Let's talk about finding art buyers offline to help grow your business. While I teach a lot about selling art via the internet, today I'm giving you tips on selling your work the old-fashioned way, but as always, you're in charge of your own art marketing.
1 | Know your ideal buyer
The number one tip for finding buyers offline is . . . you guessed it: know your ideal buyer. If you're an artist taking charge of marketing your own work (and I hope you are), whether you're marketing online or offline, this is the foundation of your success.
You need to know who you’re marketing to. Your whole marketing plan will flow from this, so if you haven’t done your ideal buyer profile yet, start by downloading my free Ideal Buyer Worksheet:
It might seem counter-intuitive to potentially ignore a large number of people by focusing on a specific ideal buyer, but it works: the more specific you can get about your ideal art buyer, the better you will be at selling your work.
Think through what your ideal buyer does in their leisure time, what their interests are, where they engage in the real world.
Get good at honing your voice and your message for just the right people, then put yourself and your work in situations where your ideal buyers are most likely to be. Make sure that you’re being as specific as possible so that when you're meeting people, whether it’s at a summer art festival, a group show, or a networking event, the right people (the ones your art is just right for), are the ones who will be the most attracted to you.
2 | Create a list of places you could go to meet your ideal buyer
Brainstorm a big list of places you might go to meet your ideal buyer. Say you’re a landscape painter. Perhaps your ideal buyer is an outdoor enthusiast. Think of the national organizations they might belong to, then bring it down to the local ones.
For example, here in Colorado we have the Colorado Mountain Club. Members are people who like to get outside, and the club hosts events for people to learn mountaineering or back-country avalanche safety, or join a group for skate skiing at one of the ski resorts. In summer they regularly organize hikes.
Use your imagination and write down the possibilities for your ideal buyer. Brainstorm related organizations, meet-ups, and nonprofits. Think of businesses, museums, festivals and ask yourself, “Could I meet my ideal buyer there? Is that where they're spending their time?” Then choose where you're going to focus your efforts and get to know some people.
3 | Find in-person sales opportunities
First of all, find the traditional art sales opportunities in your area, like galleries, festivals, boutique stores, and tourist shops. See if your local artist association provides group show opportunities, or an arrangement where you can apply to display your art in local businesses.
Be creative and find non-traditional opportunities too. You can show your work at a tattoo parlor if your ideal buyer might go there. What other opportunities can you think of?
Photo by Ruben Ramirez on Unsplash
4 | Get out, meet people, and make connections
You don’t need to be an extrovert, but you do need to get out into the world and make connections. Try attending exhibitions at galleries where the work that’s showing is similar to your work. You might meet other gallery owners at the show, other artists, and potential buyers (I’m not suggesting that you walk up to people and say, “Don't buy what's on the wall, buy my art instead,” of course!).
Seek out artists who are successful in businesses and network with them. These are the kind of people who can support you in your business.
Get some practice telling the story of your own journey as an artist. We’re drawn to other people’s stories, to their deep experiences of life. You can start by telling your backstory—the story of where you came from, what you do, who you do it for.
Telling engaging stories helps your potential buyers feel an emotional connection to you and your work. Just meet people, say hello, and start from there.
For more about telling your own story, read point 8 in this post: 10 Top Marketing Tools for Artists.
5 | Build a relationship with past buyers
Stay in touch with people who have bought your art in the past. Communicate regularly with them, telling them about the projects you're working on in this coming season. Engage with them: are you having a show or an open studio? Invite them. Include them in special VIP offers.
They could purchase again, and they could also be your connection to new buyers. If they fit the profile of your ideal buyer, invite them for coffee to learn more about them. Let them know that you’re expanding your network and that you’re looking to connect with more people with their interests.
Ask, “Can you think of anyone who would be a good connection for me? Would you be willing to make an introduction?”
For more details on how to go about networking, read Grow Your Art Business by Building a Network.
Email is one of the best tools for staying in touch with your past buyers. Staying in touch can result in follow-up sales and referrals to others interested in your art. Make sure you get email addresses from your past buyers. Then identify them in your email system as such so that you can reach out to them as a group easily. Don't have an email list yet? Read this post: 6 Important Reasons Why Artists Need an Email List
Now you’re all set to lay the groundwork and grow your art business offline. Tell me how it goes below!