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Art marketing tip: Do you know who your customers are?

art marketing tip Do you know who your customers are?

Who are your customers are?

This is an extended exerpt for the How do you know who your customers are webinar transcript.

Main points include:

  1. Understand your own work
  2. Exhibit in shows and competitions
  3. Build relationships
  4. Create a customer avatar
  5. Make a database

Understand your own work

In order to understand who your customers are you need to understand your own work.  You’ve got to understand the type of work you’re producing and where it’s going to fit for a start, and  then what gallery it’s going to fit into.

Art is a long apprenticeship in the first place, and you can’t literally knock on the neighbour’s door and say purchase my painting.

It’s a matter of developing a good reputation for a start, and a professional reputation, and that takes time. Just to get through a basic apprenticeship of an artist is ten years. You’ve got to dedicate yourself and commit.

Exhibit and compete in shows

There are websites which list all the competitions and shows in your area. The Art Almanac  is one great example.

Art Almanac prides itself on being a resource for artists. We have selected a few galleries and funding bodies calling for submissions for Awards, Artist Engagements, Grants, Public Art, Residency Programs, Exhibition Proposals and more. Click here for the full list of Art Awards and Proposals and Submissions and Internships & Fellowships.

One way to start to build a clientele is to enter these exhibition opportunities.  Submit two or three pieces, and make sure you that you turn up to as many openings as you can.   Meet and greet. Be seen. Chat to people. Become recognizable.  Gallery goers will begin to recognize your style and you can begin to establish yourself in the market place.

Established galleries will not accept emerging artists without a track record. They’ve got too much to lose. Their wall space is their money, and if your paintings are on their wall space and you don’t have a track record, well it’s likely you’re probably not going to sell.

Build relationships

It really does come down to developing relationships with people by turning up at different art show and openings.

Meet as many people as you can.  Meet your buyers. Make sure you are there to shake their hand and say hi. Give them your business card and take theirs, where possible.

This is how I started up my career thirty-five years ago. I was literally walking the streets and going to as many shows as I possibly could, and then meeting people, and then getting to know the buyers when they come in.

If somebody’s in a gallery and they’re buying artwork, make sure that you’re there and get to shake their hand. Say hi, my name’s so and so. That way you can actually build your own profile while they are actually purchasing someone else’s art.  Don’t be shy. Find out who they are, introduce yourself. Just say “Hi, how are you? I just saw you purchase a piece of art. That’s fantastic. You know, I’m hoping to have an exhibition here one day.” Don’t upset the gallery director by any means, because you’ll definitely not get back in again. This is one way of establishing relationships with people over a period of time.

Create a customer Avatar

Once you understand who your customers are you can create “a customer avatar”.

A customer avatar is a fictional character that represents your ideal prospect. When complete, it will help you understand the motivating beliefs, fears and secret desires that influence your customer’s buying decisions. Your customer avatar will help you fine tune your marketing efforts and help you understand why some products sell better than others.

Even though you are an artist and creating masterpieces, it is good to also think like a business.  You need to do research on your customer. Find out what your customer is like, where they live, their age group, what they like to spend their money on. Once you start to create that avatar, you constantly refine it. Information that will help you create a good customer avatar are questions  around these ten points:

Use this free “get to know your customer worksheet”  to  create your Customer Avatar 

  • Geographic
  • Age
  • Generation (ie. Baby Boomer, Millennial)
  • Relationship Status
  • Education
  • Work (ie. Employers, Job Title, Schools)
  • Income
  • Home Type (ie. Homeowner, renter)
  • Average Family Size
  • Other

Once you understand who your customer is you can be clever about targeting them.

For example, you know your customers are women aged between thirty-five to sixty, professional, married no children, earning one hundred thousand dollars a year,  and living on the Gold Coast, Australia. You would aim to have your work exhibited places on the Gold Coast and perhaps themed around the beach, on a canvas that would suit a beach house or an office space.

This can seem a little forced- painting to a theme- but it is just an example of how to increase your chance of selling.

Using marketing channels like Facebook, or Google, or YouTube, you can fine tune the filters.  You can market to a broader audience, if you know some things about your customer. You can fine tune your advertising so that you only market to your avatar eg to the USA; to artists that are thirty-five and over; have an income of over seventy-five thousand dollars a year.


When you meet people at shows and you talk to them, notice their age group, where they come from, and what kind of job they do etc. and log this information into a database.

Get their email addresses, if you can. At every exhibition you hold, even if it is just one painting in a show, have a piece of paper there saying “Would you like to subscribe to my mailing list?”

As we know the list is gold.

There are galleries in all demographics to suit different artworks as well. But my advice would be if you can get to the city gallery, it doesn’t matter if it’s New York, Sydney, Melbourne. A gallery in the city is going to be more likely to sell a ten thousand dollar painting than one that’s out in the suburbs or small towns. Look at your demographic, look at your prices, and then target that market and go and make sure you rub shoulders with people and say hi. Make sure you go in and talk to people. It’s a great way to get to know clients and customers.

Do you buy a mailing list?

 art marketing tipThere are – and it’s a hit and miss thing – many sites out there that will sell mailing lists eg. bikini There are half a dozen of them that will sell information right across the globe. They have mailing lists of many different kinds eg, a list of car collectors or art collectors.

I think the problem that you have with those bought mailing lists is you send out an email to somebody that’s in Pakistan or  Kentucky, it doesn’t mean they’re  just going to get on the phone and say, I want to buy your art.

Hit and miss just doesn’t work very well. You can spend thousands of dollars on mailing lists, and sometimes get nothing back from them at all.

Have you create a mailing list? Have you got tips to share with your fellow artists?  We’d like to hear from you. Leave a note in the comments section or open a discussion in our forums.

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