Back Stories (Issue 834)

In which we are reminded that our “back stories” are, frequently, critical sales differentiators.

A quiet, mid-week, pre-season evening in the art colony,  Provincetown, Massachusetts. As my wife and I were walking Bradford Street to Napi’s restaurant for dinner, we passed behind Town Hall and, at the next corner, spotted a house, the street-facing room brightly lit. As we passed, looking in, we saw the words, “It Was Hopper All Along” printed high on the street-facing inside wall, over the fireplace, and a few framed works that looked distinctly reminiscent of Edward Hopper’s art.

I’m a big fan of Hopper’s art, so we concluded, “We’ve got to go there.”

The next afternoon, we returned, opening the richly dark red front door and turning into the white “It was Hopper…” front room. The wide-plank wood floor, stained a slightly transparent black, sharply defined the white walls and the well-spaced, large works hanging there.

“Hello and welcome!”  The only other person in the room stepped forward to greet us. “I’m Curtis Speer.”

Curtis creates photographic images that, at first glance, appear to be painted. For his “It Was Hopper…” show, his images of Cape Cod lighthouses and buildings are a cross between Hopper’s subjects and style and Wyeth’s brooding greys. [One of my favorites in the show.]  We talked for nearly an hour.

“How do you sell?”, we asked.

“To this point I’ve sold everything on line,” he said. “I have a large following on Instagram.  I put up pictures and people buy them.  This is my first physical gallery space. I’m still figuring out the best ways to use social media and the physical space.”

“What happens when someone finds you on Instagram?”

“They read my web site.  They call me. My images have very distinctive characteristics, so they want to know about me and how I’ve developed my work. Basically, they want the back story; they want to know the artist, have a feel for the artist, a connection.”

“Meaning,” we said, “that they’re buying your story as much as they’re buying images they like.”


I recently interviewed a banker who is generating strong success in attracting small business owners to bank with him and his bank. As he was ticking through his strategies, he reached the end of a paragraph and said, “Sharing my personal life, interesting things that separate me from other people, has been good.”

Meaning that they’re buying his back story as much as they’re buying his banking service.


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