Caveman or Romantic: What Kind of Art Seller Are You? - Learn How to Sell Art Online - Art Storefronts Blog

Caveman or Romantic: What Kind of Art Seller Are You?

How to avoid thinking like a “caveman” art seller and build an art sales funnel that allows you to become a successful “romantic” – a seller that successfully cultivates leads into customers.

This is how most art sellers think art sales happen:

  • Visitor come to website.
  • Visitor buy immediately.
  • If they no buy, they don’t like me and will never buy.
  • I focus on those who buy now. I ignore those who do not.

We call this the “Caveman” view of selling art.

how art is sold online

The Caveman art seller has no concept of the role of timing when it comes to art purchases.

The Caveman art seller is oblivious to the fact that 95% of his sales are not random occurrences, but are instead thoughtful decisions by people who meet the following two criteria:

  1. They have some emotional connection to his subject matter, and…
  2. They have an immediate need (i.e. open wall space, a gifting need, etc).

But by misunderstanding how art sales really work, the Caveman art seller ignores (whether intentionally or not) everyone else that does not have an immediate need – even though many of them will have an emotional connection to his subject matter and are prime prospects for a future art sale.

In other words, they meet criteria (1) which is by far the most important, but they don’t meet criteria (2).

And this is a devastating mistake, because our data shows (and we will prove this in a second) that the vast majority of people are not ready to buy now, but will be later.

finding target audience

You see, every business relies on its Target Audience to make it successful. Your Target Audience are your ideal customers both now and in the future. These are people that are receptive to both your message and your products.

For an art seller, your Target Audience is simply defined as the collection of people who have an emotional connection with the subject matter you sell. This includes people who immediately buy your art, and people who are likely to buy your art in the future when the timing is right. To be a legitimate member of your target audience, all that matters is that the person has some emotional connection to your subject matter.

What the Caveman art seller does not understand he is losing the vast majority of his sales by simply not having a strategy to nurture a target audience. We’ve parsed data amongst all of our art sellers here at Art Storefronts, and the findings are shocking. Here’s what we found:

In a given month, say you are approached by 500 people, whether online or offline. Within that 500 people, say 100 are legitimate candidates for your target audience. Meaning, they have an emotional connection to your subject matter (and we will show you how to find this out later – for now, stay with us).

finding customers

Here’s where the data gets interesting. Of those 100 people, only 5 will have a need to buy today.

The other 95 just doesn’t have a need to buy today, but they will sign up for your email list to receive continual updates of your work if you let them.

And in turn, once they are on your email list and are being nurtured, they will have a high probability of buying later when the timing is right.

Before we continue, let us show you some real results that prove this. In April 2016, we coached Madaras Gallery out of Tucson, Arizona and ran a case study on email capture.

Before April, Madaras was primarily capturing “right now” sales on the site. On April 1st, we implemented our famous Lead Capture Tool.

Here’s what happened:

generating leads with email form

As you can see, in all the previous months, Madaras was completely missing out on literally hundreds of people who were visiting their site who would have signed up for their email list if given the opportunity.

Notice how in January 2016, they got 18 new customers and 28 new contacts.

In April, they only got 17 new customers but 188 new contacts.

Amazing, eh? Yes, but what is even more amazing is the impact this will have for Madaras over the next year. This one tool we coached them on, with proper implementation, will likely result in a 5 figure sales increase over the next 12 months.

Here’s what Madaras’ Lead Capture Tool looks like after a proper setup (note – your offer can be different, but Madaras is constantly trying new things to further optimize their results!):

email capture tool

If you’ve been following us for some time, you probably already know this success has not been limited to Madaras. See what Lead Capture did for Newfoundland Photographer Michael Winsor in this case study we conducted.

Ok, so let’s get back to the Caveman art seller. Caveman art sellers miss out on 95% of the people who will sign up for your email list today and who will have a high probability of buying from you at some point in the future.

Enter the Romantic art seller.

romantic art seller

The Romantic art seller, in contrast, capitalizes on the full 100 out of 100 targeted people, as Madaras Gallery is now doing. The Romantic art seller earns the sale from the 5, just like the Caveman, but adds the other 95 into his long-term target audience.

Beyond that, a key difference between the Romantic art seller and the Caveman is that the Romantic understands that the vast majority of visitors need to be nurtured and courted until they too reach that time when they actually have a need to fulfill.

And whenever that time happens, the Romantic art seller is sure to be top of mind. The Romantic art seller puts effort into the romance.

He does this by sending new imagery and providing meaningful information and stories that provoke emotion to those connected to his subject matter. He does this primarily through email, but also through Facebook. Every contact he makes is like showing another advertisement to his target audience. But in addition, providing valuable content earns him some special emotional brownie points.

Overall, The Romantic art seller makes consistent, monthly deposits into the emotional bank accounts of his target audience.

keeping in touch with leads

As such, and with each contact, the Romantic art seller cements deeper psychological connections between his art and his target audience. Not too surprisingly, when a need arises for someone within his target audience (which may be many months or years down the road), the Romantic art seller has a huge psychological advantage over other art-selling competitors and has a high probability of earning the sale.

What Exactly Do Romantic Art Sellers Do Differently?

Now that we’ve discussed the conceptual differences between Caveman vs. Romantic, let’s discuss the handful of tactics that the Romantic uses in order to execute on his strategy. The good news is, these tactics are both extremely simple to do and quick to implement.

What we are going to discuss here is enormously important, so make sure you really take the time to understand it.

1. Building Your Target Audience with Email Capture


One major tactical difference between the Romantic art seller and the Caveman art seller is that the Romantic tries to capture as many email addresses as possible from those who fit into their target audience, rather than from only those who buy. Exactly as we demonstrated above with Madaras Gallery.

You can’t romance an audience member if you don’t have a long-term way to stay in touch.

The great part is, the Romantic art seller doesn’t have to be pushy, or salesy, in order to get email addresses. As Madaras learned in the first 30 days, your target audience will give it to you if you simply give them the option to do so.

On your art website, this comes in the form of a Lead Capture tool that is presented to new prospects only (not existing customers). In order for a Lead Capture tool to be successful, it MUST be deployed the right way. Most importantly, it must be displayed to new customers only (not existing customers) and it must offer a discount for first-time customers.

email form

It must also “pop” on the screen to first-time customers only (forcing them to say “yes” or “no”), and not be a clickable link (which people will rarely click, resulting in you never getting to ask them the question).

It should also NEVER contain anything more than one email field and a submit button. No other fields! If you are an Art Storefronts customer, see this article on How to Setup Your Lead Capture Tool According to Best Practices.

When it is done right, the people just sign up, and you’re on auto-pilot. How romantic is that!

And guess who these people who sign up are? Your target audience – immediately separated from the tire-kickers! If they are willingly signing up to receive continual updates from you, it means they have some sort of connection with your subject matter and want to hear from you! You’ve asked them on a first date, and they said yes!

lead capturing tools

Amazingly, just by deploying a Lead Capture tool the right way, you can immediately separate regular tire-kicker visitors (who will never buy) from those who actually have a connection to your work (the only people who will buy). Your target audience is never annoyed from a tool like this, especially when you follow ASF best practices for how, when, and to whom should see it.

And guess what? Many of the leads you capture WILL BUY within 30 days, particularly as you learn how to become a more Romantic art seller.

The great thing about Madaras Gallery, is that they were already implementing romantic email strategies.

They also properly implemented, according to our best practices, a time-sensitive discount coupon for new customers only. And they emailed their customers several times before the expiration date, with a great chance to place their first order and get a nice discount.

Look what happened:

strategy to sell art

The numbers never lie. Look at that new customer revenue! This highlights how important email capture is as a critical first-step of commitment from a prospect. When someone gives you their email address, they are one big step closer to becoming a customer. And most importantly, you now have a way to communicate with them and get them over the hump to actually becoming one.

If you are an ASF customer, you can see all of these reports in your Stats section. Notice how in this report, we’ve specifically separated out revenue from new customers and existing customers so you have a complete understanding of what is working with your lead capture strategies as you try different coupons, time sensitive discounts, and email strategies.

Overall, because it works so well and is vitally important to the future of your art business, the concept of “Lead Capture” should be a part of your entire art selling strategy, and not just your website strategy. It should be, and will be, the primary way that you expand your target audience and create future sales. For the Romantic art seller, this is just the normal way of operating.

This means that if you also exhibit at art fairs, or you have a retail art gallery, you should have an email sign up list and actively encourage your visitors to sign up. No different than what happens on your website — watch as your target audience does so, while the tire kickers don’t.

The target audience just needs to be presented with a clear and visible option.

In the case of an art fair, the way to motivate your target audience (and maybe a few others as well) is to run a contest for a free print which you will announce via email the week after the fair ends.

fish bowl for business cards

Along with your email sign up list, have a fishbowl where they can drop their business card. Have a clear sign that tells your visitors why they should drop in the business card.

This in-person Romantic art selling strategy 100% works, as we already coached Maui artist Randy Hufford who collected 25 email addresses, an online sale one week later, all from an art fair he had no success with the previous year. For more on this, see Art Fair Lead Generation: Building a Contact List to Jump-Start Future Sales.

Capturing emails and building your target audience isn’t just a fun exercise…

The amount of leads you capture on a monthly basis is the most likely predictor of the future success of your art business.

Here at Art Storefronts, this one metric is the easiest way for us to know whether consistent sales are right around the corner, or if it will take you many months or years. If you don’t have a pipeline of target audience members, you have nobody to romance, and you have no potential for future sales.

Sales funnel

Some artists have spent their entire lives selling like Cavemen. Or shall we say starving like Cavemen. Always relying on the next hunt (i.e. the next art fair) to bring in food. This is so sad! Every year, a given artist could be adding thousands of people into her target audience as they work the art fairs and have proper website technology and strategy. Over a period of 3-5 years, this list could become 5,000-10,000 strong. Folks, this pipeline is where all the money is!

If there is one thing you take away from this article to change your career as an art-seller, it is to make a change today and start capturing leads and build your target audience. You cannot afford to wait another day.

On to the next.

2. Nurturing Your Target Audience with Consistent Contact

As he continually builds his target audience, the Romantic art seller has a consistent strategy to romance his target audience.

He sends out no less than one, but ramps up to usually 2-3 emails per month.

These emails are NOT “buy now” discount emails. “Buy Now” emails are not romantic.


Instead, these emails contain updates with new content accompanied by stories about the new content. Remember, your target audience is emotionally connected to your subject matter, so give them something that will brighten their day. At the very least, show them new imagery. But if you can accompany a story behind each image or something that relates to the subject matter, even better. Your target audience will look forward to these emails.

They will forward them and share them. And when someone unsubscribes – let them! Don’t worry for a second about it. They are not your target audience, and don’t belong on your list.

Overall, the Romantic art seller gives, gives, and gives some more before asking for the sale.

Usually, the right time to ask for the sale (aside from a first-time customer who should receive a time sensitive discount via the lead capture tool) is before key art-selling Holidays such as Christmas, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, and Father’s Day. Sending out a deal on these days is very common, it works, and you should do it. See The Effective Art Email Marketing Strategies for Holidays.

But during the in-between times is when the Romantic art seller romances, striving to be a source of positivity in the lives of his target audience. With each contact, building a deeper connection between himself, his audience members, and his art.

3. Continual Audience Building

building an audience

Understanding that the success of their art business is dependent upon it, the Romantic art seller spends time and energy trying new strategies every month to increase the size of their target audience. He runs contests, he does giveaways and other tactics that will help attract new audience members. He does this both on his website, at art fairs, or in the retail location.

The Caveman art seller, on the other hand, just waits for the next art fair, because his only hope is to get more caveman sales.

Why Is the Romantic Art Seller So Successful?

Whenever you come across a Romantic art seller, you find that they are dramatically more successful than the others.

If it ain’t obvious already, there are many reasons why the Romantic approach works so well:

  1. You rarely lose sales you would have otherwise had – You almost never lose a sale due to incorrect timing. This can add up to many thousands of dollars throughout the course of a given year.
  2. You remain permanently connected with the only people who are likely to buy your art – those who are emotionally connected with your subject matter. Your target audience.
    marketing strategy for art retailer

  4. You leverage your target audience to build your audience for you – By nature of the fact that we as people tend to be friends with those who like what we like, members of your target audience ALWAYS know other people who are likely to have an emotional connection with your subject matter as well.

    They will share your work with these people as you continually “give” great content and updates that evoke emotion, and you make these updates easily shareable. Meaning, they will forward your emails, and share your Facebook posts, so long as you send them emails and make Facebook posts.

    Just think about our example with Madaras Gallery above. In one month, they added 125 new people into their target audience – that’s 125 new people that are now in a position to share Madaras’ content with others.

  5. As you build a pipeline of future art sales, you start generating consistent sales – Each member of your target audience is a potential future sale. As you build your target audience using the methods described above, each time, you are increasing the pipeline of future art sales you have coming your way.

    Never forget that it takes time to build a pipeline – this is why it is so important to start building it right now. But once your pipeline grows in size, this is when consistent sales start rolling in.

    Why? Because each month, the timing will finally be right for some of the people in your pipeline, and you’ll see that come to fruition in the form of a sale.

  6. After 1-4 above have been achieved, the likelihood of landing commercial projects or licensing deals becomes highly probable – There are of these types of projects being decided on every day.

    The only way to get your hat in the ring for one of these jobs is to maximize your exposure. So that, when a particular project is demanding subject matter that you already provide, you actually have a chance rather than no chance at all. When you have built a large target audience that is connected to your subject matter, the likelihood of being found for one of these projects increases exponentially.

Food For Thought

artist marketing strategy

Whenever we meet a starving or broke artist, the first question we ask is whether they have a target audience (as evidenced by an active email list), and are actively building a target audience (they prioritize collecting emails). Pretty much 100% of the time, the answer is no.

No emails = no target audience = no romancing = caveman art seller.

Maybe you’ve never heard the “starving artist” concept laid out so simply. It comes down to a simple choice: will you be a Caveman or a Romantic?

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