Why we Don’t Hand out Photos or Brochures in the Gallery

When I first started in the gallery business over twenty years ago, it was common practice to hand someone printed materials when they expressed interest in an artist’s work. When I was working with a client and she said she liked a particular piece, I would first try to close a sale, but if I wasn’t successful, I would hand her a printed copy of the artist’s biography and a photograph of the piece that had caught her attention.

I suspect that this remains a common practice with many artists and galleries today, but I feel that handing out printed materials is an ineffective selling technique, and today I would like to share an approach that I’ve found far more effective.

Let’s begin by exploring the problems with handing out printed material. First, and most importantly, handing out printed material and letting the client walk away deprives you of the opportunity to follow-up. In the vast majority of cases, as soon as a potential client walks away, you will never hear from her again.

Another problem with printed materials is the production and organization. From a gallery perspective, we would need to keep a stock of brochures and bios for dozens of artists, along with boxes and boxes of photos. Back in the 90’s, when I began in the business, we had to organize and store both prints and negatives for each of the several hundred pieces of art in the gallery. Digital photography made this a little bit easier, but it is still an organizational challenge.

The solution? Email!

Now, instead of handing someone a folder full of bios and photos of artwork, we let an interested client know that we would be happy to email her the information. Emailing the information is better for everyone involved. The client doesn’t have to carry a folder of paper out of the gallery, and we now have an avenue for follow up.

You might wonder if some people are reluctant to provide their email address. Actually, very few visitors to the gallery decline an email follow up. People have become accustomed to interacting through email, and most look at it as a convenience rather than an invasion of privacy.

IMG_20150112_111450[1]After a client agrees that she would like to receive an email, we provide her with a contact card to fill out. This card asks for not only her email, but also her other contact information, including her mailing address and phone number. The beauty of handing someone a form asking for all of her contact information is that she will usually simply fill the form without even thinking about it. Even though we don’t need the additional contact information for our email follow up, it’s very valuable for us to be able to add that information to our database for further follow-up.

When the client hands the card back, we ask if she would like to be added to our mailing list. We keep the invite very simple: “Would you like to join our mailing list to receive updates about new artwork?” You don’t need to sell this too hard – you only want people to join your mailing list if they really want to. Never add someone to your mailing list without their explicit permission.

We try to send the follow up email with an image of the artwork immediately after the client leaves the gallery, while the interaction is still on their mind, and on ours. Most of our clients have smartphones, so many of them can view the email immediately.

Your follow-up email should be simple and too the point. Thank the client for visiting your studio, show, or gallery, and provide the information about the artwork in which they expressed interest, along with the image. I prefer to have the image show up inline in the email, rather than as an attachment.  Close by letting the client know you would be happy to be of service. In other words, don’t be too pushy.

If you don’t hear back from the client within 2-3 days, send another quick email with an image of the artwork. You might also provide additional information about the artwork if available. Your inspiration for the work, a copy of your biography, or some other detail you feel might be relevant to the client.

Follow-UpEmailKeep following up until you hear back from the client. Start out with follow up every 2-3 days, and then begin stretching out the intervals between follow up as time goes on. I will talk more about the follow up process in future posts, but it’s important to note here that some sales require 8-10 follow up emails before getting a response. Don’t allow your sales to fail because you aren’t being persistent enough. If you keep your emails short and courteous, you can be persistent without being pesky.

And there you have our replacement for brochures and photos. Email follow up has been far more effective than handing someone a brochure could ever be We have the added satisfaction of knowing that we are, by some small degree, reducing waste and helping the environment.

To be clear, brochures and catalogs do still have a valid place in your marketing efforts. Brochures and other printed material can be a great way to send images to clients to update them about new available work. We do a lot of marketing through printed catalogs and brochures – but the key is that we use brochures for our marketing efforts, not for our sales efforts.

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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 reddotblog.com, and founder of ARTsala. 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. Connect with Jason on Facebook

41 Comments

  1. A few blogs ago I believe you had talked about how you had handed a bio to a potential buyer because he had shown an interest in a piece in the gallery. Do you pick and choose who you give a bio to or was that experience a long time ago and you’ve changed your policy since then? Or does it depend on the situation? Thank you.

    1. It does depend on the situation – we always work to get an email address first. There are certainly times though when providing a bio for the client to read while looking at the work is appropriate.

  2. I tried your suggestion of follow up with a client who really liked a large piece but bought a small piece. I wrote a thank you note 3 days after the sale.

    Then I waited a week (not 2-3 days, thank goodness) and sent her another note with a photo of the larger work saying I thought she might like this photo of it and that it could indeed be a nice piece for her bedroom, as she had commented.

    I don’t remember my exact words but they were very low key, as I hate receiving sales pitches and didn’t want to offend. I got no reply, but later her friend who had brought her to my studio said she was totally annoyed, that she felt I was very pushy.

    I felt I had been stabbed. It made me quite cautious about even sending this buyer notices about future events, and embarrassed me with her friend (who has also been my friend).

    Maybe my wording was trly at fault, but I’m so consciencious about not being pushy it’s hard to know what I said that was wrong. I suspect it was the timing.
    I think the 2-3 days or even the week or so was way too soon, and I’ve apparently lost her as a possible future client.

    This happened 2 years ago. Any suggestions on how to mend the damage, and maybe a revision of timelines for the future?

    Your advice has always been extremely helpful. This is the ONLY time I’ve had it backfire, and it was painful as I still am in contact with my friend (a fellow artist) who sent her to me…

    1. I know how painful an experience like this can be – and we have this happen from time to time with our clients. That doesn’t deter us from being consistent in our follow up on a tight timeline. Our sales made through the follow-up regime I’ve shared here and in my books is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars in sales every year for us and our artists. We have far more happy customers who end up buying because we’ve followed up on a tight schedule, and it’s just not worth losing those sales because we’re afraid of people thinking we’re “pushy”.

      I would need to look at the notes you sent to see if the wording was too strong, but I suspect this wasn’t the case. Some people don’t want any follow up, and they’ll let you know. Take it in stride and move on to the next one.

      If someone does indicate that they aren’t thrilled with our follow up, we let them know that we are simply trying to provide superior customer service.

      1. Thanks for explaining that you have, indeed, gained sales from follow up. I’ll keep this in mind when I feel afraid about being pushy. I too, am often worried about offering too much followup.

      2. I suspect there is a difference between a gallery salesperson seeming pushy and an artist seeming pushy. Pushy is expected and tolerated of salespeople. But a pushy artist only seems desperate.

    2. Love to read about the experiences and also Jason’s advice. I belong to the group shy to be too pushy!, but also understand the value of trying to be more proactive. I see it as depending of how interested the client is on the artwork.

      Why didn’t they buy before they left the studio/gallery? it may be a polite way of getting themselves out of the situation and save face after they spent time looking. Persistence is a great advice, is just worth considering each case separate, depending on the reason the client has, like taking measurements or comparing colors etc. in that case would be “negligence” not to pursue.

    3. I don’t agree with Xanado regarding brochures and catalogs at a show. For me it is a way to tell my deeper story without expecting the person to google me and my info, go to my website, etc. I get a lot of compliments and often they will take more than one brochure or buy one or more catalogs to share. Also walking around with a catalog at a show engages them as an active participant in the show. My sales are not spectacular, but I am OK with than, I just want enough sales to keep me inspired, fed and happy. Tons of emails are not appreciated by clients, they are often met as aggressive sales efforts by us rather than us just wanting them to take action, encourage them to act.

  3. Thanks for the helpful information Jason! I am finding Facebook to be a good marketing tool which relies on digital photos & messages, kind of similar to email marketing. As an emerging artist always counting the pennies, this offers me free marketing & opportunities for a lot of follow up! I find that the contacts that I make spread the word to their circle of friends too. I think this ‘spreading the word’ is probably less effective with brochures…

  4. I would agree with Marianne’s client that 2-3 days is pushy. Even a week may be. If I were prepared to make a purchase within the week, I would probably return, myself. If I’m not prepared to make the purchase, there’s probably a reason/deliberation (not sure if I can justify the financial investment, debating with an “other” that I haven’t gotten to yet, etc.) that isn’t going to be resolved by having yet another email arrive in my overflowing inbox. It’ll just irritate me.

    If I had to guess, I’d say Marianne’s client like the big piece, but couldn’t justify purchasing it, and compromised by buying a smaller piece. In this case, the potential for a future sale is low, and the potential for coming off pushy is high.

    I would recommend Reading People: How to Understand People and Predict Their Behavior–Anytime, Anyplace Paperback by Jo-Ellan Dimitrius for anyone in sales, particularly of high-value items.

  5. A single email with the photo should be sufficient. As both an internet retailer and a consumer, I find repetitive emails extremely annoying. I understand why you and others do this, but it just raises my hackles and makes me want to unsubscribe.

    1. Bonnie Gibson: I agree with you. A single email with photo – preferably sent no sooner than 2 weeks after the gallery encounter, should be enough to pique the client’s interest. After all, the potential buyer is the one who decides what, when and if he/she wants to invest in art, and repeated “reminders” can easily be considered annoying. Either an artist or a gallery owner can come across as desperate and irritating if there are follow-ups that are frequent (read: “pushy”).

  6. Follow-up is tricky, as Marianne points out. I find potential repeat buyers need time to “digest” a purchase. I prefer 90 days to do follow-up on a painting they are interested in. If they demur, they know I have the piece and can contact me if they want it. I do a majority of my sales online, and yes, customers increasingly prefer that form of contact. Online contact with customers saves time and paper. The idea of a printed contact form is an excellent one, with a line asking what artist they are interested in, or in the artist’s case, what specific subjects they like, so images can be electronically sent from time to time, stating the size, price whether or not it is framed. Since I paint mostly old-time railroading, customers can get very specific about their favorite subjects.
    There will always be the buyer that feels follow-ups are intrusive, and in Marianne’s case, consider that customer a loss, but do not give up on follow-up. The good news is there will be others.

  7. I still think the idea of an immediate follow-up with a pleasant note is a good professional practice from a gallery. It would also confirm that a client does want to be added to a mailing list. I wonder if the problem with the case of Marianne’s client differed because they actually bought a small piece. Perhaps they felt that they had made the right decision at the time and that by receiving a note that endorsed the larger purchase, it diminished the value of the small one. Or perhaps that customer may have had other things going on to begin with that were out of Marianne’s hands. It is wonderful to care about a clients satisfaction, but I would have to guess that there is not much more anyone could do to mend fences without appearing to be too aggressive. It is valuable to learn from it, but I would try not to base future good sales practices on this one instance.

  8. Thank you for your very informative posts – – it’s always a hit or miss. I have used your advise many times.

  9. I think a hand written Thank You would be a good start that would create a sense of appreciation for the sale. A follow up e mail 2 weeks or a month later possibly showing the work in which the client had been interested as well as another piece (as an alternative) might be helpful. As with the example Jason gave a while ago about the person who thought one of his staff was “pushy” while she thought she was being attentive is another demonstration of doing your best and still being thwarted. We never know if the potential client didn’t have a 2nd cup of coffee or had an argument with someone, etc. Be true to who you are…..and keep trying.

  10. I believe following up in 2 or 3 days is a good idea, after all, it is not a cold call, the client has expressed interest in the painting and has requested that I send the image, measurements, price, etc. I am offering services that they requested.
    I put in the subject line ” Requested images of “the name of the painting” and in the email request, ask that they let me know they have received the email and if they have any questions. If I do not get a response in a few days , I send another email asking if they have received the requested information. If I still do not hear from them I would give them a call. Often the client is glad to hear from me and in fact did not get my email as it went to spam, etc.
    I can spend a lot of time with an email to a client, they may have requested numerous images as well as bios, frame size,, photos of the paintings with and without frame, etc. I guess I feel it is in my right to expect a respond. However, if I do not get a response back after the emails and a call, I drop it and move on.

  11. Jason always provides great advice in this blog! I agree with Sharon and Rhona above. Since she actually bought a painting from you on the spot, that warrants a slightly different approach. Jason was referring (it seems to me) to a client who has not purchased anything and is ready to leave after expressing interest in something. Very different. The timeline Jason suggests is right, but it’s hard to get used to. It can feel freaky at first, but once they’re out the door, the odds drop quickly, so you really have nothing to lose and much to gain by persistent follow-up. I think this is especially true if they spent LOTS of time with you in the gallery or studio, asking to see painting after painting…narrowing it down, talking about how great it would look in their whatever room, saying they’d love to see it in the space etc., and THEN walking out, saying, “we should go back and measure again” or whatever. If they used your valuable time seriously discussing the work, and then left, the least they can do is look at and respond to a follow up email. 🙂 Artworks are not manufactured items like cars or furniture. They are personal and one of a kind, and should not be taken for granted, as if the piece will always be available. It’s also good to remember that this is our life, but it isn’t theirs…clients have a LOT of other things going on. They really don’t mind the reminders if they are serious. Put the shoe on the other foot… I appreciate a sales person who is attentive and prompt, but not pushy, using “techniques” meant to corner me. Let your client tell you when to stop emailing, but don’t use transparent cheezy sales talk that you would cringe at if someone used it on you.

  12. I have made most of my sales of my artwork by following up with buyers & collectors. In fact, I am in the process of following up with three interested customers as I type this message…

  13. Another reason I can think of to not give a potential buyer a high quality, printed image of the work they’re interested in: It could serve as an alternate to the actual piece. That is, they could just keep that, as a sort of souvenir, pin it up somewhere to admire, and save themselves any expense at all. Sure, it’s smaller, and not the real thing that will have a presence on a wall, but this might be good enough for some. I don’t know if this really applies to serious collectors, though.

  14. And then there is the opposite side – sometimes the gallery misjudges the customer’s intentions, or, worse, just doesn’t care. I entered 2 galleries and found a piece in each that I was sincerely interested in. I could only afford one piece at the time, so I wanted to mull them over and then make my purchase decision. In both galleries, I spoke with the salesperson/manager and explained that I wanted to consider choices carefully. I asked if they had info I could takeaway to be sure I remembered the piece correctly and in both cases, they took my email and said they’d follow up. Well, that was 2+ months ago, and I have yet to hear from them. Two unfortunate outcomes: a) that means one artist definitely lost a sale. and b) why would I ever want to consider buying from them again. As a customer, feeling a gallery or artist was being a tad assertive in trying to make a sale is far better than feeling that they didn’t care if they sold the artwork or not.

  15. Since this blog was published I have sold one of my major artworks by following up & have buyers also interested in prints by using the same process. It works for me!

  16. It is also possible that viewpoint was the problem. Some people view the interaction with a place of business differently than that with an individual working on their own, (this is why it is good to also work with a gallery if you can find one which will work well for you). They might find it more acceptable (and in their mind, authentic) to be receiving promotional communication from an established business than from a person who works from home. Just a thought. I take the email address of interested persons and anyone who purchases artwork from me but I only follow up with a thank you and hope they will come again. What I do however, is tell new potentials the level of interest that has been shown in any work which previous viewers looked at. I have not been participating in any exhibitions or events since this year, and I am pretty new to doing art for sale, but this has helped me get immediate sales in the past. I think it’s the “me too” thinking that got the sales, in addition to the fact that the buyers were truly interested in the pieces they bought. That’s the main thing I look for in any buyer, true interest. True interest and leaving the client alone, has got me sales a year after the buyer first saw the piece. Then they bought two pieces instead of one. I have not sold a lot so far, but every sale has been a match, and that is important go me also. The buyer’s point of view is very important to me. I feel I’ve completed a work when the work is matched with an owner who identifies with it in some way. There are cases when I have even given away simple copies because the individual matched the work deeply, but could not afford it. The level of joy I see in them when they realise I have actually given them a small copy of the work is worth every dollar I will receive when I sell the original. There are some standard guidelines in selling art that work but I also believe one has to be flexible. To do so, you have to be somewhat in tuned with each buyer and know your piece deeply.

  17. I’ve taken & printed notes! I will adjust my website. A drawback is my time spent away from painting and a pop up thought is “Professional Gallery – help! I want to paint! I love you to have 40-50 %! Please you do! I will start following up even though I rather paint. Any advise on concrete pre-written, or, automated follow up emails that I can quickly add and subtract wording. Apps or pre-written ways for? Gayla Hollis

  18. Jason,
    And, I can hardly wait for your blog on details you mentioned you will write about; for the numerous follow up’s. Also next I must go outside, pull my onion up out of the garden, and get at editing/bleeding the onion and do my Resume/CV!!! Lol Gayla Hollis

  19. Wow.
    If, as a consumer, I started receiving emails every two to three days about anything, I’d email to be removed from the mailing list!

    1. Erin: Agree! Constitutes harassment. Which is more important to the client: hassle-free browsing in peace with no expectation of repeated correspondence – or – having consideration for the gallery owner whose emails arrive fast and furious over the next 2 months? Personally, I’d rather a low-key approach – maybe one follow-up 2 or 3 weeks later. Our inboxes do retain emails until we choose to delete them, so if we’re interested in the artwork, we can let the gallery owner know in our own good time.

  20. Haven’t read all of the replies but if it hasn’t been mentioned, when I send a thank you card to “ollow up” I send a card with one of a picture of one of my paintings on it.

  21. Thank you for your suggestions. Always very practical and helpful. The only material I send with a client (That would usually be at a show) is a business card – bookmark size. I find they are not easily lost. My clients tell me they keep them. They find them when they are ready – and the size allows enough space to explain who I am, what I do, couple of images of what I do and how to contact me. I’m guilty of not following up enough.

  22. I quite agree with you. If a gallery or artist sent me repeated emails trying to sell me a particular work, I would find it extremely annoying and intrusive. It would put me off completely. By the time it got to ‘eight or ten’, ( !!!) yes this would get a response from me, which would be ‘push off and leave me alone’. I would have unsubscribed long before this point. One email say two weeks after visiting the gallery would be acceptable, but no more. If I really wanted to buy a piece, I would have had a chance to rethink my position. A barrage of emails would lose the sale and drive me away for ever.

  23. I do not have a lot of printed material any more, but I find that potential buyers do want business cards and sometimes call a year or two later and purchase!
    I think emails are now ineffective! But sending a handwritten card after a sale with a business card works really well for me!!

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