Keeping in Touch With your Art Collectors

Marketing art can be a huge challenge. How do you get your art in front of people who will not only love it, but want to buy it as well? Should you invest in magazine ads? Participate in art festivals? Show your work in a local gallery? All valid tactics you should be pursuing, but you may be overlooking your best marketing opportunity: Selling to collectors who have purchased your work in the past.

This seems like an obvious suggestion – after all, past buyers clearly like your work and have explicitly told you they are qualified to purchase(nothing says “I can buy” like pulling out the credit card and buying). Yet I find that many artists and galleries are not putting their full efforts into marketing to past purchasers. If you aren’t actively pursuing sales with past collectors you are neglecting your best pool of potential buyers.

In a typical year 25-50% of my sales are made to existing customers. Existing collectors tend to buy larger and more expensive works, and the more they trust me and the better the relationship, the more frequently they will buy.

your biggest risk with collectors is not that they will stop liking your work, it’s that they will stop thinking about you

Perhaps you haven’t been as good at following up as you would like simply because you haven’t had a follow-up plan in place. I want to share with you some suggestions that will help make you a follow-up expert. Better follow-up will lead to more sales.

I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: your biggest risk with collectors is not that they will stop liking your work, it’s that they will stop thinking about you. Don’t let this happen!

In this post I will give you a broad picture of what client communications should look like – I’ll focus on more specifics in future posts.

The Big Picture | Long Term Strategies for Keeping in Touch

Before I dive in to specific tactics, let’s take a moment to discuss my thoughts and motivations underlying my follow-up plan. By understanding what the long-term strategy is, you will better understand my suggestions and why each is important.

Build your Mailing List

Job #1 is building a mailing list and keeping it organized. You are going to have a hard time following up with your customers if you don’t have a good mailing list. Make sure you are keeping all of your addresses organized and up to date in a format that makes it easy for you to access the information.

Our ArtSala service will allow you to keep track of collectors, but a spreadsheet or even ledger book, will as well. Do what makes sense for you and allows you to easily keep track of your customers and potential customers.

Marketing is a numbers game, so the larger your pool of potential buyers the more sales you are going to make. Building an effective mailing list takes time, so if you haven’t already, get your mailing list started today.

Your goal in your continuing contact with collectors is threefold:

Continue building on the relationship you began when you first met or when they first bought

Keep them thinking about you and your art

Position yourself so that when they are ready to buy, you are the one they think about

Frequency of Contact

Whenever I talk about keeping in touch with collectors, the number one concern I hear expressed by artists and gallery sales staff alike is “I don’t want to annoy my customers.” A valid concern, to be sure, but while there certainly is a point where you would be crossing the line and being too persistent, most of the time you are erring on the opposite side and not contacting your collectors nearly enough.

As a general rule, I like to contact my collectors every 4-6 weeks. By varying the type of contact and keeping the contact relevant there is little risk of offending. Remember, your contact isn’t made in a vacuum – these are not strangers you are contacting cold – these are people with whom you have already begun to establish a relationship and who have bought your work – they want to hear from you.

I will also say that immediately after a purchase I will be in contact more frequently with the buyer. I’ve found that once a buyer has had a positive experience you have a window of opportunity to sell more art while the iron is hot.

Just after we opened our gallery in 2001 we had a couple wander in during a show and buy a small piece by the featured artist. The couple lived in the area and so I offered to install the piece for them. When I arrived at their newly-built home I saw that there were many empty spaces in need of art. I suggested bringing out more of the artist’s work and began a campaign of sending the clients images of additional pieces I thought might fit in their décor. In the ensuing three months we placed nearly a dozen additional pieces including two major works. It would have been easy to simply sell the clients that first small piece and let it go at that, but we would have missed out on a great opportunity to turn these buyers into major collectors.


While frequency is important, even more important is consistency. Sending out a newsletter one time might feel good, but if you don’t continue to follow up, that single contact will likely be wasted. It will sometimes take dozens of contacts to generate additional interest or a sale – don’t give up after the first few attempts.

Start by devoting four hours a week to follow-up and you should be able to sustain consistent contact with your mailing list. That time will expand as your mailing list grows, but the time will be well invested.

What to Say

While you might instinctively understand the importance of keeping in touch, you might also be saying “what am I possibly going to say to my collectors every four to six weeks?” Glad you asked.

Your communications don’t have to be complicated or even all that fancy. By varying the type and content of your communication you can avoid becoming stale or repetitious (though a little repetition is certainly not a bad thing).

Let me share some general guidelines about communicating with your buyers and what you will say.

Make it Personal

Newsletters and postcard are great and should definitely be a part of your mix, but your most effective communication will be personal. Letters, hand written notes and personalized emails will be your most effective tools. A newsletter will be opened by some percentage of your buyers, especially if it is well crafted, but a personalized note will be sure to grab attention and will be read.

Use your client’s name in your communications and reference previous conversation you have had. Ask a question or two to encourage dialogue.

Provide Relevant Information and Images

If you have a client who has told you they are especially interested in one particular subject, try and tailor your communications so that you are primarily sending them images and information regarding that subject. While you can certainly include the client in your general mailing list for newsletters, etc, your personal communications should be built around the collector’s interest.

Tell a Story

A photo may be worth a 1000 words, but telling a good story about your art will sell it. A landscape painting my be interesting in and of itself, but telling the story about how you created the piece and what most excited you about the landscape will build interest in the work and cause your collectors to look at the work more closely. Creating the work may seem mundane to you, but your collectors are fascinated by what you do and how you do it. Give them details.

Talk about the inspiration for the art, what it was that drew you to the subject, and what the challenges were in creating the piece. If you created the piece on location, talk about the trip to get to the spot.

Show the Story

Provide not only photos of the artwork, but get photos (or video) of yourself creating the piece. These images will draw the collector into the story and help them feel they truly understand what it took to create the piece.

Provide Valuable Information

Some of your communications might have nothing to do with your art. Send your collectors copies of interesting magazine article or how-to information related to displaying or collecting art. Become a trusted advisor and indispensible guide to your collector and they will thank you with future sales.

Tools for Keeping in Touch

newsletter2Be creative and varied in your communications. As I mentioned earlier, you don’t have to (or even want to) get stuck in a rut of doing the same thing over and over. Below are a list of communication methods you can use to keep yourself in front of buyers. In future posts I will delve into each of these and talk about the mechanics of putting them together and content.

Active Marketing


Letter/Personal Note



Service Calls

Passive Marketing

Facebook/Twitter/Other Social Media



When to Quit

When should you give up on a buyer and stop communicating with them? In a word, NEVER. Realize that it may be years before you hear from a buyer again or before they are ready to buy.

Only when a client tells you they are not longer interested and would like you to stop sending them messages will you quit.

Become Strategic in your Communications

Don’t leave your communications with buyers to chance, plan ahead. Rather than waiting for a reason to communicate to strike (it never will) plan out your communications ahead of time. Sit down once a quarter and plan out what your communication strategy will be for the coming months. The more specific you are in your plans, the better. Make it so that you can spend your marketing time sending the communications out instead of trying to figure out what they should be.

What you Should do Today

I encourage you to take action today to begin better communications with your collectors. Start by cleaning up your mailing list (or starting your mailing list if you don’t have one). Sit down and plan out your communications for the next three months. Most importantly, commit yourself to constant contact with your collectors.

What do you Think?

Have you had success selling to past customers? Is marketing to past buyers a regular part of your selling efforts? Do you have concerns or questions about regular contact with past buyers? Please leave your comments and questions below.

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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, 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.


  1. Most aspiring artists need to wear at least two hats to be successful. One is making the art, the other is marketing. Everything you say, Jason, rings true in theory and application. but it ain’t always easy.
    While my email and client address list continues to grow, there are issues that make it slow.
    A situation at Art Markets is being able to take the time to note down email addresses correctly. Many customers hand writing is so poor as to be medically illegible. And when my booth is popular, taking the time to note it myself is often so rushed as to be more or less unworkable.
    Sure, customers like to be greeted, but when I have a 2 grand sale moving to a close, all other activity is on hold. Including the email list signups.
    Many of my first time buyers are purchasing giclee prints of my work. And sometimes it is all I can do to keep up with the demand when folks are numerous and interested. A nice problem to have, but I’m sure I miss out on future contact with potential bigger ticket art sales. Admittedly my credit card and cash sales process needs streamlining and or better accounting. Noting everybody’s names and contact info just isn’t always possible.
    Although my local art association co-op galleries do forward contact info from sales to the artist, many private for profit galleries do not. Which is why every original and print has my contact info secured to the back of each piece, as well as a short story of the artwork’s history.

    1. Hi Norman, your problems are experienced by many of us at art shows! The atmosphere in a gallery may be more conducive to collecting that information. However this year the importance of having contact info was highlighted. It made me wish I’d done a better job at art shows in the past. But how? Some folks are reluctant to divulge their email because they fear they will get spammed. And a physical address, nearly impossible!
      I am interested in seeing if there are suggestions for streamlined non-invasive ways for us to collect more customer data while at shows.
      In the meantime I’m looking forward to hearing new ways to connect with the clients that I do have on file!

  2. Yes, I have found that keeping in communication with collectors and those who have expressed admiration of the art work is very important. Thank you for all of these fabulous details, Jason, and Happy New Year!

  3. During shows, with my more enthusiastic buyers, I have used those contact cards that Jason included with one of the Art Business Academy lessons, and often customers do put down their physical mailing addresses.

    It’s just a little quarter sheet sized card with spaces marked “Interests”, then “name, address, e mail, phone #”

  4. I am focusing on this very thing this year!!! When I am at art shows it can be hard, I get so busy at times everything happens at once! I made Sign with my Q-R code to sign up for my e-mail list. This year I am going to call it my members club, and list of the benefits. This sounds better than news letter or e mail list. I’m mad at myself for not going out of my way to collect info on some of my art buyers! I was taken by surprise last year when a couple came into my booth and bought 2 large originals $$ My Biggest Sale of the year! they wanted to take them right away! I was so excited I took there CC Number and didn’t even get their names written down in time and I forgot!!!! So, this year, I am going out of my way to slow down and think!!! Have a log book for originals sold with the customers information.

  5. This is great info but in my situation I have work in two galleries, so I rarely meet my customers. The galleries never divulge names of the customers so I don’t have a chance to connect with them. Also, out of the 30+ works I’ve sold in the past year, not even one customer has contacted me via email, social, phone, text despite the fact that I attach a business card to the back of all my works. I suppose I need to probe the galleries to see if they are adding these customers to their marketing lists. Thanks!

  6. I am just starting to reap the rewards of diligently putting out a newletter once every 4 to 6 weeks (I probably should be doing it more often?) I started with one subscriber and slowly through sign up sheets at open studio tours and gallery shows and art fairs I have grown to 280, which I know isn’t a lot, but just this month I had two purchases from my subscribers. One was a first time buyer who responded to an invite to my open studio tour. He couldn’t make it to the tour but wanted to secure his purchase of one of my pieces. The other was a previous collector who saw a new work in the newsletter and said she must have it. I also had two new buyers at my open studio tour who would never have heard about the tour if I didn’t do the newsletter. So I’m thrilled that after two years it is suddenly paying off. I won’t stop putting them out, and besides, I really enjoy sharing my journey with people who actually care to hear it. It’s so rewarding and motivational.

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