Sometimes, as the saying goes, if you can't get Mohammed to the mountain, you have to bring the mountain to Mohammed. I probably quoted that terribly wrong, but the idea is that, despite all your engaging advertising and direct mail campaigns, sometimes you have to go where the buyers are and not wait for them to walk through your door. Two time-tested ways are through home and corporate shows.
Selling in the Home - Bringing fine art into prospective buyers' homes adds an obvious element to the sale - the customer doesn't have to envision it hanging in their home, they can actually see it hanging in their home. You can sidestep all of the uncertainties such as "Well, I have to bring my husband in to see if he likes it" or "I don't know if it will match my décor." Yes, it's a lot of work. You need to have a selection of artwork framed and wrapped, and a car big enough to transport them in. You often need to schedule these home visits in the evening hours, after your gallery is closed and clients are home from work. You need to be energetic and agile enough to lift and move large pieces of art. What's the pay off? You can increase sales through the incredible one-on-one attention focused on your customer, by identifying other areas in the home that would benefit from some beautiful art, and by establishing yourself as a true resource for your customer, who will turn to you in the future and recommend you to others. A less intense version of the home show is to let a customer take a piece home for a few days for a test drive; if a customer is undecided, and if you feel that you have offered them a piece that they will really enjoy, some time spent having it in their home could clinch the deal. (In this scenario, protect yourself by getting a credit card number and/or deposit).
So, how do you get started?
1. Begin by offering these home shows to customers during your regular interaction. Put a sign in your gallery, and maybe try to work with an interior designer that you might have a good relationship with, to attract their customers.
2. If you don't have a suitable vehicle, borrow or rent one. Don't let your small car be an excuse not to try something new.
Corporate shows - Today's busy pace of life means that working folks don't always have time to stroll through galleries, even during non-work hours. Besides the corporate world as a primary market for artwork, their employees are a captive audience of people who are, at the very least, earning a paycheck! Approach a local business to see if you can set up an exhibit in their lobby or company dining area (assuming there is some security there). Try this with appropriate pieces around a gift-related holiday, such as Christmas or Mother's Day (when the employees may be grateful to have the convenience of shopping at work)
A Chalk & Vermilion customer, Larry at Peninsula Gallery in Vancouver Island, B.C. has had great success with corporate cocktail parties. He hangs his art in his corporate clients' offices, and they hire a caterer and perhaps entertainment (as an alternative to the rather usual client party at a catering hall). One recent party featured a "chef/cuisine" theme with French chefs doing live cooking demonstrations - a huge success! The office staff saw how great the place looked with great art instead of insipid and tired posters, and has become a client, and several of the attendees, both office members and their guests, have contacted him about framing and art.
These events are more of an investment of time and energy rather than money, but can pay off if done well. Start small, stay organized, and think "outside the box..." Just because you have never done something doesn't mean that it won't work for you - go ahead and try something new.
"A person who aims at nothing is sure to hit it" - Anonymous