Business Trends
Photo Email Marketing Spam Or Business Builder

If all the trends and innovations in the marketing and business of photography, one of the most exciting is e-mail marketing. This can be considered as a supplement to your advertising and direct mail and is a great way to reach current and prospective clients. Your challenge is to create relevant and meaningful e-mail promotion rather than just "spam."

Make A List
Have a good e-mail list. Your e-mail address list comes from current clients and good prospects. Usually, a good prospective client is someone who has responded to some other form of marketing. They may have "come in the door" by visiting your web site, replying to your direct mail, or seeing your portfolio. Many photographers do the research to determine good prospective clients based on the type of photography that client buys. For information about buying any kind of list, review the web site for research possibilities.

Have A Goal
Have a specific goal for your campaign. Regular contact with current and prospective clients may require two different e-mail messages. For current clients, you can be more familiar as they already know your work. For prospective clients, you will need to keep in touch for a reason that engages the client. It could be special offers on portrait packages, new services available, or current client success stories. Be irresistible and remember you are looking for response and recognition of your name and work.

A Case Study
Mark Ross contacted me after reading one of my articles to tell me about his own e-mail campaign. Ross is based in New York City and has been doing architecture and interior design photography since 1976. He has been published in many architecture and interior design magazines including Architectural Digest, Casa Vogue, House & Garden, House Beautiful, and Interior Design. He also shoots advertising photography for furniture and textile manufacturers.

"I decided to try my hand at e-mail marketing because it was an inexpensive way to do a direct mailing and one I could control on my own," said Ross. "I knew it would be possible to change the piece as often as I deemed necessary and at no further expense. How can you beat that? "I started by targeting big architectural and interior design companies in the New York area. Since that was a short list, I then included smaller firms within the New York area but still the list was too short. Then I began thinking 'big' in a different way. Why not include national firms that have New York branch offices? It eventually became evident that there wasn't any necessary reason to limit my prospects to New York alone. Why not include all the major American cities? And so the campaign grew.

"It's a daunting effort and it's one I do myself. As you might imagine, it takes a lot of time. I'm now including names of graphic designers and design firms in order to reach a wider audience. I've created a second and distinctly different series of photos for this particular audience. It includes product and travel industry work. One thing I have learned is that as you keep doing the e-mail marketing, you will keep coming up with more ideas as to how and to whom you can market."

Keep It Flowing
"The greatest concern for me has been finding a way to show eight images, each at about 21/8" long without creating too large an e-mail file," said Ross. "I wanted to avoid a reply message such as, 'The e-mail file you sent us is too large and it ties up the office server. Please remove us from your list.' "It's been a chore finding a way to crunch it to an acceptable size, but just recently the e-mail file has gone from 1.6MB to 360KB. Now, I no longer receive those messages.

"Once a month each promo goes out to an ever-increasing list of potential, as well as already existing, customers. I use eight images as they happens to fit within my Outlook Express window comfortably and it shouldn't matter if someone has a 15" or 20" monitor, as long as they scroll down their e-mail program's screen. I ask them to do that right off the bat at the top of the text message. The text message is short and to the point. I simply state my name, say what I do, and offer a link to a free, communal web site where I exhibit more of my work."

Measure The Response
Work very hard to measure response. Most photographic marketing response has not been moni- tored in the past, but today's new business economy demands accountability. Work with your web site host and designer to put today's new innovative technology to use for your photography business. For example, you can "tag" the link you use in your e-mail to your web site to track the responses that come from each e-mail promotion.

Ross told me, "My average response rate (and that's just the positive response rate) is around 4 to 5 percent and definitely on the rise. There are more hits to my site than there are responses to my e-mail. Very few firms care to see a traditional book anymore, so it's important to use the Internet to market your work. Creating an acceptable e-mail promotion campaign by finding a balance between interest, format size, and brevity, all those elements are important."

Tech Tips
This is not a technical column but I would be negligent if I didn't mention some considerations for creating a successful e-mail marketing campaign for your business. Here are some tips:

  • Personalize your e-mail whenever possible. Otherwise, use the "Bcc" field for a cleaner and less intrusive message.
  • Be careful with your "from" address. Your e-mail should be from your name, not a scramble of letters and numbers.
  • You only have 24 to 35 characters in your subject line to get your e-mail opened, so choose wisely.
  • Your e-mail body message should open with the first couple of sentences designed to capture the client's interest and active hyperlinks to get them to click to select web pages.
  • When you do give a web address in an e-mail, please make sure the client can make an immediate visual connection. You can use your logo, a signature image, or any design element that tells the client that "this is the right place."