M.S. Rau - A Leader In Art Marketing Practices And Art Business

  • NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana
  • /
  • June 23, 2015

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M.S. Rau Antiques's main gallery space, displaying their varied collection of fine art and antiques.

Shae Chambers, Marketing Manager, and Lori Paige, Chief Marketing Officer, of M.S. Rau Antiques (www.rauantiques.com), recently spoke with The Curator's Eye (www.thecuratorseye.com) about their century-long history, client-centric approach to selling antiques, and extensive marketing efforts, which include a very significant online component.

A Storied One-Hundred Year Old Gallery Succeeds In The 21st Century

M.S. Rau Antiques was founded by Max Rau in the French Quarter of New Orleans in 1912. Originally, they specialized in Victorian furniture, glass and decorative iron works. Over the next hundred years, they continued to grow, spanning three generations of the Rau family; today, Max’s grandson Bill runs the business, which is housed in a 30,000 square-foot showroom. Since its inception, M.S. Rau Antiques has broadened its offerings to encompass almost every category, including arms & armor, fine art and natural history specimens. Lori credits this century-long growth to their approach to both sales and acquisitions. “We look for rarity, importance and provenance in the items we buy because we cater specifically to a very discerning client base. Our clientele seek out the best of the best, so we have grown our collection to include extremely rare pieces from all categories.” But high quality acquisitions are only part of the story. Success also comes from smart business practices, which has allowed the gallery to thrive in all market climates.

M.S. Rau's French Quarter storefront. A New Orleans landmark for over 100 years.

M.S. Rau Leverages Technology And The Online Space To Connect With International Clients

The gallery has consistently been an early adopter of new technologies, realizing the importance of adapting for continued success. M.S. Rau implemented its first computer system in 1993 and with the advent of the internet, Lori explains, the gallery then had a cost-effective way to keep in touch with its customers, regardless of how far away. “We travel the world to meet our clients and buy and sell our items. Having an online presence allows us to reach our international and national clients at all times. Our site lets our clients see high-quality images of our items and the extensive research we do on each and every piece.”

A Dedicated Marketing Department And Extremely Varied Advertising Efforts Bring In New Clients

In 1995, M.S. Rau Antiques added a marketing department, which has focused and optimized their already far-reaching marketing endeavors. “Our company views the marketing department as the vehicle that gains new clients. From there, the sales team converts them to customers.” Shae explains. There are few art galleries in the world with marketing efforts as varied as M.S. Rau Antiques, which as of today includes: CuratorsEye.com, email newsletters, proprietary search-engine marketing, and social media, as well as more traditional marketing efforts such as direct mailings, television, and print. Because there are so many possible venues for advertising, the marketing department's careful analysis plays a critical role in the gallery's investment decisions.

M.S. Rau's painting gallery, displaying a selection of their exceptional painting collection.

An Initial Sale Is Only Part Of The Story, So M.S. Rau Tracks The Lifetime Value Of A Customer

Lori notes how they make such effective decisions: “We use two different methods to measure our marketing effectiveness. First, we look at the lifetime value of our customers. Each of our clients is assigned a customer source in our database, which is how the customer came to us. Then we look at the lifetime value of that client, or how much the client has spent at Rau over the years, which gives us a monetary number to tie back to the original marketing initiatives.” This approach allows M.S. Rau to be extremely insightful over the long term and not just focused on short-term indicators, which can often lead to less than optimal business decisions.

Return On Investment Of Each Marketing Effort Determines Where To Advertise

“Second,” Lori continues, “it is important for us to do a typical ROI by each marketing initiative. We look at the sales generated by each initiative, then subtract the expenses to see if we should continue or discontinue certain media types. We are always testing new areas, and the ROI metric helps us determine if the new areas are driving clients to Rau.” Without monitoring of each marketing effort, it can be nearly impossible to see where money is being wasted and how marketing dollars should be reallocated in the future.

M.S. Rau Further Expands Their Marketing Reach with The Curator's Eye

In order to increase international exposure, M.S. Rau's marketing department has, for a number of years, leveraged The Curator's Eye marketing platform, just as a smaller gallery without a dedicated marketing department would. The Curator's Eye markets individual items from Rau's extensive collection, attracting new clients, and adding them to M.S. Rau's proprietary client database. M.S. Rau uses this database to help further its marketing efforts. “We direct our email marketing based on the information that the Curator's Eye shares with us, which is supplemental to information we collect ourselves.” Lori explains, “The Curator’s Eye has a broad range of international clients, as well as a niche in historical pieces, and we are able to reach that audience when we are featured in emails.”

The Curator's Eye Was Designed With A Return On Investment Analysis In Mind

Rick Patzman, co-founder of The Curator's Eye and former financial analyst, notes “The important thing for galleries is actually doing an ROI calculation, as does M.S. Rau, so the right decisions can be made. These ROI based decisions can make a huge impact over time and can also make the difference between the success or failure of a gallery.”

He goes on, “ROI is often thought of as common business sense, but the results can sometimes be surprising and provide counter intuitive results.” Take the following example of a gallery that makes $20,000 return on a $10,000 investment with one marketing effort, and also $3,000 return on a $1,000 investment on a second effort. It is easy to think that the first marketing effort is better, because the $20,000 return of the first effort is larger than the $3,000 in the second effort. However, the second marketing effort is actually superior from an ROI standpoint because the first option has a 200% (2 to 1) return versus the second option of 300% (or 3 to 1).

The main goal of The Curator's Eye is to provide a high ROI marketing activity. However, it is also to help all sizes of dealers and galleries understand how to more effectively market in the manner that larger galleries and the auction majors do.


M.S. Rau Antiques has been a French Quarter landmark for over 100 years, earning the trust of discerning antiques collectors worldwide. Their 30,000 square foot gallery literally overflows with remarkable collections of fine art, exquisite jewelry and, of course, exceptional 18th-and 19th-century antiques, and their highly trained staff of sales associates, research associates and support personnel are second to none. Their primary mission is to provide their customers with an unparalleled antiques shopping experience, a mission that they adhere to both in their gallery, on their website, through their printed catalog and at the many shows at which they exhibit around the world. For more information, please visit (www.rauantiques.com)


The Curator’s Eye offers specialized, targeted online advertising and marketing services that help private dealers compete in a global art market. To view exceptional items for the distinguished private collector available from the top dealers across the globe, visit www.CuratorsEye.com.

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