This post is by Clint Watson, former art gallery owner and founder of BoldBrush, known for FASO Artist Websites, the leading provider of professional artist websites, the $38,000+ BoldBrush Painting Competition and the free daily art marketing newsletter, FineArtViews. As a self-proclaimed “art fanatic”, Clint delights that BoldBrush’s downtown San Antonio, Texas office is full of original art, as is his home office. You can connect with Clint on Twitter, Facebook or his personal blog at clintavo.com
Marketing is difficult. To make a sale, you must reach people when several conditions perfectly align: You need to reach people WHERE they want your message, WHEN they want your message and the message has to be RELEVANT and PERSONAL to their current needs or desires. This is what I’m calling the “The Personal, Timely, Relevant Framework.” 
In thinking about how the “Personal, Timely, Relevant” framework idea applies to art, I think it provides a useful context to understand why the following things seem to be true:
1. Art galleries sell better than restaurants (more relevant)
2. Art openings sell better than “regular” days in the gallery (more timely)
3. Open studio events sell better than just “walk ins” (more timely)
4. Art sells better when the artist is part of the conversation (more personal)
I’ve spoken often about having conversations and telling stories surrounding your artwork. I’ve written about changing the world. And, I had an entire post about leading your collector clan, which talked specifically about email newsletter marketing, which I think is something every single artist should be doing.
But how do you start or grow or nurture a group of committed fans? How do you lead your “tribe”?
By being personal, timely and relevant.
You must “be there” at the right time, and in the right place to personally connect with someone, to start a “conversation” (online or offline) with that person, and your goal, at that point, is not to sell them your artwork directly (although it’s great if you do). Your goal, at that point of first contact, is to get permission to continue the conversation. In the real world, this normally manifests itself as permission to add that person to your email list, to add them to your show mailing list, or perhaps even simply to schedule a follow up phone call.
Here’s an example: Let’s say you paint landscapes of the New England area. A local restaurant owner approaches you and wants to display some of your art. So you hang it…and nothing (or very little) happens. Why? Because people go to restaurants to eat, not look at art. Context matters.
Your message (the artwork) is not relevant at the time the person is eating in the restaurant, and it’s not timely either. So instead, you decide to show your art in a local art fair over the summer. Assume there are a lot of tourists in the area in the summer (escaping to New England to get out of the brutal heat we have here in Texas). A couple walks into the art fair looking for mementos of their summer holiday in New England. They see your artwork and they are now engaged. Now, at this point your art is relevant, it’s timely and it’s personal to them. Your goal is to get permission to continue the conversation with this couple. You want them on your email list. You want them to join your fans. You want their permission to keep talking to them in the future and showing them your remarkable artworks. If you get that permission you’ve increased the size of your tribe. If you sell your painting, that’s fantastic, be sure to get permission to stay in touch with them. If they buy your painting, they’ll be even more committed to your tribe. (Of course, make all reasonable efforts to sell the artwork while they’re present, in your booth, but whether they purchase it or not, please get permission to continue the conversation).
Above I said that your primary goal is obtaining permission to continue a conversation with your prospect. And getting permission to send a prospect email messages is a powerful tool. This is what Seth Godin calls a Permission Asset. And, like Alyson Stanfield says, “Your contact list is your #1 asset – if you use it.“
Email newsletters are so powerful because, if you send them to people who have already given you permission (ie you are not spamming), then they are almost always personal and relevant. They’re just not always timely. After all, you can’t know when your prospect is thinking about buying art, or when they have some “time to kill” and are in the mood to stop and read your newsletter, or when they want to surf your website and look at your art. You simply can’t know if your email newsletter is going into their trash folder or if it’s going to be read.
That’s why, and this is an important point, you’ve got to send your email newsletter often. You need to use it consistently. When your prospect is in that mood to read your newsletter…..then you need to be there, waiting in their inbox. And the only way to ensure that you are there is to send your email blasts often – twice a month, or every week, twice a week, or even every day.
I once interviewed an artist who decided to paint 100 painting in 100 days. He sent an email newsletter every single day, featuring each day’s painting. Even with a small list of subscribers, he sold over 90 of the paintings and garnered at least 3 commissions. Plus the project grew his email list even further. This project worked because when people were ready . . . he was there. The fact that this artist was emailing his list every day was driving sales of his paintings. Because his messages were personal, relevant…….and on the days that a particular fan was in the mood, they were timely.
Remember, your contact list is your number one asset…..if you use it.
As I wrote the last paragraph, I realized something shockingly sad: I never receive any marketing emails from the artists’ whose works I already own. None of them even asked me if I wanted to be on an email list when I bought those artworks. What a wasted opportunity! Sure I could have gone to their websites and/or requested it. . . but I didn’t think about it. That just goes to show you: do not be bashful – ask people if you can add their name to your email list. (And that goes double if they actually make a purchase!)
Bottom line: Have conversations. Start and grow an email list. Use it often, even if it’s small. In my next post, I’ll give you an idea to amplify your efforts and grow your email list even faster.
BoldBrush/FASO Founder & Art Fanatic
PS – You need a way to encourage fans to sign up and provide their email addresses on your website. You also need an easy way for you to add people to your list. And you need an easy way to send your newsletters that ensures proper delivery, ensures proper mobile formatting, avoids spam filters, remove bounces, track open rates etc. We offer all of that in our ArtfulMail product, over at our sister site FASO. Our members enjoy ArtfulMail, an email newsletter module built right in with their website, finely tuned for the needs of leading artists. We also offer a host of other world class marketing channels and tools. You don’t have to pay a bunch of extra money for a separate email newsletter service. Come and give us a try . . . it’s the same system the artist I mentioned above utilized. It worked for him and it can work for you.
 This post was inspired by a Seth Godin video I saw years ago, where he mentioned that marketing messages only get through to people when those messages are personal, timely and relevant. I apologize, but the link to the original video no longer works. This post is a reworked and updated version of the one I wrote many years ago.