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Reviews and the Importance of Soliciting Followup
By James M. Theopistos


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For many of our customers, we are getting into the season where print sales start to take off. This is true for those that create commissioned one of a kind prints for their clients just as much as for artists selling open edition prints online or even at various art festivals.  For some of us, this is their first time around the block when it comes to making some substantial sales during the holidays. It can even be intimidating at first because we as artists want everything to run smoothly. And if we are not new to this maybe we are trying to coordinate a number of different orders. What also happens to some of us is the realization that our creations, whether it be photography or something else, actually has potential to be collected outside our immediate circle of friends and family. Real buyers want to buy our work! But while that may be so, its not uncommon for us to loose focus on on the big picture and ignore some new opportunities in front of us that will promote more sales later on.
 
I want you to ask yourself this question, "Am I following up with my customers in a fashion that will promote more sales?" As artists and photographers providing buyers with images in a hard copy format either as prints or even original works of arts, it is important to continue a dialog with our buyers. You may think such a statement is a no-brainier but you would be surprised how many artists and photographers I talk to and tell me they do not or tell me they had not thought about this. They may be selling their artwork online or offline and make the sale but their relationship with their buyer ends there when it shouldn't. I can't tell you how many times I had wished I had taken the time to do simple steps that fostered a continuing relationship with buyers of my own work. Even though I am not as active as an artist as I once was I still think about opprotunities I may have missed out by not keeping in contact or soliciting new sales with past buyers, there is no reason you should. 
 
One advantage artists have when they do find a buyer is many times these buyers are the perfect candidate to be a repeat customer.  This is definitely true if you create a series of works. Take for instance the wildlife artist that has a series of paintings depicting mallards. Perhaps his or her key demographic are outdoors-people. Maybe they want to decorate their office or perhaps have a vacation home out in the country. Whatever the theme of the work, many times art buyers will want more than just one work of art following a certain theme. Maybe they cannot purcahse it right away but eventually they might.  If you don't believe me, next time you go into a doctors or dentists office look at the prints they decorate their offices with. I used to see one doctor that had golf themed pictures on every wall. This is just one example of how art buyers in many instances don't settle for just one.
 
I have written in the past how important it is to re-market yourself via such things as online newsletters, social media like Facebook and whatever comes next but what about soliciting reviews from your buyers. This too should be where your relationship with your past buyers can go beyond just the initial sale. If your buyer truly loves your work they will usually be happy to provide you some sort of comment about your work. But it does not happen automatically in every case. For instance if you sell on a website that allows buyers to post reviews, don't count on them to do this on their own accord. As an example, I know from a member of our own staff who successfully sells her text based artwork online. If she does not actually go back and engage the buyers, only occasionally will she get them to give them a review. It is also true with artists who simply sell on their own website, getting them to provide testimonials for a testimonial page usually provides some sort of prompting. Perhaps testimonials and reviews may seem too trivial to you. I know at one point it did to me and I regretted it. This is because it can later be the difference in making a sale or not making a sale with those potential buyers that might be on the fence when making a purchase. These types of buyers are usually needing some sort of excuse to feel justified in making that purchase so things like online reviews and testimonials are some of the best means to nudge people in that direction. If you doubt this, just look at any major online retailer. Even if I buy something as mundane as paper clips for the office I get an email soliciting me to post a review on the product and sales experience. That is because the online retailer knows the power of reviews and product ratings posted on their website.
 
So this is where I get into the real issue and that is online reviews. Online reviews are there for one purpose. To bring in new businesses. Previous customers don't usually need to see a review of a product unless you are offering them something very different. That is because they have already bought from you and know the quality, how it shipped and the range of other things people like to talk about when deciding on a product. But getting these reviews is not going to happen automatically. As I said, one of our staff members has been selling online for a while now. She finally found the time to setup a shop on Etsy and at few other places. Sales were almost non-existent at first in at the new websites but eventually they started to trickle in until those sales began to really flourish and almost match the volume she had elsewhere. Etsy, as you know allows online reviews and even though she was finally getting the sales, the customers that actually provided feedback once they received their product was kind of sparse.  It was not that people did not like what they received. They loved it. But it was not until she reengaged them a week or so later and requested them to write a review or rate their print that she started to increase the review response. Usually they were brief which was fine. But as people started to write reviews and rate their experience so too did the number of sales begin to increase. What is certain is it does help to ease any first time buyer apprehension when they see credible reviews on a credible website.
 
Next time you make a sale, no matter if it is online or offline, get some feedback. Keep in touch with your buyers and don't rely on them to do everything on their own accord. Your buyers' lives are not centered around your business so if you want them to provide you feedback you need to ask for it. This feedback not only will increase your credibility in the eyes of future customers but reinforce your presence in the eyes of that particular past buyer. It will also help foster new sales from that same buyer. And even if it is not the most positive review, it may give you insight on things you could do better. But that is another topic.
Category: Selling and Self Promotion
Created: Monday, October 19, 2015, Last Updated: Wednesday, October 21, 2015


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About James Theopistos Aside from being an enthusaistic promoter of the visual arts field as it relates to individual artists' success, he also serves as the acting Chief Development Officer for FinerWorks.com, an online color print lab for artists and photographers.
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