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Sitting at a conference on marketing one day it hit me. Right in the forehead. In order for artwork to be sold it must be seen. I had one of those flashes. An intuitive grasp of the obvious. Art is something that is only appreciated if its seen. Therefore, the only way people who would be buying your art, are those who would see it.

Wow. So I sat down and listed the number of places where art is seen by the public….my list went like this ….

Arts & Craft Shows
Gift Shops
Outdoor shows, Flea Markets, Garage Sales, Lawn Sales
Invitations to Showing
Advertising in magazines, television and other places where the painting is shown
Furniture Stores
Office Buildings …
The list went on ….

Some of this costs money, big bucks. So what if I had little or no bucks at all?

It just seemed to me that if I displayed my artwork in high traffic businesses, restaurants and furniture stores than I could actually get free exposure. It would be like free advertising. And my art would be seen.

So how does one approach a business to display the artwork?

Basically, your strategy is that you want to take complimentary artwork to a business establishment and display it to enhance their facilities (beautification) and you want to enhance your chances of selling the art.

What does the business receive? No charge for you loaning out artwork.

You receive free public viewing of your artwork.

Wait. Something’s wrong. How does the viewing audience even know who you are, or if they like the artwork, would know how to contact you?

You’re going to need a small sign or bronze plaque. Sometimes you can put a small, engraved small plaque on the bottom of the frame. This really gives the artwork credibility and class. Or if you can put a small sign below or to the right of the painting this will work out quite nicely. Be sure to include the following information on the plaque or sign.

Name of the painting
Your Name
Telephone number and website address (URL)

Notice that I didn’t say your physical or email address. No one’s going to write you and tell you that just after having a root canal at the local dentist, they noticed your painting on their departure and wanted to write you all about their feelings. That’s not going to happen. Besides, do you really want people showing up at your studio unannounced? The address is essentially useless in this rare case.

Motivated buyers are going to telephone you. Less motivated are going to visit your website to see what else you have. If they have any interests they’ll use your contact page on the website and email you. All artists today should have a website. So let’s remember that to be successful as a new, unknown artist in the 21st Century build yourself a website.
Leave your business cards with the business establishment. In this event, should a customer ask the store owner, or waitress about the painting they can hand the customer a business cards. Two important information will transpire between the owner/waitress/sales clerk and their customer…..(1) This artist is a local artist, and (2) This artist wants to sell this painting. What you get indirectly is an endorsement by the business owner to the customer that the artist is a reputable person in which to do business. That’s really strong. Offer to talk to the employees at the next company meeting about who you are, why you’re displaying the work and what to do if someone should enquire about the artwork.

Most employees will not know that the artwork is for sale. So tell them it is. The more the employees know about you, the more they’ll respond when customers ask. Hey, offer a commission. If they refer someone that calls you and buys, send them a fat commission check. Not a paltry amount. Were you selling your artwork at a gallery, they would dock you 40% to 60% of the sale price. So a 20% or 25% commission check will motivate employees to ‘push’ you. A $300 painting sold is a good $60 to $75 check for the referring employee. They’ll start dreaming about referring one or two a week to you.

Some business or restaurants may object to any information on the sign other than your name. If its really a problem, than that’s where the small bromze plaque on the artwork comes in. It’s classy and I havn’t found anyone that’s objected to it with the contact information engraved upon it.

If they still object, that’s what I call a deal breaker. They have to understand that you are not being a missionary, you are trying to sell your paintings and that information MUST accompany the painting. If you still can’t resolve the problem, than move on. There’s other fish in the sea.

Should the business building have a security guard in the lobby of the building, introduce yourself and leave him all of your information as well. They field lots of questions from visitors and they like commission checks just as well.

Once your artwork is in place, keep in touch. You have the responsibility of visiting each business location displaying your artwork to ensure everything is operating smoothly. Be sure to select businesses or business buildings in which new visitors are the vast majority of the traffic daily. Otherwise, you’ll find that the people who work in an office building see the same environment day after day, night after night and it becomes second-nature for them to ignore their surroundings and your artwork. So remember, your buying audience is not the workers, but the visitors.

This means you should only pick those business establishments whose visitors would appreciate your style of art. This is what marketeers mean when they said give your customers what they want. Marketeers are called by this name because their primary focus is studying customers and finding out what they want and need. Then the company’s or artist job is to simply give these customers and visitors what they’re looking to acquire.

I would suggest you set up a few of these establishments. Productive establishments. Set up a couple initially and add as you see fit. Be sure to change out the paintings every 3 months. Many businesses have regular customers, so get anxious to see your next set of paintings.

Finally, my last bit of advice…..

In order for your artwork to be sold, it must first be seen.