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
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
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!