Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Giving something of value: The art of building relationship

I don’t want to pick your pocket here. Many smart people have already written and spoken about the significance of the Internet in the art industry. Brian Sherwin wrote about the importance of a solid portfolio and ecommerce for galleries... I don’t think I can improve on his message. I also believe that the audience here at MyArtSpace is not only art savvy but Internet savvy as well, and as such, I’d rather stick a fork in my eye than write another article about why a website is important for the arts. I think we’ve established “the why.”

Museums, galleries and artists of note have websites. They might also have ecommerce to sell their wares to a global audience. Museums and galleries tend to sell trinkets online, while artists want to sell art. (This is an interesting difference and a topic I’d like to write about at a later date.)

When the Internet was born, back in the day, its primary mission was communication. The Internet of today still retains this underlying goal. It makes no matter if you are creating your website, blogging or sending out an email campaign. The primary purpose of all these things is communication with the intent to build relationship.

Building relationship is not only fun but it establishes authority as well. While marketing and advertising exec’s may feel the bottom line is to sell you stuff you don’t need and make you think you do need it… the mission of building relationship is more genuine and customer service oriented.

Speak to your audience: Think a bit on who your target audience is and where are they geographically located. Is your website online to simply display your work to one and all? Or are you looking for a commission? A gallery contract? Is your audience other artists? Buyers? Gallerists? Draw your mission to suit your target audience and then keep those people in mind.

What do THEY need?: It’s not enough to write about and structure your communications based on your needs. Your online communications must provide information that your audience is looking for. A well designed and professional looking website will get you more attention and more credibility than a site that was designed by your cousin’s friend in the basement who will do it for free. Information that is relevant and updated is extremely important. Buyers and Gallerists will want to see detail photography of work. Provide different formats…audio, video, slideshows and text. When purchasing online your audience will also want to know about you. Give your audience multiple ways to contact you… your email, phone, blog address, Facebook, Flicker, LinkedIn, and your ICQ, Skype or AIM accounts.

Give them a surprise: You might want to provide something besides your vitals. Give your audience something of value and fun… something they don’t necessarily know they want. At my business site, Dragonfly Blu Design, I provide a Client’s Bill of Rights and a Designer’s Bill Rights. I can’t tell you how often those two PDFs are downloaded. Do those two documents make me any real sales? I don’t think so, but they are there for a higher purpose… They exist on my site to establish authority, provide customer service to my clients, other designers and maybe to people whom I’ll never meet. If they are helpful in some way that makes me happy. If they result in greater networking, better still.

Let’s just forget about selling art on the web: I know a lot of artists and galleries who have sold art on the web. Some buyers have purchased the work sight unseen (so to speak) and some sellers provide a way for the buyer to view before buying. I also know a lot of buyers who will not purchase art on the Internet. They need to see the piece in the raking light, examine the brushstrokes etc. It’s all valid but let’s just forget for a moment about the sales portion of the web. Many types of people will be viewing your site, gallery, portfolio and email campaigns. Whether they are online buyers or not, the thing you can provide is something of value. What makes you or your work different and why should they purchase for their home or office? If you are a gallery why not help educate your audience in the ways of the art market?

Several big name museums here on the East Coast send me their newsletter. I generally trash them. Why? Because instead of sending me something of value (information on upcoming lectures, new exhibitions, art restoration) they are sending me newsletters focused on their latest Van Gogh scarf inventory and earring sale.

People come to the internet to do an initial search, research or just to dream. The moment of truth comes when they care about something enough to click “contact me.” Will your online presence cause them to click the “contact me” option or click away?

Think “customer service and networking” and then send it off into the world with blogs and press releases, and see what comes back to you.

Thanks for reading,



Anonymous said...

Excellent points. I think a lot of artists have a web site but don't think through what they wish to accomplish with it. Likewise, many artists send out "what's happening with me" emails that could be greatly enhanced by offering something of value. Same goes for all the vanity art blogs - I admit I'm guilty!

Lisa Mikulski said...

Thank you for your comment Anonymous. I'm glad you found it helpful.