I had been a professional artist for four years before I realized that I had been missing a really big trick. I wasn’t cultivating my mailing list. I had a small collection of email addresses that my website provided kindly collected for me, but I didn’t really do much with them. I didn’t do anything at all, in fact.
This was a serious mistake. I was avoiding working out how to use an automated mailing list provider because I had hadn’t had the time or energy to immerse myself into finding out about aspects of social media, which was to me “new” technology. Don’t laugh. I wasn’t until quite recently that I “got” Pinterest or Instagram.
Now, younger people are probably shaking their heads at this. My niece famously said that the mini ipad I had on loan from the school I was working for at the time was wasted on me. She was probably right. I didn’t have the time. I was either preparing lessons, marking or painting. In 2016 I left teaching and I dedicated a lot of time to finding out how online stuff worked (not just facebook and twitter). It took a lot of effort but it was worth it.
This was vital for taking control of my own marketing and developing long-term and (importantly) direct relationship with collectors. Online galleries may bring you one-off sales, but they don’t seem to be terribly good growing repeat customers. Yet, I knew from experience that relationships & friendships, I had developed via Facebook and Twiter, and increasingly on Instagram, encouraged art collectors to support my work on a regular basis.
How many times have you had someone tell you that they “love your work but can’t buy it right now?” The mailing list is a way in which you can keep those potential collectors in touch with what you are doing. Some collectors start off with small paintings and come back and buy larger ones. It’s also about trust. If fans get to know you through your work and your stories they will become emotionally invested in your continuing success. People buy from those they trust. Most importantly, for you, it is your list. It doesn’t belong to the online gallery, Facebook or Instagram.
Where to start? Collect names and email addresses – at craft-fairs, exhibitions, from people who have bought your work in the past. You do need their explicit permission to email them or else you are breaking EU GDPR anti-spam laws.
Sign up for online marketing platform – I use Mailchimp.com (it’s free for mailing list under 2,000 names). I find not find it easy to work out how to use it but I watch a lot of Youtube videos and read articles on Pinterest and I got there in the end. There are also others to choose from such as Aweber.com and Tinyletter.com. These sites also provide pop up/sign up forms that you can link to your website or blog.
You can offer free downloads of a catalog, book, or print to encourage sign-ups (not a colouring-in page).
It’s not about the hard sell. Subscribers want to hear your latest news, the inside story on life as an artist. I have to remind myself that not everyone uses facebook, twitter and instagram or follow my blog and my newsletters are often a summary of the sort of content that is published on those platforms. A fair bit of content is similar to what I blog about, but not exactly the same.
As with social media – be consistent. Send out your newsletter regularly, whether that means twice a year or twice a month.
Ideas for content
Exhibitions (setting up, behind the scenes, opening night)
Photos of paintings in collectors’ homes
Work-in-Progress photographs (the “sneak peek”)
Remind people of your story “about me”, how I came to be an artist
New products – e.g. prints, greeting cards, tea-towels, online courses, ebooks
Encourage subscribers to follow you on other platforms
Inspirations – such as other artists or locations that inspire you
Revisit old work
Encourage subscribers to follow you on other platforms (as the content is not identical on Instagram or facebook).
Failures and challenges (hard though it can be to admit these, people like to see you overcome minor difficulties, you are human after all).
Review of Art products
Business tips for artists (quite a few artists sign up to artist’s newsletters)
Finally, remember not to put in too much. It’s not a newspaper. You want collectors to visit your website. It also needs to be visually appealing (canva.com is useful for this), have a consistent brand feel to you. You also need to proof-read it carefully!