STARTUP

How Would You Market Art for Rent?

Four entrepreneurs offer Artsicle their marketing ideas and help the start-up craft a following.

Courtesy Company

Monthly Masterpiece This mixed-media piece by New York City artist Christi Birchfield sells for $1,000. Or Artsicle rents it out for $50 a month.

Advertisement

Before you buy a painting, Artsicle lets you see how it looks above your sofa. The New York City-based company, which launched its service in March, charges customers $50 a month to rent one of 450 paintings, photos, and sculptures from 33 emerging artists. Once a customer selects a work of art, Artsicle hand-delivers and installs the piece. After a month, the customer can keep renting, return it, swap it for another work, or purchase it. Most pieces list for $500 to $2,000. All items are on consignment from the artists—Artsicle receives a commission when they sell. The service is available only in New York for now, but co-founders Alexis Tryon and Scott Carleton hope to expand. Though Artsicle has received some press, the co-founders are struggling to reach and educate new customers. How should the company frame its marketing strategy? We asked four entrepreneurs to weigh in.

No. 1: Advertise With Art
Ryan FitzSimons, founder and CEO of Gigunda Group, a Manchester, New Hampshire-based marketing agency
I love the name Artsicle. The co-founders could have one of the artists take the name and create 10 to 20 different pop-art-inspired paintings out of it. Then, turn them into wild postings—posters that you stick on building facades and construction-site barricades—and put them up around New York City. Wild postings are a very cost-effective form of advertising. I guarantee that people will want to purchase those posters, too.

No. 2: Partner With Galleries
Jake Nickell, co-founder of Threadless, a Chicago company that makes and sells T-shirts based on user-submitted designs
Artsicle should go to places where people are already buying art, such as galleries and art shows. Someone may not want to put down $1,500 on the spot but would be willing to pay $50. Perhaps Artsicle could host its own art show or partner with galleries. I also think Artsicle should tap its network of artists to help promote the company. Give them a reason to mention Artsicle to their fans on Facebook and Twitter.

No. 3: Focus on E-mail
Jenny Fleiss, co-founder of Rent the Runway, a New York City-based site that rents designer apparel
Artsicle needs to create a mailing list. On the site, there's no incentive for me to give the company my e-mail address. If Artsicle can collect people's information, it can constantly be in their faces until they try it out. One thing that worked for us was to make a waiting list. It not only creates a sense of exclusivity, but it can also be used to control customer volume if Artsicle becomes overwhelmed.

No. 4: Go After Designers
Nina Freudenberger, founder of Haus Interior, an interior design firm in New York City
Artsicle should target interior designers. We source art in high volumes and very quickly. The co-founders could reach out to interior designers individually or get a booth at art fairs like the Affordable Art Fair. Artsicle should also reach out to blogs—they're so powerful nowadays. Artsicle could pitch sites that the interior design community reads—Design Sponge, Design Milk, and Décor Aid.

Feedback on the Feedback:
Tryon and Carleton like the idea of doing wild postings, but they worry that the strategy may not be sustainable as the company grows. The co-founders agree that working with galleries makes sense. They were already planning to host some gallery shows this summer. They say they have begun reaching out to interior designers and design blogs. And Tryon and Carleton have begun redesigning Artsicle's website. "E-mail marketing is the one thing we know we are messing up," says Tryon. "We're thinking about implementing new features to capture e-mail addresses, such as having users log in to make a wish list or hear about new art."

From the July/August 2011 issue of Inc. magazine




Register on Inc.com today to get full access to:
All articles  |  Magazine archives | Livestream events | Comments
EMAIL
PASSWORD
EMAIL
FIRST NAME
LAST NAME
EMAIL
PASSWORD

Or sign up using: