The Emotional Need for Radical Change. No thanks.

Looking for an honest (photo) marketing person.

I blame myself for staring in fascination at the car wreck that appears in front of me on my computer every morning.  The car wreck is the frothing, churning, anxiety stricken paroxysm of marketing hysteria being foisted on unhappy photographers and then being regurgitated as unassailable fact by these same practitioners looking for any life buoy in a treacherous economic sea.

Their names have gone viral.  Selena, Susan, Deborah  and so many more.  But really,  do they know more about marketing than anyone else or are they mixing in all the anecdotal stuff that's ricocheting around the web, mixing it with a big dose of "Seth Godin" and stirring in a mix of Web 3.0 Koolaide?

If you are one of the hundreds of thousands of photographers chasing after the 5,000 bonafide art buyers in the U.S. for the one or two projects a month a particular agency might assign photography for then I guess their "magic mix" might work to get your book called in.  But I doubt it.

Here are two things to consider:  1.  The markets didn't dissolve because advertising become outmoded this decade and they didn't wrench to a stop in 2008, 2009 and most of 2010 because all of a sudden no one could find a photographer by conventional means.  No.  People stopped buying photography (and so many other non-life supporting goods and services) because they ran out of money and they cut their budgets to the bone and they made the choice to keep the lights on and the heat functional so they could turn out product.  If they did paid advertising they used current materials to save money.  No "pixie dust" marketing is going to turn around a shipwrecked economy just because you want to believe in the power of web-boosted social marketing.  Good marketers offered more services to more people to cope with the downturn.  And they positioned themselves for the market to return.

2.  If you want to sell thousands of days of  photography you could go to Groupon and do a coupon offer for $20 bucks a day, day rate including all rights.  You'll fill up your calendar with all kinds of social-net-saavy-entrepreneurial-cloudhappy-new social order buyers.  But you'll go broke in no time.  Yes the net works for mass market goods and commodities.  At the end of the day it's good to remember that professional photography is not mass manufacturing.  It's a wonderful combination of art and commerce and science.  We're selling our time and licensing our vision.  And the more unique and precious we make it the more money we can charge for it. We are not infinitely scalable.  Remember that when you get into a discussion about quantity versus quality.  Or pennies versus kilo-dollars.

And that leads to the reality of every market from time share condominiums, to annuities, to art, to food, and just about any other non-commodity item or service you can think of.......people want to work and buy from people they know.  Never has it been more important to identify the people you want to work for and to physically place yourself in front of them and wow them.  Wow them not only with the products of what you do but also to wow them with who you are and how you can help them.

My business tagline is this:  "We translate your marketing genius into visual art."  I want to work with smart people.  But I want to work with smart people who sign checks.  I'm not looking to shoot 10,000 widgets on a white background.  I'm looking to shoot one great portrait at a time.  And that's the best way to find your clients.  One at a time.

What's the real magic bullet?  Surprise.  There isn't one.  I'm blogging not to reach clients for my photography biz but because I like to write and I think if you like my writing, and you get samples here, you might be disposed to buy and read my books.  I tweet for the same reason.  And I'm opinionated and like to share my opinions.  But none NONE of my clients regularly reads my blog.  They are not photographers.  They have busy lives doing the things that drive their businesses.  And they don't look at the same tweets that we photographers do.

If I want to reach them I have to think the way they think.  I don't market pretty pictures I provide marketing tools and sticky content.  They open their snail mail but they've learned to filter their e-mail.  Have you tried to text people ads?  I bet you'll never work for them again......  Next time you feel compelled to roll the dice and put all your efforts into internet marketing take a moment to reflect about tossing your "great" photography ideas into an unguided marketing pit with 60 million other creative professionals and 200 million other businesses, all clamoring to sell to the same core market = people with money, and ask yourself, "What the hell am I doing?"

Then get out your client list, send out some really nice, well targeted print pieces.  Make some appointments to drop by and show some great content on your new iPad and then ask your existing clients for some referrals.  If they like you and value what you do you'll get some good names and some new leads.  If they don't like you you're already screwed.

P.S.  I am not arguing against the need for a great website,  fun digital technology, good online communications or running water.  I just think it's time to sound a "hyperbole alert".....