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Get Your Mailing List Together

Get Your Mailing List Together

Amy Wilson

How to put together a killer mailing list.

Whether you’re promoting an open studio event or inviting people to your next exhibition, you’ll need a great mailing list. But putting together that list might seem intimidating or overwhelming – how do you possibly include everyone you want to be there?

Let’s start with some of the basic categories of the kinds of people you want to invite. I’ve divided this list into five categories:

• Friends & Well-wishers
• Fellow Artists
• Museum/Gallery contacts
• Press
• Collectors

Assuming you don’t have a mailing list at all, sit down with a big piece of paper with these five categories written on them, with room under each to fill in information. Challenge yourself to plug in at least five names and addresses for each category (if five seems too easy, make it ten or more).

Friends & Well-wishers will be the easiest – these are people who you are friendly with, who have shown an interest in your work. They could be someone who you went to college with, or perhaps your next-door neighbor. These are the people who have supported and nurtured your work even though they might not have the financial means to invest in it or the art history background to really understand what you’re up to; none of those things matter, because they’re nice people who genuinely care about you and your work, and you want them in your life (and at your events!).

Fellow Artists is similar. Start this category by listing a few people you know well, whose opinions you deeply respect and with whom you have had some terrific conversations. Once you’ve accounted for the people who are genuinely your friends, see if you can expand the list a little bit. Is there an artist whose work you like, but who you don’t personally know? Is there someone friends keep meaning to introduce you to, but it just hasn’t worked out? Add them. Even if you perceive someone as being more successful than you are, don’t be intimidated. It is important that you try to constantly widen your circle, and this can be an important step in doing just that.

For Museum/Gallery Contacts, list all the local museums and galleries nearby that exhibit work that you feel has an affinity to yours. Go online and find out the correct person at the institution to invite. If you are a painter, make sure your invitation is reaching the Curator of Paintings and not the Curator of Sculpture. Spend a little time doing some legwork here to ensure that your invitation gets to the right person.

Think of putting together this category as compiling your dream team. Is there a gallery that you love, whose shows inspire you over and over? Invite them. Was there a show you saw recently that you thought, “Hey, I could have been in this!” If so, track down the name of the curator or, failing that, the Director of the gallery in which the show was held. Add anyone to this list that you feel has a genuine connection to the kind of work that you do, and then be fearless about inviting them.

Press might be tricky depending on where you live. At the very least, find out the name of the person in charge of the arts beat for your local newspaper. But again, as with the Artists category, use this as an opportunity to expand your circle. Is there a critic – maybe online, maybe in a magazine – whose writing you really enjoy? Can you think of anyone in the press who has been a real supporter of the style of work you do? If so, by all means add them. Even if they can’t come to this particular show of your work, you can make them aware of who you are and what you do, which can be invaluable later down the line. (Bear in mind that you may, depending on the kind of event you’re announcing, also want to send people in your Press list a separate press release in addition to a simple invitation.)

Lastly, there are the Collectors. The first people who go on this list are those who have actually bought your work, or who you know to be the kinds of people who collect art. If you’re struggling to come up with five names for this list, you may need to be a little creative. Think about people you know who have walls they might want to fill. Do you know of anyone who recently purchased a house and is looking to decorate? What about someone who just moved into a new office? Remember that you don’t have to be a master salesperson. All you have to do is invite them – you are planting the seed so that maybe, one day, it might result in a sale.

Artists often get scared when it comes to inviting people to their events – they worry that they will be perceived as too aggressive. Don’t let this fear hold you back from letting the world know what you do. There is nothing weird or inappropriate about sending someone an invitation to your event, no matter who they are. If you find you keep inviting someone who doesn’t show up, take their name off the list and add someone new. Keep your mailing list growing and it will help lead you to the place you want to be.

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