Pi Photography and Fine Art is an online gallery that sells landscape and nature photography created by myself, Melissa Fague. Eventually Pipa Fine Art will be taking on other artists such as painters, sculptures, digital artists and so on, but for now it’s all about landscape and nature photography. Because Pipa Fine Art is an online art gallery with no physical store front, one of the last things I entertained as a business owner was getting out into the local area for exposure for several reasons…now looking back none were good enough reasons to stay out of the public eye physically.
Over the past two to three years Pipa Fine Art has made a variety of appearances at local art loops, art festivals, and other types of festivals around or near Delaware. Each event has presented us with a variety of different experiences to learn from; as an artist, as a business and even in our own personal lives.
For me on a personal level, I am an introvert. I am completely content without speaking or seeing people for days on end. Being an introvert is a great trait for a photographer who likes to roam while creating work or an artist who likes to lock themselves in a studio to focus but the trait is detrimental for a business owner trying to grow a business. Stepping out of my comfort zone and experiencing the reactions of other during the festivals has forced me to grow and become accustomed to speaking with others fluently as both an artist and a business owner. These experiences have also crossed over into my personal life as well. Here is an example; recently I met my boyfriend’s mother’s side of the family…all at once. Yes, I was thrown into the shark pit ;). Before my experiences with the festivals I would have had trouble communicating with them all and I would have been overwhelmed by their curiosity of me. However, I noticed right away that I was confident and felt like I was able to work the room so to speak and I enjoyed every moment of the introduction to the family. So I would like other artists, photographers, and creative small business owners to utilize what I have learned from the events and try to incorporate these things into their own routines.
What Do Festivals and Art Loops Do?
That’s simple! Art loops and Festivals helps people, potential clients, find you and your products. Getting involved with art loops and festivals gets your products out there for people to touch, see and explore. As an artist, art festivals and loops help you add the human element to your business and helps you capture leads as well as make contacts for use later.
What Held Me Back
Besides the whole introvert thing, there were several other factors that I thought were good reasons to not join the local art loops and festivals. The biggest and most incorrect reason was the thought of needing a full inventory of work. Don’t get me wrong having a nice selection to choose from is great but it’s not needed right away. Our very first experience in an Art Loop I had a dozen framed fine art landscape and nature photography prints all the same size and framed exactly the same. I was contacted by a small photography studio space that was doing the Wilmington Art Loop that was combined with the Ladybug Festival. I was contacted a little less than two weeks before the event, so I had little time and money available to get an inventory together. I started getting scared because of the lack of time and inventory but I did the event anyway; I ended up selling one landscape photo print of Sandbars that night. With the profit of that print sale I added a little more to my inventory.
The second thing that held me back was lack of knowledge. The first and second event that we joined taught me a lot about people’s purchasing habits, as well as lessons about building excitement in the audience and it taught me a good deal about lead capturing. The first event, I did sell one print and the second event was a flop. There was a lot of foot traffic that came by our booth but few walked inside, the people that did come in didn’t stay long and didn’t purchase a thing. This is what I noticed happened:
- The second event was in the dead summer and the temperature was over 100 with the humidity, no one was carrying anything around they didn’t need to stay cool.
- Our booth looked inviting and shaded but we drew no attention to it.
- There was a lack of engagement between myself and the festival goers
- They walked out and never returned
The second event taught me that people may go to an art show or a festival but they may not be interested in buying at that point in time. The reason could be because of budget, lack of interest, lack of engagement, environmental factors or even bad timing. Regardless of the reason, as a business owner I let them leave without ever making an impression on them or without ever having the means to contact them again. I was disappointed in the second event but I learned…to me that’s as good as gold. There were five things I changed after the second event experience.
- I created a giveaway prize people enter it by supplying their name and email address on a raffle ticket. My giveaway prizes are always a decent size landscape or nature photograph framed and matted. Usually a 11” x 14” or a 12” x 18” photo print framed is raffled off. It’s a modest size and inexpensive to create and ship.
- I made myself get out from behind the table to start greeting and inviting people into the booth
- I created a newsletter sign-up form
- We got gifts and printed marketing material to hand out (besides traditional business cards). The gifts are usually small trinkets like magnetic prints of our nature and landscape photographs with a footer that contains our logo and contact info. The marketing material is a variety of our top selling landscape and nature photos printed on a post card with of course our contact info on the back side.
- Added 20% more inventory.
What These Changes Did For Us
Lead Generation and Brand Building
These changes allowed us the opportunity to contact the people we engaged with at a later date. The raffle provided us an opportunity to capture a lot of leads of people who liked our work enough to divulge their personal information (name and email). Over the past three years our contact list has grown to over 1000 names of potential buyers just from the raffle and the newsletter sign-up form. Each new person gets a personalized email thanking them for taking the time to stop by our booth; it offers a coupon for their first purchase through our website and an opportunity to be added to the VIP List. Some made purchases right away, while other come to the website after a few days. And of course there is a large portion that haven’t made a purchase but still follow our work meaning at some point they will buy. Regardless of whether a contact became a paying client right away or not, these contacts are must in order for a business to grow.
Getting out from behind the tables gave us the opportunity to put a human before the products; it also offer us the opportunity to network with other artists. Getting ourselves physically out in front of the booth allowed us to engage with the people passing by. During the third event my son came to help set up and help out. I wasn’t sure what he could do after the set up but I quickly learned something new about my son. When we presented the framed photo print raffle at the third event we attended. We had the raffle set up nicely and signs directing people to it but few participated. After several hours my son went up next to it and started inviting people to sign up for it. He adapted to their personalities and was able to overcome objections quickly with passer-byers. He had them engaged and laughing so much they detoured into the booth rather than passing by. Yeah, he is booked for all my events now ;).
As for the gifts and handouts; this is a second or third point of contact with the event goers. For the people that engaged with the raffle or us as people walked away with our contact information in their hands. Because of the emails that they will get later, these handouts and gifts will be a third attempt at building our brand with them. For the people that didn’t engage or leave their contact info, it’s a second attempt; it just leaves them in control of when the check us out again.
Yes, in essence when setting up at an art show or festival you are setting up against your competition but it also opens doors for other opportunities. Our audience isn’t strictly photography fans, they like other forms of art. This allows opportunities to offer assistance with other artistic needs from your clients; I can’t tell you how many people I’ve referred work to because it’s out of my realm of work and vice versa. This helps build trust with your clients and points them in the right direction to completely fulfill their current need, instead of trying to offer them something that only partially makes them happy.
Secondly, you never know who you are going to meet at the events or even before the event during set up. Earlier in the day, before our latest presentation at Telo Massage Studio during the Wilmington Art Loop I took all of my landscape and nature photo prints that were being displayed, tables, and props over to get set up. I was wearing grubby clothes, hair was an absolute mess, and no make-up on….yikes. Anyway, as I’m unloading the large landscape and nature fine art and canvas wall art prints from the back of my car a new Land Rover pulls up behind me. A gentleman gets out of the driver’s seat to run into the sub shop right next door to the studio to grab his meal. While I’m unloading I see a woman sitting patently waiting in the passenger’s seat for the man’s return. As I approach the back of my car for another load of prints she and I made eye contact and smiled; I continued to unload. Well when the man came out she beckoned for him to compliment me on my work. Then she quickly decided to get out of the car to speak with he and I about the photographs. It turns out, the man was her husband who is a big time executive at a bank and she is a big time executive at a national manufacturing company. She talked to me about a photography project that her company is about to embark on and she felt my work would be perfect for it. Needless to say cards and handshakes were exchanged all around….I’ll never go out again without make-up.
Art Shows and festivals build sales. Sometime the sales happen the day of the event and sometimes at a later date. If you are continuously building your brand and taking advantage of opportunities to be seen you will have sales. The first event we ever did I sold one print the day of the event, I was happy with that considering the challenges but that was it. There were no other sales generated from that event. But because we have been adding new products slowly and lead generating tools to each event that statistic has changed dramatically over the past three years. This past event on November 4th we sold 26 landscape and nature photo prints in 4 hours and our website traffic has increased 35-40% because of the handout over the last 48 hours. During this event we had wifi access so we had the ability to add a small laptop so that people could explore our website right there with us. It also gave us the opportunity to sell prints that we didn’t have available on hand that night. The thank you emails from the raffle entries and newsletter sign-up form are being worked on now and will be sent with-in the next day or so. This will generate another surge in website traffic and increase the potential for more sales. Getting local exposure gets you sales!
As an artist some events will be more beneficial than others. However, I don’t recommended sticking to just one type of event. Art loops and art related festival puts you as an artist in front of an audience who is interested in the world of art with other hungry artists looking to sell work. However, other types of festivals make it possible for you to reach an audience that is specific to a type of activity. For example, we attended the Wetland Festival several months ago. We were the only photographer / artist there that had a variety of landscape photographs and nature photographs created in the wetlands that the event was raising money for. This helped us reach people who fish, hunt, birdwatching and hike these areas regularly. Several prints were sold to people that didn’t have an interest in art but were interested in the photographs because of the connection they personally had with the locations or subject matter in the photographs. My advice to you as an artist is start getting your work out there locally, don’t rely solely on internet exposure. The human connection to your work and your business is extremely beneficial to your overall growth.
Share with us your thoughts and experiences about this topic, I would really like to see how other artists have grown into businesses. Simply create a post and pingback to this post.
About the Author and Photographer:
Melissa Fague is an emerging landscape and nature photographer from Bear, Delaware USA. In just a few short years her work has been published over two dozen times and she has won multiple national and international awards for her beautiful photographs of nature. Melissa is passionate about the art of photography and nature. Exploring areas and creating her style of nature photographs is her form of stress relief and art therapy, but she also loves to share her visions so that others can enjoy. All of Melissa’s landscape and nature photographs are available for purchase, visit Pi Photography and Fine Art.