How to Reconnect with a Long-lost Client

Last week we received an order for four small artworks through our website. I’m always curious about how online buyers are finding us, so I did a little detective work. I soon discovered that this buyer wasn’t random – he and his wife had made a purchase from our gallery almost two years ago, and we hadn’t heard from him since.

This kind of sale happens with some frequency, but it’s outside what I think of as the normal pattern for our art buyers. Typically, when we sell multiple pieces to a collector, we end up making most of those sales in the first three to eight months after our initial contact. Many buyers get excited by the art buying process and go on a bit of a binge after making their initial purchase.

This pattern means that it makes a lot of sense for us to concentrate our art marketing efforts on recent buyers, and this is exactly what we do. However, as our recent internet sale demonstrates, it’s also important not to forget about your past buyers, even if they haven’t been in contact or made a purchase for some time.

Some artists and galleries may feel reluctant to make contact with former buyers. They feel embarrassed that they haven’t followed up or stayed in contact like they should have. They worry that the buyer might not remember them, or might feel slighted by the lack of contact. To avoid this, and to have your best shot at making sales on a continuing basis, it’s critical that you develop a system to keep track of your buyers and commit to be in touch with frequency – I would suggest that you send out images of new work and updates on your doings about every month-six weeks.

But what if you’ve been lax in your contact with your buyers?  What if they haven’t heard from you in months, or even years? Is all lost?

Not at all. It’s never too late to get back in touch with your past buyers.

I would suggest that you downplay the time that has passed since you were last in touch. Send out a note or an email to all of your past clients updating them on your career and recent work. Include images of recent pieces, and a photo of yourself (in a studio or on location, for example) to jog their memory.

You can send out personalized notes if your list of buyers is small, and if you do, reference the artwork that they purchased. You could say something like “I was just thinking about the piece you purchased [then reference it by its title] and wanted to get in touch and let you know what I’ve been up to.”

Now you can begin regular contact with the client to keep your work in front of them. You may not get any response from your first contact – don’t let that dissuade you from continued contact. You never know when a buyer will be in the mood to purchase again, and when they are, you want them to think of you!

Are Sales to Past Buyers Important to You?

What has your experience been marketing your work to past buyers? Are you good at it? What’s the longest period of time you’ve experienced between a buyer’s first purchase and their most recent? What did you do to generate that sale? Share your experiences, thoughts and questions in the comments below.

Challenge!

If you’ve had some buyers who’ve slipped through the cracks over the years, I would challenge you to reach out to them today and get back in touch following the guidelines mentioned above. Let us know how it goes!

 

About the Author: Jason Horejs

Jason Horejs is the Owner of Xanadu Gallery, author of best selling books "Starving" to Successful & How to Sell Art , publisher of reddotblog.com, and founder of the Art Business Academy. Jason has helped thousands of artists prepare themselves to more effectively market their work, build relationships with galleries and collectors, and turn their artistic passion into a viable business.

17 Comments

  1. Hi Jason!
    I actually do not have a system where I can easily locate the names and addresses of past clients. At the moment I am compiling such a list although I am at a loss as to who purchased many of my images, especially from say twenty years ago. More recently I have created a special category on my email Contact List where I register the addresses of all those who have bought something from me in recent years. They receive regular notices of upcoming shows and special events.

  2. I sent copies of the Xanadu Gallery Catalog with a little notation (mine’s on page….) to 3 people who had previously bought my work. Would have been even better if they’d bought one of those pieces but they seemed to be impressed. 🙂
    Only drawback is now I’m out of copies of catalogs.

  3. I highly recommend using an organizing database – like Artsala. I have been using Artsala for nearly 2 years and find that it has really helped me in many ways, saving me lots of time in searching for information – such as a list of contacts and customers including what they have purchased. I can print labels from it as well, or export it to Excel (where presumably you could print directly on envelopes.) Their tech support has always answered my questions quickly when I can’t figure out how to accomplish something, and you can access your account from the internet, so no need to be at your computer to check on a sale, etc (ie, when visiting one of your galleries or clients). I like Susanne Sheffer’s suggestion of sending a catalog (or ad, or interview) to clients along with a get reacquainted note.

  4. Great post Jason! Some months ago I saw a mention somewhere of a fellow who had bought one of my paintings almost 20 years ago. A little research revealed that his career was going very well, and I was able to make contact with him via LinkedIn.
    Without putting the pressure on, I let him know that I was still in the art game, and pointed him at my website http://www.norvalwatson.com .
    Although there was nothing there that suited his immediate requirements, I was able to identify subject matter and size range that would be of interest to him.
    To cut a longish story short, this week I was able to make a sale on a newly-created painting that suited his criteria, and I am looking forward to sending the artwork when the current remodelling of his house in Californiais concluded at Xmas.
    This was a targeted sale conducted exclusively via the Internet, leading to a happy outcome for all concerned.
    Thanks for all the great tips Jason, and I wish you good fortune with the new gallery layout!
    Best,
    Norv

  5. I get my collectors mailing addresses and mail out an exclusive printed newsletter once a year. I add a note on one of my greeting card to make the package personal. I regularly get sales from this follow up, my collectors are happy to follow the development of my career which makes them proud of their investment!

  6. 17 years is the most time that passed between sales to a client . My client and his wife were art collectors and bought many of my paintings in the 1980’s, the last sale occurring in 1989. I tried keeping in touch via mail but my letters and flyer’s were returned by the post office. this was long before Email came on the scene. I lived in Vermont at the time of the sales and had moved across country in 2002 to Northern California. In 2006 I received a call from my client who found my website on the Internet and was very interested in acquiring a $2,800.00 painting. As it turns out he and his wife had divorced, and split their art collection. He also sold the home he was living in and had moved out of state. He had also changed careers and then retired. We had certainly lost touch with each other but thanks to the Internet and my website he was able to find me, see a painting that intrigued him which led to a nice sale!

  7. People do come back and remember me because my art is distinctive enough it stands out in a crowd, Jason. When I reach out to people I ask how they are doing, and send a new piece or two. Buyers are far flung, but some are loyal residents. I log and number all my paintings.

  8. I think we artists must remember that although some buy for decorative issues alone. Most original work is on our clients walls for many years and is much more than simple decoration. They have a reminder every day, one they hopefully still enjoy.

  9. I’ve kept track of my sales since 1991, albeit with a rather lo-tech method. A photo print of every painting attached to a 4×6 index card with prices, exhibit dates, where shown, and ultimately who purchased the piece. Only gaps were when one gallery, being protective of their customer info, sold paintings. In this case I only had the gallery that sold it not the customer. Don’t laugh, but I even keep track of customers who have purchased over the years the same way, 4×6 cards, so I know who are my repeat buyers. Many invitation-only home shows have allowed me to keep in contact with my collectors. I’ve always signed a certificate of authenticity (expensive watermark paper with details of the painting) when a piece is sold and hand it or send it to the buyer. Recently it’s paid off (not the first time though). A collector contacted me through my website and asked me about a particular piece she just acquired from a friend. Could I let her know the value? She sent me an image of the painting with the framing. I recognized it right away as my work. Since it was sold years ago through the above mentioned gallery, I did not know who bought it, but I could verify the date and purchase price ($3,500), and mail her a signed certificate of authenticity. She was thrilled to have contacted the artist of her acquisition. I was thrilled to have the information she needed. My method may sound tedious, but the times when I’ve been able to trace back over the years to identify my past work makes it all worth the effort. I am part artist with a dusting of Sherlock Holmes.

  10. I have a problem; here in Hawaii all my work goes in on consignment and l have sold a ton or artworks over the years, some fetching seven figures, the split is 50% however l cant get a single gallery to cough up the names of my previous collectors, their clients.

    1. This is to be expected. The galleries should be doing the follow-up with their clients as I’ve discussed in this post. Galleries are going to protect the privacy of their clients and the value of the relationship by not sharing that information with the artist. If you think about it, the gallery is your client, the purchaser is the gallery’s client. It’s a great topic and I’ll be sure to address this question in a post.

  11. I agree with Derek, in the last 12 months I’ve had 4 solo shows with 4 different galleries. Times that by a twenty year career and my database of clients who have purchased is basically non existent unless I brought the client to the gallery. Most of the galleries have come and gone but one of the recent ones could not actually locate their databases and my clients from a previous incarnation……..and I sold dozens and dozens of works through that dealer. Needless to say it will not be an ongoing relationship as I expect way better than that for a 45-50% commission.

    I have another solo opening next week and the gallery host a dinner for VIP’s, its actually demoralising telling the gallery that you have so few core clients. I’m sure this is very common so look forward to your post addressing these issues, Jason

  12. Excellent post Jason, thank you! I have a question–when you reach out to the folks you’ve lost touch with who have bought your work, is it better to send a regular email or simply add them on your newsletter list? OR, if you have let the relationship slip, is it better to send a personal hello email with some updates, can you add them to your general newsletter list (using something like a Mailchimp service) or better to always try to write a personal type note to actual collectors?

    1. Hi Sarah,
      My understanding is that you should Not add someone to your general newsletter until they ask to be added. So you should send a personal email (or if you have several- an email specifically to re-aquatint yourselves), maybe with a link to the newsletter, but add an opt in (or opt out?) sentence and link to sign up. (There should always be an opt out option. even with those who signed up on their own.) Or you could send the newsletter but make it clear that you have sent it because they have shown interest in your art in the past and they can opt out if they do not want the regular mailings…Maybe someone else can explain this better.

  13. Boy, there are many good suggestions from members here. I wisely had already kept a good record of customer addresses and e mails but a few years ago the list became large enough for me to start not remembering who was who, so I started writing down what they bought and other random memory notes next to their names. Just before I launched my first Mailchimp campaign. I sent out e mails to all of them with “Mason’s Creations now has a real Newsletter” as my subject heading, a few details in the body, plus a short personal note for anyone I remembered or made notes of. This took much less time than I thought and I heard back from a few long lost customers, one was one of my biggest spenders who I lost contact with in 2004-ish.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *