made an impression. So your thank you note should be as personal and long as you can possibly eke out.
Mention what the piece means to you, how it feels to see this particular artwork find a loving home, or why you think this customer is the right person for the art (if you happen to know them a little). Talk about where you are in your art journey and at the end… ask them for a photo.
Hardly anyone remembers to do this. Ask them to take a photo of it once they’ve put it up on the wall so that you can share it on social media.
When they send you the photo and you post it on social media, it’s the best kind of marketing because it’s showing people that a) someone has bought your work and enjoyed it and b) your art actually looks pretty good hanging on the wall and it also reminds them that they can enjoy your art in a more thorough way than just watching your Instagram feed – that buying it is actually an option and might be a good one.
THANKING CUSTOMERS AT JUST THE RIGHT TIME
But if you only send one thank you note to your customer ever, it should be a few months after they’ve received the art. Once they’ve had time to live with the art for a while and perhaps forget about you a little bit.
A handwritten letter in their physical mailbox can make a huge statement at that point.
It shows them how much they matter to you. Their purchase wasn’t just a transaction. Because you’re an artist, their purchase was a meaningful experience to you of letting a little piece of your soul go in order to make a stranger happier.
It’s actually profoundly deep for many artists when they stop to think about the process of selling their work.
Share that with your customer. Thank them for providing a safe and loving home for your artwork.
If you’ve had any conversation with the customer about anything in their life, bring in a personal touch.
For instance, if they mentioned having children you could send the note in August or September and ask how the start of the school year is going for their kids. Or send it in May and ask how the school year is wrapping up for them. If they told you they had just moved and that’s why they bought the art, ask them if their new house feels like home yet. Or tell them you have a friend who is moving now and had a great tip that made you feel compelled to pass it along (and of course give them a good tip on settling into a new home).
If at all possible, you want to find something to connect with them on. But if there isn’t anything, you can always fall back to some aspect of the artwork like so, “I was flipping through my archives today and ran across the piece you bought last year. Has it been treating you well? Where do you have it hanging? It’s amazing to see how my work changes with my life experiences and which parts of it have stayed the same. I do love the way the red strokes pull your eye around the painting. I don’t think I’ll ever stop loving this piece. Thank you so much for taking it out of the stacks in my studio and giving it proper wall space and, I’m sure, loads of love.”
You can go on like that and I encourage you to not steal those words exactly but rather to adapt the concepts into your own language and move them around in an order and flow that feels right to you.
I’ve written the most about this strategy because I find it has the most impact.
This is how you turn a customer into a collector (seriously, often all it takes is this well-thought-out letter a few months later for them to buy another piece of your art) and, simultaneously, create an ambassador/cheerleader/advocate for your your art who sends you new customers and fans just by talking about you.
THANKING THE MEDIA
This does mean you have to approach the press and get media placements, of course. But once you’ve done that, you want to send a thank you note straightaway.
This one can be shorter, but still needs the care and attention you give the other ones.
Draft it on your computer or a scratch piece of paper so you can edit it before you write it on the stationery you’re using. When you’re looking at your first draft, pay attention to each adjective and verb and ask yourself if there’s a lesser-used word that still encapsulates what you’re trying to say (you can do the same thing with nouns, but it’s harder).
Love becomes adore.
Appreciate becomes treasure or value.
Really changes the word entirely to a stronger word. For instance, “really great” becomes magnificent or splendid or marvelous.
These word tweaks need to be used carefully so the note still sounds natural!
But it is helpful to include more interesting language because it makes the note sound like you put more thought into it and you’re being more honest. Anyone can fake a thank you with boring language. When you step outside that language, people assume the gratefulness is real.
THANKING YOUR FANS
This can be both a public thank you, like posting an Instagram photo with a caption talking about your appreciation for the community you have of wonderful people who care about you and your art, or a private thank you, like sending a letter or email to one person who has been a particularly ardent supporter of your career.
It’s a good idea to set a quota for how many of these you’ll send each quarter. That way you know you’re continually showing your appreciation. It will come back tenfold.
THANKING GIVEAWAY WINNERS
This should be done just like they were a paying customer. You don’t know that they won’t be someday. And even if they aren’t, they might bring you customers if they love your art and fall for you because you treat them so well.
So the thank you note you put in their package should be just as carefully-written and you should set a reminder in your calendar to send another note in a few months asking them how they’re liking the artwork, just like I talked about in the Thanking Your Customers At Just The Right Time section.
THANKING OTHERS FOR OPPORTUNITIES
Sometimes things will happen in your business where the people involved don’t fall into any of these categories. Maybe a local shop offered to let you hang one of your pieces in their window display, a city official allowed you to conduct a live painting event on city property, or another artist shared your work on their Facebook page.
These people deserve a thank you too and you never know how that thank you will impact them or you.
That shop owner might commission new art for their walls. That city official may purchase one of your pieces for his sister’s birthday. That other artist might tell their gallery about you, which ultimately gets you a solo show.
All because of a simple thank you note.
Set aside time each week to send at least one handwritten thank you note.
It will only take you a few minutes but will make a huge impact – for that person, for your career, and unsurprisingly for your outlook on and experience in your business.