I recently helped a client with a total re-branding, restructuring, and then a re-launching of his art business. We worked on making his line extraordinary in every way possible. We worked out all the logistics and put together a cohesive and specific wholesale line of goods. I totally re-vamped his website – new business name, new URL, new logo, new tagline, & new marketing strategies.

As this project unfolded, his distinguished product category, price range, and increased perceived value all morphed into something very specific. As we worked on his marketing strategy, we gained a position that would target the “fine gift and high-end collectibles” market. We know his line is not going to be for everyone. And because of price alone, we could now focus on a very niche market.

There was little doubt that this collection of artful, functional goods would be something Frasier (from the TV show by the same name) would want to own and purchase as gifts without hesitation.

We had our persona. Our “avatar”! Frasier (or his TV wife Lilith?) was the quintessential customer for this line of luxury goods. With that, all that was left was target marketing “exercises”. We started by answering several simple questions:

  • Where would Frasier shop?
  • What would Frasier expect?
  • What would impress Frasier?
  • What packaging/presentations would create trust and desire?
  • What would cast doubt or keep him from purchasing?

Hopefully, you know who Frasier is? If not, replace him with whatever person you think is the biggest snob in the world. Example: a person who thinks water must come from a blue bottle and who would never fly first class unless their private plane was mechanically disabled.

Yes… that person. Not necessarily some horrible, narcissistic, bully. Just someone with the means and the preference for luxury and quality above machine-made, run-of-the-mill “stuff”. Someone who, like Frasier, is not a bad person, just “picky” and discriminant with their purchases.

And, oh, by the way…! You need not judge yourself for wanting to cater to that person. Just because they are able to acquire the best and are not willing to indulge in second-best doesn’t make them less worthy of owning the best you have to offer. Read that line again if you ever doubt your art’s value to the planet. You need to do what it takes to be a stand-out!

What will make you stand-out?

Whether you are selling a porcelain centerpiece platter costing many hundreds of dollars or a coaster set from clay selling for under fifty dollars, the value to the purchaser starts with eye appeal.  At first, it’s not about the price. Never. Instead, it’s the look, feel, and sense of quality.

I cannot emphasize enough that it’s not the price alone that makes a sale happen or not happen. If the final finishing touches aren’t there, the buyer will have a gut level, “something’s not quite right with this” reaction.

While excellence is important to selling all hand-made goods, if you are at the top of the price range for your particular art form, you probably will benefit from going above and beyond. For example:

  1. Is every square inch the best quality finish?
  2. What about the back or inside of the piece?
  3. Do you include a Certificate of Authenticity?
  4. Do you have any guarantees or warranties?
  5. Do you include care or cleaning instructions if applicable?
  6. Do you offer boxing/packaging with your logo? Think Tiffany’s! Think Apple!

Everything on that list adds to your “costs of goods sold”. Therefore, you need to weigh those costs. The first two items are baseline basics, but returning to the example of clay coasters, you may not need 3 – 6. For items that are in the gift-price category, even a dollar or two added to the price might not be justified or create enough perceived value. Can you add something that costs a dollar, but raises the perceived value by three? It’s a balancing act.

Unless of course, your coasters are already twice the price of an ordinary coaster because of some special surface treatments or unusual materials. Suddenly, those “extra” costs which “complete the package” might be needed to offset the higher cost of labor for your hand-painted multi-color glazes or highly detailed sgraffito applications.

It’s the Gift that counts!

It seems so obvious, but no matter what you are creating, you have only one chance to create awe, trust, and desire for your work. And, it is no secret that if you are creating in the gift-priced category, you actually have to meet even higher standards. We all want to give the best when we give a gift. We all shop differently for gifts than we do for ourselves.

Whatever you create and whatever the price, you need to imagine what Frasier would think seeing your artwork for the first time. Quality is always in fashion.

And then give deep thought to who your target audience is and add in whatever is needed to best meet their desires and make sure that the qualities that are most important to your client base are obvious to them in a glance. Go through this list and imagine what would be appealing to these different buyers:

  • New Mothers
  • Newly retired man
  • Empty nesters
  • College students
  • Small business owners
  • Teenage girls

Which are more interested in time? Which ones are most interested in leisure? Who is more interested in saving money? Who is more interested in security? Who is more likely wanting bling or notoriety? Nothing tricky here. A new mother might want all of those things! However, what do you think she might be more likely to want. What should you emphasize to trigger a buying desire?

Figuring out which is the most dominant need and highlighting how that need will be served by purchasing your product is job one. You might not have a characteristic like “security” in your mix, but could you? What does that newly retired man really want?

Are you building a better mousetrap but trying to sell it to mice? Click To Tweet

Seriously. If you don’t know who your market is, what they most likely want, and how to meet those needs, you might as well be building a “better mousetrap” but trying to sell it to mice.”

Ready to grow?

Having just completed a business makeover, I finally have space in my schedule to brainstorm about transforming your marketing or helping you with your strategy. So if you are floundering or feeling lost, I am taking one new client in June and it starts with a free appointment. Let’s Chat. Or…tell a friend. My brain stands ready to serve!

Otherwise, if you have some ideas to share or immediate questions, get them into the comments below and we can chat right now! I have a guest post on Artsy Shark this week, too, so I will be on my computer to respond to whatever comments come my way!


  1. Mujahid

    Hello to you,

    I am stuck. I have no __ not even one buyer in two years __ buyers. My work is black & white photography. I can not get those who visit my site to buy. Could use some help. http://Www.elements-of-still.com. Thank you. Mujahid

    • McKenna

      Mujahid, your oeuvre is unique, subtle, and exactly what Frasier (and many others) might want. However, your website is flawed in some fundamental ways and doesn’t encourage visitors to your site to “consider” ownership.

      There is not even a decent example of your work on the site. The shopping cart is (as many are) a template requiring a square image and your work is cut-off. And you do too much with words that don’t answer the fundamental question that visitors to your site are asking: “What’s in it for me?”

      If you want a free 30 min consultation to discuss in detail the many things you need to do to make your site more BUYER oriented, click here.

      If you want to read more about effective websites, see this article.

      I would love to help you. Your talent is significant and your art deserves to be in homes!

  2. Erin

    Great article and reminder…
    Thanks so much,

    • McKenna

      Thanks for your comment, Erin. It’s always great to get feedback here! ‘-)

  3. Sue Furrow

    Your makeover client won’t let us see his new website? That’s a shame.

    • McKenna

      Oh, he’s not withholding his information. I am. I didn’t ask his permission. In fact, he didn’t even know I was writing about his business. So…I have no idea if he is willing to be a public example. However, I will follow-up, Sue.

      My main goal is to err on the side of keeping people’s privacy. It’s my first instinct as a consultant.

  4. Sue Furrow

    Of course, I knew that you knew that but I assumed you would have asked so we could see the results.
    Thanks for replying and the follow up, Sue

  5. Scott Coats

    I am happy to share my website with anyone and very grateful to have Mckenna help me navigate these important pathways to my success.

    • McKenna

      Thanks Scott!!

  6. Sue Furrow

    Well , I guess I’m dumber than dirt. I see/saw Mujahid’s response about his website but I don’t see a link. I will try a google search.

    • McKenna

      My client’s name is Scott. He replied here already. His website is http://www.smokinhotpens.com. You can see Mujahid’s website included in his answer and, of course, you can always hover over the name of the posting person and be linked to their website.

      I have not worked with Mujahid. I only replied to his comment on this page.

  7. Fiona Purdy

    Hi McKenna! Thanks for this great post – it’s right up my alley (as you know LOL). Will you be writing a follow on article about how we find these people that are like Frasier? That seems to be my sticking point! Fiona

    • McKenna

      What’s the old saying? “If it were easy, everyone would be a millionaire”. I will be trying many new routes myself in the coming months to find more of my own Frasiers. As I move through the maze, I will be taking copious notes and … as always … I will share anything that might help.

      However, one thing right off the bat for you to consider Fiona: A snail mail campaign! Since you have shipped to people all around the planet over the years, they might just love getting a love note in the mail. It’s cheaper than a Facebook ad and if you share the right “stuff” (something I know very well you can come up with instantly), you can get some new business inspired.

      Imagine sending an “invitation” that your collectors couldn’t resist. What would that “feel and look” like? What amount of personalization might you consider? What kind of offer might you make? What time frame? How much time would they need to secure a photo of their parent’s (or other loved ones) beloved pet so they could have the best gift ever for whatever holiday applies? I really don’t think it’s too early – since you are creating personalized commissions – to send invites for Christmas gifts as early as August.

      How’s that for follow up?

  8. Fiona

    McKenna – as always you are so tuned in to promoting and marketing. Thank you so much for all of the good ideas that you presented ! I guess I was a bit vague in my question. I don’t have a problem promoting my portraits to my existing clients &U the people on my smiling list. I was wondering more about how to reach out to people that don’t know anything about my portraits. How do I go about reaching them? But as you say you are moving through that maze right now – and I will be hanging on every word you post about what you’ve discovered! Mahalo


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