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.

Starving to Successful

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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

37 Comments

  1. For whatever reason, I believe that quality images on the computer screen can often have more life, vitality and better color than printed material – an added benefit. AND the prospective buyer is more likely to share a computer image of art with more friends and relatives than a printed piece.

  2. I like to write a note on the back of my business card. I have had to find a printer that will leave the back open for this purpose as most on-line card printers are up-selling to have your logo on the back. I feel that by doing this it is a personal exchange with my customer along with asking for their e-mail.

  3. I don’t think it’s an either / or. We have had tremendous results from our brochures, including press in a major home and garden magazine and an appearance on a popular art-focused TV program. People have held onto brochures literally for years then contacted us. We’ve seen people look at the brochure, which displays a wide range of Kevin’s work, and say, “I didn’t know he [fill in the blank].” Print works particularly well when there isn’t a salesperson present or when someone doesn’t want to interact with a salesperson but wants some time to think about it. We use a very small, color brochure that fits in a pocket or a purse, which makes it easy to carry and inexpensive to produce. Print is just one arrow in the marketing quiver and it definitely still works, especially with the older demographic which makes up a large part of the art buying market.

    1. While I don’t disagree with you Mary – print can be a valuable supplement, and indeed we print show catalogs and postcards, I would urge anyone selling art to be very careful to limit print material to exactly that – a supplement. Whenever there are print materials around the temptation to hand off the print material and let the client walk away is very strong. Certainly someone walking away with printed material is better than them walking away with nothing, but barely so in my experience. As I stated above – the chances of closing the sale are dramatically better when contact information is obtained by the salesperson.

      1. Jason, I agree with you, and so do a great many of the artists I talk with at the show I do every summer. I used to have really nice postcards that would be handed out, then some told be they framed it… So I thought, isn’t that special!

  4. Yes. This is what I’ve been doing in my gallery, for the same reasons. A great way to get the client’s contact info, and not having to keep stacks of hand outs for numerous artists. These are the emails I want, someone who is genuinely interested in the art.

  5. Having a form to fill out including their email address is most important for having proof that they want to be on your email list. The law is that you must have this proof in case of any legal action. Even with express verbal permission, I have added names directly to my list from my phone, but the back and forth emails do not happen so there is no empirical proof. Verbal permission is not enough. They must go to your website on their own, but this usually does not happen, so a connection is lost.

  6. This is much more effective! It will also avoid solicitors from collecting contact info when you do shows. I think I will add a box for them to check on the form that asks to be added to mailing list.

  7. Jason, This post is so helpful to me. Two years ago in September our desert studio flooded not once, but twice. While we cleaned and repainted, the chaos of losing paper records has never been forgotten. Emails and Facebook provide an ever-expanding platform for showing our art. Thank you!

  8. Your approach makes sense/cents from many angles: getting email/phone/address contact info allows for multiple genres if followup, email is easy and common and free, and digital libraries of art may be used for many purposes. You have given me ideas for my next garden art show. Thank you!

  9. Thank you Jason for your information I really like your approach and the follow up. Thanks again for your emails.
    Joanie

  10. Thank you for all the pertinent information that you provide in the blog. I try to read each and every one. They are interesting and informative. Since I left Florida in 2013 I have been without gallery representation and I live in an extremely active art orientated community here in Santa Fe. I have bee given so much advice as how to go about getting representation but to date I have not been successful. I see the gallery scene here in Santa Fe going through a huge transition with many established galleries selling their business and the gallery changes hands. I don’t know all the reason for the this transition but I’m thinking more and more that art reps are becoming a very viable avenue to get your work out to public.
    When I was in sales (Grumbacher, sales mgr then Monte Blanc) I always broke all records and won awards for trips overseas every year. Not bragging just background info. But when it comes to selling my own art I always fall far short and I’m not sure why. I’m constantly told that my work is beautiful, surreal, yada yada but it doesn’t sell consistently. When living in Florida my gallery there always had several of my paintings on the walls at all times but I just can’t seem to break through here in Santa Fe. That’s why I read your blog and apply much of what you say in the blog, hoping that soon the ice will break and I ill get a contract with a gallery.
    Thanks for all you do!

  11. I completely agree with this article.
    I use postcards instead of business cards, and brochures of often picked up and usually tossed. Getting contact information is so much better so you can check in with them, as you said. This is a terrific blog. Thank you.

  12. Of course, getting emails for a mailing list or for contacting clients individually is desirable and SOP at this point…however, it is just as easy to delete an email than read it…easier and done more often that most would like to imagine.

    If a customer has taken time out of their lives to take the multiple steps to venture to your physical gallery or studio and have shown interest in a work or artist, give them some printed material to leave with!

    Do you know what effort it takes to get into a car and journey to a gallery when it is easier to do so online? A LOT

    So certainly, giving the potential customer something tangible to walk out with…discuss with their partner on the drive back home…or simple put on the coffee table to examine later that night or the next day when they have spare time to contemplate and to relive looking at the artwork and their interest in the artist!

    No, if you don’t give them some printed material you have misses a great opportunity that could very well lead to a future sale.

    1. Nestor – while I agree that it is easy to delete an email, what you say about the effort to get to the gallery or show applies equally to an email I send a client. More importantly, I can follow up multiple times via email. A client may delete a first email, but they will respond to our emails at some point in our follow-up process. The point is that if you’ve given them a brochure without getting their contact information you have to rely on the brochure to get the sale done, and we all know that happens very infrequently.

      If we have a great brochure for an artist, we offer to mail it to them so that we have their contact information and can do follow up.

      I would argue that if you give a brochure without collecting contact information “you have missed a great opportunity that could very well lead to a future sale”.

      1. Of course, which is why I stared at the beginning of my reply the following:

        “Of course, getting emails for a mailing list or for contacting clients individually is desirable and SOP at this point…”

        Always get contact info which includes email…been that way for years certainly.

  13. Such a good point, Jason. Anymore I often find I will look briefly at the brochure and put it back because I’m trying to reduce the amount of paper come into my home. And the idea of putting the image in line is front center. They can easily see it, without an attachment screwing up. Thanks for the tip for followups!

  14. I don’t use a brochure for a sales tool; its purpose is to interest people enough they will visit your studio, galleries, commercial venue, email, or call … then you sell. A gallery is a retail setting with patrons looking at that moment. You sell what you have.
    I am not always “there” and a brochure is a reasonable substitute. I have an exhibit next month I can’t attend and the brochure will sub for me. A stack of business cards isn’t enough.
    Fantastic in this day and time, but there are some very private people who purposely do not email or use the Internet. Brochures can be mailed.
    I guard my personal email zealously and refuse it more often than I give it. I am careful not to annoy my own emailing list … I have one patron who maintains five email accounts and several others with two and three. They don’t want to hear from me except for a specific purpose, not just because I completed another painting.
    I have another patron who travels constantly and who is never without his cell. I have texted images to him that resulted in sales. At times it can be appropriate. But email every two or three days?!
    Brochures have their place while email has its own. Regardless, use every device at your disposal.

  15. This is helpful. I’ve been wondering how you used that contact form… During a show it gets so hectic that I usually forget all about getting contact information. Next one, I at least want to remember to have a mailing list sign up sheet but I can see that the personal touch could make a big difference.

  16. I use email and I use USPS mail. I sold six works today as a result.
    One early collector who, acquired two more works, and two new people acquired art form me. I use analog and digital. I GET TO HEAT AND EAT. I ALSO SAVE CASH TO GET THROUGH LEAN TIMES. I AM A
    NONSTARVING -WORKING CLASS BLUE COLLAR ARTIST.
    As long As I do out reach, by all of the means possible, my art life is steady. I make post cards of my work, I give them away without hesitation.

  17. Connectively, I’ve discontinued inserting copies of news articles on my art with sold art in the sales bags at my local weekly fair-weather artfairs. But with regular patrons interested in works I send a photo attachment email or print out a photo in a letter as update on a hoped-for acquisition, and a photo of the art in place on a wall can sell the piece to the patron, as you’ve previously remarked here, much better than personal journalistic self-promotion! Keep it focused on them instead of you, to win friends and influence people as they say.

    1. It depends on the email app you are using. Do a quick Google search “inline image in email __________” (fill in the blank with the name of your email app. “Inline” means it’s going to include the image in the body of the email instead of as an attachment.

        1. Interesting! Apparently it can’t be done in Outlook 2010.
          Most answer locations didn’t even list 2010 as an option and when I searched for it as 2010 every answer I found was the same save for one and none of the ‘advice’ in that one related to anything in my Outlook at all.
          At least I know not to waste time trying that!

  18. Such a useful blog … Thanks Jason! The main question I needed to ask after I had finished reading your book was. “How do you feel things need to be updated since you published it.” This article has done just that so I’ll be interested in any others you could write on selling art in the digital age.

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