Art fairs were once revolutionary.
Dozens of artists selling their relatively affordable work to the public under one roof.
Today, the art fair is one of the most traditional ways of selling art.
In our recent post on the 5 Main Options to Sell Your Art, we noted that art fairs provide you with an easy way to get in front of new potential customers quickly, as well as validate that your art will sell to complete strangers.
But, as a result of the exploding online art market, there are also growing negatives to art fairs.
They take a significant amount of time to travel to, not to mention the time you’ll spend setting up and tearing down.
You need physical inventory to populate your booth – something that isn’t an issue when selling online.
And finally, you’re putting your work in front of strangers that will have a huge variety of tastes and interests when it comes to buying art. Because of this, art fair audiences will generally be poorly qualified to buy your art – only a few attendees will likely be in your target audience, and that means sales are tough to come by.
Fortunately, there are several things you can do to make the most of art shows that will help you not only avoid some of these negatives, but come away from the show with a win – even if you don’t sell a single piece.
Your 2 overall goals with an art show, fair, or festival:
With those 2 goals in mind, let’s get into 11 of our favorite tips for a successful art show!
Once you’ve been accepted into an art show, do a little bit of research to make sure you’ll meet the requirements for showcasing your work at the event.
For outdoor events, that’ll typically mean having a tent with certain features, the most common of which include:
Not all events will require all of these features. Some festivals may not care whether your tent is white. But to ensure you have access to the most fairs possible, we recommend picking up a tent that fits ALL of these possibly specifications.
For indoor events, you may be required to bring a table cloth to protect the floor of the event space.
Inside your display space, we recommend hanging your art against a black background. This will make your work pop out as much as possible.
Finally, be sure to have relevant documents on-hand i.e.: license, insurance, and sales tax ID.
Making sales isn’t the only way to “win” at an art show.
The vast majority of your eventual customers will not make a purchase during the first interaction they have with you.
If 100 people stop by your booth at a show, and only 5 make a purchase, a key question to ask yourself is: what can I do to turn those other 95 people into a win?
The answer is the Fishbowl Technique.
You’ve probably seen this strategy in the past – “drop your business card in the bowl for a chance to win a free print”. Or perhaps you’ve seen it as a newsletter sign-up list.
What you want here is email addresses. Most of your future customers are just going to need time to get to know you and your work better before they’re willing to make a purchase. You want to be able to reach them and show them more of what you do.
We call this Romance Marketing.
If you get half of those 95 non-buyers to leave their email address, you’ve got nearly 50 new contacts to your list to market to! That is a valuable win, and it didn’t involve selling art on the spot.
This is when the Fishbowl Technique becomes especially powerful.
Don’t just let those new email addresses sit on your list until you send your next email a week or two down the line. Reach out to them immediately with a greeting and/or an offer while they still remember who you are.
We explain it in detail on this episode of the Art Marketing Podcast. Listen in for the full details.
Improving your sales is all about removing friction – those pesky pain points that stop potential patrons from completing a sale.
Minimizing friction at your booth is as simple as providing your visitors with as many options as possible, and these next two tips deal with that.
Accepting credit cards has become a nearly universal expectation – subsequently, only accepting cash will severely limit your income potential from art fairs.
We recommend picking up a Square Card Reader – it is probably the easiest and most common way to accept credit cards from your mobile device or tablet, and it is FREE.
Their fees are currently 2.75% per swiped transaction and 3.5% + 15 cents for manually-entered transactions.
Drop shipping is important to offer because it solves a few key pain points in the art fair process.
With this technique, you can sell anytime, anywhere. We interviewed fine artist Bill Stidham on this episode of the Art Marketing Podcast on how he’s set up shop in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, and drop ships his work to American tourists that come into his gallery.
When the customer gets home from their vacation, the print is there waiting for them.
Plus, through the Art Storefronts’ “wholesale purchasing” feature, he isn’t charged a transaction fee.
All together, it’s an easy way to streamline your shipping processes and add some sophistication to your business that’ll set you apart from the competition.
Without a proper art gallery website, your success at art fairs will be limited to the fair itself.
Running your own art gallery, online, is the key to building your audience and customer base from all of those interactions you have at the show.
With a properly optimized art gallery website you’re able to offer a compelling buying experience that your booth visitors will actually want to use when they get home.
Learn more about the 5 most important features to have on your art gallery website in this post.
Next time you walk through an art show, take notice of the other artists.
How many are attentive and engaging with browsers? How many are sitting on a stool looking bored?
Art is sold when the buyer feels an emotional connection with your subject matter, and being an approachable and personable advocate of your art can go long way in creating that.
This goes hand in hand with the previous tip.
Part of being personable is knowing how to answer those dreaded questions, “What kind of art do you make? What inspires you? How would you describe your work?”
These are tough questions to answer, but you have a huge advantage in knowing that they are coming.
Spend some time thinking about how to answer these challenging questions ahead of time so that you don’t miss out on the opportunity to make a connection with a booth visitor that’s expressing some interest in what you do.
Once again the name of the game is reducing friction – making it easy to buy from you.
One way to do that is to be proactive about answering questions browsers may have.
These are all questions that you can and should answer via an information tag on each and every piece you display.
You’ll often come across a buyer that falls in love with your style, but either can’t afford or isn’t willing to buy a full print just yet.
Getting a large sale becomes exponentially easier if you get them to take a chance on you with a smaller sale.
What lower price point items are you offering?
Calendars are king in this space, so we built an interactive art calendar product type right into our software, but other popular items include coasters, postcards, and coffee table art books.
Take your booth to the next level by working on your art in front of an audience.
Showing the process behind the art is one of the best reasons to be posting Instagram Stories regularly, and a live painting demonstration is an even better version of that idea.
By humanizing the art right in front of their eyes, you’re making it easier than ever for passersby to become new fans of your work.
The Facebook Ads interface allows you target an audience within 1 square mile of your art show.
The technique is called geo-fencing, and it’s a great way to get the attention of locals prior to the show.
They don’t need to even click your Ad, they just need to see it. Then, at the show, that little bit of recognition when they see your art again should be enough to get them in your booth where you can engage with them.
Be sure to keep your Ad running for a little bit AFTER the show as well – you never know who will have seen your art but forgotten your name or website and just needs the reminder to make the connection.
That should do it! With these tips, you’ll show up at your next art show prepared to make the very most of it.
By being an approachable advocate of your art, you’ll kickstart emotional connections between your audience and your work that you can later turn into sales. Just get them on your mailing list!
And, by making heavy use of your online art gallery at the show, you’ll pull your art fair attention into the online space, where you stand the best chance of turning your new mailing list subscribers into customers over the months and years to come.