by Carolyn Edlund
Don’t lose track of your existing customers. They are the key to growing your creative business.
Back in the day when I still had my production studio, I frequently sold my work at retail fairs and festivals. And over the course of twenty years, I had plenty of customers. They would walk into my booth, make a purchase, and take it with them. At the time, it never occurred to me to get their names and put them on a mailing list, or to do any follow up whatsoever.
All of those paying customers walked away, never to hear from me again. Clearly they liked my work, because they made a purchase. But I didn’t make an effort to ask for their contact information or reach out again. Any repeat business was by chance, when customers saw me a year later at the same festival, or contacted me because they took a business card.
This same situation is fairly common today, even though everyone has email at their fingertips and there is an easy way to stay in touch through email marketing with service providers like Mail Chimp and Constant Contact. Sometimes artists say they “don’t want to bother people” or feel uncomfortable following up with prospects who didn’t make the purchase.
But every time you allow a customer or interested prospect to simply walk away, you are leaving business on the table – just like I did, all those years ago.
The customers you earn through the hard work of marketing and selling are important to your business. In fact, your customer list is one of the most valuable assets your small business has!
Most people don’t make a purchase the first time they see your work. It might not be the right time for them to buy, or perhaps they need to become more familiar with your collection. Getting their contact information (primarily their email address) puts you in a perfect position to stay in touch in a friendly non-spammy way to let them know what’s new and interesting with your art.
It’s also much easier to close sales with people who have already proven that they love what you make. Why would you want to always sell “cold” when you can sell more of your art to your fans?
How to gather your customer list
Any event where you are face-to-face with shoppers puts you in the perfect position to ask for their contact information. A guest book placed strategically with a request to sign up for your list will make it easy. Why should they sign up for your list? Perhaps you offer an invitation to your exclusive studio sale. Or you might offer free shipping on the first order. Whatever enticement you use, make sure they see value in giving out their information.
Any time someone hands you a business card, or if you are in a networking situation, also gives you a perfect opportunity to put them on your list. Simply ask, “May I stay in touch with you?”
Whenever a sale is made, make it a point to ask the customer if you may put them on your contact list. When you’re in a conversation with a prospective customer who isn’t quite sure about the purchase, offer to take a photo of the work they are considering, and email to them with details and a link to your website. That gives you access as well.
And speaking of websites, use an opt-in form to capture the addresses of visitors you work so hard to attract. Even if you receive only a small percentage of subscribers, they add up over time.
Once you have experienced the incredible power of repeat business with regular customers who not only buy more from you, but refer you to their friends, you’ll be glad you took the time to make list-building a priority.