Business Trends
How To Improve Your Internet Marketing
An Interview With Photographer Rick Etkin

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I have seen a lot of web pages from photographers in my role as photo rep, writer, and consultant, so it was especially rewarding to spend some time with photographer Rick Etkin and discuss his new website, www.ricketkin.com. I met Etkin at my first marketing workshop in Vancouver and I found he had a great combination and balance of talent and business skills. It was also interesting to watch him work with clients from all over the US and Canada, reflecting both his dual citizenship and his diverse interests in photography. I believe he has an effective and successful website and asked him to share with you how it all came together for him.

Shutterbug: Your current website design is different from most of the photographer sites that I visit; you seem much more tuned into the marketing aspect. How did this newest design evolve? What was your specific goal?

Rick Etkin: Over the years my website has became the focus of a great amount of marketing effort to expand my client base to a broader, non-local market. In order to set my work apart from the thousands of others online I knew that my website had to be more than just a portfolio of my work.

With most website visitors wanting to be only three clicks from what they are looking for, I had my designers adapt the original portfolio display format and redesign the feature pages to reflect a consistent look all through the site.

I also found people interested in seeing what takes place behind the lens to create the images. With larger productions most people do not realize what goes into the creation of the images for ads. Allowing visitors to see the process can give potential clients a sense of confidence that I can be trusted with their major projects. It's a marketing edge that starts even before direct contact with the client takes place.

For the layout, each grouping led to six feature items that gave the viewers the information I thought they would need to hire my photographic services. Not all visitors are buyers, but the feedback is usually positive in that it is not a typical site.

SB:
There are so many important aspects to good website design I want people reading this column to think about so let's compare our lists. How do you feel about these marketing aspects when designing a website?
· The "contact you" button is available no matter where the client goes
· A bio page is not just about where you were born, but gives more information
· Adding links to related sites helps to raise your visibility
· Don't be afraid to use the side and top for toolbar buttons
· Have a great logo and an irresistible tagline (marketing message)

RE: The contact button
For a quick and direct way we used the icon "reach us" for e-mail and repeated e-mail links in articles that follow "any questions." I wanted to make it as easy as possible to get past the site and closer to human contact. The "reach us" button all through the site takes clients to a page that includes all contact points, including my reps. Don't make people hunt for you or you could lose potential clients in a click of a mouse.

A bio page
In the world of cyber advertising, this helps show the human side of who is behind the photographs. Personality makes a difference to the clients I end up working with. Giving a sense of who I am through the site give clients a better idea of who they may be working with.

Adding links to related sites The longer I can keep clients on my own site by offering links to related subjects the more likely they are to return. It is also true that more links to my site and resultant traffic will increase my search engine rankings. It makes the site more effective and brings more traffic to my site, so it is somewhat self-propagating.

Side and top for toolbar buttons
It is all about making navigation through the site consistent and easy. Frames that always stay in view mean I do not leave much guessing for the visitors. I have seen sites with confusing rollovers around the pages. With nothing easy to follow or find, it can be a frustrating experience. The site design offers the opportunity to return home from the "re" button or to the images. This allows clients to jump straight to the portfolio from any page they are on. Visitors can become familiar with the site very quickly and explore it at will, knowing they can return to the homepage from virtually anywhere.

Have a great logo and an irresistible tagline
I cannot say much more about the "re" logo except it has been really effective. The copy for the positioning line ("review, resolve, react") tells people what I do: visual problem solving. It combines the basics of marketing--a slogan and call to action in one. In the current market climate, winning the jobs that are still there is all about perception and the value added services I can offer to clients.

SB: What other website design items or elements do you feel makes a site more successful?

RE: Make the overall design "update friendly" so that new information can be added on a regular basis to keep interest and encourage return visits. Create a "news" or "items of interest" page to allow you a chance to toot your own horn by offering client quotes and links to what others have said about you, interesting projects, and recent awards. Although not the busiest page on the site it does get read. By having a text page that is indexed by the search engines, you may be found by searches through your clients' names or their ads.

SB: How do you advertise, publicize, and really get the most out of your website?

RE: Building traffic and bringing attention to my website has been my primary marketing and advertising focus for several years. The plan was to ensure that the web address would appear everywhere. When the site was launched a series of four post cards were sent out bearing only the words: "research," "review," "revisit," and "return" and the web address. They were mailed with a 2-3 month interval between cards.

In addition, all my ads in the source book directories (Black Book, Creative Source, and NW Print Index) have been designed to reflect the web format with a look similar to the website. Each ad had a headline of the web address only, with a small logo and the word "review" or "revisit" next to it as the call to action. As each ad was released, traffic to the site increased in the short term and then would taper off with time. Most importantly, e-mail notices sent to a small, select group with direct links to new, or changed items, has proven effective and brought a better than 40 percent response rate.

Along with ad reprints mailed at the beginning of the year, my current promotional vehicle for local clients has been select direct mailers showing a new image with only "Rick Etkin recent works" and the web address. I have noticed a great increase in traffic and more than doubling of page views-per-visit the past five weeks.

As new design criteria, the portfolio was designed to allow clients to perform custom searches by topics of interest and then present a page of images that the Art Director can print and show to their clients. This has worked to my advantage on many occasions.

SB: How do you feel now about the effectiveness of your new website design?

RE: Overall, the website has proven to be an effective advertising medium for the photographic business. It is apparent that more Art Directors use online searches than any other method when looking for a photographer, so by making the most effective site possible, and making sure people see it, I can dramatically increase my market area. My greatest proof of this was an e-mailed request for a quote for a major cell phone campaign from an agency in Texas. It proved to be the largest project I had ever quoted on and it was sent to me before any phone contact was made. The clients were convinced that I could be trusted to complete the project just from what they saw on my website.

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