I bet if you’ve spent much time reading online about business, you’ve heard people say that you aren’t selling whatever your product is. So you aren’t selling art. You’re selling whatever problem that product solves.
And when you sell art, that sounds like a bunch of wahoo nonsense.
What problem could you possibly be solving for someone. All they are going to do with your “product” is hang it on the wall. But just because this is a business-y concept with a mass-market feel to it doesn’t mean it doesn’t apply to fine art.
You should actually embrace this idea…
Let’s compare it to something a bit more utilitarian – Williams-Sonoma. If you don’t know, they sell kitchen goods. You should Google them. Williams-Sonoma just sells things for the kitchen. That’s it. You could get similar things at Walmart or versions in a similar level of quality at a department store or a local specialty shop.
So they just sell kitchen stuff. People buy based on price, the quality of the pot, or the size available. Or… maybe they are actually selling the idea of an active, homey kitchen that produces gorgeous meals guests drool over. Yes, I think Williams-Sonoma has a brand. They are selling much more than kitchenware.
They are selling a lifestyle.
I’m going to call this the Selling Subtext, because alliteration is fun. As Williams-Sonoma was growing, they were able to use this Selling Subtext to grow an audience practically around themselves and to give their customers a way to identify themselves using Williams-Sonoma.
As a result of their Selling Subtext, they have a lot more marketing options and even options for expanding their product line. In fact, they started out selling just a few different pieces of cookware. They can also do cool things like sponsor culinary programs in schools or support non-profits who work to end world hunger. And they do.
Their customers are much more likely to buy because they’re not buying a thing (booooring), they’re buying a mindset and a lifestyle.
As an art business, you can adopt this mentality with just a touch of creativity. Some ideas for the basis of your Selling Subtext are selling interior design or a decorated home, satisfaction of a completed task (especially good for new home owners), a calm atmosphere (or any sort of atmosphere that fits your brand) for their living environment… you could even be selling the idea of “home” like Williams-Sonoma sells the idea of the “kitchen”.
Then take it further, using your target market to inform the specifics of your choice. If your target market loves traveling, they might be more interested in an eclectic feel to their home. Their idea of a positive living atmosphere is very different from someone who lives out in the country on a farm and likes the routine and comfort of that daily life.
So the way you present your Selling Subtext has to reflect your target market, even if the foundation of it is basic (like “I’m selling home”).
Let’s take it another step. Once you’ve identified your Selling Subtext and the nuances of it, brainstorm a list of ways you can help your target market beyond just selling them art.
This is where your Selling Subtext is more than just a business concept, it’s actually useful.
Here’s an example. If your Selling Subtext is a completed home, fully decorated in a very clean and timeless fashion so any guest that comes over is impressed with how finished and classy the home is… then on your list could be framing work for them before you send it, selling in collections so they can finish a wall in one purchase, and getting pictures from your customers to show how your work can be included in a “finished” home (complete with links to the furniture in the room to help potential customers pull a room together quickly).
Start by implementing just one idea, but work toward doing them all. This way you’re helping your customers with more than just a piece of art they like, you’re helping them build a decorated home.