Art walks and gallery weekends can now be found in cities large and small. There are ways that many galleries are missing out on opportunities to find new art collectors and generate future art sales. Is your art gallery business missing out?
For the public, it’s a fun night out with friends. For a gallery business, art walks have proven to be a great way to increase foot traffic to an exhibition and increase an artist’s exposure to potential art collectors.
These events typically don’t generate a lot of sales that night and they do not always draw your top collectors. They do however attract a certain amount of people with future buying potential and they offer an opportunity to create a dialogue about art. The dialogue is how you take a financially capable and curious art walk stroller and initiate thinking about the value art would bring to their lives.
Here are the most consistently observed ways art galleries miss out on sales and marketing opportunities from art walk participation.
Participation is almost a secret.
Including art walk details on gallery events pages, social media and the organizer’s listings is a given, but surprisingly lacking from a high percentage of art walks participants. Galleries who do not strategically promote their participation in an upcoming art walk are not going to hit the radar of people who are planning which galleries they want see during the night. Some art walks include such a large number of venues that no one can see them all. Many art galleries leave the promotion solely up to the art walk organizer. These efforts don’t always communicate your gallery’s message
Craft an “edutainment” focused marketing message about what is happening in the gallery during the art walk. Planning something beyond opening your doors and pouring wine will make your gallery a destination. Use the promotion of an art walk as an opportunity to tell a story about an exhibition or artist. Treat the event almost like a soft opening or to create urgency before it closes. Getting people in the door is great. Getting informed and already intrigued people in the door is better. It’s an initial step in establishing a relationship with potential art buyers.
Out of Sight, Out of Mind
Art walk strollers flow in and out without being encouraged to sign up for a newsletter or join social media. After the event, there is no way for a gallery to stay top of mind with anyone who really enjoyed what your gallery offered that night.
It is worth putting thought into and experimenting with new ways to capture contact information. As we mentioned above, just being more approachable is the first step to starting a conversation and being able to ask to stay in touch. Asking for contact information is much easier if it is for a specific purpose, such as an invitation to a studio visit or an interesting article about the artists. Keep it very personalized and purposeful.
There are some apps that could be creatively used. Try setting up kiosks with an iPad around the gallery with a quick feedback survey about the show using an app like QuickTapSurvey. Encourage people to take the survey with a drawing to win something. Another app is OnSpot Social. Again it uses an iPad to be set up as a kiosk or to hand to a gallery visitor to allow them to easily connect on social media or sign up to your email list.
Tracking Art Walk Potential
Keep track of which leads came from art walks by tagging them in your contact database. This way you can track how engaged they stay with your gallery long after the art walk. Nurture these leads with an automated email campaign that will help them connect with your gallery’s value proposition, the artist’s represent and future opportunities to engage with your gallery. You can also track over time what efforts work best for your gallery business to make the most of participating in art walks.
Tracking art walk opportunities is an important business practice, especially if you are investing money on entertainment and refreshments.
A final thought on how a gallery can use art walks to generate more qualified leads is to post pricing for the artworks on display. Many visitors will be visiting your gallery for the first time and may not be sure if they really belong there. Being afraid they can’t afford the art in the gallery is another big reason visitors don’t engage. They don’t want to be embarrassed to admit they can’t afford it.
Many galleries do not post prices because that is their way of forcing visitors to ask and engage. However, don’t forget that buying art online has grown significantly partly because listed pricing increases transparency and makes the buyer feel more comfortable if they already know they can afford. If you are not sure listing prices is the right thing for your art gallery business, the art walk is good place to experiment.
This one may seem silly, but it’s unfortunately its common. It’s discouraging to go into a crowed gallery and not be able to identify who even works there to ask a question. During art walks gallery staff tend to look like trendy, well dressed security guards or blend into the crowd. Nobody wants to guess who in the room might be able to help them.
Simply visually identifying staff is someway, such as name tags, a flower on the lapel or wearing gallery t-shirts may encourage more interaction with potential buyers. If there is an opportunity, ensure all gallery staff members are introduced to the crowd at the conclusion of an artist talk.
Art walks can be of great value to your gallery business if they are treated as more than a strictly social event. Many galleries do an amazing job with making themselves a must see destination of an art walk. Others seem to participate out of obligation to their gallery district. No marketing initiative is a silver bullet. It takes time to build momentum through consistency. An art walk is a more casual event that should still be maximized for increased foot traffic and artist’s exposure to potential art collectors. Ensure your gallery is not missing any of the opportunities highlighted above and experiment with ways to make them a better business asset.
Does your gallery participate in an art walk? Post a comment and brag about how you stand out. The possibilities must be endless.