Business Trends
What Is In Store For 2004

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After a year of interviewing successful photographers in diverse fields from action sports to fine art for this column and my own marketing workshops, I'd like to offer a few thoughts to help you plan to face the coming year with a new (or perhaps renewed) marketing vitality.

Find Better Prospective Clients
This one is not new but it comes back again and again every year. Your next best client is your last one! Work extra hard to keep track of the individuals you work with. Whether it is a family portrait or a corporate client contact, people will move around and leave you behind. If they are lost, schedule time to track down past clients and find out how (and what) they are doing.

Do More Research
Find out what clients might need before you approach them. The advanced state of technology allows you to identify not only who your photo clients may be but what photo services they buy. Check with your local photo association for "Finding Clients" marketing programs as they are probably your first and best bet for improving your local research. On a broader basis, here are some examples of doing better research:

1) For commercial photographers, the Adweek (www.adweek.com) directories are one of many that now sell subscriptions to their online databases. Previously available only as print directories, you can now find specific information on ad agencies, companies, and top magazines. The online data allows you to search and sort by fields such as client type, industry type, job title, city, state, and even their billings (size of the company). A new player in the field, check out www.offramp.us for researching better client-direct corporate prospects.

2) For consumer photographers, wedding and portrait (any kind of portrait!) prospect lists can be found at different firms such as: www.krolldirect.com,www.studentlist.com, www.acxiom.com, www.infousa.com, and www.listservicedirect.com. (Note: This is just the tip of the information iceberg of "Complied Lists" and these are not personal endorsements made by the author or this publication. Please shop around and do your homework!)

Improve Your Web Presence
Get your website as visible as possible by using one of the submission companies that have sprung up for this time consuming task. For example, www.isub mit.com and www.submitit.com are just two of the many out there that will (for a small fee of course) help you get your website registered with anywhere from 30-300 search engines. Ask around and find out what your professional peers are using!

I know I am nagging, but please keep your website up-to-date! Get your 2004 personal calendar out right this minute and schedule monthly updates of the images and/or the information on your site. Then send out "updated website" announcements to your regular clients to keep them coming back!

Add more text--websites are not just art galleries. Give prospective clients pages that inform, intrigue, and persuade. For example, add your photography philosophy to your bio page, add a map to your location page, create a page of client references (names only) and client testimonials (quotes by clients), and add a project press release page to tell (and show) your prospects your latest work.

Finally, be more proactive in your website's text. Ask clients to "bookmark this page" for their future reference or to "forward a link to a friend or business associate" to build referrals. Why not? If you don't ask, the answer will be "no" for certain and your web presence less effective. In addition, these are suggestions made to me by clients themselves!

Use E-mail Promos (But Don't Send Spam)
(Apologies to Lewis Carroll.) The time has come, the walrus said, to talk of many things, of shoes and ships and sealing wax, of cabbages and kings and using e-mail as a promotion tool. For all of you screaming at the very idea, sorry, but just get over it. E-commerce and E-collateral (it actually has a title!) is here to stay but only if done the right way. As far as the reality of Unsolicited Commercial E-mail (UCE), or "spam" most unfortunately spelled the same as the Hormel meat product, SPAM, there will always be companies that abuse technology, and that is not what we are recommending. Think of yourself as doing solicited commercial e-mail!

As this is still new marketing technology, I recommend we step outside our own photo industry for a minute and look at the bigger picture. The Direct Marketing Association (DMA) is working very hard to prevent more government legislation of the Internet. To do that, we all have to play by a few rules. I understand how frustrated you feel when you get your e-mail Inbox full of 300 e-mails a day that are UCE, but those are the folks not playing by the rules. Don't be one of them.

The DMA has published some wonderful guidelines for everyone, no matter their industry. You just have to adapt them to your photography services marketing. For these guidelines, see www.targetmarketingmag.com and use the Search for "E-mail Marketing Guidelines." These are some I selected that best relate to photography and that ensure that your clients are not getting junk mail from you!

1) Don't even think about e-mailing "cold," that is without the permission of the client. This is true UCE and you
should not do it. It is much better to buy or acquire permission lists (called opt-in) of e-mail addresses for your
prospective clients.

2) Do be very clear in the "From" line, solicitations sent online should disclose your identity and not be from "Dad" or some other gimmick.

3) Don't write a subject line that is misleading in any way, shape, or form. Being "cute" will get you filtered
out forever if you upset your prospective clients.

4) Do come up with a subject line of 25-35 characters that speak to the "benefit" of reading your e-mail. This is not about you; it must be about what the client gets.

5) Do be sure to offer (even if you do use the "fine print" for this) contact information your prospective client can use to opt-out of your list.

6) Do provide information on how prospective clients can get more information (contact name, street address, phone number) and always send them the link to the page on your website where you want them to view the work that relates to them. For example, say you have a list of new moms and have a section of your website dedicated to the "Mother/Newborn" portrait. This e-mail then should use that link because your homepage is packed with other (and probably unrelated) choices the prospect has to make. Help the client hire you by sending them to the portfolio that relates to them.

7) Include one to three images in the body of the e-mail that relate to your subject line, your offer, and is tied to the photography the client buys (e.g., cars to car prospect, wedding to wedding prospect). This may seem the most obvious but it is the most abused aspect of e-mail marketing today. You know this is true--check you own Inbox.

Take some time now to process these new marketing and business trends and get 2004 off to a running start!

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