There are so many possible ways you can approach buyers. If you think about all of the ways we can communicate with one another, then you would end up with a list of possibilities. Phone calls, emails, letters, in-person meetings, social media messages, carrier pigeons, sending a quartet to sing your pitch, etc. With such a long list of possible approaches, how do you determine which method to use? Here’s the secret… the results are not in the method; they are in the message.
Buyers want to feel a sense of connection to the artists they buy from. We build a sense of connection to others through authenticity, genuine interest, listening, shared experiences or laughter, and acts of kindness. I believe the easiest, fastest, and most promising way of gaining more buyers is by building a connection with them first. I’ll give you a few personal examples—some intentional, some organic, but all rooted in connection.
- About a year or so ago I saw a Facebook advertisement for a monthly “queer yoga class” being held at a nearby studio I had never heard of or been to. I thought it sounded like a fun night, so I grabbed a friend and we went and took the class. On that first night I met a few cool people, had some surface-level conversations, and enjoyed the class enough to join again the next month. Before the second class, the studio owners sent out an email talking about how they would be hosting a raffle-basket fundraiser at the next class to raise money for an LGBTQ organization. I used this as an opportunity to email them back and tell them about my illustration business and offer to donate a basket to their raffle. They were thrilled and grateful, and making this gesture was an organic way of bringing my business into our newly formed relationship and having a small spotlight of my products at the next yoga event. I brought my cute business cards as well that feature my sexy raccoon illustration on the backside, and handed them out to people at the yoga class while my business was being talked about. After the event, the studio owners expressed interest in carrying my greeting cards, stickers, and magnets in their small retail shop full time. We set up a wholesale* arrangement and they began selling my work in their shop the next week. Not to mention, there were several attendees from the class who bought work from online shop soon after or reached out for custom pieces.
Moral of the story: Genuine and organic connections mixed with kindness and professionalism can result in new business opportunities.
- I frequently attend art markets or festivals as a vendor, and I have found that the connections you make with other vendors at these events are just as beneficial as the connections you form with attending customers. I typically allow myself to spend $20-$30 at an event on another business’s products. This is more than just a tiny shopping spree! I am really intentional about introducing myself to the shop owner, making small talk about the event, engaging with their products and business, and buying something I am genuinely excited about. If the vibes are good (which they usually are) I’ll say “let me follow you on Instagram,” and will follow them right there on the spot. IMPORTANT: I don’t pitch my products, talk about working together, or anything like that. I just truly try to connect with the person I’m talking to on a human level and bond a little bit over our shared event experience. This truly works. I have had a bakery owner email me the following week after an event saying she’d love to carry my cards in her shop, a bookstore owner reach out about placing a wholesale order, an herbal shop owner email me about helping her rebrand her business and design her new logo, people invite me to future events their hosting or attending, received lots of future shop orders from connections that started this way, and not to mention have made some of my best small business friends from doing this.
Moral of the story: Support the people you admire and want to work with. Be genuine and friendly. Introduce yourself to other business owners you think are cool. Don’t be salesy. Form genuine connections and plant seeds.
In-person meetings like the ones above are my personal favorite. They feel the most authentic and natural. However, I have also formed some strong business connections through email. I pretty much will never email someone totally cold. Meaning, if we have zero mutual connections and have never met before I won’t email them unless they have an open artist submissions form on their website. On the other hand, I have occasionally sent emails to other business owners I have never met but whom I know have a mutual connection with me. Here are my few tips on approaching buyers via email:
- Keep it short. If you’re reaching out to a general shop email, you don’t even know for sure that your email is being read by the owner or the correct point of contact. Don’t pitch your products in the first email. Mention who you are, what you’re interested in, and ask who would be the person to talk to.
- Set up a time to meet or call. Email should be used to establish a point of contact, not to give your whole business pitch.
- Be authentic. Type how you talk. Probably don’t sign off, “with warm regards” unless that feels true to you. I like to include tidbits of personality into my emails and use light humor, smiley faces, and keep it easy and not transactional.
- Have an email signature that links to your website and social media. This gives buyers the option to look into you and your artwork without you having to give a whole upfront pitch. If they’re curious they will click, and if they are interested, they will reply.
If your email approach is successful and you set up a meeting to talk about a business opportunity in person with a buyer, bring a small token gift. Just yesterday I met with the owner of a local café after emailing her back and forth a few times to discuss the possibility of doing a pop-up in her café, or hosting a workshop. As soon as I got there, she offered me a free drink before we got to chatting. This literally made my whole day. I had the best boba tea in the world, and this act of kindness and generosity really stuck out to me and made me want to work with her that much more. It’s the little acts of sharing and kindness that help make a first impression.
In summary, I believe in you. Be you. Be authentic. Form genuine connections. Be confident. And remember that your products deserve to be out in the world, and you are doing buyers a favor by reaching out to them!
*To read my blog about everything I know about wholesale, click here