The Value of a Thank you Card and Follow Up

I’ve mentioned the importance of following up with your clients in numerous posts in the past. I contend that artists and gallerists who follow up consistently and persistently with potential buyers will see a significant increase in sales.

This week I received an email from an artist in Montana relating the following experience she had after following up with a customer:

Two weeks ago a local woman purchased a painting I had hung in an art cafe here in town.  It was one of my older paintings that no longer fit into my portfolio and had been taken off my web page.   She wanted it but couldn’t quite afford it; I offered her a discount and was happy that this painting had finally found a good home.

As always, I followed up with a hand-written note card thanking her for her purchase and telling her the story behind that work.   I print my own cards, in small batches that feature a new or favorite painting from my web page.   She then e-mailed me to thank me for my thank you card (this has happened before!).   And, she asked if my cards were for sale anywhere in the area.

I answered that they were not, because cards would become a side business that would distract me from my real passion, which is painting, and finding collectors who would love my work.   However, I said, I’d be happy to let her have the jpeg of the painting she’d bought so that she could print her own cards with it.

Her reply:   Thank you, but no.  What really interested her was the image on the card I’d sent her, one called “The Garden Room” that is in my current inventory.  She has a friend who lives in Washington D.C., collects art, and might really like that painting.

Immediately, I thought of your recent broadcast on serendipitous sales, and the lead that led your mother’s sale of the Monet sculpture.   I sent my buyer a note asking her to refer her D.C friend to my web page, and also offering to send her blank note cards with “The Garden Room” to send to her friend.

She likes that idea, and told me that by coincidence she’d just heard from her friend, who is planning to come visit her in Montana this March.   She also mentioned yet another painting on my web site that she thought her friend might like too.

So I invited them both to come over in March, visit my studio, see the works in person, and then have a cup of coffee or glass of wine with me.   And that’s where things stand today.   I put a reminder in my calendar to contact her in late February and try to arrange that studio visit.

I hope this story interests you as evidence of the value of personalized follow-up cards, the potential to turn a buyer into a friend and collector, and the serendipitous possibilities that may lay behind even the most modest of sales.

Helen

We’ll look forward to hearing what becomes of this opportunity, but there’s no doubt that Helen’s thank-you note and her follow-up have put her in a position where she has further built a relationship with an existing client and has the chance to make a sale that she otherwise wouldn’t have had.

Has Follow-up Lead you to More Sales?

Do you send thank you notes after a sale? What else  have you done to follow-up with buyers and potential buyers? Has it had a positive impact on your sales? What do you find to be challenging when following up with clients? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.

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.

24 Comments

  1. What immediately strikes me is to ask this question – is it ever too late to write a follow up note? Not so much a thank you note but a reaching out to former clients.

    1. In my experience it isn’t too late to follow up with a note or invtation to an exhibition. Twelve years after my first solo exhibition I contacted some of my clients to invite them to view a current exhibition and see how my work had evolved. They were delighted to be remembered and included at the opening. This also translated to Sales on the day!

  2. Recently, an acquaintance and past patron of mine saw a new painting that I had posted online via social media. Her response? “Ack! Must have, must have! How much, how big is it?” Of course I responded immediately giving her the logistics. We went back and forth a few times with her asking some questions and me sending her up-close photos of the piece and frame possibilities. Then I didn’t hear from her. I gave it a few days, then I messaged her, asking if she was still interested. She said she needed to speak to her husband. As I waited another week or 2, I posted another new work online. She responded that evening that she wanted the original piece! I think the combination of the follow up and seeing another painting by me (keeping the idea in front of her) was extremely effective! I will be shipping the work with a handmade thank you card.

  3. I am a firm believer in thank you cards…even though I’ve never received a thank you card back from a person thanking me for their thank you card, LOL! Anyway – I wanted to just comment the the following:

    I always ensure that the same ‘branding’ carries through to all aspects of my business communication. My website matches my letterhead, which matches my business cards, which even matches my thank-you notes. I’m also a musician and my YouTube videos carry the same visuals. Each of these items feature a black background with distinct lime green font, and I wrap each delivery to a customer in a matching lime green tissue paper. Granted, only a person who has ordered more than one thing from me would see my common use of lime green tissue paper, but I take comfort in providing consistency. Plus, it’s my favorite color and I feel good when I use it.
    This doesn’t just help the customer visualize my ‘brand,’ but it also removes my having to make decisions every time I want to present something of mine. If I stay consistent, my time is better managesd, my costs are lower (buying supplies in bulk), and the frazzled mental state that often comes as I’m rushing to get the piece out the door and to the customer is lessened that much further.

  4. Whenever I sell a painting to a client I send them a hand written Thank You card with the image of that painting on the front. Since I design and print my own cards rather easily, I also do that for commissioned one of a kinds. During the holidays I send these custom cards to all my respective clients as well. It’s just a part of my very personal service.

  5. I always follow up with some form of thank you, on paper or digital, and deliver it immediately after a meeting with a prospective customer, partner or other individual who has agreed to share some of their time with me. This is a critically important step in demonstrating that I value their time as much as mine and appreciate the opportunity to meet. I never put any call-to-action in these thank you notes, they are simply that: Thank You!

  6. Yes, thank-you notes are a must. I use cards printed with images of my paintings, and if the sale is to someone who has purchased from me before, I send a boxed set of assorted note cards of my work. At the end of each year I have 2 different desk calendars printed and send a warm email with images of both covers to all of my previous clients to thank them for purchasing work. I ask them if they’d like to have a calendar, and if so, which one they want. (they love having a choice) This serves several purposes: Nobody ignores it because it requires a response (and it gives me another reason to have follow up contact when they do respond); it keeps me from annoying people by sending them something unsolicited that they might not have a use for, which saves me the expense of sending it; it keeps my contact list updated. If email addresses are no longer good, they bounces back, and since I’m mailing something to them they provide updated addresses and phone numbers gladly. The biggest plus is that showing my genuine gratitude feels wonderful, and I know people will be looking at my artwork for the entire year and enjoying it.

  7. “However, I said, I’d be happy to let her have the jpeg of the painting she’d bought so that she could print her own cards with it.”

    Releasing a jpeg image that allows this type of client to print her own cards is dangerous: Among other issues, the artist won’t be able to control the color printing quality and won’t be able to track where the cards are being distributed nor how many are printed. Does the artist’s jpeg include a watermark/art studio logo? Will the client affix the artist’s copyright attribution, web URL, and social media contact information on the back of the printed cards? If the client distributes the cards without any attribution, does the card/artwork eventually become an “orphaned work” (i.e., can’t locate the artist to purchase additional cards or artworks)? If you’re granting this type of “casual” printing license, secure it with a short agreement before releasing it. Don’t lose control of your artwork’s copyright, printing, distribution, etc.

    1. Good thoughts. FYI the post above is about a note I sent to Jason. You should know, though, that I did it only because the painting/image in question was one that no longer fit into the newly defined genre of my paintings and was not on my web site. I would not have done that, or would have done it with restrictions only, if the painting had been one I felt strongly about controlling.

    2. Yes! I was thinking the same thing. Thank you for posting the great advice. I think sometimes in the excitement of a potential sale, we give away the farm. In this case, it may turn out fine, but I think more often than not, it doesn’t.

  8. The studios that I sell through do not encourage me contacting the customer. I often don’t know the name of the person they have sold it to. What would you do in this kind of situation?

    1. Hi Jason,
      I agree with Zom. That has been one of my largest concerns with some galleries that have sold my work. I really want to keep in touch with my clients, but in some instances have not even been given the name of the buyer. Jason, how would an artist tactfully deal with this?

  9. Hi Jason, I love following your blog and also reading the comments because I get ideas from reading other artist’s stories. It has been very valuable! This time I will share one thing that I do for follow up. For many years I have created a yearly printed newsletter that I bind nicely and mail out to my collectors, I add a few greeting cards as a gift and a personal note. This year I am creating it on blurb as a professional magazine cost is about $7 a piece so it is really reasonable). Since nowadays everything is online, there is something really tangible to give out via this newsletter; I imagine the newsletter stays on the kitchen shelf or the coffee table, people feel special to receive it because it is exclusive. Almost every time I send it out I have at least one new sale which largely pays my costs and time for creating it. I am hoping as my database grows to create advertising for related business partners which will help pays for the printing costs. This is one way I keep in touch and follow up with my collectors!

  10. Sending thank yous and a history of the painting is something I always used to do. Now, the galleries I am in do not, absolutely refuse to, tell me the information. They say, write the card, leave it blank after “Dear” and we’ll fill in the name and send it. Somehow, that made it seem less personal to me and less important and I am out of the habit. I don’t know what to do about getting the information from them, short of leaving and finding other galleries. Any ideas on that pretty common practice?

  11. This is an excellent practice for any sort of social or commercial interaction. I am, however, somewhat disappointed by the attitude of galleries such as the one Ray Hassard describes. It is similar to the view taken by some online galleries where the sale is of an image rather than the original and the location of the unnamed buyer is simply a city. But that is not relevant to this forum.

  12. I really appreciate you sharing this information. I have not been sending hand-written Thank You notes and yet, I don’t know why when I have always been big on sending them in other situation! Most of my sales have been at art walks where, when I am not too rushed, I do get addresses to add to my mailing list but often it’s just an email address. Or, the sale is through an online marketing site that does not, as Dai Wynn mentioned, let me know the name/address of the person purchasing my art, only the city in which he or she lives. Thank you, Jason, for this and other valuable information you have shared!

  13. I sold my first painting last week and included a handwritten thank you with the story behind the painting. Through my career in sales across a range of industries, handwritten thank yous have been one of the best ways for me to engage with customers. Those handwritten notes have consistently lead to more frequent sales.

  14. As long as my galleries will provide the buyers information I have always sent thank-you’s. One lady told my local gallery that for all her years of art buying, it was the first time she had received a personal thank you from the artist. What a shame. That lady has gone on to purchase more of my work. Whether you sell art or plumbing parts, graciousness and gratitude go a long way to maintaining good customer relations and building loyal followers.

  15. Talking of thank you’s. I just wanted to say that I purchased your book ‘Starving to Successful’. I have slowly been reading it and I find the advice that you give invaluable. I will do all that I can to integrate some of these suggestions over the course of the year. Along with your blog it will I feel make a huge difference to my year. Thank you.

  16. I send handwritten career UPDATES to my art people quarterly. I draw on the envelope and the letter. I get results. Been doing this for years.
    One collector of mine sends me a fifty dollar bill every December, because I write to her.

  17. You can’t go wrong with thank you cards. It builds good rapport and you can always add a little more info about the piece or your website, etc. That’s too bad most galleries don’t give the artist the buyer’s info. I am at a membership gallery so it’s different.

  18. Try to follow up but usually with email… Should we be asking for peoples’ home address, as well? This hadn’t occurred to me, especially with cash sales. We have an email list log, available for those who feel inclined to give it but with so many people asking for so much information (phone #, zip code, email, etc.) It feels intrusive…

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