Art Sales, is it you or?

The Lady Who Moved Away From Her Art Sales
An Art Marketing Message from B. Eric Rhoads

“My business is dismal, Eric. I haven’t sold a painting in two years. What am I doing wrong?” said this distressed artist who wanted to blame all her problems on the economy.

I have a series of questions I usually ask to help friends solve problems. The conversation went like this:

Eric: What changed? Why do you think you’re selling less?
Lady: I dunno. It must be the economy. Nothing is selling.
Eric: When did your work stop selling?
Lady: About two years ago.
Eric: Why do you think it stopped?
Lady: I really don’t know, but it’s just when the economy got bad.
Eric: What else could it be?
Lady: I dunno. I guess the people in this community simply don’t appreciate art as much as the town we were living in before.
Eric: Huh? You moved? When did you move?
Lady: Yes, we moved about two years ago to a different state.

The light went on. The root of the problem had been discovered.

This artist can blame the economy for her lack of sales, and that is a reality. But in this case there was another main factor: She moved away from her reputation. Not only did she move, she is no longer represented by a gallery in the community where she built that reputation. She would have been smart to keep taking advantage of her reputation┬áthere, but instead she’s expecting the same level of sales in her new community, where she hasn’t invested eight years in building her brand as an artist.

Organic Brand Building
For most artists, brand building occurs organically, not by design. They get out in their community, they are seen year after year in art shows and local galleries, they get some publicity, and eventually that visibility works in their favor and their prominence as an artist grows. Believe it or not, your reputation (your brand) has an impact on your sales.

In the community where I grew up, there was a local artist who I thought was famous nationally because everywhere I went, I saw his artwork, over the course of 15 years. I later learned he was a local star, but no one outside of town had ever heard about him. If he’d ever moved away, he’d have lost the cumulative effect of all his decades of visibility.

Will paintings sell without a brand? Of course. But brands create demand, a following, and higher prices.

This woman had failed to create a brand. Her incorrect assumption was that her work was selling in Town A, therefore it would sell equally well in Town B. But it was her reputation (her brand) that was making her work sell so well.

Are You Branded Where You Want To Sell?
It is critical to think of yourself as a brand and create a reputation where you want your work to sell and with whom you want to buy, and then to reinforce that brand with frequent visibility.
What — and where — is your reputation and brand?

If you want to be known in your town, your town needs to know you.
If you want to be known nationally, the nation needs to know you.
If you want to be known among museums, you need visibility among museum professionals.
If you want to be known by galleries, you need visibility among galleries.

Visibility is the key, but it is of little value unless you make it an ongoing effort to create frequent impressions. One-time visibility is of little value anywhere. Brands are built on the accumulation of impressions.

Don’t Take Your Brand For Granted
The woman I spoke with told me, “The people in my town are just not going to buy my work, so I’m going to move elsewhere.” I told her that she is likely to have the same problem unless she moves back to where her brand is already known — and even then she’s been invisible for the last two years and would need to rebuild, though it would be easier than starting from scratch. We often take our brands for granted and don’t understand the value of what we’ve built. Don’t take the importance of your brand for granted. And if you don’t have a brand, start building it now.


Eric Rhoads

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