Partnerships are a great way to broaden your horizons and grow your art business. I spent years managing partnerships for a major art museum, so I thought I'd share my experience and lessons on this topic. Here are my tips for building successful partnerships to sell your art.
Focus on local businesses
For the most part, large, national businesses are hard to create partnerships with because the local employees don’t have any authority to create partnerships. And they have no flexibility in their marketing or communications—it's all dictated by their corporate office.
You'll have much more success going to your local bed and breakfast that's owned by a local family, for example, than going to a hotel chain.
Most of the large businesses have no interest in being involved on a local level, but I've found two exceptions to this so far: Whole Foods Market and IKEA.
Things may have changed with Whole Foods since they were bought out by Amazon, but I have fairly consistently found them to be willing and excited to work with local businesses.
IKEA can be a phenomenal partner as well. They are always looking to schedule entertaining displays inside their store and they hold special events too. They can have several hundred thousand people walking through their doors every month, so they're worth looking into!
So, when you are thinking of businesses or organizations to partner with, think local, including local independent bookstores, local restaurants, and boutique stores.
For a list of other potential partners, download 20+ Partnerships to Help Build Your Art Business
Connect with local artists, museums, and cultural organizations
Other artists in your community can be great partners. If you can find someone else with a similar (but not duplicate) style and create a partnership, you can double your audience (and they can do the same) while creating something that could bring you media attention.
Check out this coverage of a collaborative portrait-painting partnership between Denver artists Jonathan Saiz and Wes Magyar.
Museum education and marketing/communications departments are always up to something creative, from PR stunts to artist-in-residence programs to special events. If there aren’t any partnership opportunities right now, it’s great to have your name on their list and be in touch so that when opportunities do arise, they’ll think of you.
Use your network
The best way to get connected to potential partners is through your network. Reach out to people you know and ask them if they can connect you to a specific partnership opportunity or even connect you to someone else who could.
My tips for building a network:
- Meet with people in person, if you can, rather than simply sending email
- Since you’re looking for connections, offer to buy them coffee
- Go into the meeting with a servant’s heart: ask them first what you can do for them or if there is anyone you could introduce them to (this can take most of the meeting time)
- Then, tell the person what you’re doing, who you’re looking to meet, and ask them if they know anyone they could introduce you to
- Make sure to follow up with what you promised them
- Follow through with the connections they made for you
- Check in after and thank them for the introduction and let them know what the results were
For more on building your network, read this post.
Make sure you approach partnerships as a business venture
Finally, and this is a big one for artists, make sure that there is value for you in the partnership. We all want to be kind, friendly, and creative, but a partnership that asks a ton from you but doesn’t pay you back in return shouldn’t receive a yes. There should be real value on both sides, not just a vague promise of “visibility.”
Be clear on what you’re promising to give and what you’ll get from the partnership, and be prepared to support your partner and provide value to them—a partnership benefits both parties. Supporting the partnership may include bringing your creativity to the promotion of the project by getting the word out through your website, social media, your email list, or pitching the story to your local paper.
Enter into a partnership with a goal. This could be:
- Increasing your audience
- Increasing your sales
- Getting your art in front of a unique audience
- Increasing your email subscribers
You get the idea! Don’t go into a partnership without thinking about what you want to get out of it. Be willing to adjust your goal as the partnership is created, but don’t lose track of the fact that you have a business goal.
Track your results and do a debrief:
- Did you meet the goal you set?
- What went well and what didn’t?
- What benefits did you receive from the partnership? Expected or unexpected?
- What was your final value at the end?
- Would you do a partnership like this again?
- If so, what would you do differently?
Partnerships are a great way to broaden your horizons and grow your art business. Do you have more ideas to share with others? Put them in the comments below.
Create a Marketing Plan for Your Thriving Art Business
In my course, Create a Marketing Plan for Your Thriving Art Business, I go into detail about networking, creating partnerships, and other marketing tactics. Add your name to the waitlist to be the first to hear when registration opens.