Attract High-End Buyers

From my inbox:

How does one connect to the buyer agents of high-end customers? How does one get into the loop of being looked at? Performing artists have auditions and can wind up on American Idol, etc. It seems that the rest of us struggle every which way to get out there. Other than having all the necessary qualifications and Internet exposure, how do we get into that select group of artists and designers that is being considered by high-end buyers?

That’s a $10million question, isn’t it? It’s what everyone wants to know. My short answer is “persistence,” but let’s dig deeper. When people ask me a question like this, here’s what I want to know:

  • How long have you been promoting your art?
  • How many people are on your mailing list, and how have you been using it?
  • How much time do you spend on marketing each week?
  • Who created and is maintaining your website?

Their responses will tell me a lot, and then I can suggest steps for more fruitful results. In the absence of the answers to those questions here (and in the absence of any American Idol for Visual Artists), these are the three steps I would take to attract high-end buyers.

Michele Renée Ledoux

Michele Renée Ledoux, Silent Enough. Monotype, 19.25 x 18.25 inches. ©The Artist

1. Network everywhere.

You have to meet new people–more and more new people. You should be out networking not only with people who are potential buyers but also with people who know potential buyers. These might be other artists (yes, artists know potential buyers), but they could also be people who hang out at your usual haunts: museum lectures, group meetings (especially if you have a niche), church and school functions, political rallies, and the like. Meeting new people means expanding beyond your comfort zone. You never know where you’ll run into someone who could become very important for you in the future.

2. Work your contact list!

It doesn’t do any good to meet new people if you’re not going to stay in touch with them. I’ve said it a gazillion times. Connections are critical to your success. How often are you reconnecting with the people you know? The most alarming weakness in most artists’ marketing is not using their contact lists to maintain personal relationships. Make sure everyone you know is aware of your art and who your potential buyers are. When your connections come across a good match, they’ll think of you first.

3. Get a website evaluation.

One thing stood out for me in the above email message: the phrase “Internet exposure.” You can’t just have a website. You have to work that site through consistent blogging, Facebooking, Twittering, emails, and newsletters. You need a strong, well-constructed professional presence. Templates and blogging platforms make it easy for anyone to build their own sites. However, unless you know how to add <Title> and <h> tags (and lots of other stuff) correctly, your site might be ineffective. Ditto for copywriting skills. Words rule on the Web, but you have to know how to use them to your advantage.

If you’d like to become a better blogger to enhance your Web presence, check out the Blog Triage class, which begins April 7 and is limited to just 30 people.

FINAL WORD: If it sounds like I’m singing the same tune over and over again, I am! Outside of the major international art fairs that attract the world’s elite collectors, there’s no single place you can show up and be seen. There is no magic pill for attracting high-end buyers. What you need is true grit. It takes persistence and determination, which is why the life of an artist isn’t for everyone. Don’t try something once or twice—or even every so often—and think you’ve failed. In fact, don’t think of it as “trying” at all. As Yoda said, “Try not. Do or do not. There is no try.” Do!

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8 comments to Attract High-End Buyers

  • One of the big reasons artists want to move to New York is it has the highest concentration of the ultra wealthy. Every really big name artist has that big name because somehow they’re being collected by the very rich.
    But there are many different paths that can lead to success for an artist.
    You can do a heck of a lot for your career living in a small town. The suggestions in just this one new post Alyson wrote will do it, IF you just do them (and of course do lots of great work in your studio).

  • To attract the high end buyers you have to BE high end…Birds of a feather flock together…(& sneering secretly doesn’t help- so, if you don’t like that demographic, you can seek the demographic that better reflects You!)…

  • Could you list “all major international art fairs that attract the world’s elite collectors” or like shows for us?

  • Philip: And that’s a big IF, isn’t it? Nice to see your gravatar here!

    Sari: Good point. Success gurus would say “Act As If”–as if you belong.

    Lisa: See these links:
    http://www.tefaf.com/
    http://www.art-miami.com/
    http://www.artchicago.com/http://www.artbasel.com/

    Also, read the chapter “The Art Fair” in Sarah Thornton’s book “Seven Days in the Art World.”

  • A friend sent your link, knowing my research and work for high-end buyers, that maybe I’d think about the Lancaster workshop. Not sure when I saw this – “Other ***then*** having all the necessary qualifications. . . .Ditto for copywriting skills. Words rule on the Web . . . .” Then should be THAN. And yes, words do rule, so – please correct this error. Then=when / than=comparison.

  • Teri: Understandable. I usually try to correct grammar in others’ quotes (this was not my own writing). I missed this one both here and in my newsletter–as did my editor. Thank you for pointing it out.

  • Alyson, great post – but it did raise a couple of questions for me. While I completely agree with all three points you post, I wondered, how important do you feel the ability to do public speaking is for the artist? Networking is an absolute must, but it’s been my experience that being able to give a gallery talk, or a guest speaker is a great way to get your name in front of those people you’re wanting to network with.

    And, in the day and age of the internet and websites like Imagekind, Zazzle, etc., I think you could also make the same arguments above for attracting a solid client base for low-end buyers (those that buy prints, books, items designed by an artist but not necessarily what would be considered “fine art”). Do you feel the same?

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