This is part of the series Selling Your Art in the Modern Economy (intro). Read the previous ones to get the full picture: part 1 Get Personal, part 2 Website, part 3 Email, part 4 Target Market, part 5 Outreach, part 6 Launching, part 7 Giveaways, part 8 Sales Conversations, part 9 Commissions, part 10 Licensing, and part 11 Wholesale.
CUSTOMERS WANT TO FEEL LIKE THEY KNOW THE ARTIST.
It’s that way right now and it’s been that way increasingly for about 10 years. Considering how these sorts of trends go, people are going to want to feel close to the hand that made their products for another 10 or 15 years, or more.
Knowing this can be revolutionary in your art business because it helps you make decisions like operating your business under your own name instead of a fun business name or sharing occasional photos of your other interests beyond art.
And one thing I recommend all artists do is encourage referrals.
A referral is when someone who knows of you tells someone who doesn’t, about you.
Most often this is a previous customer of yours sharing with a friend of theirs who has mentioned wanting to buy art. But sometimes the referrer has never bought your art before. And that’s great too!
THE REASON WHY THIS WORKS BETTER THAN JUST TRYING TO REACH THE FRIEND ON YOUR OWN IS THAT YOU’RE STARTING THE RELATIONSHIP WITH A PERSONAL CONNECTION.
From the get-go, this new fan feels like they know you a little bit because their friend “knows” you.
It’s like a little leg up in getting this person from zero to art customer.
I’m sure you’re on board with using referrals to get new fans and customers. Who wouldn’t be? But how you get these referrals happening is a little trickier.
There are really three big ways to get people referring you to their friends: ask, develop an affiliate program, or give other perks.
I PUT ‘ASK’ FIRST BECAUSE IT’S SO DARN SIMPLE AND YET EVERYONE IS AFRAID OF IT!
I recommend when you implement your followup process with previous customers (you should have a followup process so you’re connecting with them at least once a year or they’ll disappear and never buy from you again) that you include in one of the first emails you send after the art has been delivered a request for them to tell their friends about you.
Often all it takes is just putting the idea in their head.
Saying, “Do you know anyone who might love my art? I’d appreciate you telling them about me. Send them to my Instagram so they can see my latest work!” is enough to prompt the person to think, “Hmm… who do I know who would love her art?”
That referral can happen lickety split. And once the person’s referred you once, they’re statistically way more likely to refer you again.
So just give them a little nudge and you’ll have an ambassador on your hands!
THE SECOND METHOD I WANT TO TALK ABOUT IS STARTING AN AFFILIATE PROGRAM.
I put this second because it’s the most-talked-about way of getting referrals. And it’s pretty straightforward for people since it’s so systemized.
An affiliate program is when you give your referrer a certain amount of money either for every new fan they send you or for every new customer they send you.
So it’s just paying for referrals.
I’ve seen the amount get as high as 50% of the sale with some affiliate programs, but you could do something small like $50 or 10%. Just make sure it’s not such a tiny amount that it doesn’t feel exciting or your program will fall apart. The higher it is, the more likely people will fight to refer you really amazing paying customers who love your art.
If you’re doing an affiliate program just make sure you mention it to both previous customers and your fans who haven’t yet bought (and your friends and family too – even if they don’t really like your art).
Anyone can be an affiliate for you and if you’re going to give them money, then anyone would want to be an affiliate for you too!
You should look into software that will track affiliates for you. It’s not an absolute necessity, but it makes it a lot easier when problems arise like a customer trying to claim well after the purchase that they had been referred by someone or an affiliate trying to claim that one of your customers came from them. When you have the computers handle that, then it’s cut-and-dry, black-and-white. Either the referred person used the affiliate’s referral link or they didn’t.
There’s lots of software for it and it all depends on what ecommerce you’re using and what website platform you’re on.
THE LAST TRICK I WANT TO TALK ABOUT FOR GETTING REFERRALS IS GIVING THE REFERRER OTHER PERKS.
So you can do a sort of modified affiliate program where, instead of money, they receive something less valuable to you or something more fun.
Most artists would give a free printable art download to anyone who refers a customer to them. Or you could send them a small set of notecards or a 5×7 print.
But another cool thing you could do that I haven’t really seen done in the art world is create a community only for VIPs (ie your referrers and your best collectors and maybe people who are your top cheerleaders on social media). So you could set up a Facebook group or something similar for them to hang out in and then you occasionally give the group fun bonuses like a download, a small physical product, or even intangibles like access to a Q&A session with you about your art or an exclusive look at the beginning of your newest painting weeks before you post it on social media, and of course you’d have a permanent discount code for them to use.
This is similar to how some artists are using crowdfunding right now (like Patreon) to create ongoing income and a tightknit community, it’s just a slightly different way of doing it.
And that community is what it’s really about, even though the VIPs don’t usually know that at first. You use all the normal perks to get them in but then they stay because the community feels so good and is such a fun thing to be a part of, and that’s what gets them to buy again and again and share you with everyone they can think of – because they feel connected to you.
IT DOESN’T MATTER WHICH METHOD YOU USE TO GET PEOPLE TO SPREAD THE WORD ABOUT YOU, IT JUST MATTERS THAT YOU DO IT.
So pick what lights you up the most or use a few different strategies. Just make sure that all your fans and customers know that you want referrals.
When your fans and customers don’t know that you want referrals, it usually doesn’t even occur to them to talk about you to other people.
I know it’s ridiculous, but they have too much going on in their lives to notice that you might need more customers and they might be able to help. So make sure you’ve told them and you’ll see an uptick in referrals pretty quickly just from that.
Without referrals, your business can still survive (unlike some of the strategies I’ve talked about in this series) but you have to market twice as hard, which means less time in the studio and more stressed-out moments in front of your computer.
TAKE SOME TIME TO THINK ABOUT HOW YOU COULD ENCOURAGE REFERRALS AND YOU’LL BE A MUCH HAPPIER, AND PERHAPS MORE SUCCESSFUL ARTIST.
This is part of the series Selling Your Art in the Modern Economy. To get the full picture, make sure you read the introduction, part 1 get personal, part 2 Website, part 3 Email,part 4 Target Market, part 5 Outreach, part 6 Launching, part 7 Giveaways, part 8 Sales Conversations, part 9 Commissions, part 10 Licensing, and part 11 Wholesale.
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