KCAC Forum Newsletter Volume 2 Number 3 March 1976
How to Develop a Clientele
By Mary Conry
Here I sit with a studio – full of excellent and exciting works. How in heavens name can I reach the people who will be interested in my work? Has my education been woefully deficient? Who will teach me the magic formula so that thousands of excited collectors will literally stampede to my door?
Sorry, we will not be able to help you here. No magic formula exists. If it did, I would surely have it in use myself. But there are some essential pointers that apply to everyone no matter how novice or professional one is.
Now lets sit down and face a very sobering fact first. NO ONE WILL DO THIS FOR YOU. You are really the only one interested in building YOUR clientele and making people interested in YOU. Even if you happen to be in a good gallery, the gallery owner has many artists besides you. And he is certainly more interested in his success and business than he is in yours. Any way you cut the cake, you are the one who will have to make the big effort. We are all responsible for our own success.
The key to becoming known is to have a large file of contacts and potential clients at your disposal. But where do I start? The task seems hopeless. Here are some guidelines for starting a file
1. Begin with friends and relatives: parents, your next door neighbor, your dentist and other professionals you know. Ask them to recommend persons who might be interested in your work or in the arts in general.
2. Ask former and present clients to refer names to you. They are frequently happy to help you with other interested persons.
3. Share your list with other artists. Good sources here.
4. Become known among people interested in the arts. Go where prospective clients congregate. Lets face it, there is not much chance of meeting a prospective client at the bowling alley or the local beer pub. Some examples might be to go to gallery openings, join museum societies, attend the philharmonic, become involved in groups which tend to support the arts.
Remember that when you meed these fascinating people, you must put forth the effort. Don’t be aggressive but discuss your work with persons who seem interested. Offer to make an appointment to show your work if someone expresses interest. When you meet a person interested in the arts make an immediate note of their name, address, etc. and add it to your file.
Now what do I do with all of the information that I have collected about clients? Well, get a file of 3×5 cards. Make up a card on each prospective client. The card should contain name, address, phone, and other pertinent information. Eg. business, artistic preferences, wife’s name is “Buggy,” has red hair. To this card can be added purchases and other useful information.
This file should be updated frequently to eliminate the dead wood. But do be careful to keep on your files persons who do not collect your work now, but are interested in the arts and other artists. They are valuable resources of new contacts. Aim for a file of at least 1000 names. It will take this many to find about 100 who will be really interested in YOUR work.
Now, for the most important thing of all. Keep in touch with these persons at least once a year, and more frequently for interested persons. Always be sure that these people know of new shows in which you are exhibiting. Send newspaper clippings and notices of awards to prospective collectors and to notify collectors of new works of the type you know they are interested in.
Sounds like a big job, huh? Want to succeed? Want to know where to start? Now you know.