Hints 'n' Tips | Visual Arts

Postcards: The Workhorse of Your Marketing Strategy

In a previous article , we talked about the importance of advertising and one of its basic tools: the color business card. This is a good start, but as soon as possible it is important that you move ahead with your advertising program. The postcard should be your next step. Postcards are the true “workhorses” of the industry. They are a means by which you can show your work to hundreds, no, thousands of people without having to knock on every door.

postcard These little “gems” can be used in so many ways that it would take an entire book just to review all of them. So let’s review just a few of the more important ways. Then you can get creative and come up with many more.

First – what is the one thing that makes you shudder, in fact – what makes most people shudder when they think of going out into the marketplace and trying to get new clients? It’s the “dreaded” COLD CALL. When most people think of walking in cold to a business and asking them to spend a minute looking over a product it is very frightening. And, as an artist, you have an added level of fear – showing your “babies” that you have spent hundreds of hours creating. Well, the postcard can help to soften that prospect. By sending out a card ahead of time to your chosen business and then making a call, you will know immediately if it is worth your time going ahead with the meeting. They will know what your work represents and you will know they know before you ever darken their door.

What you are basically doing is qualifying the gallery. The business of qualifying, be it with a gallery, a frame shop, a show or any other type, is more important for you than for them. By sending out a postcard first, they have the opportunity to see if they want to view more artworks – and, more important, you have the oopportunity to discuss their business policies before wasting time on a dead end.

Pre-qualification of future business is critical. For example, when you send in an entry blank for a show, the promoter juries your work. The jury process is usually nothing more than qualifying you as an artist. The promoter wants to know if your work fits into the show. Is it well done, are the prices right? Does it compliment other works to be hung? This practice is accepted as the norm. However, when it is time for artists to qualify future business contacts, they hang their heads, foot-shuffle a bit and are happy to place their work in any shop that will take them.

This is the wrong attitude to have, absolutely wrong. That business must be qualified before going ahead. Are the other artists hanging the same quality of work? Is your work over/under priced? What kind of contract are you expected to sign? Is the business carrying insurance? Will you be able to have a show? What do they do to promote their artists? Are they active, or do they just open the doors and hang out all day?

Before postcards, what was your normal procedure? You either walked in unannounced and hoped they would take time to see you, or you sent out a portfolio with a sheet of slides, a cover letter, a self-addressed, stamped envelope with a note saying, “If you are interested in my work, please contact me.” How much money have you spent on that kind of package? Slides are not cheap, nor is the cost of mailing oversize envelopes or the stamped return envelope you have included. Add in the cost of your time and energy and you have spent well into a twenty-dollar bill to get the information to a gallery. And – you are not even sure that they will like or carry your type of artwork, or that you would like to be in their establishment!

Let’s establish a scenario. You get the name and address of a gallery. To qualify if that gallery has an interest BEFORE visiting in person or sending out the sheet of slides, you address the card to the director and mail it out. Give the card a week or so to get into their hands, and make a call to them.

“Hello – this is Joe Doe, did you receive the postcard I sent out to you last week showing my work?”

They can answer one of three ways:

1) “No, I did not get it”

2) “I don¹t know”

3) “Yes, I did.”

Any of these three can have a good response from you:

1) “Oh, I am sorry, I will send you another right out and we can speak after you receive it.”

2) If they do not remember, you can say the same as #1 – and send another one out right away.

3) If they did receive the card, you have an opening to discuss your works with them. Something easy like: “Does my type of work fit into your gallery – and would you like me to send out additional images for your review?” You have just started the process of qualifying the gallery without spending lots of dollars.

Postcards can also be used to canvas or “scout” an area. You might want to divide your county or state (why not the nation?) into separate mailing regions. Send a few cards into each of the regions and keep track of responses. If you are getting better response from one area than another – pursue that area with more vigor. You can also do this with different industries. Let’s say you choose galleries, frame shops, interior designers and furniture stores as your four target markets. By sending out controlled mailings to each of the industries and gauging response rate, you will see which group you should be spending more time approaching with your artwork.

Use your cards to keep your work in front of your clients and potential clients to “develop” new sales.

keep it out there Perhaps you will start with a biannual mailing of a new image. “I wanted to send you a card of this new image I have just completed – pastels seem to be my calling and I just wanted to share it with you.” As you get further ahead, you can increase your mailings in frequency and let these postcards help with development of new business.

If you have decided to take up the show circuit, have your show schedule printed on the back of your cards. “I will be showing my newest works at___________ and the date. I will be in booth ______, and would love to see you there.” You can leave blanks and just fill in the dates, places and times as you set up your shows. And remember to leave a little room on the card so you can write a personal note to someone if needed.

You could also send out these show cards to galleries, shops, decorators and local business owners that you do not know in the surrounding area of the show. You would be surprised at how many times artists gain new clients this way. One artist that I met several years ago at an outdoor show never misses sending me a postcard each time he is at a show anywhere near my location. And, you know what? Whenever I can, I go to those shows because he took the time to send me a card to invite me.

If you are having a gallery showing, use your cards to send notices that you are on an exhibit. It keeps people informed about where your work is on display.

When you have your postcards printed, have some printed with the show information and leave others blank and then you can use them after the show to write a little note to people who came by to see you and thank them for stopping by.

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