Why the proper merchandising of your artwork can make all the difference, and thinking outside the box to expand your revenue sources and generate additional income.
Coming up on the Art Marketing Podcast we're talking about the three ways you can grow your business, merchandising, and multiple revenue sources, and how properly executed merchandising can be a massive lever for growth in your business.
So what are the three ways that you can grow your business?
You've likely heard me rant about this in the podcast before. Number one, the number one way, the one most everybody focuses on is for you to get more customers, really, really, to get more customers, to get more customers into the door of your business, that's the number one way. The number two way is AOV, which stands for average order value. So you increase the dollar amount of the sale that you do make and there's a number of ways to do that. The age-old marketing example, the one in the textbooks, do you want fries with that? Instead of just a burger, they're now getting a burger and fries, and so the AOV, the average order value goes up. And by the way, quick throwback from the last episode, what is marketing?
A possible definition, anyway, get attention and you have an ask, do you want fries with that? You have their attention, they're right there, you make an ask for fries the worst thing that can happen is they say, no, many end up saying, yes. The number three way is repeat business. So you get your customers to come back and purchase from you again.
And if you're working on growing your business currently whether you are explicitly focused on it, or not, by definition you're working on one of these three levers to drive growth and more sales in your business to make more money, and merchandising is a big deal.
It's a word that encompasses a lot, but brands go to great, great lengths, to properly execute on it, it's why all the shops on Fifth Avenue spend so much money on their window displays. It's why often times you see the photo of the new Porsche and there's a beautiful-looking lady or man driving it, or a beautiful-looking person sitting next to the one that's driving it. It's why at ArtStoreFronts we spend so much time creating our wall, preview tool, our media-types browser, and the AR feature for the websites.
Turns out, we humans are extremely visual creatures. And so if you can help sort things for us visually how cool we might look in the new suit, how we get that car, we'll immediately have a beautiful human on our arm sitting right next to us right afterwards. And yes, when a customer can visualize a piece of art on their wall they are certainly one step closer to buying it, and so I love merchandising, it's a big deal. And I think the genesis of this episode came from a few different places.
Number one, it all dovetails with a huge new project I'm working on at ArtStoreFronts, but I'm gonna into that later. But merchandising, and specifically a proper presentation, of an artists or photographers offerings, is a pet peeve of mine, it just is, it's more than a pet peeve, it's a serious erk, it's a frustration it grinds my gears. Why most photographers and artists spend little time thinking about it. Those that do either do a half, you know what job, of doing it, or don't do it enough. And dagnabbit, I'm scratching my own itch here too. I'm incredibly passionate about merchandising personally. I understand all too well it is such a lever to drive business, it's huge.
You know if you'd go back a few episodes, can't remember what number it was, but it was way back, on a contest we ran in Messenger with Matthew Lock, I feel like I'm always talking about Messenger, but I am. If if any of you have got into the bot and saw his presentation, what did you see?
And don't worry, if you didn't see it, you didn't catch it, I'll throw a link in the show notes you can see it if you like.
But in it was a video and Matthew was giving away three prints and what did he have in his hand? He had the print, well actually even before that, 'cause it was, Cue Four, around Christmas time, I actually had him take the box, put the print in the box, the way it arrives at your house, have the entire thing wrapped in wrapping paper with a bow on it that he like custom painted on. The presentation in this thing looked absolutely beautiful. In the video he unwraps it, he unboxes it, unboxing is a thing on the internet by the way, search YouTube, and in there it's like a serious thing people love watch people like unboxing the newest like tech gadget is like a thing.
People pull it out and talk about all the stuff, whatever. He took it out of the package, it was beautifully wrapped, he unboxed it, he took the print out, he held it up to the light, he turned it sideways, you got to see the light dance off it, you gotta see how amazing a metal print was. And this was right ahead of, Cue Four, again, and so as a result of this his sales were quite well. People were able to visualize. The whole idea of that exercise is that people, as the merchandising was in place, people were able to visualize what it looked like under the tree, what it might look like wrapped up, what the reaction might be, they gotta feel what the reaction might be of a loved one potentially going through this unwrapping and seeing this, holding up this beautiful print, it's ready to hang, looking at it, the light kissing off of it. And what was the result of that exercise, the contest, it was a big success, the contest was a big success, and he had a great, Cue Four.
Now, when you properly merchandise things you really do, you help your customers visualize what it might look like and it's such an important part of the buying process. You know I talk about pet peeves, right? You know, I'm scratching my own itch here. One of my best friends wives is like our local and resident portrait photog and she's got a really solid gig going on. You know, she gets her place around town, finds some sort of outdoor place around town, nails the light, she knows exactly what the lights gonna do at what time of day, she knows exactly what she's working with and then, you know, she, I feel like it's three times a year we're doing this.
There's the Christmas card and then she schedules some sort of March, Easter or spring photo shoot, whatever, and then there's like a fall Halloween shoot as well. And literally my entire peer group, and extended peer group buy these sessions. We all get our kids dressed up in whatever ridiculous thing it might be, we march our kiddos down there, she shoots 'em, we get a nice gallery after the fact. Jessica her name is, they call her Jess.
So the photos come out amazing, that part is great.
We get incredible gallery digital images that get thrown in a folder, Google Photos, whatever you do with it and that's where it sits. You know what's not great, the sheer and profound amount of money she is leaving on the table every time she does this. You know what I see in these shoots, every single one of my friends books her and then shares the photos on social media. Ummm, look at this little cuddle muffin, cute cuddle muffin, my heart melts, thanks Jess Photo, or whatever her Instagram handle is. You know what I don't see every weekend for a kids birthday, or when I'm at any of my friends houses are big beautiful photos of the aforementioned cuddle muffins, big and beautiful hanging on the wall, printed in metal, or acrylic, or canvas, or whatever it may be. And you wanna know why not? Because Jess likes to sail to her shoots in her lovely 43 foot motor yacht named, the S.S. Failboat. She is utterly totally, and completely failing in her merchandising. Moreover, again, what is marketing, it's getting attention and having an ask, and Jess is not asking.
Also, what are the three different levers to grow your business? More customers, she's got that part sorted, repeat business, she has that part sorted, I mean there's like 50, 60 families that go to this thing on like a two-day, three-day period, whatever she does. AOV though, average order value, epic, epic fail for her, epic fail. Now, sidebar, she and I discussed this at length and I think I'm winning her over, but it's a whole different argument. Let's talk about the prints for a moment. Yes, I realize this will not apply to all of you, but I certainly wish it did. It's no easy task at all making it as an artist or a photographer out there today, it just isn't. I see this all the time, there's a tremendous amount of competition, it's hard to find buyers, you only have 24-hours in a day to create and service your business. So how do you hedge against these things as an artist or a photographer? Multiple different revenue sources is a big, big deal, multiple different revenue sources. In Jessica's case her only revenue source is the service portion of the business.
It's all these families lined up paying the, whatever it is, three or $400 per session, to get this stuff done, that's it, that's her revenue source. And so for a photographer this is just such an easy, and a common one, right? You know, we have customers that teach classes on how to shoot, some that have a hybrid-based service, based business, and sell fine art. Some that shoot, sell fine art, run a gallery, and they do the printing. On the artist side we see it a ton too, you know, you sell different types of merch, or you teach classes, or you market for artists on the side.
But the big picture is if you wanna make it you really wanna thrive and often times that comes out of sheer necessity, you need these additional revenue sources to pay your bills all the way to like really thriving and diversifying your business.
When you're set up as an artist, or a photographer, and you're completely reliant upon one revenue source, it is difficult, it is extremely difficult. There is an extremely low probability of success depending on how you define it for those types of business models. If you're just selling originals you better be pretty good at selling originals and you better selling a lot of 'em and you better be producing a lot of 'em and selling 'em at a high-clip to really do well. But when you start looking at these businesses, and again, like I say this all the time, but we've been in business for long enough that I get to see which artists, which photographers, are really kicking butt and a common theme, a common thread throughout all of 'em is the additional revenue sources, whatever they may be, cooked into their business.
It gives you diversification, it gives you time to grow these additional revenue sources while you perhaps continue to nurture your main revenue source. It's just a great, great way to do things, to look at things. And I think it's so incredibly important and it's why offering prints is such an important move. The additional revenue it can generate can be tremendous. And moreover, the bump in AOV, lever number two, average order value it presents is tremendous as well, it just is. And I get it, oh Patrick, that's rich, one of the things that you guys offer is print-on-demand, and you're just getting me to sign up with you and do printing.
No, I don't care who you sign up with, I don't care where you do the printing, add printing to your business as another revenue source, it's an absolute no-brainer, it's, don't even get me started on photographers because they're prints naturally. But for the artist you've gotta get your work photographed. Start out by doing limited editions if you like, or go right into limited editions and the prints, but at least experiment with this concept of having additional pillars of revenue for your business it's always a good idea, almost always. Now the biggest elephant in the room for all of this, and for most consumers out there, and, you know, I would say of course like, you know, we're humans, we're visual creatures and we need to be able to visualize things. This applies tremendously to the whole print argument, but most consumers, the biggest , most consumers have absolutely no idea of the various different media types that exist out there that your work can be printed on. Most don't know the difference, or potentially know what it looks like, or have ever held what a print looks like on art paper, what it looks like on canvas.
Most even know that metal is a thing, or what it looks like, or the fact it's ready to hang, let alone acrylic prints. Have you seen how insane the acrylic prints look, by the way they're amazing. So the only way your customer's ever gonna know is if you educate them. The only way your customer will ever know is if you help them visualize them. And the only way your customer will ever know is if you offer them in the first place.
And so I think as we talk about prints, as we talk about an additional revenue service, as we talk about visualization, all of it ties together, all of it ties together. Let's go back to Jess for second. What normally happens in those photo-shoot situations? The woman folk, in this case my wife, are normally enlisted in the child wardrobe department/ making sure the , tyrants, don't run out of frame department.
You know, they're distracting them, getting them to smile, all the rest. What do the mean normally do? We're normally sitting in the background checking our phone and occasionally popping our heads in for a quick, great job boys, great job girls, you're doing fantastic, then back to the phone. You know what I could be doing instead of that? I could be headed over to a nice little table that Jess forgot to set up. It would be a table stand and on that table, or table and some stands, and on that table would be the various different media types on offer. While Jess is shooting her assistant would be showing me the different media types, what's great about each of 'em, how they look in the light, what sizes are on offer, handing me a price sheet, letting me know the special time-sensitive packages that are on offer for just a shoot this time, act now or it's gone.
Perhaps it's a BOGO, buy one get one free, or there's a Mother's Day special package, or the grandma needs some photogs of grandkids package, or the landing to your second story needs kido photos packages, whom I kidding I live in a one-story house. But anyway, there could've been all of that on offer. I would put the table just out of earshot of Jess too and let her assistants know the packages deals expire on such-and-such date, but don't worry Patrick, if you can't decide we'll email you ahead of Mother's Day and ahead of Christmas too. And if you put your wife's birthday down on this sheet, ahead of your wife's birthday too. If you ever need a last-minute gift idea we get it, you dad's like to procrastinate. Does that work for you, Patrick?
See how I asked permission to get, to send you sales material and make your life easier? Oh, what's that? You wanna go ahead and get one now, that's great. Jess' assistant pulls out the credit card reader on her phone and I have just parted with some of my hard-earned dollars and I'm thrilled about it, I'm not gonna have to go set foot in a mall parking lot. I'm not gonna have to deal with parking, I'm not gonna have to walk around, the awkward conversations, I'm gonna get my mother-in-law, or whatever, to cover that blank wall space. I hate going to malls. We usually hate going to malls, men do. So, the kids grow up so fast it'd be great to have their photo there on that wall. She's missing on all of that.
Sounds amazing, right? Not for Jess it's not. When she is done with her shoot she does not pack up that imaginary table, or her assistant, or the different media types, and load them into the Failboat to go home, because she's not doing any of it. If she would likely, three to five X, the revenue she is earning on these shoots, in her business, let alone the repeat business later down the line, I eluded to, you know the third way to grow your business. And she would also have to change the name on the back of the boat if she did it, it wouldn't be the Failboat anymore. So I think through that situation, and that particular issue for me, and how frustrated I get by that. Like I would buy. Not only would I buy, I'd buy again. Not only would I buy, and I'd buy again, you have permission to market to me in perpetuity, with my personal image gallery, every single solitary ahead of Mother's Day, last minute gift idea, did you get it? Ahead of Christmas, last minute gift idea, did you get it? Like wife's birthday is coming up do you have anything? Do you wanna add this to it? What about mother-in-law, father-in-law, grandma, grandpa, do they need something on their wall because we've got some beautiful images of your kids. Like look at all of that of this additional revenue source that is possible just by asking. What is marketing? Getting attention and having an ask and Jess is just not asking, she's not asking. So I ran all over the place with this one, where does it leave you? At a macro and at a micro. I think at a macro you need to think about additional revenue sources you can add to your business. Prints, without question, prints limited editions, reproductions, whatever you wanna call 'em, offer an amazing way of doing this and many of you are not doing it. Those that are often do not think about how to merchandise them, or display them, or educate their customers especially offer a range of choices all of which Jess could've done at that table, all of which she could've done. I think very few are taking full advantage of all the opportunities to simply ask for the order. They have the attention but are failing at the ask, right? All she had to do was set up that table. If she would've just set up that table, and had an assistant there to man it, it would've worked itself out.
An AOV is one of the best, the absolute best ways to grow your business, why? In contrast to the others it often takes the least amount of effort, you've got the attention, the hard part, it is so hard getting the attention, it is so hard acquiring that customer for the first time, and not just for artists and photographers, for everybody. So when you have the attention the hard part is sorted so reach out and grab that beautiful butterfly, it's right there, go for the ask. Let's talk micro, that sort of sums up all the points of all the rants I've made in this thing, but let's talk micro, this is not a one-size-fits-all podcast, this cap is adjustable.
For use service-based photographers, and I think this applies across the board, your attache case of prints on the different media types should've just became your don't leave home without it case. First you pick some great subject images that fit your niche, whatever you're doing, you order all of the options, trust me, you can't afford not to do this, a range of sizes and you show them. Don't try and outsmart your customers either, we're smarter than you are. We know what we like better than you do. Don't like how your work looks on canvas, who cares, who cares, see if your customers do.
Order the range, order the range. Educate your customers, educate me on what they look like, help me to visualize them on my wall. Help me get one step closer to buying 'em, let me know how amazing of a gift they are and just display them, just do this. For you artists the same set of rules applies. If you're not offering them now then consider it. If you don't have the full-suite of options then order them, display them, you know. If you feel you have to drop one later, you don't like what it looks like aesthetically, that's easy, you can drop one, you know, but you can order them and you can have them and showing them wherever you are. And if you're an artist, or a photographer, like think back to episode one or two of this podcast, with Kim Virgil, if you've been listening for that long, if you're gonna go deliver a print, or an original, to a customer, then make sure you come with your other stuff, with your don't leave home without it attache case of prints or even other originals, if you're never gonna do prints. Show them what's possible, show me what's possible. Come to hang something in my house that I purchased from you, show me other options, let me go put 'em on the wall, let me think about it.
Like the visualization is just so, so key. And if you're an artist and say, I'll use another podcast guy that I talk about all the time, Matthew Lock, that I mentioned earlier. For what he paints in this crazy impasto, that's like three-dimensional, pops off the canvas, it takes like three weeks, it takes for like two months for his prints to dry because it's so thick. The prints for him wow great, and they sell, are never gonna be able to truly capture how the paint pops off the canvas in three dimensions. So, if you're him, or if you're me I should say, I've been needling him for over a year and saying, here's what you're gonna do, you're gonna buy canvas prints and you're gonna start painting on top of 'em. You're gonna have a hybrid product, it's part print, and part original.
He does that now, he calls 'em, oil on prints, and he's already sold a fantastic clip of 'em. He's selling an additional revenue source that he did not have before. He's essentially almost doubled the order in his, double the inventory in his store, not withstanding the originals, but with the prints. He's 100% doubled the inventory in his store and he's got some great merchandising ability now with the new ability to show these things in three dimensions and everything else. So wherever you are in your business, photographer, artist, have multiple revenue sources, so key, AOV, so key. The prints, whether they're limited editions, or reproductions, whatever you wanna call 'em, however you wanna do them, are such a fantastic benefit it is such a great way to diversify your business.
You are leaving money on the table by not having them, but you're not thinking through the situations that are unique to you where you can display them and show them and let your potential customers touch them, feel them, look at them, and help them to visualize them on your wall, on your wall. How you go about it is up to you. For every niche I really believe there are opportunities to adjust things for taste to how you wanna do it and, yes, maintain whatever degree of artistic integrity you feel you need to have, or the finished product. But you need to be thinking about all three levers, and especially AOV and repeat business. There are often two levers that get the least attention, everybody's laser-focused on just acquiring customers, not ever AOV, and not ever repeat business. You need to educate your customers, I'm just summing up and going through my bullet points, but you need to educate your customers. We're visual people.
We had no idea all of these media types were available, we had no idea that they existed, we had no idea how amazing they look, and we have no idea because we never see 'em on any of our friends walls because you're not bringing your table and setting it up. So, in summation, you've gotta focus on your merchandising, it's a huge, huge, multifaceted, multi-headed hydra of a lever, it can benefit your business in so many way.
If you're enjoying the podcast, and hopefully, hopefully gettin' value of it, I would be extremely grateful if you left us a review anywhere, anywhere you listen to podcasts. On that note, thanks for listening, and as always, have a great day.
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