It is essential to regularly reflect on the state of your art gallery business and look forward to what you want it to look like in three to five years. Here I want to talk about some recent trends you, as a small gallery, may wish to consider as you plan the priorities for your art gallery business development.
Running a gallery with a small staff often means your management is reactionary to the moment. You are always greasing that squeakiest wheel. I encourage you to set time aside at the end of each year to think about the big picture and your gallery business development.
The gallery sector will continue rapidly evolving to keep up with changing buying habits, technology that makes managing a gallery more efficient, and narrowing focus on core elements of a gallery’s program.
Below are some trends to consider for your gallery’s business development and strategies.
Priorities for Art Gallery Business Development
- Galleries need to ensure they prioritize existing buyers and continually provide value to them between sales. Try to create tools that enable you to proactively reach out to those who purchased in the past and start a new dialogue. These tools should blend upselling or cross-selling with non-sales communications that are generously helpful, thoughtful, or amusing.
- Utilize technology that gives you greater insight into your prospective collector’s buying habits, preferences, and interests. This means regularly tracking analytics from your CRM, email marketing, SEO, and social media. You could also send an annual survey or feedback form after a sale.
- Galleries will need to be more proactive in developing and promoting their gallery program, mission, values, and services as a crucial part of their sales and marketing messaging to separate themselves from their competition.
- Put a greater emphasis on staff training and outsourcing specific tasks to increase efficiency and better enable you to focus on business development and leadership. Most small art galleries aren’t financially able to hire permanent staff, to focus on specific aspects of the business, such as content marketing. Take advantage of the growing gig economy to hire someone who can work remotely temporarily and fill a skills gap within your gallery’s staff.
- Look for ways to be more environmentally sustainable in your business. If you adopt green practices in your gallery or if your artists do, you must help your clients understand exactly what eco-friendly choices have been made and demonstrate the authenticity of those choices in how you do business. Today, going green is a client acquisition strategy. It can help attract new art buyers who actively shop from green companies, and you can potentially reduce your gallery spending on some resources.
Trends in selling art
- Look for ways to extend the sales cycle and enhance the viewing experience with additional programming or supporting events around an exhibition. This increases the opportunity to create awareness and contextual understanding of the artwork you exhibit, thus making that emotional connection for buyers that often leads to a sale. By offering diverse supporting events around a show, you also meet your collectors’ different preferences for experiencing art.
- Whenever possible, customize your sales messaging to specific clients or groups of prospects. Customized messages tend to ignite a conversation; when that happens, you can build trust and show you understand their needs and values.
- Continue to be transparent with pricing both in the gallery and online. Collectors have indicated in numerous surveys that they will more likely support art galleries with price transparency. This goes a long way in building trust, especially with the next generation of art buyers.
- As online sales become a more significant revenue channel for your gallery, reviews also grow in importance. Selling art online isn’t just about whether someone falls in love with a piece and their ability to buy; it’s also about what other collectors have to say about working with your gallery and the artist. Find ways to consistently incorporate client reviews into your sales process so you can use them as a sales tool online.
Marketing your artists and gallery
- Unique experiences still entice buyers. Look for ways to provide inimitable and creative ways to present your artists and allow art lovers to get to know them. Blending in-person and online experiences around an exhibition is still an excellent strategy to reach larger audiences.
- Video will still be the dominant form of content created. Short-form video is taking over as the content type of choice for viewers, and marketers are listening. Your followers will likely respond positively to your shorter video content that gets to the point quickly and therefore stick around longer on your social pages exploring.
- While video is the hot new(ish) kid on the block, blogging is still very effective and should be continued and nurtured. Be mindful of the format you use to make this long-form content easier to scan and read on smartphones. Break up long text sections into shorter paragraphs, and use bullets and headers within a post. If improving your SEO is a priority for your gallery’s website, you should post regularly.
- Community connection is vital. Continue to partner with other art galleries, artists, and businesses outside of the art world to create fresh art experiences. Collaborations will expand awareness and focus on nurturing art lovers’ desire to start collecting and take pride in supporting your gallery’s artists. Many partnerships will also continue to be useful for cost-sharing, such as shared booths at art fairs and expanding into new markets.
- Galleries must carefully monitor the mobile experience they provide to clients and prospects across their marketing channels. Online viewing experiences on your website, email marketing personalization, SEO, and mobile optimization continue to be critical to both the art discovery and buying processes.
To the Point
To see how the art gallery sector, as a whole, continues to evolve in the next decade promises to be exciting. For me, it is even more exciting to watch how both emerging and mid-level art galleries find creative ways to be more competitive in this crazy, crazy art world you call home.
It is challenging to prepare for what the future holds, and while these trends are not all-inclusive, consider those I have included here as you plan for your new year. Pushing an artist’s career forward, putting context to the artwork, and continuously reaching more art buyers through a thoughtful gallery program is an enormous job. Narrowing your focus, trying to think outside the traditional gallery model box, and investing in training and technology will make your actions more impactful to the bottom line on which your gallery staff and artists depend.
Including some of these ideas and strategies in your gallery business development priorities can help your future success gain momentum and increase sales.