How to Get Your Foot in the Door and Begin Long-Lasting, Mutually-Beneficial Licensing Relationships with the Right People at the Best Companies.


An artist asked me today how you go about grabbing a client’s attention.

She said that sometimes it seems like you have to have an inside connection in a company or it just doesn’t work.

Good point, and so I’ve made it the subject of this article.

Where exactly do you start?

Sending artwork ‘cold’ to an or email address isn’t an ideal way to get artwork into the hands of the right people at the company you want to have pick up your artwork for product.

And while your initial goal is the opening of the door at the company and a license for the use of your artwork, what you really want to develop is a close, friendly, personal working relationship with the key person or persons at the company who are responsible for bringing in artwork that will increase sales of their products.

Building a Personal Relationship

You’d ideally build that relationship over the years and it would lead to a steady run of licenses with them and thus a steady source of quarterly royalty income for you as well.

It’s that personal relationship with the right person that’s essential.

How do you get there?  There are several pretty good ways.

You might meet the right people at trade shows, generally those at which you exhibit and where the representatives of the companies come to you looking for possible new art for their products.

Don’t Expect Much From “Selling Shows”

You don’t usually meet the right people at shows that you just visit, because those are selling shows.

That means that the people in the booths might just be sales staff, and they might not be all that excited about taking time to speak with an artist.

You see, what they really want to do with their time is be available for new or active clients so they can write orders for their retail product.

Asking For The Right Person To Contact

Still, you can always ask a person in a booth – if they’re not obviously busy and if you’re not interrupting a meeting – whom you should contact at the company to send in new art for licensing.

Sometimes you’ll encounter people who are extremely friendly.

And you have to be relaxed, smiling and friendly yourself when you ask, if you want the same type level of response.

Ask for a specific name; even better is a name with an email address and/or phone number.

Collecting Business Cards Is Essential

When you do visit a show, pick up business cards.

Even if it’s not the right person who brings in art for license, you can always email the person whose card you picked, say it was great to be able to stop their booth, and ask who is currently in charge of art licensing at the company.

What do you have to lose?

Work the Show Directories

Show directories are another possible way to find good email addresses, generally for people in marketing.

They can lead you to the right person in licensing or creative.

Another thing you can do is to call a company and tell the receptionist your name and that you’d like to speak with the creative or licensing director.

I would say something like “This is Lance Klass from Porterfield’s Fine Art Licensing.  Who’s running licensing at ABCD nowadays?  Would they be in?  Yes, their voice mail would be great, or perhaps their assistant might be better…”

Work your charm, being sincere and friendly, and try to get through to a person at whatever level of creative, licensing or marketing.

Be sure to get the key person’s name and email address, and you’re good to go.

You can also network and ask friends and associates whom you should contact at such-and-such company.

It’s that specific name and email address that you want to score.

That’s the first step, knowing who the key person is and how to contact them.

Going Beyond The First Step

Follow this up with an email or a phone call so you actually connect with the person.

Ask them what artwork they’re currently seeking.

Make sure you’ve checked out their site first so you know something about their main product line, what they apparently make most of their income from.

Then, educated a bit in what they manufacture, begin the conversation which will lead to your submitting artwork to them directly.

Be Helpful, Not Needy

Even if you’re starving, try not to sound needy, but helpful.

Don’t push it. If they don’t seem chatty on the phone, then send them a very polite, friendly email with some sample images that you feel might appeal to them.

Find out their needs, work with them, close your first license.

Speed Makes A Big Difference!

Supply them with images quickly, turn contracts around quickly, show by your actions that you’re someone they would want to work with, and would enjoy with.

Build the relationship and the personal friendship over time.

Working on “New York Time”

When I started my own art licensing agency and was supporting a wife, mortgage, and two growing children, I worked on what I called “New York City time”.

That is, if I learned in the morning that a company was looking for something which I could potentially supply, it went out to them fast, the very same day.  I used FedEx and Priority Mail a whole lot back then.

As more and more people got computers and were able to handle digital scans, my scans would be incoming on their desktops within an hour, as fast as I could get them out.

That’s the kind of business speed I experienced growing up and working in New York City.  I learned that people in business wanted things done, and they didn’t like waiting.

So I was happy to oblige, and my business grew quickly.

People learned that they’d get what they needed from Porterfield’s, and they’d get it fast.

Lesson learned.

Build Long-Term Relationships

I license to people I’ve known for a dozen years, many of whom I’ve never met.  I was on the phone the other day with a licensee on the north island of New Zealand whom I had called about a glitch in getting digital scans to them, and we discussed the earthquake tragedy in Christchurch on the south island at some length.

We’re friends, we work together, I help him do his job, which is to bring in strong art and create products that will sell well, and in return I have a steady, friendly partner in art licensing and a lot of repeat business.

Oh, and also a great guy who is a pleasure to work with and who feels comfortable contacting me and arranging ridiculous things on short notice when they’re in a bind for art, they’ve got a container to ship but insufficient product for their client, and they need help right away.

New York City time, and it’s not just for New York, you know.

That’s the kind of relationship you want, one that grows and matures over the years.  It all starts with connecting with the right person at a company whose product you really like.  Then you build it, and that’s the fun part.

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(c) Lance J. Klass.  All Rights Reserved.  This article may not be reproduced with the expressed written permission of the author. 

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