This is the story of two different artists I know.
About six weeks ago, one of them emailed me just after she’d returned home from a big plein-air painting competition. It had been a great experience for her, she reported. Not only did she sell three paintings, she had collected the names and email addresses of 56 people to add to her monthly newsletter contact list. I was impressed!
Then, about a month ago, I ran into an acquaintance who had also just participated in a different, equally prestigious plein-air event. He was thrilled that he'd sold one large and three small paintings.
“And how about contacts?” I asked, excited to hear more about his success. “Did you collect lots of names?”
“Jennifer,” he said, his tone letting me know what a stupid question I had just asked, “you don’t understand how busy we get at these things. I don’t have time for that, so I just hand out business cards.”
Oh. I see.
Sorry if I sound like a broken record here, but I believe that building up your mailing list is probably the most important tactical move you can make in art marketing. Your list is your holy grail. Your list allows you to routinely communicate targeted marketing messages to the people who’ve identified themselves as fans of your work. What could be more important than that?
Want to start working towards increasing your mailing list? Here are four different paths to new subscribers, all of which can and should be used routinely, not just once:
1. Through face-to-face networking. If, like my friend, you participate in events where there are lots of art enthusiasts present, such as group exhibitions, you need to make time to chat with potential collectors and ask for their names and email addresses, no matter how busy you may be. If the event is something like a plein-air competition, where you are indeed actively working, perhaps you could set out some kind of sign-up sheet and encourage people to fill it in as they watch you work.
Keep in mind that this type of networking works just as well in your daily life as it does at art-related events. As you go about your daily business, interacting with the people around you, be bold and ask people if you can add their contact info to your mailing list. It could be anyone from the person you meet waiting in line at Starbucks to your kid’s karate teacher. As much as possible, you should ask every person you meet who seems even moderately interested in your art for their contact info.
2. Through social media. Have you been working hard to build up your following on social media? Good for you! But now it’s time to take at least some of those relationships to the next level. At the very least, you can occasionally post an invitation to subscribe to your newsletter. But you might also think about using some kind of giveaway exclusively for new subscribers, promoted through multiple social media posts, to encourage people to sign up. A small original or reproduction would make a great incentive.
3. Through your website. As I mentioned last time, your website should be designed to prompt website visitors to subscribe to your newsletter. But here again, your pop-up window and/or sign-up page should also incentivize subscribing by offering people some kind of reward. It might be a specific, one-time-only gift for subscribing, such as a 5% discount off the first purchase or a PDF or ebook about your artwork, which can be delivered electronically. Or you could describe the ongoing benefits to being a subscriber, such as “You’ll always be the first to see my latest creations.”
4. Through your existing subscribers. Last but not least, think about ending your e-newsletters by explaining that you’d like to reach more people and asking readers to forward your e-newsletter on to any and all friends who might like your artwork. Your followers appreciate what you do and they want to support you, so they’ll probably welcome the chance to help you by doing this simple favor for you.
Granted, many of these efforts will grow your list incrementally—five new people here, a dozen there. But a big number of subscribers is not your objective; a growing pool of interested fans is. Just imagine what you could accomplish with steady effort. It’s not unreasonable to believe you could add about 100 to 200 new potential collectors to your list year after year. Wouldn’t that be great?
What have been your most successful methods for growing your mailing list? Let’s connect!