Wednesday, August 6, 2008

simplifying the art studio visit

We've been talking to a few of our artist friends lately and the discussions have been centering around the viability of offering studio visits to prospective art patrons. The golden rule of making a studio visit work consists of two elements. Keep your customer's decision-making relaxed, guided, and informational and secondly, be yourself without giving too much of yourself away. Studies have shown that one of the primary reasons an art buyer purchases is not only because of a love of the aesthetics of a work, but rather because of the relationship with the artist. Your relationships with your clients are your future opportunities. Remember, in the studio, you are at home and in control. Use this simple guide to help you navigate your open house sessions.

1. Clean and organize prior to the visit. The appearance of your studio is paramount in reflecting an image of success. I can't tell you how many times I've seen sub-standard work in a gorgeous and refined setting only to turn around and find top-quality work in a what amounts to a dark and dank closet. If your studio is orderly, clean, and holds an element of visual interest (use your imagination) you have a good launching pad. The studio visit should be comfortable whether you're operating out of your basement or a 2,000 sq. ft. loft.

2. Seek ye first to understand. This standard management technique shows that the most important thing an artist can do is to understand, identify, and help form what the buyer's artistic intentions and interests are. Is this piece part of a collection, will it stand alone, is it for a primary or secondary residence, is for commercial space, does the buyer seek works of personal interest or works for investment - what other artists attract the buyer? When you know your customer, you know your market base. Artists should be pre-qualifying customers by asking directed questions to the best of their ability.

3. Seek ye then to be understood. This is probably the most critical aspect of the studio visit. It is critical that the artist speak from his or her heart and have a spirit of confidence in the direction, vision, and statement of their work. When you are truly invested in the work you do, you'll be generating an electrical field that will attract simply because of your centeredness. It's entirely possible your art work may be entirely wrong for the studio visitor - it's also entirely possible it may be perfect for their friend. As you explain and demonstrate your artistic vision, it is important at this point to show three initial works which you are not trying to sell - one completed, one half completed, and one at the inception stage. This allows the visitor to get an inherent feel for your artistic process and it wordlessly shows that you and your work are works in motion.

4. Show as a professional. Look, outside of developing relationships with your buyers, the studio visit has one basic goal, selling a work. Real estate agents have a showing mantra - save the best for last. In our experience, we've found saving the best for MIDDLE is the way to sell without fail. One of the challenges of a studio visit (which eats up your time) is getting the prospective buyer to feel comfortable in leaving. When you save your best work for last, you are extending the length of the visit - now your buyer is charged up and leaving on a high, but you've not had a chance to wind down and close the sale and leave a bit of mystery and intrigue for motivation for the buyer to return at a later date.

5. The dreaded pricing discussion. This is another reason we believe saving your best work for the middle demonstration is an effective strategy. When you are showing your talent, you say something to the effect of "a piece this size, in this medium, framed or unframed, and delivered to spec runs approximately X dollars to Y dollars." You are initially demonstrating your lowest end of the pricing scale. When demonstrating the best work in the middle position, you are demonstrating your highest end of pricing. Therefore, you've neither undersold or oversold and the third example in the last position should be priced in the middle range. Certainly pricing discussions include touchy topics like artist's discount, repeat buyer discount, wholesale prices and other somewhat difficult topics - we will address these fuller in future articles.

6. Close with finesse. Art buyers may not remember a word of what you said, but they will remember almost all of how you made them feel. The artist should be sure to have a materials package with a statement, exhibit list, resume, business cards, postcards, and other advertising supplements ready for the client to take home. Offer to be of service to your client. Do they need you to visit their home to see interior decorating schemes or to evaluate which one of your pieces would best fit in their collection. Did you offer the client something to eat and or drink? We're also a big believer in the power of the unexpected. Reveal something about yourself or your work that's a bit unexpected. Teach the client in addition to selling - and most importantly, don't overwhelm the client with the temptation to show them everything you've ever done. One nice touch is having a portfolio book that the client can flip through at their leisure.

Artists who need help defining or designing how they can incorporate art studio and art workshop visits for their prospective clients should contact Shauna Lee Lange Arts Advisory, based out of metropolitan Washington, DC. Studio visits, when conducted properly, can propel your sales and reputation. And remember to have some fun and laughs along the way during the art studio visit. Life is short, don't take the studio visit so seriously. Artists should also remember the studio visit is a way for the artist to also garner new inspiration, new quirks, or a new path on the artistic journey.