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Increase Your Art Sales by Making an Emotional Connection


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 most – themselves.

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. Or 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.

Carolyn EdlundThis article is courtesy of
Carolyn Edlund, founder of Artsy Shark, is a business writer, speaker and consultant for artists. She is the Executive Director of the Arts Business Institute, presenting at art business workshops throughout the United States. Carolyn works with artists every day in strategy sessions designed to help them structure their businesses, set and reach their goals. Find out more about scheduling your own business consultation with Carolyn here: window