Business Trends
Back To Basics Part III, Focus On An Action Plan

In our continuing series on getting started in photography, you will now learn how to develop, write, and act on a "plan of action." Goal setting is not enough. Your challenge is to go get your goals, not just set them!

Step One: Write It Down
In this last of our three part series, you need to bring everything together into a written marketing plan. You want a written plan because it includes specific action items that will relieve the day-to-day pressure of planning to find new business and keeping current clients. You want a written plan to cross-reference the action items in your daily calendar. In any business, this is called "Plan the work, and work the plan."

Once you have determined the direction to take and what images to shoot and who will buy them (see February column), the bulk of the marketing plan will be spent on deciding on promotion strategy, how to approach clients, present, and follow-up. These key ingredients all work together as a recipe for your personal success and you'll find that the lack of success will be due to the lack of planning in any one of these areas.

Step Two: Break It Down
To ensure actual implementation of your marketing, notice that the marketing plan example listed includes small or "bite size" tasks. Most photographers stop marketing or become overwhelmed when the task in front of them is perceived as too big. Break it down into small pieces or tasks that can be easily scheduled. Imagine any task as being done in an afternoon or a few hours. If you can't, it is too big and needs to be broken into smaller pieces. For example, instead of "redo portfolio" try planning smaller tasks like:

  • Make list of self-assignments for portfolio
  • Research new laminations for portfolio prints
  • Design new CD-portfolio cover
  • Start searching for new portfolio travel case

Step Three: Your Key To Success
Once you have written your plan and everything possible is broken into small pieces, take out your daily calendar or planner and schedule every action item. It is very important to never wait to "find" the time for marketing and self-promotion. Schedule it now! Don't wait until there are no assignments to go look for some. It is too late. When paying jobs come along, as they will, you will reschedule any marketing action item--such as making that list of self-assignments for portfolio. That can be done anytime; clients can't wait! The danger of not scheduling your plan is that it won't "work." For example, if making that list of self-assignments had not been on the calendar, you may never get around to it.

Step Four: Match Actions To Goals
Be sure that each area of your marketing plan has a clear and reasonable goal. For example, advertising doesn't sell photography. The goal of advertising is to bring in the names of people interested in your work so you can then sell to them. Another example--publicity won't get people to call you with work. The goal of getting published is to develop recognition by clients for when they get your direct mail or phone call. Be certain your goal for each action is reasonable, measurable, and attainable.

Step Five: Marketing Plan Example
I. This is your marketing message (the work you want to increase the sales of) and must be consistent throughout all promotions, including concepts for your ads, web sites, and promotions. Review February's column.

Sample Marketing Message: "Photography for Annual Reports and Corporate Communications" Action: Develop six benefits of working with your firm

II. This describes your target client base and must be consistent with your marketing message.

Sample Target Client: "Publicly held companies in the Resort/Hotel/Travel, Computers, Environmental, Healthcare, Telecommunications industries that need annual reports and other corporate communications images"

Action: Subscribe to above trade publications

III. This is your detailed and step by step plan of action. Remember to transfer all of the "action" items to your planner or calendar.

Direct Mail Campaign
1. Need to create concept, design, and production of campaign
a. Design a self-mailer with response card
b. Make a strong offer to increase response
c. Select a single strong image
d. "Cull" purchased mailing lists by getting responses to create personal list

2. Need to purchase mailing lists that match above target client profile
a. Call Labels To Go from Showcase database
b. Call National Register for Standard Directory of Advertisers database
c. Call The List Inc. and check availability of specific corporations by industry type

Advertising Campaign
1. Develop a concept
a. Design a concept to impress and ask for a response
b. Focus on corporate communications with image selection and text
c. Call annual directories for their current media kits

Public Relations Campaign
1. Develop a campaign to reach both clients as well as photo peers (for referrals)
a. Plan a quarterly project press release to all media
b. Research media lists and names of editors
c. Start entering photography competitions
d. Send out "project" press releases on all interesting jobs completed

Personal Selling
1. Concentrate quality time on the better prospective clients for assignments
a. Plan a list of monthly calls for follow-up
b. Review the list of past clients for best prospects
c. Review list from direct mail campaign for best prospects
d. Add the responses from direct mail and advertising to the sales call list

2. Portfolio update
a. Continue with laminated transparency
b. Add a downsized "travel" portfolio that can easily ship Federal Express
c. Start shooting a body of images that represents the target client industries
d. Research new portfolio cases

3. Promo materials
a. Continue with a black folder with a logo label on the front and ink jet prints inside
b. Delete editorial tear sheets and use only the images as "corporate" photos
c. Design a "capabilities brochure" for your photography to send upon request by clients