When a customer buys your art, the excitement ramps up and that grin across your face is impossible to get rid of. You buzz around fulfilling the order and send it off with a teensy bit of anxious energy. And then! Crickets.
You check the tracking number and it was delivered successfully. And then you wait. And you worry.
And you wonder if your customer even liked it.
There are ways to ensure you not only hear from most of your customers (with rave reviews) after they get your art in the mail, but that they also come back for more. You can create loyal collectors from one-time customers. But it’s not about the customer – they aren’t usually the problem, unless you’re hitting the wrong market. The problem is that you are easily forgotten.
In our current, Westernized world, everyone has too much to do. Our checklists are miles long. We get tons of news stories and advertisements and media coming at us ALL THE TIME. There’s just so much going on that we forget about things unless they’re right in front of our face.
So you can’t rely on your poor, over-stimulated customer to remember your name or web address.
You’ve got to make it incredibly, ridiculously easy for them to find you when they don’t even know that they’re ready to buy art – I mean before they even start searching the internet for their next art purchase.
There are three methods that work really well for this, keeping you in your customer’s mind just enough that they won’t go browsing all over Fine Art America without coming to you first.
1. The obvious. Social media. If you are able to get your customers to connect with you on one or more of your social media accounts, they’ll see your posts on occasion and are unlikely to forget about you. But this isn’t a very reliable method.
2. The followup. You probably already send two followup emails when a customer purchases: the confirmation email (which is likely sent automagically) and the “I shipped it” email with tracking number and estimated arrival date. But you probably don’t send the third email – ie the most important email you send to a customer! This is the “you should have received your package” email, but it’s really an excuse to connect with them on a deeper level. You send it when you haven’t heard back from a customer for about a week after you expected the package to get to them.
This email is under the pretense of checking to make sure the package got their safely (which you want to know anyway) and asking if they have any questions about hanging it or if they need anything else from you. That already shows you going the extra mile for your customer as many companies, including solo-entrepreneurs don’t actually send an email like this.
But you’re going to go one step further.
You’re going to also ask in this email for them to send you a photo of the piece hung up in their home (this gets them interacting with the purchase more) that you can post on social media to show everyone. And you’re going to ask them if they want to join your email list.
So it can look something like this:
Hey Joan! I’m just checking in to make sure your package arrived safely since I anticipated it would get there last Thursday. Do you have any questions about hanging the piece? Let me know if there’s anything at all that you need. I want it to be a breeze bringing my art into your home. In fact, I’d kinda like to see it when it’s up. Do you mind snapping a quick photo of the piece on your wall if you have time? I’d love to share it on social media to show it off a bit! If you’re interested in hearing about my behind the scenes creation process, catching any discounts I run, and getting first dibs on my newest pieces, you should pop onto my email list too. Just head to [link] and sign up so you don’t miss it. But I’ll be sure to also let you know if I make anything I think would go particular well with [Name of Piece They Bought] and really fits your tastes.
It’s important that you send this fairly quickly after they receive their art. You’re shooting for the time after they’ve hung it but before they’ve gotten used to it and the excitement has faded. That’s a short window. For most people, it usually takes them about a week to get it up on the wall where they like it. That’s why I like to send this third email out a week after they’ve received the package.
If you wait too long, that rush of purchasing will be gone and they won’t be thinking about wanting to hear about your new pieces and they won’t be excited to take a picture of their new art because it won’t feel new anymore. Stick to the plan and get the email out on time.
And don’t forget if they sign up to your email list that you should actually be emailing them! The best frequency for artists seems to be once a month, short emails with either a new piece or an in-progress shot (or both!).
3. The system. I love a good system because, as artists, our heads don’t organize things in a very business-y way. We end up forgetting important things and latching on to very unimportant things. But you can combat this with a solid system. And my system for customers is called a CRM (client retention management).
I’ve tried a lot of these and have found Highrise, Trello, and Capsule to be the best free ones made for managing contacts. But if you already have a system where you keep a lot of information (perhaps inventory management) you might try to incorporate your contacts into that system so that everything’s in one place. So maybe Evernote, Asana, Tessera (made for artist inventory management!) or something else?
A spreadsheet works fine too, but I do prefer to add an image to mine to remind me who each customer is. If you can find it, that can be a picture of their face. But you could also just use a picture of the piece they bought. The more visual you can make the system, the better it will work for your “artist brain”.
Whenever you make a sale (or connect with someone who might buy from you), put them into your CRM.
Put down as much detail as possible, even including emails if there’s anything unusual discussed in them. And then once a week or once a month, depending on how many sales you’re making, go through and send a few emails reconnecting with these people. You should be trying to send collectors an email no more than once every six months. And your goal is not to sell them, but to connect with them, building your relationship. So you just drop them a super-quick note like this:
Hi Maria! I just thought of you today when I saw this adorable pink scarf… I just knew you’d love it. Wish I had snapped a picture! How is your darling daughter liking school this year?
Or “I just thought of you today when my new neighbors mentioned they’re from Philly.” Or “I just thought of you today when I was poking through my archives and [Name of Piece they Bought] came up.”
The point is to connect with them about something personal you’ve found out about them through your previous communication. At the worst it’s “just wanted to see if you still like the piece?”. That’s weak, but it’s better than nothing. Don’t be afraid to latch onto something really small. If you customer has a unique name, you can tell a teeny white lie saying you heard the name somewhere else and thought of them. If they live in a more remote town, say someone mentioned the town. I don’t really think lying is a great idea, but a tiny fib that won’t arouse lots of questions can be for the greater good of connecting with your collector.