“I’m going to stop doing shows.”
It’s a statement a lot of artists have thought, but more and more people I know are committed to stopping shelling out big money on shows when they aren’t even making table fees back.
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I used to hear rumblings about it once and a while, but I’ve heard it a couple dozen times in the past few months, and at least 10 times in the past week alone.
Artists say they are sick of going to shows, getting people to browse the table, and not making a purchase. The funny thing is, none of them want to change what they are doing. Sure, they’ll do some new prints, but they are stuck in a dying mindset. The old way of selling at shows is dead.
You see, there is a fundamental shift in the way business works today.
There is a glut of product on the market. Unlike ten years ago when buying prints at shows was the only way to find cool stuff, people have social media now where they can check out cool stuff easier than ever before. Additionally, there are just more shows than ever. Those shows fracture the already thin audience for prints at shows.
Additionally, there is parity like never before. There is great art everywhere. In order to win over fans, artists need more than something cool. They need to provide an experience.
Studies show that 99% of people’s buying decisions are based on experience. Whether it’s a hotel, a book, a restaurant, or a piece of art, there is so much great stuff that the best doesn’t rise to the top.
Or more accurately, there is so much stuff at the top that buyers need another reason to buy your art than just it being great. The only way to separate yourself is by the experience you give to your customers.
Remember what we always talk about? That having great content puts you in the game?
This is true now with art more than ever. Just having great art used to move you ahead of the game, but now there is so much great art the only way you can stand out is through experience. If you can give somebody an experience they connect with, then they will want to buy from you; maybe not today, but eventually and for a long time to come.
However, I still see most artists drawing with their head down. Even when they engage with people they look like they are being bothered. Even “nice artists” don’t bother to smile at people.
So bitching about miserable con sales is great, but how do we fix it? How do we sell more at shows? How do we make more money?
1. If you have to draw at your table, make it a spectacle.
Shows are for meeting new fans. It’s not for doing art. We get it, you are a great artist, but a show is for engaging with new people. If you absolutely must draw, schedule that into your con time and make it a spectacle. Advertise on your table that there will be a live drawing from 1–3.
Then ask people what they want to see and crowdsource the drawing. Have people vote on what they want to see drawn, and then they can come back to watch, or twitch/live stream it, or find it on Youtube by following your channel. Then if they aren’t at the show they can connect with you even from thousands of miles away.
This will keep your audience engaged and make you stand out. If 30 people watch you draw a Joker, and keep telling you the colors they want and poses, do you think those people are going to be more interested in buying that print afterward? Of course, because now they have an experience they will always treasure.
2. It’s not enough to just say hello.
I’m sorry, but saying hello isn’t enough to engage people. You have to ask open ended questions. You have to ask a lot of them. Saying hello, even for me, garners ZERO sales. The only sales I make is when I connect with the audience and more than hello.
You don’t have to ask them to buy, you can say “What’s your favorite part of the convention?” or “Do you have a room that you’re looking to fill today?” or “Who are you buying for?” If you ask open-ended questions you are interested in them and they are more likely to buy b/c your recommendation will be thoughtful.
3. Ask people what your next print should be.
Here is another great way to involve people. If they come by and ask for a print you don’t have, tell them you are trying to find the next print. Instruct them to put their name, email address, and print suggestion on a sheet of paper and stuff it in a jar.
Then afterward, you can draw a live stream when you get home of the print and crowdsource it on social media, so you can get all the engagement from the con at home and get more people to buy your stuff. In addition, you have their email addresses to continue marketing to them.
4. Frame your prints and give suggestions for where your customer could hang it.
People buy based on emotion. They want to envision where they can hang what they purchase when it comes to art. So to make a sale, you should show them how your piece would look in a frame. Super Emo Friends does a great job of this. They have their best pieces framed so customers can see how they would look through the glass of a frame.
Additionally, you want to ask people where they would hang their prints, what they are looking for, the color scheme of the room. Maybe you could make a sale if you changed the colors of the image to match their palette. Again, by asking questions you’ll narrow down and have the best chance of making a sale.
Even if they don’t buy, ask what they are looking for in order to make your table better for next time. Maybe they want something bigger. Maybe they want a gift. Maybe they love your style but they really love Donatello and not Raphael.
In fact, maybe you have what they are looking for, but it’s buried in a crate and they don’t have time to look for it.
You have no idea if you don’t ask.
5. Target your work to the right buyer
Most artists want any buyer to buy their work. That’s why they spray the world with prints and hope something sticks. But by going for everybody they end up attracting nobody.
Businesses are more successful when they niche. What is your ideal buyer?
Are you looking to be hung on dorm rooms? In art studios? In living rooms? Is your main clientele women, boys, or teens?
Each of these is people likes a different aesthetic, and if you can narrow your focus to just one of those then you will be able to get the right work in front of the right people and they will buy more at your table. They will also be likely to make additional purchases in the future.
Look at the greatest artists working today, they are all directing their art to one type of person, and by doing that they are able to resonate and sell more work for more money.
6. Set up your table to guide the eye.
Most artists set up their table to look pretty, but we all know some artwork sells better than others. We all know some pieces are meant to catch the eye and lead the customer to your better selling items.
Knowing that, set up our table so the bestselling items are front and center with the eye-catching items so people have the best chance to make a purchasing decision. If you don’t know what these items are, then you need to find out quick.
7. Ask for the sale.
You lose 100% of the sales you don’t ask for in the end. By just saying “What do you think?” or “Would you like to get one?” You will increase your sales massively. Even just saying the price of the piece will get people to think about buying it. Remember, it’s about triggering their buying instinct. People want to buy.
8. Don’t think of it as a loss if they don’t buy.
Just because somebody doesn’t buy, all is not lost. There is a funnel that happens in sales. First somebody has to know you. Then they have to like you. Then they have to trust you. Then and only then will they buy from you.
It’s great to get people to buy at a show, but it’s equally important to get people as far down the funnel as possible as quickly as possible. Just by being at a show you are meeting and connecting with your right kind of buyer. So make sure you get all their information so you can market them cool stuff later, so those people will buy next time. If you keep building your base of buyers, then your sales will increase with every show instead of decrease.
At the end of the day, a con is about the experience. People want to be entertained. I know that as artists we want our work to speak for itself, but it just doesn’t.
Your work isn’t enough anymore. Nothing speaks for itself. You have to stand out from the crowd by offering something specific to the right person and making sure to get the contact information of everybody you can so you can grow your business.
You can mope about it. You can fret about it. You can deny it, but it’s the truth. If you want to sell more you have to get over that hurdle. That’s the only way to rebound because all businesses are having a paradigm shift. Not just art, but everything from fast food to diamond rings.
The quicker you can adapt the quicker you can thrive.
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