The Business of Art

The Art of the Mailing List

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.

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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.

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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.

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Multi-tasking 60s-style

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.

imagesHow 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.

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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.

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Ideas for content

New Paintings

Recent Sales

Discount codes

Exhibitions (setting up, behind the scenes, opening night)

Photos of paintings in collectors’ homes

Commissions

Customer testimonials

Video

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!

 

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Sign up for my mailing list here  

 

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16 replies »

  1. Very useful, Emma, thanks. I’ve also been avoiding this… one more boring chore. Sigh… But I will get onto it. Another subject you might like to discuss (hint, hint) is pricing, and whether to show prices of works on the site or get people to inquire. People are always telling me not to undervalue stuff, but I’m great at giving things away or selling them half price to my friends…

    • Well, that’ sthe 64 million dollar question, isn’t it? It’s really tough pricing your own work. My husband, Seamas, decides the prices and I adjust them up or down at bit. Size is a big factor in pricing but is not the only one. Yes, it’s a whole blog. There are so many things to consider! I always reward repeat collectors with a competitive price – as I am grateful for their support. However, they have to contact me directly via facebook messenger, or email. I agree if you under-value your work you make the rest of it look cheap.

  2. Don’t these things take time to nut out? I really enjoy sending out my newsletter, but it did take me a while to work out what I was doing. I was stumped until I realised that, in Mail Chimp, I was sending out a ‘campaign’ not a newsletter! You are so right, it is a good way to stay in touch with people who support your art, and want to have a peek behind the scenes.

    • It’s got to be siad that Mailchimp can be quite bewildering at first. I live in fear of some sort of “revamp” at Mailchimap which menas I have to figure it all out all over again!

  3. Thank you, Emma, this is timely advice for me, I feel! Definitely something that is on my ‘to do’ list and not done and yes, part of it is because of having to get my head around more technology….Maybe one of these days I’ll bite the bullet and get it started 😉

    • I was like this for months. I certainly had spend time working out how to do it, but now it all set up it doesn’t take long to send out a newsletter. I suspect my list of subscribers is slightly different from facebookers or instagramers.

  4. Lol! I don’t know about you, Emma, but I quite frequently find out I am wrong with my assumptions about other people, but with large groups there are often multiple reasons for why they do what they do, so it’s really hard to know and maybe reasons don’t matter, it’s whatever works that is important!

  5. Thanks for such a useful post. This is the sort of thing that I have thought about but not implemented. I find one of the biggest issues is collecting names. I have found, apart from friends who have purchased work directly from me, that galleries here (Australia) are reluctant to provide any details of the purchaser of the work.

    • I think most online galleries are like that which is why you have to collect the names via your own website and social media pages, if you can. They get in the way of your developing an on-going relationship with the collector. Some arists have compeitions to encourage people to sign up. The great thing about mailchimp is that you can design pop-up pages to encourage people to sign up. I usually get one or two a week. I don’t have a massive list but most of them regularly open and read my newsletters.

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