Despite it being artist, Susan Cawthon’s first year doing an open studio event, she nailed it. Without a website, email marketing platform, Instagram account or Facebook biz page she:
Sold more than 50 pieces
Got a commission
Had almost 100 visitors
And, she had more fun than she expected.
How’d she do so well during her very first open studio event without all the tech trappings that we’re so used to?
Susan has been visiting open studios for over 20 years and as a result she’s seen what works and what wouldn’t work for her. She made a mental note of those likes and dislikes. She also asked a lot of questions during this which equates to learning a ton.
She noticed that when she was visiting open studio-style events that the very first year she didn’t buy but the second year, she’d go back and make purchases. For a while she didn’t understand why this worked except for the fact that people buy from you if they know you.
She put herself on the other side. She was a visitor, an art appreciator, a collector. And her learning from that paid off when it came time to do her own event.
That’s why she made sure to invite people she knew—all of her friends and neighbors. This of course began to look a lot like planning a party and some of the ways she got people out to her studio were very similar to how you’d host a birthday party or holiday open house.
She told friends she’d have food and coffee
On last day, between 4-5 pm she told friends that they’d feast on all the remaining food from the weekend
She made and printed invitations specific to her studio, and didn’t rely on the overall program event guide alone
She handed invites to all her neighbors, yarn shop and other places—in person
She spoke to people about it—in person
Mailed the open studios guide and invite to people with personal notes
She showed parts of works in progress and finished pieces on Facebook
She invited people to join her through Facebook
She handed out cards for neighboring artists which really helped to create conversation and keep people visiting
She put it on her invite that she was doing demos and she got a lot of visitors at demo time
The majority of the people who came were people she knew. Those that she didn’t know bought the smaller items while those that knew her more, purchased bigger pieces.
When I asked her if she had a mailing list, she said yes. Of course I wanted to know what platform she used (MailChimp, etc.) and she said that her mailing list as just in her email. She said that she wrote more than 40 personalized emails to 40 different friends.
She snail mailed about 20 event guides and her own invitation with personal notes.
She got on the phone and called people to invite them. Then she got on the phone and called people to remind them about the event.
She even helped to arrange a ride for one friend that she knew would be hesitant to come without another friend.
Labor intensive? You betcha.
Worth it? Definitely.
Some other things that made it a success….
Range of pieces
She had pieces that ranged from cards to paintings to pillows in different mediums such as photography, watercolor, paint on silk with beading, metal and transfer to fabric.
She even made a special garden ornament that cost around $20 to buy as entry point purchase piece. She sold most of those to people she didn’t know.
Range of prices
Her prices ranged from:
$10-$20 entry point items
$300-$1,500 originals paintings.
$1,500+ Triptychs and larger pieces.
Her only event for the year
This made it more special for her friends and collectors because they hadn’t seen her or her work in a long time.
Off the wall
She had a few things on the wall but she thinks that scares people. She feels like they need to touch it so she had most of her work leaning on the wall and easier to handle.
Her husband rang up sales and a friend answered questions
She’s not a computer-person but she is a people-person who’s organized and willing to put in the promotional work to get folks to show up. She says it’s a lot of work but it’s worth it because it’s so much fun.
Planned it in advance like it was a party
Action by way of demos
Personalization all the way through from the invites, during the event and afterwards
Observing what’s worked well for others and herself
Whether you’re super close to your event right now or if you’ve got a good lead time, I encourage you to take a page out of Susan’s notebook and personally email, text or call 3-8 people today and ask if they can come to your event. Even if it’s only so you can see a friendly face. Ask them to bring a friend or two. This momentum alone will help you generate buzz and get people to your event.
Hoping you have a party at your next sales event!