Every Collector Add a Collector: An Idea That Needs Legs.

In 1 on January 27, 2010 at 4:03 pm

On the matter of blogs, I have been wondering how some people manage to post everyday. When  I mentioned one blogger in particular to a PR To the Trade (PRT3) team member, she replied, “He’s a dealer therefore he has plenty of down time.”

While cryptic, there’s a lot of truth in the statement. Dealers, as we all know, are only marginally better off now than at this time last year. Granted, there is plenty of renewed optimism, as several exhibitors at Antiques at the Armory and the Ceramics Fair told me over the weekend.

Renewed Optimism is just another word for hope.

The recent spate of shows and sales have a few go-getters feeling better. But the hand-sitters that were also prevalent at those shows didn’t share the dream.

One thing I have to say for dealers is that they are remarkable people with enormous talent and energy. For instance, it takes not only knowledge of the product to source a good buy but also knowledge of where to source.  (Guess that’s one reason most auction houses count 1/3 of their audience as dealers.)  Then there’s the salesmanship element, the stamina that’s needed to do shows, the follow up … and you’re looking at some really remarkable people. Still, there’s plenty of room for expanding those talents – or perhaps, recognizing limitations.

Dealers are not marketers in the larger sense of the word.   For instance, I heard again last night that Americana dealer  Dave Krashes is pushing a grass roots effort called

Every Collector Add a Collector.

Krashes urges antique dealers to band together behind a comprehensive marketing plan…to reach “Gen X-ers and Mellinials.” Nice idea.

  • Member-get-member programs are as old as the hills and successful when they are structured and properly handled by professionals.

I had a brief conversation with Krashes a few months ago about this program and he said, “We’ll never know how it works because we’ll be long gone. The results will be in the hands of the next generation.”

As a former direct marketer who cut her eye teeth in the circulation departments of Newsweek, Time and on Madison Avenue – I gasped.

Is this guy dreaming? He hasn’t so much as answered the basic question that collectors will ask. “What’s in it for me?”  He hasn’t proffered a strategic plan.  Krashes’  pal, John Fiske, the English antiques dealer and Editor of New England Antiques Journal,   says word of mouth should do the trick. Fiske easily reels off  several examples of growth where word of mouth (WOM) worked.

As much as I like Fiske, he comes from a generation when snail mail worked for direct marketers and people called their bankers by their first names. I call that “old school social networking.”

These days WOM is an internet based technique that mines community building.

PR is a buyer driven now.

How to build a community - now. Get the buyers talking on the internet and you have the model for a Collector Get Collector program with legs.

Unless Krashes and Fiske are actually ready to take to Web 2 in a strategic fashion with objectives, goals and analytics, this WOM ain’t gonna work.

When Krashes talks about Gen X and Mellinials as  monoliths of like mindedness,  he might as well be talking about the Attack of the Aliens.  When the old guard stops talking at the young turks and starts talking to them, then we might see some advances.

One more thing.  Dave suggests antique dealers band together  as quickly as possible in a trade association that is “one dimensional.” (Excuse me, what exactly does that mean?).  If Krashes means that dealers should band together  to promote Every Collector Add a Collector, then he must be prepared to find a  good promotion organization with experience in membership programs and the antiques/arts world.

Could Every Collector Add a Collector actually work? Yes. But only if it becomes less of a grass roots organization and more of a structured program with benefits to dealers and clients.

  1. My thoughts on Dave Krashes’ call to form an antiques trade association:

    One, I don’t believe it should be a trade association at all, but a membership-based special interest group like AARP.

    Two, wealthy collectors stand to gain the most if antiques rise in value over the next two decades, because the demand for them increases; so wealthy collectors should provide 90 percent of the funding for the association’s program.

    Three, a pubic relations program should be the primary activity of the association. An ideal model for such a program is the one conducted by the National Retirement Planning Coalition.

    • Bob, while agree with you to some extent, it is not the place of “wealthy collectors” to support an industry initiative. They do that by buying. And citing the “National Retirement Planning Coalition,” is citing a demographic that is “too old to hear the music.”

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