Opening a brand-new art gallery is an exciting and scary endeavor. To get off to a strong start, you must get the word out that you are open for business and what you have to offer. Marketing a new art gallery is a vital area to invest in at the very beginning, but where to start?
I want to share the five marketing initiatives I recommend you prioritize in this article. Some even before you open. You will have many moving parts to coordinate as you build your artist roster, try to find a location, develop your gallery program and potentially hire staff. Focusing on these marketing priorities as a new gallery business will set a solid foundation to build upon as you scale and grow in the future.
1 – Establish a social media presence for your art gallery
Establishing a social media presence is the first marketing priority I would recommend. It is the fastest way to start building branding awareness, talking about your intended gallery program and value proposition for both artists and collectors.
You’re basically social networking.
You can be marketing your new art gallery business on social media platforms simultaneously as you find a physical location, build an artist roster and create a gallery website. Social media is a means of starting to attract and building an audience for your artists.
There is no cost to get started, and you don’t need to be a web developer.
Social media is a perfect forum to share your story about the birth of the gallery, your vision and mission, and who you are as a person. Your future collectors and artists will love seeing the gallery take shape and will likely more easily form a connection with your mission.
Suppose you can establish a following on various platforms. In that case, when ready, you will have an effective way to drive prospective buyers to your gallery’s website to promote your artists and events.
You may even begin selling works on social media as you bring new artists on. Doing so may help validate your gallery program, and the income will undoubtedly be welcome for covering all the expenses of starting a brand-new gallery.
2 – Invest in an art gallery CRM system
A customer relationship management (CRM) database is something I recommend investing in at the start. It will provide operational efficiency and help you sell more art.
Many new galleries put off investing in this business tool due to budget concerns or fear of a new tech to learn. I think that is a mistake. It is one of the best investments you can make to drive sales. CRM software is also crucial to any business development strategy you aspire to put in place.
Look for a system to help you maintain your client records and inventory of artworks. Many have website-building capabilities that make keeping your site updated a breeze.
Shop around when choosing the right system for you. There are many options out there with different pros and cons and price points. Get recommendations from other art dealers managing a gallery similar to yours. Then narrow your choices and set up some demos with a sales agent.
It is often much easier to start a gallery business with the right tools in place than trying to add them once you have grown to a certain point.
3 – Build your audience. Build your email list
Opening a new art gallery is often more manageable if you already have a strong network of artists and buyers. Many new gallery owners have worked in the business for other galleries before branching out independently. They might have an advantage and could perhaps tap into the clients with whom they have already built a relationship.
Whether you have an existing network or not, building a gallery email marketing list is another top priority I want to discuss.
Here are ways to build your email list. When starting out, I encourage you to employ as many of these as you can.
- Make a sign-up form on your website obvious and place it in various places on the site. Pop-ups are annoying, but they work.
- Add a sign-up capability on your social media platforms and regularly promote your gallery’s newsletter with posts.
- Be proactive about inviting people to join your mailing list at networking opportunities and within the gallery.
- Encourage people to RSVP for events through email.
- Place a link to your sign-up form on your email signature.
- Offer a giveaway, special offer, or contest for which people must sign up to be eligible.
- Run social media ads targeting your ideal buyer with a call to action that will land them on your list. This could be a special offer, a free download, or just asking to join the list for XYZ benefits.
Another essential element of enticing people to join your email list is being clear about the benefits of joining. Everyone hates SPAM. Tout the great information you will send to their inbox or exceptional opportunities. You may also want to set expectations for how often you will email.
Email newsletters are likely one of the most vital sales and marketing tools your gallery business uses to communicate with collectors and prospects. You will want to implement an email marketing strategy early in your business.
4 – Optimizing your art gallery’s SEO
You put a lot of time and effort into your gallery’s website and want it to be found by art lovers. SEO is one big way that happens.
Search engines scan your art gallery’s website for words and meta tags to make sense of what it is about. Their goal is to provide the most relevant and valuable returns for users’ search criteria.
To rank high on a return, you need to pay attention to how you build your website, its content, keywords, and how user-friendly the site is to visitors—things like speed, mobile optimization, and readability matter for SEO.
Make sure your artist, event, and category pages have plenty of unique text that search engines can read. I see a lot of sexy gallery web pages with only images. Unless you are really on top of meta tags and headers, Google won’t know if that page is relevant or not. To a search engine, that kind of page appears not to have much content and therefore is not very valuable to someone searching. Yikes!
As you build your gallery’s website, educate yourself about vital elements of SEO or work with an SEO expert. Gallery Fuel has other articles to help guide you, specifically about art gallery websites. I can also help you audit your website with SEO in mind to strengthen your position.
If an art buyer is looking for a piece by a specific artist, you want your gallery to be listed above other galleries that represent that artist. By focusing on a few simple best practices for SEO, search engines will love your gallery’s website and rank it high.
Art gallery SEO optimization is likely something you are constantly working on in your gallery business. Algorithms change frequently, and good rankings take time to create. Success is a long game, so start at the beginning with intelligent SEO elements in your new gallery website.
5 – Create a content strategy that attracts art buyers
When establishing a new art gallery, your marketing strategy will focus on inbound marketing tactics. Inbound marketing is all about creating content that attracts your ideal client to you vs. tactics like cold calling or networking where you go to your prospects.
Everything we have talked about above doesn’t work without content. Your art gallery will want several marketing channels to get your messages into the world – email newsletter, multiple social media pages, website updates, blog, etc. You need to create content to go on all these marketing channels.
Diversity is essential when it comes to an effective content strategy.
Your client base will have diverse interests and preferences for the kind of content they enjoy most. For an art gallery, content categories in your strategy to include the following:
- Informative content about new or specific artworks in the gallery, news about your artists or gallery staff, press releases, or exhibitions.
- Educational curatorial commentary on gallery exhibitions or insights into artist processes.
- Evergreen content that remains relevant for a long time, such as collecting advice or care instruction for artwork or even the benefits of being on your mailing list.
- Brand content that shares the mission and values of the gallery, as well as the services offered.
- Entertaining content about staff, artists, or behind-the-scenes stories that show the human personality that people like to do business with.
Diversity of media helps too when marketing a new art gallery. The above categories of content can be presented in different media types. For example, long-form media such as blogs and catalogs or short-form copy such as exhibition labels, art descriptions online, and images and videos across your marketing channels.
I see many art galleries, new and established, neglect to produce enough brand content. It would be best if you promoted the gallery in addition to your artists and shows. The art world is competitive. Brag about what makes your gallery unique. This helps to build trust amongst your prospective buyers.
To the Point
Your new art gallery will be off to a healthy start if you keep these five critical marketing elements in mind as you begin to create the business. These are where I recommend you prioritize all the marketing activities you will do throughout running the gallery. You don’t need a physical location to market your mission and artists. These priorities still apply if you go with an online-only business model.
I want you to be wildly successful in your new art gallery for your own personal fulfillment and for the career success of the artists you represent. There are lots more details about each of these marketing areas to fuel your journey on Gallery Fuel. Explore and thrive.
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