Be Smart About Art

You'll thank yourself later: Building a contact database even when it seems like a distraction

written by: Susan Mumford April 9, 2017 1) RECOMMENDED-> Susan Mumford + Chris King's Blog 1335 views

You'll thank yourself later: Building a contact database even when it seems like a distraction

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What do you do when a new prospective client calls, emails or direct messages you? And if you have a team, what do they do?

The ideal answer: Save the person’s details, each and every time!

The reality: Immediately recording details is easier said than done.

A gallerist I know told me of her own experience of this. Her administrator had left the business and, despite my friend regularly emphasizing the importance of capturing the name of current or prospective clients when they called, it quickly become clear that no such thing had been done. Additionally, clients had not been saved as ‘contacts’ in the email system, which meant that, until the gallerist started to create contact profiles, the email database had to be searched to find the address every time an email was to be sent.  

Here’s a useful exercise:
Think about the professional activity that most requires your undivided attention. This might be working in the studio, editing images, writing a press release, drafting new blog posts, creating a course and so on. Imagine that you've been deeply concentrating for 2 hours and then, "ring, ring!" You're startled out of deep concentration and fumble about the desk, managing to pick up the phone just before the call goes to voicemail.

"Hello," you say, "this is X [ studio / gallery / biz name]. How can I help?"

Bingo! It's a potential client who is new to you, who is interested in attending an event.

During the call, you get the caller’s name, email address and contact telephone number (which might not be the number from which they’re calling). Ideally, this is accompanied by 1) confirming that you’ll add the individual (and any +1s) to the event RSVP list and 2) you get the person’s blessing to be added to the mailing list.

Now then, how / where are you jotting down information during the call? Is it on a post-it note? Directly into your computerized or handwritten database? Whatever you do, make certain it's not on a scrap of paper that will get lost or buried!

What you next do is crucial, and requires overriding the temptation to return to the prior activity. Firstly, add the phone number to your centralized contact database, lest you forget to do so. For readers whose smartphone contacts are connected to the contacts database in the computer, the process is seamless: by saving the name and number into the phone, the details are automatically saved / updated in the computer ‘Contacts’ database. Secondly, either immediately follow-up as promised or leave yourself a note that you won’t miss.

What then about receiving enquiries by email or website contact form? Similar to phone calls, save all available details into the centralized contact database, in addition to the email client database (if separate).

And in general terms for database building, make use of adding ‘keywords’ to the ‘notes’ section of your contact system. It’s helpful to note if someone’s a ‘client’, ‘prospect’, ‘ambassador’, ‘journalist’ – or whatever categories apply. And, more specifically, you can note if a contact is ‘family’, has interest in X artist, X product, X series, X service, etc. This makes the database searchable for future use, with uses varying from reaching out to existing clients or prospects for certain products to sending family seasonal cards.  

While it can seem to be a distraction to receive a call and it takes time to add to or improve upon contacts in a database, you’ll save yourself time in the long-term and, better still, will have a robust list that serves you and your business.   

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user name

Thanks for the timely reminder! Following a recent exhibition I came home armed with a pile of fellow artists business cards, and a scrap of paer with useful contacts I made there - and its still this little pile by my computer!!! I had at least immediately added the contact details of those that bought my work, but.........!

user name
Posted by : Rami Kim 09/04/2017 21:39

Susan, Your post is a great coincidence to me as I have been reorganising by database system for my contacts, sale system and cataloguing art works. Categorising contacts and how being specific about contacts can be extremely useful in the future. My question to you is what kind of contact organisation system or CRM do you use?