Increase Your Art Sales by Making an Emotional Connection

by Carolyn Edlund

Sell more of your work by talking about what matters most to your customer.


"Bathsheba No. 7" photography by PJ Boylan

“Bathsheba No. 7” photography by PJ Boylan


Back in the day when I represented a major art publisher, we kept careful track of the most popular sellers in our poster line. The “Bon Voyage” category most often ranked #1 in poster sales. This collection featured photographs of fabulous destinations around the world.

Why were these posters our bestsellers? Because just about everyone loves imagining an escape to a tropical island, or climbing a mountain to see an amazing view like the ones in the posters. Those incredible photographs reflected the memories and aspirations of our customers. They acted as a reminder of the good life, a dream vacation or a very special trip taken in the past. Each one connected on a very basic emotional level, offering a slice of happiness.

Take a look at your own body of work. How does what you make connect emotionally with the customers you would like to cultivate? What does it offer them? Answering that question is key to planning your marketing message, because it enables you to address what customers care about mostthemselves.

When you create messaging to market your work and when you speak about your art in person with potential collectors, keep this simple truth in mind. Tell your story, describe your process and inspiration, but don’t forget that an essential part of making a sale involves sharing how it will directly affect your customer. They need to know, “What’s in it for me?”

Place yourself firmly in your customer’s shoes. Why should they buy from you? Then, let them know. Check out artist Wendy Froshay’s website, which lists 11 reasons to own her work. Pretty amazing!

Features & Benefits

In the marketing world, a key concept is sharing features and benefits to the customer. You may have heard the saying “Sell the sizzle, not the steak.” The benefits are more persuasive than the features, because they address the customer experience, and that’s where your message taps into what they value.

Here are a few examples of features and benefits. Take some time and consider how you would write your own list.

  • Feature: Your handmade clothing is hand washable.
  • Benefit: Your customer doesn’t have to pay for dry cleaning.
  • Feature: Your jewelry is made with tarnish-resistant Argentium silver.
  • Benefit:  Easy maintenance; no need to spend a lot of time polishing silver.
  • Feature: The giclee you are selling comes as a gallery wrap.
  • Benefit: It’s ready to hang! Plus, there are no framing costs.
  • Feature: The piece of work you are selling comes in a protective box.
  • Benefit: The customer can easily pack it in a suitcase, or ship it.
  • Feature: You offer gift cards for the purchase of your work.
  • Benefit: They don’t know what the gift recipient really wants? No problem!

Other benefits don’t have to do with physical convenience. They are emotional.

Will your handmade rocking chair become a family heirloom, handed down to future generations? That’s a powerful benefit to the right customer. Think of the appeal to grandparents on the birth of a first grandchild.

Do the custom portraits you make capture a moment in time, preserving precious family memories? Or memorialize a beloved pet? They are deeply personal, and can easily become a favorite possession.

If your art fits well into a niche market, you have a perfect opportunity to tap right into a cause, hobby, interest or pursuit that your customer values highly. Purchasing your work reflects their own passion. And connecting with a passion is a very good way to gain a new collector.

Does your work evoke an emotional response? Perhaps it is calming and serene. Or hip and edgy. Maybe humorous and irresistible. Or maybe it gives flight to their dreams, like those “Bon Voyage” posters that sold so well.

Enhance the buying experience for your potential customers by sharing the “why” of the purchase, and offering a message that creates an emotional resonance. Then, track the increase in interest and your sales when you offer a perfect match for what they care about the most.


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  1. I am an artist NOT at all interested in creating works for extrinsic reasons. I am not interested in doing a sunset or a coffee cup or whatever the going fad is for that day or week, nor making something with someone else in mind. I create solely because I have intrinsic messages I need to impart and a need to impart them in meaningful work. This makes the work I do less commercial and less marketable. For years I struggled with that and am often criticized and made to feel lacking because I don’t. Now, I embrace it and am much, much happier. Does that mean I don’t sell anything? No, I actually sell more now! ….but sell best when I am there, in person. I think the reason my work almost always sells when I am present and doesn’t sell as often when I am not, is that people make an emotional connection with me and see and hear the passion I have for what I do. I really talk about my work from both a materials and a conceptual standpoint and most often, that is when they buy.
    In this article, I still took away a lot from the idea of enhancing a reason for buying with a positive clarification that upholds the reason, as outlined above. This is handy information for me.
    I have also noticed that people who sell my work don’t pay enough attention to what I tell them about it that makes it most intriguing and important….they are at a loss for words when asked about it by potential customers. Gallerists, store owners, etc. need to really know the artists and the reasons behind the work created that they want to sell, not just its materials or technique. Always looking to improve, I think I am going to make more effort to always have a positive take ready to go along with my explanations. Great idea!

    • Leisa, I agree wholeheartedly that being available in person and speaking about your own work, is a huge advantage for many artists. If what you make is not complex, you can use signage, sales tips for gallery staff or marketing materials to share the benefits, and that can work well without the artist present.

      But if your work is complex or “less marketable” as you put it, there must be a way to communicate the meaning, the emotional connection … and it looks like you have found a way to connect with your collectors. Your sweet spot!

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