Business Trends
Marketing Trends Today
Interview With Susan Baraz

Always looking for a competitive edge in today's marketing, I came across an unusual program for promoting photographers called AtEdge. What makes this promotion special is the entire program is limited to 150 photographers a year and is by invitation of their Advisory Board. The program is a series of quarterly booklets and an annual book mailed to a highly targeted audience of photo buyers. There is also a website, www.at-edge.com, plus a lot of "cross-selling" by reps Susan Baraz and Rhoni Epstein. In addition to the limited edition attraction of the program, publisher Serbin Communications has used the marketing rules of yesterday--frequency and branding of an image--to create a new marketing program for today. In this interview with Susan Baraz of AtEdge, she explains how it works.

Shutterbug: What is your background in photography and how did you come to AtEdge?

Susan Baraz: In 1987, I lost a very close friend and mentor to AIDS. Wanting to do something to memorialize him, two of my friends and I started Focus On AIDS (FOA), a photography auction/benefit. We called upon photographers and a few galleries to donate images to be auctioned and gave all the money raised ($50,000) to an AIDS charity. It was a time when no one was doing anything about the disease or using photography as a collectible art form. G. Ray Hawkins, the "father of photography galleries," was our auctioneer. FOA is now on its 10th event this summer and is a totally volunteer effort that gives 100 percent of its money to various AIDS charities. We've raised and donated approximately $2,000,000 through photography donations and it brought me front and center into the photography world. Glen Serbin, the person responsible for AtEdge, gave me a call when they were looking for a marketing representative. He told me the premise of the five publications and I thought it was a truly brilliant idea. I loved the exclusivity, the "invitation only" aspect. Since many of these photographers also participate in FOA, it was a natural for me to want to include them in this high-end publication.

SB: There are so many important aspects to good marketing, what are the things you think work best today?

Baraz: I not only work on AtEdge, but I rep photographers along with Rhoni Epstein, who has been in the business for 20 years. We both do portfolio consultations as well. Marketing photography requires not only a strong presentation in your portfolio, but interesting promo pieces and a great venue, such as AtEdge, to get your name "out there" and in the right hands.

When we go to ad agencies we see art buyers inundated with promo materials that are piled high on their desks. A photographer has to really think how to make his or her material stand out from the rest. Not an easy thing, if you don't have a huge budget to do booklets or brochures. You can't be shy about contacting art buyers and following through on promotional pieces you've sent. Try to get a critique or ask for their thoughts on your portfolio. Everyone really likes to be asked for their opinion. Send a note or a print with a "thank you" if they've made time to see your work. Make sure where you're marketing fits with the type of images you are sending. It's surprising how many times promos are mailed to the wrong art buyer.

SB: You are involved in the FOA and the new "Lucie" Awards; what do you think of the results for photographers from entering awards and donating work?

Baraz: Getting involved in photography contests or donating pieces to charity events works very well today. If it's a recognized event there are important people showing up and looking at your work. Many people have become established in photography because they participated in FOA. There are group events happening all over and if you can't find one make one yourself with other photographers.

I remember consulting with a fine art photographer who had sent some photographs to a museum. The museum loved the work, but did not have a budget to buy so I told him to give it to them as a donation. It went on his resume as part of their permanent collection and now other places are taking notice of his work.

SB: How important is having a strong "direction" before photographers take on any marketing strategy? How does this affect finding the right clients?

Baraz: The most important thing in one's portfolio is to show a consistent direction in one's work. Images that go off in different directions or are a "mixed bag" are confusing to the client and don't elicit confidence that you do one thing really well. How would anyone know what to hire you for, if you have a smattering of this and that? Establish your look, your voice, in photography and get people to know you in that category. You will then know where to market your work when you have a strong point of view in the direction of your book.

SB: We know that repetition builds recognition in the photography marketplace--how does AtEdge use this technique? Describe their print and electronic marketing strategy.

Baraz: AtEdge builds recognition by marketing the same, small, select group of photographers five times within a year to the top art buyers, art directors, and other creatives. The books showcase the images using consistent fonts and page layouts with no distracting logos. AtEdge was designed by award-winning Howry Design Associates in San Francisco. They have designed the books with meticulous eye to showcasing the photography. It's all about clean spreads that focus solely on the photography in a sequential marketing program. AtEdge also has its photographers participate online with eight images that can be changed and timed with the five separate book mailings.

SB: What kind of feedback have you had from clients? It looks as though you are deliberately reaching for the high-end "style" photo client. Does this keep "regular" clients away?

Baraz: The photography clients who are invited to receive the five books seem extremely excited to join in this elite group. The premise is to have a cohesive group of the "cutting edge" in photography, both known and newly discovered talent. Since AtEdge is so limited in its size, yes, perhaps "regular" clients would not be involved in this publication. AtEdge is in its own unique category.

SB: What does the future hold for marketing tools for either your rep business or AtEdge?

Baraz: "Everything old is new again," with personal contact being the very best way to promote your work, and it works for AtEdge as well. We held a huge "launch" party in New York specifically for art buyers and art directors. We also sponsor various art director club events to keep the awareness of our five publications ongoing. If you can meet someone face to face or by phone and have your openness, interest, and sincerity come through to the client, it makes a personal connection and is the most important tool in marketing.

Ideas From Rhoni
For her ideas on marketing trends, I contacted Rhoni Epstein, a long-time rep in the Los Angeles area who is now working with Susan Baraz.

SB: What do you think are the latest and greatest marketing tools that work for selling photography today?

Rhoni Epstein: Have files filled with scanned images that are readily available to create an edited online portfolio specifically designed to meet the client's needs. This gives a new meaning to a "well focused" presentation. It is imperative to keep websites focused. Just because it's easy to place images online be careful not to burden the viewer with too many images shot in too many different styles. I also believe in printed source books that engage their audience in new creative ways. AtEdge has taken the burden out of sending promotional mailing since the book comes out five times a year. Each book gives the photographer a creative challenge to top their last ad. Susan and I find the same factor, "what's old is new." Nothing beats making appointments and sitting with someone who's reviewing your portfolio. Honest face to face feedback helps you grow into the photographer who the art director starts requesting!

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COMMENTS
leonardo85's picture

Marketing trends are indeed changing at a rapid pace indeed and this is also true that if you are planning a charity event then social networking can really help, often you do not have enough money to donate in this situation donate old items, when you unclutter your house you should store such items in a particular place.

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