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“Peoplewatch” your way to your perfect buyer


So the show season is almost in full swing and you are beginning to shlep your stuff hither and yon to all corners of this country. If you are a gallery shower you might be shlepping or you may just be busy cold calling local galleries. Either way now is the time to start thinking about some very important stuff…like where is this artsyfartsy biz of yours going and how can you not starve.


Now is the perfect time to start paying attention to those mysterious folks who buy that stuff you make. While you are on the road start to look closely at who these people really are? We call that, getting to know your target market, demographic or audience, but for now we’ll just refer to them as those nice people who buy your stuff and keep you from starving.

So what has to happen to get the ball rolling so we don’t end up in a card board home? Well, those nice folks

  • Have to find us
  • They have to like us
  • They have to have some dough to hand to us

Getting to know them…

But that’s just the beginning… so get up and talk to some of those folks milling around your stuff. Treat’em like long lost friends especially the ones who have some of your stuff in there hands. Talk to them about their day, their lives, their families, where they live. When they are gone write some notes about them… what do they have in common.

  • Are they moms or grannies?
  • Are they mostly looking for gifts?
  • Are they young couples looking for handmade wedding gifts

This is the best excuse to people watch! My favorite way to do this is to try to guess people’s stories and try to figure how that story helps them decide what they buy, or where they go etc. When I was doing the art fair circuit I often myself doing this when someone entered my booth. An important key to this working is to pay attention to your intuition, most of us can feel the energy from people and can often Know if we have something in common. So…

  • What is that lady with the sun hat and water bottle slung across her neck likely to buy or not?
  • What’s up with that mom all tangled up in kids … is she looking to pamper herself?
  • Do you think that bored guy with his wife is going to buy anything that doesn’t have horsepower as a key feature?Or is he secretly looking for her birthday present?

What’s their story?

Now, after you have spent the second day observing and taking copious notes try to summarize what you have learned, are there any trends?

  • Where do the people live, in the city, the country or…?
  • What do they tend to do for a living and how much green do they bring in?
  • Are they parents with young kids?
  • Are they childless couples?

These are the things you need to know to get a feel for who your ideal customer might be. Knowing this helps you know what is important to them, how they think, and what they might need of yours so you can spend your time in your studio focused on making the stuff that they are most likely to buy. And having stuff that the right people can’t resist will be one step closer to not starving.

Finally, once you have a good collection of characteristics, peronality, values etc. give this collection an form…name her. After you have named her then write a story about her, what does her life look like, what does she do with her time, what does she think, who are her friends, where does she hang out? Giving her form helps you visualize her so you can easily see her when she walks into your booth, gallery or shows up on your web site.


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14 ways to come home empty handed

Regardless of how or where you sell you stuff you may be unconsciously causing folks to move on down the road. Because, even though they really want to buy your stuff there is something getting in the way, so they leave your booth, your gallery or your web site. Well what’s the big whoop about that?  Turns out a lot, because you are not only losing that one sale you are likely also losing any other potential sales from that customer just because of that one bad experience. But it doesn’t stop here that person who really, really wanted to buy that thing-ama-jig from you is more than likely going to tell her friends about her experience so you’ll also lose them as potential customers.

So what follows is a brief list of some of the things you might be doing  that could be losing sales for you.


1. Hide from customers, look bored, read a book.

If you are not willing to get out and meet your buyers they will likely think:

  • You are not friendly and who wants to buy from an unfriendly person;
  • You are bored in which case they will wonder why you are there in the first place;
  • You are independently wealthy and don’t need their money so they’ll just go elsewhere with it;

2. Have a secret automatic reject button

You may not know it but you might have a couple of automatic rejection buttons hanging out somewhere. These are things about you,about your booth, your gallery, etc. that  are invisible to you but serve as automatic barriers to people doing business with you.

It could be:

  • The smell of that funny meat you are secretly cooking behind your booth;
  • The gallery you are in may be in the second under basement right next to the boilers and steam pipes, and you thought it looked “artsy”;
  • Your stuff is scattered helter skelter all over your booth creating a confusing mess
  • Your kid may be playing Lil’ Wayne’s latest and gettin’ down with some kool dudes clearly disinviting potential buyers

3. Only offer buyers one way to buy your stuff

No way are you going to give those credit card companies any of your money because you want to keep every cent. Or maybe you just take cash because you don’t want to take the risk of a bad check.

4. No seal of approval

There is no evidence that you are anything more than an itinerant street seller and hence no indication that you are trustworthy or that you care. This  really mostly applies to web sales since there are still a lot of folks afraid of giving their personal info out over the inter-tubes.

glas_ped5. No way for them to know if your stuff works for them

There is no way for them try that sweater on of if there is there is no mirror. While that superly exquisitly glazed Raku vase looks all artsy on its museum white pedestal it does nothing for those folks who want help imageing it in their front hall.

6. Your prices are not obvious

Somewhere you heard that the secret to selling was not to have your prices showing well that only half way worked for the guys of Glenn Gary Glenn Ross.

7. The benefits of  your stuff  is clear as mud.

That potential buyer has no way of knowing if that funky painting or green pot will work in her house, so she move on. A simple description if you’re selling on-line, will do. If you’re in person let her see that the dress will great with her funky shoes.

hold_down_booth8. Your booth, gallery or web site is not inviting or comfortable

You booth or gallery could be to hot, to windy, to noisy or to smelly and who wants to be in that kind situation?
Your web site is confusing with blinking lights and cutsy stuff that does nothing more than distract your buyers from purchasing…that stuff went out soon after the internets were discovered.

9. Not easy for people to communicate with you

There is nothing obvious that says “here’s how you can contact me”, so your buyers take that to mean you hang out in a card board box somewhere.

10. The benefits of what you’re selling are not clear

The thing, the what your stuff does for potential buyers, is no where to be seen… so they move on to something that they can see benefits them because it is easier that way. If you know your perfect customer, you’ll be able to describe all the muti-faceted things your stuff does, because she just wants to know it is right for her.

11. There are no clear logical reasons to buy your stuff

What ever the reason is that people should buy your your stuff  is missing, and so they move on to the next guy who can tell them that his what’s it will give them eternal happiness making their lives infinitely easier and more enjoyable.

12. No evidence that other folks liked your stuff

There are no pictures of raving fans describing the wonders of working with you and using your stuff. They need to know that others loved and adored your stuff and thought it was the greatest thing since sliced bread…so let them see already!

13. Have more than one call to action (especially internet sellers)

Your sales page on your web site has a bazillion different choices for your buyers to make so many that they just get all glassy eyed and leave with out buying

14. See your customers as the enemy

Everything is locked up, with triple case hardened pad locks and chains connected to you ankles…ain’t nobody going to steal your stuff!! Oh and you don’t answer no stinkin’ questions either!!

Before you go into automatic freak-out mode, you need to realize that some of these things may be workable for you. The deal is you need to find them and decide if the consequence is acceptable. So you may hate talking to customers the result maybe fewer sales and that can be OK as long as you know it and accept it. You may feel shy about tooting your own horn even just a little bit, the result may be fewer folks knowing about your stuff…again that’s OK as long as you are willing to live with the results.

So how do you find out if you have a secret mine field causing you to lose sales? The easiest and best ways are to ask people, especially if you are selling on line. Put a survey on your site with just a few questions, if possible have as part of your shopping cart check out system. Another really good way is  to bribe some of your friends to be secret shoppers making very clear you want to know about their entire experience especially the hang ups and glitches.


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Marketing Monday: Back to the Future

Since we are doing this the sensible way and getting all  of our ducks in a row before we  even crack the ballroom door we need to shift the time -space continuum and put you there with your new found outlook. If you just went ahead and blasted your way into that room obsessed with finding somebody anybody to dance with you may or may not have had the results we envisioned when we took a time jumped to get you all fixed up and ready to go. You likely would have been working from the Fonz’s playbook and started strutting you stuff like peacock, and we know you really aren’t a peacock.

Continuing to operate as if you are a peacock will really only guarantee that you attract people who like peacocks and we know how that story ends. So its really best to ditch the feathers and just be yourself because that’s what’s going to get you the best result. See, to really have the best longest lasting results you have to be real and you have to know that vision of who it is you are looking for right there in front of you. In fact, without being to whoowhooey, if you name that person, and can describe that person it is very easy to move to calling up that person’s presence. In other words, if you keep her in your mind when you enter that ballroom she’ll know you’re there and turn her head just to confirm it.

Who,What….no where

Let’s take this back to reality now and translate it into you actually sitting at a show, hosting an opening, or describing your latest creation on your blog. When you know and can recognize that special just right customer you’re more able to talk to them as if you have known them forever. And that my friend, is the best ice break ever because what you have done is acknowledge who they are, in the process you’re opening the door and welcoming them in to get more acquainted. They are more likely to join you if you know their name and in turn know what they need. In marketing language the process you have just initiated is called (drum role please) your “who & What”, which is you naming who “gets” your art and why your art is for them.

So…for example, as a painter  your W&W might be: “I bring color into people’s lives by creating bright and energetic landscapes using a mix of acrylics, and other mediums.”  Or as a photographer mine is ” I help people capture their life stories through visual conversations”.

Keep in mind not everyone will hear you or recognize you, it may take several encounters before you are recognized as having what they want. Remember the dance… it took her several looks before she wanted to see what it was like to dance with you. You had her attention and in order to keep her attention you have to make the time with her about her  because she wants to check you out at her pace. Is this starting to sound familiar? It should because you are building trust here right now, but it goes beyond just trust. She wants to know if what you have to offer is worth her time and energy, if not she’ll just move on.

Support, Patience and Grace

At this stage you only want her to be open to the possibilities of a relationship with you, like going on an actual date, that’s all…no marriage,no moving in together, just a date. Don’t forget though that you do have an ultimate goal of her becoming your SO (significant other) and for that to happen, she has to feel that its’ in her best interest to get to know you better. Until she knows this, she will move at her own pace and may likely become resistant because you are ultimately wanting her to move out of her comfort zone.

In real world terms this part of the courtship is about support, patience, and grace. Your customers need to know that you support them in their time and space by patiently and gracefully understanding their need to move at their own pace. Once, they feel the warmth of your support they will start to be more open to recognizing the common outlooks the two of you share which in turn make them more agreeable to a relationship.

Where’s Waldo

We have come a long way but we’re not done yet. Yes, your time spent on the W&W was extremely helpful and eye opening but you still have to tweek things a little more. Even though you know their names, you really have to find out more about them as people so you can find them and they can find you. The ways to for this to happen are limited because success hinges on communication, and visibility. You have to know where they hang out and what language they speak so you can not only be visible to them but also, heard.

As an artist one of the best ways to be both visible and heard is to have a place that can serve to spread your word and that place now is a blog, coupled with social media tools like Facebook and twitter. You can also add, teaching workshops, giving talks to community groups about art both activities will build your credibility as someone to do business with because you are giving value with minimal investment on their part.
Sometimes straight but usually Crooked

Crooked or straight you’ll still get there

Finally, it is important for you to understand that the sales/buying process is not necessarily linear and it doesn’t move at any preset pace. Even more important you need to understand that before anyone can decide to join your tribe, give you permission to send them stuff, they need to trust you. This is the point  where you work on building that trust so they can see your value enough to agree to move closer to being one of your loyal fans.

If you take anything away from this it should be the importance of letting go of any attachments to time tables, sequences or out comes. By doing so you will be free to  let the notion of your perfect customer complete with their needs, develop organically, which in the end will lead to a more solid mutually supportive relationship.


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Robin Pedrero: Lessons & Advice For Artists

What are the most important lessons you have learned about being an artist and selling your work?

I have learned to value my art and time. To not let negative talk infect my work or attitude. I weed toxic people, places and elements out of my life. Stay positive. Build a good comfortable relationship with how money is exchanged for your art. Know how to handle a business transaction, handle it professionally and keep accurate records consistently. I know that it is ok that not everyone will like my art or want my art.

What advice would you give to other artists?

Have integrity, balance, keep learning, follow positive examples, become a role mode, take courage, thicken your skin for reviews and critiques, and breathe. Don’t be too desperate for the sale.  Oh and protect your health, making art can be hazardous. It is a gift to make art, stay well so you can share it.


Let’s finish up with more about the relationship between  musical rhythm and tempo  the rhythm and tempo in visual art.

Rhythm is also a visual tempo or beat within the artwork itself. Rhythm is an art principle. Artists create visual rhythm by repeating art elements and patterns. The repetition of elements adds balance and harmony to artwork. Alternating lights and darks gives a sense of rhythm. The shapes, colors, lights and darks are the instruments an artist uses to give rhythm to their creations. Rhythm is a principle of design with regular repetition of elements that produce the look and feel of movement. It can be achieved through the careful placement of repeated components which invite the viewer’s eye to jump rapidly or glide smoothly from one to the next. Rhythm is important to composition and harmony in a work of art. Elements can carry their own separate rhythms; color rhythms, line rhythms, and form rhythms.

Let’s look at some possible rhythms; the most common type, visually could be dark light – dark light – dark light or insert another element like a shape, line or color. There are alternating rhythms. Progressive rhythms occur when there is a gradual increase or decrease in the size, number, color, or some other quality of the elements repeated. Rhythms can flow and also be random. “Rhythm is as necessary in a picture as pigment; it is as much a part of painting as of music.” (Walter J. Phillips) My motto as I mentor is “Pay Attention” by that I call you to do what we as artists do, in our job we take time to look, really experience the moment in the present with all of your senses. Can you feel the rhythm?

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ArtWorks Featured Profiles

Profile: Christy DeKoning, artist

Christy DeKoning grew up in Sydney, Australia. With formal training in singing and classical ballet, Christy worked as a vocalist on the Vancouver music scene in the early 90’s, and then as a Certified Makeup Artist for several years before finally concentrating her career in Fine Arts.

In the past several years, Christy has completed over 200 commissioned watercolor portraits for clients worldwide. Christy now lives in Southwestern Ontario, Canada with her husband, two sons, two cats and a backyard full of squirrels (but no mice!).

Her artwork has been featured in ACEO Magazine, and on Boundless Gallery. You can also view Christy’s work at ArtFire, Flikr, Facebook and IndiePublic!

Christy started drawing portraits in graphite, and had painted in acrylic with not much success before trying my hand at watercolor – it’s been her favorite medium since, and now that she has a certain familiarity with it, a comfort level if you will, she is working at improving my techniques with watercolor instead of dabbling with other mediums.

She has always drawn people, for as long as she can remember. Eventually people started asking her to paint portraits of their


houses, family members, pets…the business just grew from word-of-mouth.

Where does your inspiration come from?

My inspiration comes from several artists, mostly contemporary. Artis Lane has been a great source of inspiration for me. Margaret M. Martin was my first “favorite watercolor artist” because her paintings were so colorful and dynamic.

How has your art evolved over time?

I feel my portraits have become “cleaner” since I started using watercolor. I’ve learned how to use color in different ways, and now I can keep a portrait fresh and clean from the start to finish, whereas when I started – it got a little muddy from over-working or choosing the wrong colors.




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Marketing Monday: Courtship The Unlinear Way

Ok… now is the time to really, take a close look at this whole courtship thing and see how it works ….but first let’s revisit everything, briefly. Remember, the steps your buyers will be taking, first there is the sighting and the dance to get acquainted and check each other out and this will take however long it takes ’cause not everybody moves at the same pace. If that goes even slightly well  then you move on to that date, asking her to trust you enough to get in your car and go somewhere. If she trusts you she’ll get into the car and once again… these things take time. After all you are looking for movement to the final level which is the whole commitment, death do us part schtick, well not quite that much …but maybe ya never know.

A little twist of non-linearity

There is another little twist to this courtship thing and both of you do it, you just may not know it. If your goal is to reach the pinnacle of “death do us part” especially with someone who also believes in it. Then you’ll have some kind of a plan, idea, concept whatever stashed in the the wrinkles of your brain because while just any warm body might give you a bump in hormones that exhilaration will be gone sooner than…well you know its’ not a recipe for long term commitment. Asking for her hand in marriage after the first dance or whatever, will probably not work so well.

That’s why you know almost instinctively you gotta reveal some of your stuff, let her see what a wonderful person you are, before she even agrees to step into that car.

Knowing your part

So the point here for you dear artist is don’t jump on that person strolling into your booth right away or have a tantrum because she left empty handed…things take time ( you’ll hear a lot of that). That’s why it is not good to start with the first sight but instead take a look at that next level by having a vision in your mind both about you and who you want to attract. Why? Well while that person who left empty handed really only left empty handed she still had a notion in her mind about you. It is at this point that you need to know first if she is worth courting and second what your part in the process will be.

201_ask_show071208-copy1That’s why I’m starting here at the “next level” rather than the across the room sighting. See that instant in time when the trust kicks in and she decides to get in your car is important, ’cause if all you see is the rush of immediacy you’ll be stuck there forever and likely lose a lot of good sales in the process.

On needs and wants

So in order to get to that long term committed level you have to have a plan, a vision of who you are really looking for, who she is and what she holds dear. It only makes sense that you know first who would want your stuff and second what about your stuff they are drawn to, and why your stuff is important to them. Now is not the time to have an artistic identity crisis.

Think about what she considers important, what she might be needing, or even wanting and make sure your stuff equals her needs/wants. Does that mean being a slut… no not really, it just means that knowing what your stuff does for her helps you weed out the ones who really don’t care that much about your stuff to step into the car with you. And that saves you a lot of sweat and anxiety…trust me.

You can’t push the river

Remember, she got to the car door because you were giving her a look inside of you and your stuff, you were showing her that you had what she needed and wanted and she could take her time. She also agreed to go with you because you were prepared, you understood who she was and what she was looking for so you could start showing it to her at her own pace. You can’t overwhelm her because then she’ll get all resistant and annoyed…but you can acknowledge her pace and trickle in the stuff she needs to actually get into the car. Oh, and just in case you thought this was all about being altruistic and not taking yourself in to account…well that’s not really the idea. See, if you just keep giving and giving in order to get her to the car door, you’ll likely soon be getting all resentful and probably burned out…then what do you have?

Paying attention at this point is important because you have to know what balance looks like and when you are out of balance with yourself. So, pay attention to your resentment threshold ’cause that is when you can easily start the downhill slide.

139_ask_show071208-copyShow me the money!

Ok what’s this look like? Well, first of all the important thing is to keep in mind that you want to stay in front of them, you want to be enough in their mind that when they think of buying something like your stuff they automatically think of your stuff first. To do this, you will need to be in contact with your folks at the very least once a month but preferably weekly,and this can happen in many different ways. And you don’t have to go all overboard and start weekly only to burn out after the fourth week.  The key is pacing and consistency.

The key to it all

If you are going to build trust with those folks who are “thinkin’ or lookin’” you have to some way to contact them otherwise you may as well invent a time machine and go back to “them good old days”. The best and most efficient way to do so is to have and build a list…no bbbbuts this is your business, your livelihood we’re talkin’ ’bout here. That is unless you really never intended to support yourself with your art, in which case it doesn’t matter.


Those folks lingering around your stuff aren’t just passin’ time they are checking you out and deciding if they want to be apart of you and your stuff. Don’t worry if you pay attention to your intuition you’ll know when to make your move. The worse that can happen is they can say “no thanks” in which case you can just slip them a card with all your info on it for when they are looking for you. The best that can happen is they can say “I’d love to get your noozeletter”.

Two tools

Once again I’ll mention a blog as a major tool to help you stay in front of your folks. The other way is to put out an e-mail newsletter geared strictly to those who chose to check you out further. The important thing about both of these tools is:

You don’t have to be a Pulitzer writer to write a blog you just have to be you, because that’s what they are looking for. A noozletter can just be some brief announcements of up coming shows, or a review of show you were just in, or a highlight of current work….that’s all nothing more.

So why the focus on the internets thing? Well…

  • It’s free when compared to the cost of mailing post cards
  • You will have a higher open rate
  • You are always accessible so they can keep up with you at their pace something that wasn’t available back in the day.

The best benefit of all

You are probably wonderin’ by now what the real benefit of all this is. Well, it is the best of all and something you were never able to do before…really become customer focused by showing them you sincerely want to share your stuff with them and that you appreciate their support. That is how you will get them to that final “’til death do us part” stage




Marketing Monday: anatomy of a courtship

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.


Talk,talk, talking

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.

Important thing!!!

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.

The deepening

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”.

The Lesson

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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Marketing Monday: Still doing the same old stuff?

Recently a couple of things boinked me on the head (not literally!!) that helped me remember that I needed to remind folks of. See, now is the time especially for those nomadic artists out there to suck it up, kick those old asshabits right were it hurts ’cause you need to focus on doing things different. Because you are coming out of hibernation to a completely different world than was there when you entered you winter sleepy time.

Do you need….?

So, what were those boinky things? They are related to the season…spring in particular, when all those tinybizes that virtually closed their doors when the air started getting cold wake up, suddenly realizing they need bizness. Now, for them getting bizness is pretty simple…sit down with a computer (if they have one) find some “cool” clip art and some fancyschmancy letters. In a flash they have themselves a “flyer” that tells the world  just how wonderful they are and best of all how cheap they are. In another flash they ‘re on their way to the local copy center to have 10 gazillion copies made in bright fluorescent yellows and greens, ’cause they want to make sure they “stand out”.

What I just described was the first group I ran into in the past few weeks. They were mostly lawn care people who ride around neighborhoods from thaw to freeze keeping our patch of green looking freshly grazed. The other part of this group, are mostly college kids seeking their summer fortunes by painting anything that stands still for thirty seconds. Representatives of both  showed up on my door step in recent weeks, some pushed the ringy button to get my attention, others just stuck their fluorescent “flyers” in my door jam. Those I opened my door for greeted me with “do you need any painting or (substitute tree trimming, lawn care as well) ” as if that is going to make me jump right out and say “where do I sign?”

Awesomeness for pennies

Another group with similar world view are the small local retailers who suddenly realized the rest of the world is coming out of hibernation. Their response is not to much different than the door knockers and flyer leavers, they step up a notch by hiring “sign painters” to plaster their windows with ginormous letters spelling out SALE or CLEARANCE, some may think “long term” and sign up to “present” their wonderfullness on every local or neighborhood movie house screen around.

So what’s the point? Well, these “biznesses” were doing what they were told, for all of modern history, to do…tell people how wonderful you are, tell them how lucky they would be to have such awsomeness for such a low,low price. That’s it…no more, just awesomeness  for pennies. See, these folks are going to continue waking up every spring only to repeat the same old ritual and same old wonderings as to why they can’t “get bizness”. What little bizness they did grab was mostly luck with a little help from low price but mostly..just luck.

But I’m not a door knocker…

Well, artists as a whole are not much different, they just don’t knock on neighborhood doors. Awakening from their winter sleep, artsy nomads frantically start sending out applications to juried shows with little knowledge of whether the show was/is worth schlepping their stuff for several hundred miles to sit in the heat for two to three days. And, like the door ringers sales are pretty much random, depending mostly on someone “stumbling on” their booth.

Gallery artists can be more like door knockers if they aren’t careful because they can easily fall into the oldest law of all…harvesting and converting leads by cold calling not to far from the Fuller Brush guy of the ’40s and ’50s. The end result today is so different than those old sales hay days because the gallery owners really aren’t interested in being converted.

So as you come out hibernation don’t repeat the old “laws of selling” , instead approach this season from a different point of view at whatever pace suits your style just don’t repeat the same old habits because you’ll get the same old results. Here are a few things to get you started:

Artsy Nomads

  • Greet folks entering your booth and start a conversation…about them
  • Start collecting e-mail addresses and start using the ones you have
  • Talk to your potential buyers to find out the problem motivating them then offer a solution even if it is not you.
  • Use twitter, facebook and your blog to alert folks that you are coming their way
  • Stop applying to any and every show, do some research to see if the niche you serve is likely to be there and show up.

Gallery Hangers

  • Stop “cold calling” start visiting and studying each gallery you are interested in.
  • Develop and start following a set of criteria for visiting a gallery based on your values, vision and likelihood of your niche audience showing up and buying. If your work is western art don’t expect a gallery in an avante-garde neighborhood to work.
  • Have conversations with gallery owners find out about them, who they serve, their values and their criteria for showing.
  • Find galleries likely to display and promote your art in ways that respect its’ value as well as yours.

That’s it in a nutshell, remember “nothing changes, if nothing changes”.

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Marketing Monday: the thread that unites


mm logo w sign shadow Marketing Monday: the thread that unitesWe have talked until the cows came home about how all of your marketing JuJu is really based on what you want that ittybiz of yours to be when it grows up…so all I’m going to say here is revisit your vision. Just sit down or stand if you want, and and re-ask yourself the question “why am I thinking about doing this?” and “what do I want it to be?”  or iif you have already been on the front lines ask ” is my business attracting the type of custmers I like to deal with” or “what do I love and what do I hate about my biz?” that’s all just ruminate on that for a while.

Here are some possible reasons why you’re doing what you are doing:

  • Nothing else better to do
  • Easy money
  • Romance
  • Some side pocket money
  • You can’t imagine doing anything else
  • Afraid of looking like a FAILURE if you change direction


Keep this question present in the back of your mind…

“what business am I in?”

and yes you are in business, you are wanting to have folks fork over money for your stuff….and that’s business by any definition.

OK lets us get back to the featured issue…

We’ve already established that marketing is about relationships and the keystone to creating those relationships is you and how you see your world. When your glasses are all clean and shinny you see the world clearly and when you see the world clearly the things you make reflect that shinny clarity sending out your invisible rays that tell the folks who have similar shinny glasses that you are alive and kicking and have something they should check out.

Here’s the catch though…

Without knowing how to communicate what you are all about to those folks you are trying to be visible to, you will be very… invisible. Even more important, you might just want to think a bit about how you communicate…what is your natural way of sayin’ what you do, what is your natural way of talking about your stuff, the stuff you do that gets you all hot and excited.

This is important because any other way of saying things will go over like a lead balloon. The key to creating relationships is communications…you have to know how to talk and how to listen, unless you have perfected the art of the grunt. Moreover, in the beginning stages of starting up that relationship it is best to listen and to ask and to make the conversation more about the other person…because that’s how you gather intel, so you can figure out if there’s a match. It’s also helpful in finding out how they see their world and if it is even close to what you see.

So, at this point you don’t want to be all “gimme,gimme look at me see how great I am” or sinking into the manipulative thing of convincing prospective custmers they should like you….that’s so old school. Instead, you want to be all about giving, giving them your ear, your energy, your empathy. When, done successfully the marketing relationship turns into a two way street, because your people now eagerly await the chance to bring more of your stuff into their lives and into the lives of their friends. If you’ve done your work and know your core this is the time for that core to get all sparkly, causing all who see it to shout ahhhs and ooohs and clap. And why this happens is because you haven’t made them feel that all transactiony you wanted was to get them to buy something from you.

So  think of what it is that you are saying with your work and in your words, what do you want it to be for folks who buy your stuff. Then once you have it use it to shape how you communicate.

 Marketing Monday: the thread that unites
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Marketing Monday:pricing and the whole money thing.

Money, Money, Money the mere mention of the word causes many a stomach to tighten, that simple word is the source of  a lot of pain for a lot of folks.  The approaching  outdoor art fair season has caused the annual revisiting of that whole “how much do I charge” thing.

So what is the deal with this paper and coin thing? And why does it  cause artists to get all stiff, uptight and downright grumpy? Well…to start with, many of us grew up being told that talk of money was not polite, that it was also a source of…of PRIDE that awful thing. We grew up hearing our dads grouse about how much something cost and how he could “do just as good if not better even with his hands tied behind his back!” thank you very much! To even more complicate the issue, those of us from the “heartland”here had an extra thing to deal with…the only bragging we could do was related to bargains. So in addition to hearing the old man grouse we also had to deal with stuff that really didn’t work or really didn’t fit but oh was it a deal!!!

What this is all about is that we have been raised with a habit, that has turned into a value statement all tied to moolah, right and wrong and our own self worth. This is especially true for us small business folks. We tend to tie everything to money and then blame it when things get ugly or blame it as the reason for the world’s woes…it is the logical consequence of how we have lived! Even worse,our stoicism and tight liped  mindset has isolated us limiting our ability to receive and give support. Because of all the fear, regret, anger, desperation around money and our closely held habit of not talking about “that stuff” in polite society, we think we are the only ones with a money issue .

So before we can even talk about pricing we need to talk about money and our relationship with it. Yes..I did say relationship and no I’m not going to go all woowoo on you, and yes, yes it is important to understand our relationship with it. All of the energy behind the habit you have given power to leads you to see money as something bigger than it is.

Because money touches us at all levels of our lives and because that touch is so deeply rooted a lot of what we feel around money is automatic and our feelings about it are no where to be found because we are collectively living in denial.

So…let’s step back and take a look at this money thing. There are generally three main areas that hang us up when we talk about pricing  each is loaded with potential triggers from our past:

  • Value– as in we have to start “valuing ourselves more”
  • Getting– as in we can “get more money”
  • Receiving– as in ” I need to learn how to receive”

money growing Marketing Monday:pricing and the whole money thing.So let’s first look at the “value”thing…

My friend and Mentor Mark Silver points out that the problem with the way we use the word value turns it into a fundamental judgment statement. The judgment statement puts our worthiness  somewhere on a value continuum between great and worthless. Even more yucky is that judgment implies comparison, one thing is better than the other based on where it lies on the continuum…because value has no meaning if it isn’t measured, compared and evaluated. Ultimately what ever we are comparing ends up on the continuum including our selves.  So when we make statements about “valuing ourselves more”  we are unconsciously invoking judgment which starts the whole snow ball to avalanche thing going. How helpful is that? Not so much…

The other thing about assigning value, especially when we look at pricing, is we almost always end comparing our work with that of others. Here’s the problem though …we may as well be comparing apples and oranges. Because, especially any one who creates, our work is unique to us and our pricing should reflect that. Also, we tend to compare ourselves by sales which repeats the whole apples and orange thing all over again. If we make pots it doesn’t make sense to compare our pots even with another potter because she has a whole diferent vision than we do. Finally, comparing our sales of pots to Joe the wood turner, also doesn’t make sense, because we each have buyers looking for the kind of stuff we sell.

What about the “get” thing?

Well first of all, announcing that we need to “get” more money kinda does a couple of things, first it turns that money into something to be “gotten” through shear force of will. Essentially turning the whole thing into a competition,  with ourselves that can never be won because we have no control of the impulses of our buyers. We can become so focused on the “get” that we easily miss other opportunities that might pop up unexpectedly and lead to more sucess. Isolation happens here also, because we “have” to be focused if we are going to “get what we want” and miss possibilities and support available from others.

On to the “receiving” thing…

Learning to receive is a good thing for the most part, but saying “I just need to learn to receive” implies that whatever comes our way  is from some external power doling stuff out by some unknown criteria. Thinking this way can lead us to the slippery slope of blaming others for our short comings…think blaming those “idiots who couldn’t recoganize good art if it hit them in the face”. The other thing this mindset of “receiving” can lead to is scarcity which turns into fear and we all know where that goes…right back another time around the loop. If chasing your tail sounds fun then have at it, but sooner than later we all get dizzy and fall over from runing in to many circles.

So…before you start cringing and obsessing about pricing our work let’s spend some time looking at ourconversations about money. We need to pay attention to our view point, how we  frame the money thing because how we see money will show up in our conversations, by way of our body and your emotions.Our feelings about money can cause a buyer to automatically push the “reject” button close her ears and run for the hills. If the mere mention of money triggers a flash back to hearing your parents you might want to spend some time sorting out this whole money thing.

Pay attention to all this stuff and know that all it is, is habits and habits, we can change… all we need to do is be ready.

 Marketing Monday:pricing and the whole money thing.
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Marketing Monday: be a profiler


mm logo w sign shadow Marketing Monday: be a profilerBefore you can really think about developing a relationship it might be a good idea to think seriously about who it is you want to relate to!! Remember when you were dating you probably didn’t say “I just want a man/woman” that is a pretty big pot to fish in. You most likely had some vision of who a potential date and eventually partner might be, so you may have made a list:

  • No nose picking
  • No spitting
  • Yes good looks
  • Yes likes the outdoors
  • Yes likes dogs
  • No doesn’t like hamsters
  • Eats with utensils

Old School v. New School

You get the idea…the same is true for folks you would like to become your best all time buyers. The old school way of doing this was to see these folks as “targets” to put labels on them and then treat everybody under a certain label the same. These “targets” found and analyzed in truly dehumanizing scientific ways.

Things are different now. Now you need to get to know who would be most likely to be a supportive, repeat word of mouth buyer/customer/promoter. You need to get all deep and really describe that person in terms that fit.

Before we start our profiling thing, you need to understand that your buyers have problems and they look to you for solutions. Now this is probably something you never imagined… I mean, what kind of problems would people have that buying your stuff could fix? Well, think about what you intended for your stuff when you made it. Was it whimsical? How about colorful? Could people wear it and what was it supposed to do when they put it on? Or, maybe they want something cheery to brighten up a dreary corner. These are all problems potential buyers have as they discover your stuff.

OK… the other thing this profile process is designed to do is to eliminate those grouchy,crabby, nick-knack, flea markety types who you want to bitch slap when they ask if “made all this stuff yourself?” Focusing on who you really want to invite into your special circle will pretty much inoculate you from having to deal with folks who just don’t work for you and in the process save you  a whole lot of grief, energy and time.

Two things…

There are basically two things to consider in this process the first is the observable touchable, describable things that mostly describe these folks. Like income, family size,married/unmarried,gender,age etc. These are the hard stats called demographics you can get from census info or any other collection of people related statistics. These help you get into the ballpark or may within a couple of blocks.

The next thing is not so obvious because it is all about how the group you are looking at  see’s themselves. Like “drives a BMW” or “rides a bike” ” is a hopeless romantic” ” is green”. While plenty of people drive BMWs or ride bikes it is the underlying intention that their behavior is based on that counts. So the guy who bikes to work everyday religiously because he doesn’t want to pollute has a different motivation than the one who does it for fitness. Likewise the BMW owner may be in love with the precision of “german engineering” and see her car as a work of art while her friend my see it as a rank indicator. These factors are known as Psychographics.

Case Study

mm rei 400x122 Marketing Monday: be a profilerThere are two outdoor oriented stores here in the Twin Cities, REI and Midwest Mountaineering, one is corporate big box type the other is locally owned and operated since the ’70s. While the both attract out door oriented people they each attract different customers all together. REI is focused on more consumer, casual outdoor folks while Midwest Mountaineering attracts the the more hard core climbers, kayakers, hikers and campers. People who are looking for knowledgeable staff who can help them select the best gear generally go to Midwest Mountaineering, those who are not so concerned about such things go to REI. The difference between the two is found lies mostly in the psychographic factors and not the demographic which is relatively the same.

Midwest Mountaineering does little advertising so it draws it’s customers by word of mouth and it’s reputation of having an expert staff. It started out of the garage of the owner who sold climbing gear in the ’60s and early ’70s so it has a strong and loyal following. While REI started similarly in Seattle it has evolved its’ focus to be more consumer oriented with a touch of price point attraction by way of its’ membership rebates. Midwest Mountaineering often sells the same gear but at higher price and it specializes in premium brand gear.

While there is some cross over it is not significant, both brands have a loyal base. So you can see while both pull from the same demographic their psychographic profile is pretty much opposite of the other. The point here is to think about the psychographic element at this time because it will likely be one of the key differentiators that make the difference between a loyal following and a not so loyal one.

The whole point of this profile thing is to come up with an identity, a “name” for that person who feels like you have known forever and who as a result buys your stuff and gets other like minded folks to buy it as well. When you “name” this profile you and she will recognize each other above the din off competitive noise and maybe run headlong into each others arms for ever and ever…well maybe not like that but you never know. I call these folks “get yours” because the really get you and identify with what bring to the world.

Finally, another way to look at building this profile is to use yourself and your values as filters. Think about what is important to you when you go out into the market looking for something, what factors matter when you are trying to make up your mind. Is it knowledge, is it that they look reputable, is it that they recognize you and seem to know what you are looking for?

Now go ahead and profile away…

 Marketing Monday: be a profiler
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Marketing Monday: you know you’re already doing it, Right?


mm logo w sign shadow Marketing Monday: you know youre already doing it, Right?Ya…that thing that starts with an “M” that makes you cring, vomit and curl up in a ball in the corner. And, we have ranted and raved abut this quite a lot so let’s see how you can leverage  what you are doing.

  • You know when you run into that old college friend and it feels like you see each other everyday? You both start asking each other all that “whatcha been up to?” stuff and before you know it your old friendship is not so old anymore. Then, a few weeks later, you get a call from that same friend saying she went on your web site and “just loved your work so much” she wants to bring a bunch of her friends over to your studio. So you set up a date and in they come and out they go with lots of your stuff. That was marketing
  • You know when you’re kinda bored at that art fair you can’t figure out why you signed up for and you slither to the back of your booth pretending that you are not there? That’s not marketing
  • You know when you were standing by your work at your last opening and that person standing by your fiber hanging says ” I just love this, I never thought of hanging something like this on my walls” and you turn to her and just say “thank you” and then ask her about her house, the color of her walls, and what she has hanging where. Then after she answers you ask about what she does, where she lives, what she likes in the way of colors, textures etc. Then as the server strolls by you grab a glass of wine for her and lead her over to the sofa sitting in the sunlight of the gallery window where you continue finding out more abut her. That was marketing.
  • Remember when that hippy dippy granola friend insisted that you needed to support your local small business by frequenting the corner coffee shop? And remember, the first few times you went in and the the barista seemed to care less that you were there offering up your hard earned cash? And remember when you and a friend visited that same place and couldn’t find a comfortable place to sit and chat because the sofa and chairs looked like they were picked up from somebody’s curb and everybody in the shop was impatiently hovering around waiting for somebody to decide to leave? That coffee shop was not marketing
  • Remember the last time you were in your favorite fabric shop and you overheard a customer mumbling about what to do and how to do it and sounding very confused? And remember, how you leaned over and just asked what it was she was needing to do? To which she she said she had a hard time figuring out what colors and fabrics worked well together. And remember how you took an extra 30 minutes to talk with her and help her and you didn’t even work at the place and afterwards you gave her your card and told to feel free to call. That was marketing.
  • Remember, when you were at that stiflingly hot art fair and anticipated the heat by throwing in several battery powered fans and a couple of larger ones that ran off solar cells you stuck on your canopy? And, remember how people remarked about how thoughtful it was of you to think of cooling your booth and how because they were comfortable the stayed longer and bought more?  That was marketing
  • Finally, remember that evening at your friends dinner party and you noticed the two guys off to the side of the room, one was talking a lot and was trying to give his business card to the other guy who was obviously trying to be polite and get out of there? And you recognized the guy who wasn’t giving out cards as someone you see once in a while at the gym, so you stroll on over and introduce yourself recalling your common link and you notice the guy with the cards slowly moving away as  you and your gym buddy talk about workouts. Do you remember how he asked you what you do and you just turned it around and asked him more about his workouts, his goals etc. And listened to how he was struggling with certain issues and was amazed to find out that you were a personal trainer after he asked you the same questions. That was marketing.

So you see, marketing isn’t all about brochures, boring chamber meeting, bazillion dollar TV commercials or even sneaky manipulation to “make” someone buy your stuff. It may be for those big box corporate weenies but for us small biz folks it is really about relationships. Not just any old relationship, either, it is about relationships with the right folks the folks who get you and who you get. And it is about conversations you have with them and they have with others and those others have with yet more others.

Marketing is not about “making ” anybody do anything, it is just about letting your true self show through and letting the rest take care of itself. Now that’s not to say that it can’t be proactive because as you saw above it can be only to be real it has to be your kind of proactive. It is about ….well showing up!

 Marketing Monday: you know youre already doing it, Right?
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