How to cultivate patrons

Written on November 17, 2011 by in Business savvy

This weekend, while browsing the Celebration of Craftswomen in San Francisco, I was reminded of how you cultivate patrons, the people who are genuinely interested in what you’re doing, adore your work and consistently buy from you. 

My new necklace, Persephone by Kelly Morgen

Let me tell you a story: I discovered one of my favorite jewelry artists, Kelly Morgen, in 2008. I was wandering the Mountain View Art & Wine Festival. Kelly was talking to someone when I walked by, so I made a note of her name and “Googled” her when I got home. For two years, I periodically visited her website or Facebook page, but took no other action. Then, last fall, while my husband and I were traveling, I decided that I simply had to have one of her necklaces and so I emailed, asking if she would send it to me in New Zealand. She did and I wore it throughout the remainder of our trip.

Upon returning to the States, I thought of Kelly when brainstorming artists to interview for this blog. Then I moved back to California and saw her at this year’s Art & Wine Festival, where I fell in love with another of her pieces, this one almost four times the cost of the first. I wasn’t sure about the small stone set in the piece, so she volunteered to swap it out at no charge. Of course, I bought it and now wear it all the time.

All of the above was just the beginning, however. Now I’m truly hooked! I saw Kelly again at this past weekend’s Celebration of Craftswomen and I am already planning my next purchase, though I’m still deciding between three possibilities: a piece already available, a custom piece based on an art nouveau print I love, or one of a series I know she’s releasing in the spring. 

Steps to cultivate patrons

When you read the story, it seems like everything happened by chance, doesn’t it? As if Kelly had no impact on my decisions and no control over my experience. But that’s not really true. So, what did she do? She:

  1. Showed her work in an eye-catching way at a local craft fair.
  2. Invited me to join her newsletter, which she used to talk about new pieces and upcoming events.
  3. Offered a takeaway (business card, postcard, etc.) so that I could remember who she was.
  4. Published a website and a Facebook page where I could learn more.
  5. Promptly shipped my international order and sent along a sweet note with it.
  6. Generously shared her time for an interview.
  7. Offered to change out the stone of my new necklace at no charge, since it was an easy switch (well, it was meant to be, but that’s another story).
  8. Gave me extra business cards when I picked up my piece, so I could hand them out to people who asked about it (which I have).
  9. Consistently does quality work. The construction and beauty of my Lotus pendant gave me confidence to purchase a more expensive piece later.
  10. Continued to be friendly and welcoming during every encounter I’ve had with her.
Bottom line: Kelly had a bit more to do with my experience than it might first appear. None of the above is a trade secret, however, so I don’t think she would mind me sharing it with you. Everything is simply good business practices. 

The story and the methods above are just one example of how you could cultivate your own patrons. It’s not the way all relationships progress, nor should you consider the list of things Kelly did to be a laundry list of shoulds for your business. I don’t believe in shoulds. I believe in doing what works for you.

However, I do encourage you to consider why you’re doing something and what your desired results are. When you’re at a craft fair, for example, you naturally want everyone who stops by your booth to purchase something, but what if they take longer to make decisions than that? What if they don’t have money today but will tomorrow? What if they want a large piece and have to save for it? By having a small takeaway such as a business card or promo card and somewhere they can go to find out more — whether a Facebook page, one-page website or full e-commerce site — you are allowing the seeds to be planted for a future patron. When you don’t have a follow-up strategy, you may encourage someone to make a small purchase for fear of losing the opportunity, but consider what you might be missing out on in the long run.


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