Building Your Audience. How to Grow Your Contact List Using Email, Web forms and Autoresponders
Learn how other artists are using state-of-the-art software to grow their audience with less effort.
If you are selling your work direct-to-client, you will need to establish, grow and maintain a strong email list in order to promote your exhibitions and make announce about new artworks. You’ll be needing state-of-the-art help.
In this FAP post, I’d like to share some ideas for building a list of quality prospects for your art business. We’ll be taking a close look at how art businesses are using web forms to grow their audience and keep/open the channels of regular communication with their customers.
If you’ve been selling your art for some time, your current contact list likely includes previous clients, friends, family, work associates and other members of the art community—all good. But where do you go from here? Learn how you can put these contact names to work for you.
In previous FAP posts, we’ve talked about the “F” Factor in relationship building, and how it is a necessity for doing business in today’s marketplace. Hopefully, by now you have set up a Facebook Page and are using a free blog-style website such as WordPress, Tumbler or Blogger to communicate your creativity and projects with your visitors.
The first critical step inside this sales funnel is to turn your visitors into what we call “subscribers” of your art business messages. Using a web form is a relatively new way of collecting emails from individuals who have expressed an interest in your art. Creating this contact list can be done with the help of a service provider or “Email Marketing Provider (EMP)”. EMP’s use state-of-the-art programming to collect and automate your e-contact list.
We use AWeber and GetResponse (both are well known and have good ethics when it comes to spam). An EMP offers the complete service for creating an email web form. It manages your list by automating follow-up letters and email campaigns, either in conjunction with your blog posts or manual broadcast emails from their site.
Both AWeber and Get Response offer inexpensive packages for this service. The least expensive of the two, GetResponse at about $8/month for up to 250 subscribers. There’s some set up involved on your part, but the long-term service is great value considering that once you are set up it can be run on auto-pilot.
How Web Forms Work
A web form collects email addresses (plus any other data you require) from the visitors who want to learn more about your work and existing clients who want to stay in the loop. Once a visitor submits their information to your form, they are automatically added to your subscriber list. As a member of your list, they’ll start receiving whatever messages you plan on sending. You can even customize “who gets what messages” inside your email campaign(s).
According to a 2010 CRTC Study, the average Canadian spends 42 hours each month online (US 30 hours). Much of this time is spent visiting sites that they have “subscribed to” and become members of.
Web forms and email campaigns are the easiest way to building your audience and harness the power of the internet. Sharing your news with your subscribers using an email campaign, completes your online presence by helping you stay in touch on a regular basis, while offering them a way to forward your messages to their personal social networks—this translates to sales.
Building Your Email List: How do you get emails for your list?
Online List Building—Let technology do the lion’s share of the work
If you have an online presence such as a website, blog or gallery, you have the added advantage of building your list by using web forms. Web forms are very common in almost every industry. You’ve probably filled in one yourself, if you’ve subscribed to a newsletter such as Groupon, Chapters or Robert Genn’s “The Painter’s Keys“.
A web form can be put almost anywhere online:
If you have a website, you already have a prime spot to host a web form. This can easily be done using an auto-responder such as AWeber or GetResponse. Both of these suppliers offer templates and easy-to-install instructions.
Ideally, you should put your form in a prominent location on every page of your site. You never know what page a visitor will land on, so keep the form easy to find. For most sites, this translates to somewhere near the top of the page.
According to AWeber, “a blog is another place for you to offer your emails to an already assembled audience”. Just as with your website, you should also place a form on your blog, so your readers can sign up for updates too.
By using each blog post, you can share daily messages immediately as they get posted. Additionally, you can offer incentives and contests that are only available to email subscribers, then talk it up on your blog.
Don’t have a blog yet? You can set one up for free at WordPress, Blogger or Tumblr – take your pick!
Social Media Profiles
Your Facebook or Twitter page is also an excellent place to collect subscribers for your art business. AWeber suggests, putting a form on your Facebook Page or linking to a hosted web form in your Twitter profile. Once you collect interested social contacts, they will receive your email updates, then share your activity with their circle of contacts, and so on.
Hosted web forms are particularly useful if you have an Etsy shop, or if you sell your art through an online gallery or store. Follow the link at the bottom, AWeber’s Getting Started video, to see just how easy this can be accomplished.
This is extremely helpful for growing a community of art lovers who show interest in your work. Each time you ask your contacts to sign up for your emails, sharing through social media makes your requests visible to a limitless network.
Offline List Building
Most artists are familiar with building a physical mailing list, the most common practice being a guest book at exhibitions, trade events, and craft fairs. This method still stands true and is particularly effective when you have the opportunity to make a personal introduction and are given a business card directly by a fan. Contact information can be added manually to your subscriber database.
Use your personal meetings/exhibitions to build enthusiastic subscribers by accurately explaining what they will receive when they are added to your list. Let them know they will be receiving an invitation by email very soon.
Tip: Always be prepared with a sign-up sheet at your booth, a notebook and pen or create a directory in your smart phone to store your new subscriber contact information.
What to do with your existing list?
The easy way
Prepare a list of your current contacts by typing them into a spreadsheet, such as Excel (MAC or Windows) or Numbers (for MAC). Save your contact file as a “.csv” file, and then import them directly through your EMP’s software.
Tip: Your web form should ask for only the essentials. Most invitations are done by email these days, so make it easy for your new subscribers by asking for first names and email addresses. If you regularly use post-mail, give your subscriber the option to include their full name and mailing address.
You can manually enter each name and email to your online campaign. This is also done through your EMP’s software.
Once you are up and running, you will use this same method to add names as you receive them.
Now that you have a big list of contacts. What do you send?
Consider that some people get 100’s of emails a day, so be conscious of the numbers of emails you broadcast. “Quality versus quantity” applies here.
Most commonly, email broadcasts are used for items that are “newsworthy” and pertaining to your art business. Use your emails to be certain that your subscribers are always the first to hear about new pieces, gallery installations and commission opportunities.
Tip: Announce beforehand that your subscribers will get first dibs on any premium or limited edition prints or pieces.
Share studio updates, such as your progress on certain pieces or locations you’re scouting helps give your subscribers an opportunity to become better acquainted with your creative process, thus making them more intimate with the final art piece.
Entertain and create two-way communication by including snapshots of you at work and asking for feedback from readers. You could even share behind the scenes video by linking your email to a YouTube video (GetResponse allows you to embed video into your emails).
Here are some tips you can follow to effectively make use of your email fan base
• Target your emails effectively. Don’t add names of people that have not asked to join your list. Your list should be built on qualified leads and confirmed visitors of your work.
• Schedule your email messages. Consider the date and time of each email, how it will coincide with the launch of a new exhibit or announcement of new work at your website.
• Focus on the message you are delivering. You may need to pair-down your “introduction” text to be no more than 100 words. Your message may only include images, or a single image eluding to a larger body of work that is coming to completion.
• Create separate lists for local media, so that they can send press releases designed specifically for them.
• Emailing newsletters and educational PDFs can help mid-career artists attack the over-saturated market and gain an advantage by sharing with people who are searching for specific styles or genre of artworks how to create similar imagery using your techniques. This may not seem like a way to sell art, however, potential buyers will enjoy learning about your work, and this type of “sharing” will position you as an authority in with your field.
• Include testimonials and comments about your work. These can be found by digging through old emails from past customers, previous exhibition Guest books, or looking through comments on your work at Flickr or on your web gallery.
Close every email with the soft sell, point your reader to where you want them to go and say “Thank you”
You’ve won your subscribers over with your compelling artwork, so much so, that they have shared your email links with their friends and associates (the beauty of social media). This is where the soft sell comes in. Close your emails by driving your fans back to your website, online gallery/store or physical exhibition. Don’t be shy, be tasteful and make it easy for them to connect with a place where they can purchase your art.
Growing your contact list using an automated email campaign requires some effort in learning a new bit of software, but it’s a BIG step in the right direction to finding new customers and getting maximum exposure for your art. Hey, if my right-brain can handle it, so can yours. Get started today!
Thank you for your ongoing support of the Fidelis Art blog. It is our pleasure to be a part of your art business and watch it grow! Keep up the good work.
Related FAP Posts
Follow this link to our Fidelis Toolbox of Resources for more art marketing tools.
AWeber is the perfect tool for setting up an email campaign. To get started, watch this AWeber Video
8-Ways to use Autoresponders to drive traffic and increase your income. This is a www.problogger.com post that shares some great ideas about using autoresponders—very relevant for artists that are blogging.