Business Trends
Marketing 2000 Roundup

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Your reality check for next year is "in the mail" and to make sure it doesn't bounce come January 1, 2001, let's review some of the important topics we discussed this year. They are: stock photography, new media clients, digital technology, and the upscale portrait client.

Your first challenge will be to see which of these business trends you can use to improve your profits for the next year. Second, you will need to turn these trends into "action items" and schedule the tasks in your 2001 marketing plan.

Stock Photography. Changes in the stock photo business are both technology and client driven. As stock agencies seek to compete for clients, they need to offer more technology and variety of media usage. So, if you are working with a stock agency, or selling your own stock, you should be looking at these issues:

  • Electronic imaging rights
  • Royalty free usage
  • Exclusive contracts for rights-protected usage
  • The supply of new images on a specified and regular basis
  • Up-to-date information on trends and best sellers
  • Self-assignments for stock usage
  • Electronic access and delivery of stock images
  • Changes in the stock agency/photographer commission structure
  • Support of an Internet marketing plan

Last decade, photographers would have contracts with different regional agencies for the best geographic coverage. Since then, many of these smaller and regional stock agencies have been acquired by the larger and international agencies. If a photographer wants to contract with more than one stock agency, don't rule out the smaller agencies for those specialty niche images. Now, with Internet access and digital delivery, an agency (or photographer) can sell any image anywhere in the world. It is not inexpensive or easy but it is achievable.

New Media Clients. New media technology provides one of the most interesting industry changes in the photography marketplace. It is a shift from thinking of photography as an isolated discipline to being a team effort. For the new media markets, this means a photographer would be working as part of a group of image-makers. "New media" means working with other creative professionals including graphic artists, computer artists, and filmmakers.

It is important because it creates many new job opportunities for photographers. It is important because client mergers and the proliferation of stock photography sales have assaulted the assignment photography marketplace. The answer to having less traditional work is to find out where the work is now, not simply complain about it going elsewhere.

Digital Technology. Digital capture and enhancement offers you two different clients for your work. One is the client who now buys images that look like illustrations. The second is the client who needs the photography but also needs the digital enhancement to create an image that still looks like a photograph.

For the first, you are now an illustrator selling the creation of a unique, new expression-your personal style. Because style is not subject specific, you need to market your work very broadly, usually an ad in an illustration source book and on their web site.

The second kind of client hires you to create an image that still resembles a photograph, but you create the final image using digital technology. This work is usually subject specific (e.g., the photography of people or products) so you can market these images more precisely. The best marketing tools here are direct mail campaigns and sales calls. Since you will do the image enhancement and assembly, this creates more services for your existing and new clients and additional profit centers for you.

Upscale Portrait Clients. For many photography consumers, portraits have become more commonplace and a less valued experience with the quick and inexpensive photos from the high volume retail store portrait studio. This puts most photographers in the nearly impossible situation of competing with the retailers or finding a niche in the better paying upscale market. As the retail outlets continue to devalue the portrait experience (and the perceived value of the product), the average portrait photographer will probably turn toward the upscale market. Your upscale market client is mostly the white-collar professional and family of above average net worth. They are ordinary hard working, successful people who are very careful how they invest their disposable income and look for value and exceptional service. For them, your portrait photography can be an investment in the future.

Marketing Roundup Reality Check List. Review your 2001 marketing plan for the following job-getting and client-keeping ideas:

  • Establish recognition and a presence in your target market with publicity.
  • Come up with a new strategy for the "first contact" with prospective clients.
  • Review your sales strategies to better help clients make the decision to hire you.
  • Work on offering better relations and additional services to current clients.
  • Redo your presentations for consistency between electronic and print promotions.
  • Become an image consultant instead of just another photographer.
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