If you’re like most of my clients you get cold feet when having to make “Cold Calls” to connect with influential people such as prospective customers, gallery owners, curators, art consultants, and arts writers. Artists tell me, “I know I should be reaching out… following up… making the “cold call”… setting up a meeting… but I can’t motivate myself.” They may say, “I fear I’ll be rejected.” It’s important for your career to build these relationships and making “Cold Calls” doesn’t have to be torturous. Simply follow my 10 steps for artists to make “cold calls” rewarding.
A similar article will appear in a future issue of Professional Artist magazine.
Step #1: Create Your List and Action Steps
List your “Cold” prospects and organize them in priority order. Then create a system and schedule for taking steps to advance those relationships. Develop a plan that will work most successfully for each person on your list. Learn as much about them as possible. Work on it steadily and you’ll find this list may be one of your most valuable art marketing tools.
Step #2: Be Patient
Start with the right attitude: “Cold Calls” can transform into lukewarm contacts and blossom into warm, enduring relationships. Take time to develop them and be patient while the process progresses. If the person don’t reply to your gesture at first it may not be personal. They could have any of a range of reasons from having personal obligations to business projects that are more demanding at the time you reach out. Don’t give up after your first attempt.
Step #3: Sign Up
There are many ways to connect with others. For example, if they have an email newsletter become a subscriber. Then, when you receive their updates and something speaks to you, send them a friendly and encouraging response. Or, if they write a blog post or share an interesting notice on social media, write a comment and share their post on their behalf. They will appreciate it and take notice.
Step #4: Show Up
If there’s a gallery you want to impress attend their opening receptions and visit the gallery frequently. Congratulate them on their outstanding exhibitions. Look for panel discussions and/or lectures where they may be a participant and show your respect and support. When you feel comfortable, after seeing them on several occasions, inquire about their artist’s selection process.
Step #5: Seek Referrals
This might be the quickest and best way to turn a cold contact into a hot one. Ask your artist friends and social network if they could offer any introductions. Ask your art buyers if they have purchased work from anyone on your “Cold Calls” list. Find out if they belong to any art business associations, charity organizations or community groups that you might want to join or where you know some members.
Step #6: Be Helpful
Reach out to others with a positive attitude and desire to be helpful. Never approach them with an attitude of need or greed. Before you move forward, put yourself in their position and consider what you might be able to offer them. For ideas, observe how gregarious and popular artists in social media interact with others.
Step #7: Learn the Protocol
Get informed. Many galleries, art consultants and interior designers will post artists’ submission guidelines on their “Contact” pages. If you cannot locate that information, inquire first about their guidelines and specific requirements or better yet — through an artist who is represented by them.
Step #8: Be Aware of Timing
Be respectful of people’s boundaries and aware of their schedules. Don’t contact a curator or gallery owner immediately before their exhibition. Avoid contacting an arts writer when they’re on editorial deadline. Don’t reach out to prospective art buyers before major holidays or vacations. Instead, choose optimum times to reach out.
Step #9: Be Bold and Creative
When I think about how artists should take risks when making “Cold Calls” I recall an old story about an artist, who was emerging at the time, placed his slides inside a package with a sandwich and had it delivered to a curator at the Whitney Museum. He was lucky that she was amused and took time to view his work. I’m not saying this will work for every artist but in his case his willingness to be bold, creative and take chances in developing relationships were assets during his successful career.
Step #10: Follow Up
If you receive a response from one of your contacts and they ask for information, reply immediately. If you forgot to follow up on a lead you were given several months ago or neglected to acknowledge, apologize or thank someone, do it now. There is no expiration date on beginning or advancing a relationship.
You may also want to read Build Your Art Career With People Power and also Successful Artists Know that Relationships Are Key to Growing Your Art Career.
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