The Importance of Relationships
22 Ways to Build People Power
By Renée Phillips, The Artrepreneur Coach
Building strong ties with others may be the single most valuable part of your career — as it was for mine. When I arrived in New York City in 1980 with very little capital and no professional experience I decided my goal was to get to know everyone in the art community. As I knocked on many doors my favorite mantra was “How can I help you?”
I served as a volunteer curator and art writer. I launched an arts organization. I held weekly art parties in my apartment and multi-media alternative spaces. Before long my network grew and eventually, leading art professionals, celebrities and government officials were attending my events, answering my phone calls and collaborating with me.
When it was time to launch my own art magazine Manhattan Arts International, in 1983, I had established the support of many art professionals and advertisers to make it a success.
I owe much of my career success to the relationships I have developed and nurtured for myself and for others.
The art community could be described as a game of musical chairs. The roles of artists, art dealers, critics and collectors are interchangeable and interconnected. The artist is often a curator, the collector has become a consultant and the art dealer may have many roles over the years. So, never, ever burn any bridges!
Galleries seek the advice of the artists they represent when adding new ones. Many grant givers require letters of endorsements from art leaders. Collectors and curators recommend artists to dealers. Members of the press obtain story leads from other art professionals.
Simply stated, the more people you know and who know you, your talent and your abilities, the more your career will flourish. Your relationships will provide the rewards that will nourish you through life.
22 Ways to Build People Power
1. Lift each other up.
In the words of Booker T. Washington, “If you want to lift yourself up, lift someone else.” Reach out, especially now. Everyone is feeling the economic crunch and this offers us the opportunity to collaborate, come together, help each other and explore new ways of exhibiting art and attracting clients and customers. There is always strength in numbers.
2. Nurture your collectors.
Marketing experts claim that it takes five times the effort to acquire new customers than to repeat a sale to an existing customer. They also state 20% of your buyers will produce 80% percent of your sales. So, reach out more often to your buyers and strive to build many long, rewarding relationships with them.
3. Build second tier relationships.
It is important to reach out to your ultimate buyer but equally important to establish relationships with those they rely on for leads and expertise. Your relationships may also include interior designers, architects, real estate agents, house stagers, corporate buyers and private art dealers. Invite them in to bring the buyers.
4. Network outside your circle.
Think creatively. Talk to your banker, accountant, dentist, florist and doorman. Ask them for business referrals and do the same for them. My step-father gave me my first lesson on marketing through networking. He was a diet specialist and he told a lesson about Public Relations. He built much of his medical practice from getting referrals from his tailor and local restaurants!
5. Always be prepared.
We often meet new people through life’s magical chance encounters. Carry an ample supply of visual “handouts” – postcards, business cards or brochures – that feature an image of your work. Also, be prepared with your “elevator speech.”
6. Manage your contacts.
After you exchange cards with someone, jot down a reminder on the back of that person’s card such as where you met, what you discussed and how and when you should follow up. Then record new acquaintances and contacts in a rolodex, data base, or index cards. Set up whatever system works best for you.
7. Utilize cyberspace for networking.
Join and participate constructively in a social networking site like facebook, LinkedIn or twitter, to expand your contacts and increase exposure. You will have access to people and groups around the world which you otherwise would never meet which leads to the exchange information and numerous opportunities. And, you don’t have to leave your studio to do it.
8. Take your connections to the next level.
Every week reach out to at least one social media connection by suggesting a phone conversation and/or meeting.
9. Go to the top.
Offer to become an assistant for an established artist or take a job in a leading gallery. Join the highest level museum membership category you can afford and attend their events.
10. Be active and visible.
If you belong to an organization become an enthusiastic member. Volunteer to work on the events or publicity committee that will open opportunities to meet others.
11. Diversify and expand your roles.
Look for ways to curate, jury, lecture, or write about the art and medium you use.
12. Offer to take an active role at an event.
You can overcome your shyness by helping at the information table or check in desk. Become the friendly greeter to others who feel uncomfortable in a crowd.
13. Go where the action is.
Attend gallery receptions, lectures, symposiums and events held in museums and art centers. Make an effort to talk and make contacts there.
14. Become a good friend and matchmaker.
Seek opportunities to develop new relationships among people you know and the favors will be returned.
15. Express generosity.
When you have an opportunity to provide something, give much more than is requested – go far beyond the recipient’s expectations.
16. Be polite.
This sounds obvious but is often forgotten. Simple acts of etiquette go a long way. Use every opportunity to send a personal note or e-mail to say “thank you,” “congratulations” or “it was a pleasure to meet you.”
17. Be aware of the other person’s needs.
When entering a relationship ask, “How can I help?” not “What’s in it for me?”
18. Become a partner with your dealer.
Once a relationship is formed with a gallery, view it as an important partnership that must be nurtured. Reach out regularly and report creative progress. Express your willingness to collaborate on activities to increase sales and publicity for your work. Offer ideas for increasing traffic.
19. Don’t burn your bridges.
If a relationship must terminate try your best to separate peacefully. (Remember what I wrote before about the art community being a game of musical chairs!)
20. Seize Opportunities.
Many retail stores are empty. Use them as temporary exhibition spaces. Join other artists and set up artists run galleries.
21. Increase your spirit of camaraderie.
Reach out to other artists as allies, not competitors. Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed individuals can change the world, indeed it’s the only thing that ever has.” The artists’ organization offers the artist a place to share values, convictions, ambitions and solutions to common problems.
22. Use Social Media. (Last, but not least!)
The benefits of participating in social media sites are extremely rewarding and necessary today. I recommend you seek ways to collaborate with your connections. I am very grateful to have met Marie Kazalia on LinkedIn and look forward to sharing more activities with her in the future!
Renee Phillips is the Director of Manhattan Arts International. Known as The Artrepreneur Coach, counsels artists worldwide and is the creator of the Artist Success Program. She is also an author and member of the International Association of Art Critics. Learn more by visiting her Artrepreneur Coach blog http://bit.ly/reneephillipsartcoach and http://www.manhattanarts.com/ReneePhillips/index.htm