Why Produce An Art Calendar?
As we get nearer to Christmas you have probably notice lots more calendars for sale. They come in all shapes and sizes and you can find them everywhere – online, at fairs and exhibitions, in shops and galleries. You probably buy one for yourself and perhaps if you see one you really like you buy one for friends, family and colleagues. It is something you are probably so familiar with but do you or have you ever considered why you might create an art calendar? If you haven’t read on. If you have and it hasn’t gone so well read on too – I might be able to help you do it better!
An art calendar, like art cards, is an essential tool in your toolset of merchandise to help grow your art business. Unlike traditional advertising where you pay to advertise, with art cards and calendars customers pay you to advertise to them! Unlike art cards that come with a limited lifetime – calendars work for you much longer.
Calendars, however, come with a lot of risks which might put many off. As you will read here these risks can be navigated easily with careful planning. Profits can be small for such a lower value product manufactured by a 3rd party. Like greeting cards, however, calendars are more about the exposure they bring rather than the profit although if they sell well in high numbers you can get discounts that will give you both.
Who Buys Calendars?
In this digital age the market for calendars is still huge. Nearly every home will have one. Many homes will have several. There is a massive market out there. It isn’t so much ‘will people buy calendars?’ but ‘what type of calendars will they buy?‘ and ‘how will you get what they want in front of them?‘.
Why Do People Buy Calendars?
Most people buy calendars to help them plan and organise. As the current year comes to a close they are keen to start planning and organising the coming year. People buy planners, diaries and other things but a wall calendar is often essential too. It is something people walk past often several times a day in the home or the office. It is a place to record key times and dates so they are not forgotten. This differs to a diary or more detailed planner where people might want to schedule in much finer detail.
What Type Of Calendars Do People Buy?
People buy calendars in all shapes and sizes. Some people want small and discrete. They might live alone and not need much space. Others might have large families and need lots of space for everybody’s appointments. Some people just want maximum space for dates and information. Because this is often being hung on a wall people will often choose a calendar that has something visual on it that is pleasing to the eye. This might be artwork, photography, inspirational material and much more.
In her first calendar my partner Lucy Gell went for a mixture of her animal art. The common link here is of course animals along with fun and humour. Lucy, however, has a big enough body of work to perhaps introduce separate calendars for dogs, cats and birds perhaps further down the line.
Why Should You Create An Art Calendar
So why should you create an art calendar? Well this is a big opportunity for you because as an artist or photographer you are used to your customers wanting to hang your work on their walls. Why should a calendar be any different? Producing a calendar, however, has many more compelling reasons
a) Front of mind for 365 days
By producing a calendar you are placing your work in front of your customers 365 days of the year. It isn’t just in a room, hanging on a wall where it might go unnoticed. Most people are looking at it on a daily basis, sometimes multiple times each day. This means you are front of mind. They see you and your work each time they check the calendar. This means that come special times such as birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas and many more they will think of you first. This will help you stand out from competitors also trying to get their attention. Promotional items like this are a really effective time proved marketing technique.
b) Affordable gift to attract new customers
The work you usually sell for customers to cover their walls is generally much more expensive. A calendar makes a much more affordable entry level to your product range. Research shows many customers buy your cheaper products first. As they grow to know, like and trust you and your work and friends, family and colleagues compliment what they have purchased they start to buy the more expensive pieces. This is a great entry level to gain maximum exposure.
c) Affordable gift for existing customers to promote you to friends
As your customers grow to know and like you they will want to support you. One of the ways they will do this is by telling their family and friends about you. If you create an art calendar this is a great affordable way to do this. You will often see multiple calendar sales from a single customer as they do this to send it to their friends and family. This really helps spread the word about you and your business. Unlike art cards, which often have a limited lifespan, the calendar will be a reminder of you for a whole 12 months.
d) Repeat business
in addition to the extra repeat business you will receive from customer by being front of mind for 365 days of the year you will also receive repeat calendar orders each year. People are creatures of habit. If you create an art calendar every year you will find customers coming back to buy from you year after year. If they have found it useful and enjoyed looking at your work for the last 12 months it makes sense that they are likely to want to do the same next year too. It also makes sense that if they found your calendar a useful stocking filler for friends and family last year then maybe they will do the same again this year too either for the same people or to introduce you to more of their friends and family.
What Are The Risks and How To Minimise Them?
Calendars are seasonal. You will often have to buy them in advance and have a much shorter time to sell them than other product you produce. They will very quickly become out of date in terms of selling them. For this reason you need to take much greater care in planning, purchasing and marketing these than your other work. The risks are higher and mistakes can be less forgiving. That said it is all manageable.
a) Would your customers like to see a calendar?
This is perhaps the starting point. You should have a degree of confidence before starting so what better way to start than asking your customers. Talking to customers about what they want and need is an essential practice I teach in the early modules of my Simple Art Marketing Academy course and new Building The Foundations For A Successful Online Art Business course. If you are new or only have a handful of customers on your mailing list or following you on social media then you might not get much feedback here. If that is the case then perhaps it is a little too early for you to launch a calendar.
b) Choose your subject matter carefully.
Work out which areas of your work your customers are most interested in. Which would they like to see in your calendar? Talk to your customers. Take a look at your social media insights too, which posts and images have proved most popular? What are your most popular products? Try to group images that work together. If you cover multiple subject matters and multiple disciplines in your work decide whether mixing everything up will attract more people or put more people off because they like one area of your work but not others. If you paint landscapes and seascapes consider whether a landscape calendar will appeal to one customer base and a seascape to another.
Think about SEO for advertising the calendar on your website. This will be much easier the more specific your subject matter. It will be more difficult the more general and wide ranging your calendar material is.
c) Order cautiously.
You don’t want to be left with lots of unsold calendars in January so order cautiously. If you plan in good time use pre-orders to help gauge likely demand. Order in good time so that you have plenty of time to market your calendars. Order in smaller numbers to start with knowing you can always reorder more even if you don’t secure the best discount ordering twice.
d) Market aggressively.
If you create an art calendar you are selling your calendar in the 4th quarter. This is an extremely busy period in the industry. It is one where so many others are looking for your customer’s attention. Don’t just think about a single post on social media – your calendar has 12 pages doesn’t it? That is potentially 12 posts with each month as the main image. Include the main artwork, framed artwork and a lifestyle shot of it too. Remember only maybe 5% or so of your followers will see each post. Mentioning your calendar 12 times means there is a good chance most people will see it once. A few people might see it 2 or 3 times which is what you really want!
Mention it briefly in every newsletter in the 4th quarter. Feature it as the main topic in at least one newsletter. Get it onto your website. Do some good SEO. Tell Google to index it rather than wait several weeks for Google to do that because it is time sensitive. Make sure you have plenty on hand prominently placed at the front of your stand at Christmas shows and exhibitions.
Offer discounts for multiples. People love a deal and they love to buy calendars for friends and family as well as themselves. Offer a deal for purchases of 2 or 3 calendars. It will be much easier for you to post and package 3 to one address than to 3 different addresses. Make this attractive to customers with a slight discount for multiples.
e) Market calendars before they arrive
With all the best intentions when you create an art calendar you will sometimes be on the last minute. Don’t wait for your calendar to arrive before you photograph it to put it on your website immediately. Market it before it arrives especially if you can take advantage of pre-orders. You can still take orders before the calendar arrives giving your maximum marketing time for this short shelf life product. Look closely at some of Lucy’s images here. You will see that they are mainly screenshots taken from the calendar creation software before her calendar arrived! She completely sold her first batch with these preview images. It will be nice to add some more photos now she has the calendars!
f) Discount unsold calendars quickly.
If you unfortunately get left with calendars after Christmas discount them quickly to move them. People will still buy into early January especially if you offer a discount. Discount quickly and big to move them. If you have any remaining by the middle of January sell these at cost so that you do not make a loss on them. They will be much harder to sell later at any price.
When Should You Create An Art Calendar?
The key times for selling your calendar are from October through December. Sales will start slowly in October and peak late November early December. If you over purchase, calendars will often still sell at cost or substantial discount early January to clear excess stock. This means that you need to be planning your calendar in August at least for it to be with the printers in September. You might even consider pre-orders in September to help raise finance for your first batch! This is of course too late for this year as I write this in November. You should, however, be putting it in your own planner for August next year!
Who Can Help You Produce One?
The images you see in this blog post were part of this years calendar that my partner Lucy Gell produced with https://www.colourcalendars.com. We would certainly highly recommend this company. I have other customers who use them too and recommended them to me. You can upload your images and design your calendars online yourself and delivery was very quick and the quality and support excellent.
Colour Calendars allowed Lucy to test the water with 50 calendars which quickly sold out although one of my customers ordered 1000 calendars this year which can attract a much better discount and therefore profit margin. The earlier in the year you purchase your calendars the higher discount you can also secure with this company. If you have the cash order sooner in the year if you can.
What About Trade?
If you create an art calendar and sell it to trade stockists they can often take up to 50% commission. Because you are paying a 3rd party to produce your calendars once your take off postage and packaging costs of your own you will find that the production cost for small batches of calendars might be 40-50% of the sale price. This will be a huge obstacle to selling through trade initially. I would advise that you don’t focus on trade initially until you are confident with the numbers. It is very easy to watch trade move bigger numbers for you initially but once you calculate the profit per unit you might wonder why you worked so hard at this. Try to negotiate with stockists for margins nearer 30% if you can and try to anticipate volumes accurately to ensure good purchase discounts for you to make this feasible.
Concentrate on producing what your customers want and tell you initially in small numbers then maybe next year or the year after as your confidence in your numbers increase and you are able to secure bigger discounts for volume purchases turn your attention to trade. Be careful what you negotiate, however. Sell at trade price where they cannot be returned to you. Selling on a sales or return basis is not advised with this short shelf life product.
Include Free Delivery
Free delivery proves very attractive to customers especially around the Christmas selling period. Try to include delivery cost within the price of your calendars so that delivery cost is not an obstacle to purchase. If customers are thinking of buying other products such as art cards and prints too they will order their calendars spontaneously rather than wait until later when they have a full order. This avoids losing sales when customer ‘never get around to the bigger order’ and also encourages further calendar sales on orders that may follow on from the same customer a week or two later when having received a calendar they decide to buy more for friends, family and colleagues without worrying about 2 lots of delivery costs.