Whether you are part of a painting chapter, a studio, or a lone teacher, after you introduce someone new to decorative painting, it is imperative to find creative ways to keep them engaged and bring them into your community. The best way to do this is to create a personal connection and to make sure that they know your community is a welcoming and friendly place to be a part of. Use these tips to help ensure that a one time student becomes a life long member and painter.
1. Engage with every student
When a new student finds out about decorative painting and attends that first class, they are inevitably wondering 'Do I really belong here?' Make sure that that question is answered with a resounding 'Yes!' Though you won't have time to speak with every student personally during the session, have assistants available to help any student that has questions during the class, and have them spend a moment with that student. This personal attention will make the student feel welcome, and the insight will give them confidence that they, too, can learn to paint. Be sure to stand at the door before and after class to do your best to speak with each participant. This gives you as the teacher an chance to personally meet each student, tell them that you are glad they came, and, of course, get a commitment that they will be coming to the next class.
2. Share forthcoming projects
You will need to create a need to return in several ways. Near the end of the class, show examples of pieces that will be taught in future classes and talk about the techniques or mediums that will be learned. Give your students something to look forward to, and tell them why they should be excited about it. Don't forget to ask for the order on the spot–have a sign up sheet for that next class, and offer a small discount for students that sign up before leaving.
3. Talk about upcoming events
Share the bigger picture of the decorative painting world with your students. Tell your students about your chapter or studio's next big seminar, charity project, party, or other special event. If there is a decorative painting Conference in your area, be sure to share this information. (SDP Conference, May 13-18, 2013 in St. Charles, Ill — Chicago area, Artist Expo in Texas, Creative Painting in Las Vegas, NET in New England, HOOT in Ohio, or the Northwest Toleliners Conference in Seattle.)
4. Anecdotes from members who have recently joined and from those who have been long term members
One way to connect with potential students and members is to demonstrate that everyone in your organization started out the same way they are now. Have new members/students talk about why they joined and the benefits of doing so, and have long term members or teachers talk about their early experiences, and the rewards that the decorative painting lifestyle has offered.
5. Free painting classes
This can be an expense at first, but can payoff in the long run. The Acrylic Painting Bee chapter of Osaka, Japan offers a monthly free class at the same shop as their regular class series. They consistently fill the class, and regularly see students transition from the introductory course into taking the more advanced classes from the chapter teachers. Many students will take the course two to three times before they move on to the other offerings, but the teachers have seen enough crossover to continue the program for the last year.
6. Starter Sets
One of the biggest hurdles in this process is the price tag. Getting started with classes, supplies, and the time commitment can often be overwhelming. Soften this obstacle by working with a local distributor to put together a starter kit that covers the basics and is more affordable than trying to find all of the basic supplies individually. Not only will this help with the price tag, with the mountains of supplies in the world today, it can be difficult to know what to start with, so having someone give you a hand is always appreciated. Also, share with students that membership with SDP comes with a starter kit from DecoArts with six brushes, fifteen paints, paper, and more. More information on this kit is available at: http://www.decoart.com/comepaintwithus/products.
7. Email Marketing
You want to be sure to collect email addresses from each attendee, so you can send out your monthly newsletter. This will keep them informed with what your upcoming events, provide new knowledge, and, for many, will bring them into the chapter.