Thursday, January 7, 2010

Conversations Equal Sales

by Kate Dardine

My last post was all about getting people to come to your site, wander around and look at all the beautiful images. Now, how do you turn lookers into buyers?

According to Clint Watson, creator of the Fine Art Studio Online websites, the only way you sell art is through “connecting with real people and having conversations with them.” (Clint worked in a high-end gallery for many years before starting his own company – so he knows a bit about selling art.) “Well,” you may wonder, “how am I going to have conversations with people when I can’t see them – and am not even sure they are out there?”

You know the old saying – when there is a will, there is a way? Assuming you have the will, here are a few ways to engage in “conversation” with the viewers on your website.

Tell stories about your work.
I know, some of you are saying, “my art speaks for itself.” Trust me. It doesn’t. Now before you think I’m dissing your artwork (heck, I haven’t even SEEN it!) let me explain. Yes, the image has to speak for itself to attract the viewer. It’s color, composition, values, style have got to first grab the viewer and drag him or her in. But on a website, unlike a gallery, there is no gallerist to walk over and start a conversation with the viewer. You’ll have to do that with your written word. You don’t have to write a dissertation – in fact, you’ll want to keep it short. But you’ll want the words to tell a story that leaves the reader wanting to know more.

For example, I have a painting called “Healing Path.” I used Native American symbols in the painting. In my description of the work I wrote, “Many symbols, some personal, some Native American, were used in the creation of this painting. Titled "The Healing Path," it was painted at a time when my horse was sick and traditional western medicines weren't helping. If you'd like a detailed description of the symbolism used, please contact me and I'll send you info.” I can’t tell you how many contacts I received from people wanting to know the meaning of the symbols, wanting to know how my horse was, wanting to tell me their stories about using alternative healing methods. And guess what? I answered each of those contacts and...each one joined my mailing list…and three bought paintings...which leads me to:

Send out an email newsletter to your list on a regular basis.
I generally send mine out once a week. I keep the letter short, but provide insights into my creative life. I include a photo of the latest painting I’ve completed, and usually try to tie my “story” in to the painting I am showing. For instance, I recently completed a painting of a dead starling. The “story” part of my newsletter talked about my reticence to paint something dead, and how that was a metaphor for the very human fear of death and change and the unknown. I also wrote about how facing that fear was both freeing and empowering.

I usually mention a couple of other paintings, providing links to the images on my website. I also put “newsy” items in the newsletter – paintings that have sold, shows I’ve been juried in to, awards I’ve won, etc. And every once in a while I offer a special discount to my newsletter readers – and let them know they are the only ones getting the discount. I also, with the client’s permission, put in testimonials from people who have purchased a painting. I might give a short review of a book I’ve read or a movie I’ve seen. And I provide a short intro and link to my latest blog…

Start a blog!
My website through FASO has one built in, but there are plenty of free blog hosting sites out there. This blog is hosted by Blogger. There are a number of good sites out there that can help you get started writing a blog, and so I won’t go into detail here. Here's two to get you started. "How to Write Killer Blog Posts" and "How to Write Great Blog Content". Essentially, you want to think of your blog as another touch point, another place to start a conversation. Of course all the writing in the world won’t do you any good if you don’t have any readers – which is why I use social networking to drive readers to my blog.

In my next blog, I will share some of my experiences selling art through the internet – the good, the bad and the ugly!

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