You have your shows lined up or you have already started the routine of schlepping your stuff around the country. You may be hearing about how “nobody’s buying” and sales suck, and because you are an Artsyfartsy Biz person you decide to not let any of the rumors bother you. Now is a good time to pay attention and recall your understanding of the courtship between you and your potential buyers.
It doesn’t mater if you are an artsy nomad or a gallery shower, the process is the same, and always involves courtship. If you can remember that far back you’ll remember that your current spouse, SO (significant other), partner or whatever he/she is to you, and you didn’t happen over night,there were stages that required certain things to be checked off before the next stage was OK to move on to.
The buying process is actually very much like courtship. Your goal in courtship is to ultimately end up in a long term relationship, maybe with that person you are eying across the room, and the only way for that to really happen is for you to make yourself visible to her. Right now she doesn’t know you from Adam…you’re just a stranger.
Ya wanna dance?
These first few steps of the courtship dance are all about getting her interest, you want to move her from far across the room to maybe a conversation where she can really see your coolness. Those folks wandering into your booth or gallery are doing the same thing…checking you out, seeing if there is something to connect with. This “check out” time can vary and may be longer for one of those strangers to decide to move to the next level. There are a lot of things that can happen here to push that stranger on or bring them closer. They may be:
- Just there for entertainment or recreational shopping
- They don’t dig your stuff
- They dig your stuff
- They are looking for specific color, shape, size to match something of a specific color shape or size
- They are not sure you will be around
- They know exactly what they want and maybe you fit that need
- They need reassurance that you actually created the stuff they see
- Not quite Strutting your stuff
Now if you have developed what we call your “who and what” meaning who your work best appeals to and what they are actually looking for that you can provide, those folks who see glimmers of themselves, will start to linger. Their lingering means there might be a potential connection. Your job at this point is to make sure your W&W are very,very visible and easily discovered so the lingerers can see you are who you are and your stuff is what they are looking for.
The important thing at this point is to make the goodness your stuff does clearly visible to those who are looking or might be looking your kind of goodness. The other thing to remember is that not every one will be totally and completely crazy about your stuff. Some my just come and go, others may buy something small never to be seen again and a fraction may buy something now and may potentially buy something later. Everyone will be doing the check out dance, circling and hovering until they think you might be the solution to their problems and not to repeat the obvious but your role here is to make what you have and the solutions it delivers not only visible but clearly obvious.
Movin’ it on up
So a few of those hovering folks decided to land and most probably bought something small or “affordable” because commitment to the next level of courtship comes in small steps.
As with the first part, a lot depends on you at this point. If you are an art fair gypsy those people hovering around and buying little things assume that you won’t be back and they will never see you again everrrr, after the sale. So ask yourself, if you would drop a lot dough on something from some biz set up on a street? We know you’re good for it but they need some hand holding, just as your dance partner does if you are going get him to ask you out. Now,if you’re a gallery hanger the same would also be true because other than the opening, you won’t be eyeball to eyeball with folks.
Back in the day most things stopped here for you, the purchase was made and that was it. Today you have tools available, that were never there before, to grow a relationship to the next level. This second level of courtship is probably one of the most important because it is not strictly about selling yourself, instead it is about conversation. And no it’s not talking about how great you are, it’s more like exposing more of yourself so your partner will show up at the next dance until she is willing to come with you. Only after you two have had regular contact will either feel good enough to move things up…and conversation is the best way for that occur.
There are two primary tools you as artsy fartsy folks have the first is your blog. This is were many artsy fartsy types get hung up and all resistant because:
- They can’t imagine having anything that anyone would want to hear;
- They don’t see the value in just writing about what they are doing;
- They would rather be “working” ;
- They are afraid of the internets thing-a-ma- bobs;
The second is e-mail not spam but a way of letting your buyers know you are there, thanking them for trusting you and sharing things that can help them. you can use an e-mail newsletter to do this. It doesn’t have to be weekly, or monthly just enough to let them know you’re there, you’re thinking of them and you appreciate their business and support.
Also, there are other tools that can ease you into those scary waters, things like Twitter, Facebook, Linked-in all let you take baby steps.
Start engaging and talking ’cause that is the only way you’ll be able to move you and her to the next level and we know you want that. You need to remind them of your presence otherwise they WILL forget at this point.
There is one more thing about this level of the courtship and it has to do with trust…it is the moment when he trusts you enough to ask you out and you trust him enough to agree. Mark Silver calls this “The Sacred Moment” because it is the instant in time the trust becomes mutual. In selling stuff it is the time when you stop giving and your buyer engages her trust and starts giving by paying you for what you make or bring.
OK, you’ve agreed to go out, the trust is building as you spend more time together. And, things like this don’t happen overnight, it takes time before the two of you reach the pinnacle of commitment. You both may continue “seeing other people” and slowly start to see how deep you connect with each other. The same is true for your relationship with your buyers, some may always want to “see other people” some may decide there is not a connection and some…may be committed forever.
The great thing about this level is that those who make it are truly committed to you, they see in you a reflection of part of themselves. The appreciate that you took time, you didn’t just put your stuff out there expecting them to plop huge chunks of dough on you just because you were there. This is where you really get to see that “if you build it, they will come” doesn’t really work unless we’re talking “love at first sight”.
So as you move into the show season remember that buying is a process and you play a major role in all parts of that process. People, the right people, want to buy your stuff but they need time, they need to ease into it and they need your hand to help them along the way, so:
- Help them by making your message so visible they can really see it and decide to come closer to hear more.
- Help them by talking by making the conversation about them, what they like, who they are, what problems they are trying to solve with art.
- Help them by giving them value, by showing them how to use your stuff.
- Help them by showing them you really are who you say you are.
- Help them by showing them you understand the courtship process and give them choices to move at their own pace.
- Help them by showing you care enough to stay in touch so ask them permission to send them e-mail updates.
We’ll be talking more courtship in the coming weeks but for now just know that truly buying isn’t something most folks take lightly especially now. And, they really do want to buy your stuff…your job is to help them see your value and hold their hand along the way.
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