PPP: 2009: The Year of the Mouse

March 1, 2009
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Steeped in tradition, yet always fresh, the art world is a snapshot of the world today. But what does it mean to be an artist or gallery owner in 2009? Quite simply, the year 2009 is a time when we all must become experts at business efficiency. How can we do more with less? How can we control our spending while increasing our reach and our revenues?

The art world is ever-changing, and it’s important to acknowledge those resources that enhance and change the landscape of our industry and determine the success or failure of artists and galleries. Websites, online shopping, inventory tracking, point-of-sale (POS) technology, customer relationship management-they all play a role in how the art world takes its shape in this day and age. Those that are successful understand that it is mission-critical to know how embracing technology can change an artist or gallery’s business overnight.

Figure 1. Software can streamline and simplify inventory management.

Inventory Tracking

Artists often have pieces in several galleries, and they work hard to not only manage what pieces are where and what has sold, but also to handle consignment agreements and other inventory issues. In many cases, growth becomes a hindrance because artists don’t have the capacity to keep track of inventory across multiple locations.

For gallery owners, inventory is the most important element of their business. However, inventory control is often not the most intuitive skill set, especially for those who own multiple locations. It can be an expensive and time-consuming job to effectively manage and track inventory and sales. In these cases, the use of appropriate software can save hours, dollars and sanity.

Simple-to-use software solutions can help artists and galleries track multiple mediums; differentiate between different kinds of inventory (e.g., limited editions, consigned vs. owned); effectively track artists, suppliers and co-ventures; watch stock locations (studio, warehouse, store, home); monitor costs and retail, wholesale and web prices; manage digital images; and allow you to search and filter your pieces by selecting criteria (see Figure 1).

Figure 2. A well-designed website can showcase your art to the entire world.

Sales/Marketing Outreach

With tough economic times, staffing is often slim and basic operations become the number-one priority. In a retail setting where sales are important, however, sales and marketing efforts must not be ignored. While galleries have survived and thrived within four walls for years, burgeoning technologies allow for new ways to showcase art. In today’s online world of art consumerism, the most successful artists and galleries utilize the Internet as a sales and marketing tool.

The best source of new leads and sales for both galleries and artists are those people who have purchased or expressed an interest in purchasing before. The question is, how do you effectively leverage this data to develop marketing programs that convert these contacts into future sales? Customer relationship management modules combine the power of a comprehensive database with a simple and intuitive e-mail marketing capability. With a few keystrokes, artists can direct targeted marketing campaigns and generate new revenues.

You might also consider developing a website that showcases your art to the rest of the world (see Figure 2). Once built, your site could be integrated directly with your software so that your website is constantly updated with your current inventory and events calendar. This integration eliminates the need to pay for pricy site developers or dedicated staff to keep your site updated.

Figure 3. Tracking software can help manage customer accounts.

Technology is the heart of most successful businesses, and for good reason. Software systems can automate tasks that have historically been time consuming, confusing or monotonous. A broad range of products is available to take administrative work off the plate of artists and gallery owners so that they can focus on their art and their customers (see Figure 3).

Embrace the Future

Regardless of what 2009 means to your business, approach the New Year with an open mind and active participation in the art world’s transformation. You may be hesitant to implement new technology, but your bottom line is begging you to make some changes. Technology creates competitive advantages.

Look for ways that technology can enhance your business, expand your reach and help you experience a new level of control. Implementing new technology entails research, set-up, education and support. It might initially require some extra effort and time on your part, but embracing new technology provides the promise of money back in the bank, improved operational efficiency and a feeling of relief.

For more information on using technology to improve your business, contact Masterpiece Solutions at 19751 East Mainstreet, Parker, CO 80138; (303) 225-0330; fax (303) 504-3127; e-mail kwarr@masterpiecesolutions.com; or visit www.masterpiecesolutions.com.

SIDEBAR: Case Study

“Without the effective use of technology, we would be in big trouble,” says Zelma Legendre, owner of the Thornwood Gallery. With three galleries (one in Dallas and two in Houston), the Thornwood Gallery is an established presence within the regional art scene. Like so many art galleries, it struggled with the complexity and costs associated with the operation of its locations: keeping a real-time handle on inventory across multiple galleries was almost impossible; effectively tracking sales contact information in a way that supported future marketing efforts was non-existent; managing consignments and third-party payments was tedious; and then there were the monthly costs associated with trying to keep websites current with inventory, events and latest news.

“Once we invested in Masterpiece Solutions, everything changed,” says Legendre. “We quickly gained control of our business, turning a liability into a competitive advantage.” Thornwood implemented Masterpiece Gallery software in September 2007 to handle all of the major back-office functions of the business: inventory, customer management, POS and website integration. Since that point, the galleries have significantly reduced their operational expenses by eliminating inefficiencies and third-party vendors.

According to Legendre, the galleries have also experienced unexpected growth during a period of economic chaos. “With the touch of a button, Masterpiece updates our entire inventory, sales and marketing information to our website,” she says. “As a result, our website is an asset, driving new sales for the business rather than simply serving as a glorified business card.”

Thornwood’s website is located at www.ThornwoodGallery.com.

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