When was the last time you raised your prices? For some reading this the answer is never. For some of you, the answer is, “I am thinking about lowering them!” (Ouch)

I am on the email list of many of my clients and many other artists. And I have noticed a dreadful trend for the past year or so. I keep seeing artists putting their fine art – original, unique, one-of-a-kind, 2-D and 3D art – on sale as though it’s a commodity. As though it’s a pair of winter boots. As though it’s a set coffee mugs or pillows from a print-on-demand site.

If offering a cell-phone or mouse pad is in your marketing plans, then putting them on sale from time to time makes sense. But the original image you created is an entirely different category!

Sadly, some art selling sites seem to be encouraging this practice. It looks like (and might even be!) a move from desperation. However, as you will see later in the article, there are other ways to “add value” to a purchase and create a sense of getting a “good deal”.

Chasing Art Sales by discounting the value of original art is an imperfect solution. Click To Tweet

It’s as though there is no established value. And it’s very disheartening for the art collectors who have already invested in your art.

I know I am going to get some comments from various corners of the internet from people who will defend themselves, but be prepared: I will fight back – just sayin’…!

Part of the perceived (and real) value of original, hand-crafted, or limited production artwork is its lack of availability. It’s not repeatable. It’s not cookie-cutter. It can’t be googled and bought somewhere else at a better price!

The creative soul behind original hand-created art can’t snap their fingers and create a duplicate. Even photographers can spend an entire day or months to get that exact angle in the exact light. And then there are the artistic choices for the exact cropping, tweaking for greatest effect, and choice of the perfect matrix and printing medium.

If you want to be able to sell your original paintings, sculptures, fine hand-crafted woodwork, and hand-crafted artwork to a growing group of happy collectors, then you need to protect their personal expenditures. And their patronage. And your future credibility! They want to support an ever more popular and sought-after artist. They want to be able to say, “I knew her when her pieces were under $500.”

The vicious cycle

An artist recently called me complaining that, at that the last show she did, nearly every buyer was asking for a discount. She admitted that she had offered a pretty substantial discount (20%) in a recent email campaign and had a banner with a discount offer at her last show in that same area. I pointed out that she had “taught” her buyers to expect a discount.

The only solution for her, long-term, is to stop discounting. Since she hadn’t raised her prices in the past five years, I also recommended that she raise them by at least 10%. The majority of her prices were between $300 and $800 so it’s not a big jump. However, it says to anyone considering purchasing, or who have already purchased, that the value of the work is to be respected.

She also sells open-edition prints of her originals and so I recommended that if someone “needed” to get a “good deal” she should give them a free print of their choice. She is delighted to have a “better” option.

How saying “no” can be win-win

Okay, so admittedly, this is all about confidence! And you need to rehearse your own statement so you can be strong in your messaging. This needs to be put into words you are comfy using, but it’s not hard once you believe the idea behind the statement. So when someone is considering a purchase and they ask something like, “Can you give me a discount?” you can reply with something like one of these statements – or something that applies to your situation:

  • My devoted collectors expect my prices to go up, not down and therefore I cannot discount my originals. If you want to join my email list, I do offer XX off on any of the prints to my subscribers. You can sign-up right now.
  • I don’t offer discounts on my original hand-made work, but as a courtesy, you can have a discount on the frame (or shipping).
  • I am in several terrific galleries who support me and my work and I cannot sell my work for less than it would sell in those venues. I must honor the values that are established.
  • Because of high demand, I will actually be increasing the prices in a few months. My recommendation is that you take advantage of the good value now. (See Below for an outline of this idea in action.)

I think you see the pattern here. Politely let them know that the value is real, credible, and protected now and into the future.

Encouraging “good deals” with current collectors

One surefire way to instigate sales without lowering prices is to create a sense of urgency among your current collectors and would-be collectors. The almighty email list is your key to success!

As my followers here already know, I am a purist when it comes to marketing and I teach that email marketing is your foundation. With each change to an algorithm, Facebook and Instagram (same company) have become increasingly ineffective. Use them or any of the social media platforms, but use them to get more people on your email list!

Armed with a vibrant “permission-based” email list and a little planning, you can set up a chain of events that pushes people through the “Buyer’s Journey” and into your shopping cart with big smiles and their credit cards.

Once a year (or every few years depending on your art form and other factors), you should raise your prices with a bullhorn at your side. Let the world know that you are 1. having a hard time keeping up with demand 2. gaining credentials  3. adding new collectors at an increasing rate

That is to say, let them know you are gaining in popularity. They will like that and will want to join that club of collectors who are riding along with you on your train to success.

If you are not experiencing any of the above, then just say that your process or materials are forcing you to adjust pricing. Or just don’t even say anything at all if none of that feels real to you. Just announce a price increase. The most important part of the entire campaign is making sure you do it with a ticktock deadline.

Two groups to inform and two approaches

Group one is your collectors. They own your work. They have a reminder of it in their lives every day. They know the “real value” of ownership. Learning that the actual value is about to go up, even just a little bit, makes them feel good.

Group two is the wannabes. They are on your list and you know they really want to purchase “someday”. They have been to see you at shows or openings. They keep lingering in the consideration stage. Learning that you are raising prices will have a big impact.

Treat the two groups in separate email campaigns.

Phase one for GROUP ONE: This group needs to have a “special” offer. Let them know you are giving them an early head’s up. Emphasize that they are getting this extra sneak preview time because they are already collectors and that gives them a special privilege. Let them know they have a full week to look over the collection with only other collectors. Remind them that the work they are considering is also being considered by other collectors and that if they see a piece they really love, they should act immediately to secure their purchase.

Phase two for GROUP ONE: Adding more urgency requires you send out another email with a “last call”. This is their “final warning” to purchase before the rest of your list is contacted. You must send them an email that says something like, “Tomorrow, you and the other collectors will be joined by the rest of my list. Tomorrow, all the people who have followed my career, but have not yet collected my work, will learn about the price increase that goes into effect on (date). If you have considered any purchases, and if that piece is still available, there will be a much larger group of people on my site searching for the perfect piece tomorrow starting at (time and time zone). The odds of availability will lessen for you.

Phase one for GROUP TWO: It’s not rocket-science. Just let them know that you had previously given first dibs to your list of owners of your work. Remind them that if they become owners, they will be on that special list; the list where special offers and advanced invitations happen. Give them the deadline. You’re basically done with group two.

Phase Three for BOTH GROUPS: 48 hours from the price increase you send an alert to your full list.

Creating urgency helps people focus

Keep your email messages short and scannable. Send your readers directly to your offer online in the email via a solitary CTA (call to action) button that is clear and easy to click. Send them to a landing page – preferably your shopping cart – and restate the terms: Deadline date before the price increase, first-come-first-served, and a “don’t miss the chance” statement.

We all want a “good deal” when possible. Making a price increase into a good deal is a better overall strategy than offering a discount on fine art and collectibles. It secures the same energy – the sense of lost opportunity if they don’t act fast. But it also projects increased long-term value of the treasured art they are adding to their collection.

I consider this a win-win-win method of increasing traffic and sales.

If you need my deeper thinking or want to put together a strategy session, just set up an appointment anytime. 


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