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
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,
(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
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
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
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!