Marketing in the time of e-mail overload. Buying stamps.

©2013 Kirk Tuck. All rights reserved.

In one person businesses the ebb and flow of financial success has a tendency to either make marketing seem superfluous or mission critical. I hate getting behind on basic marketing for my business but it can be hard to keep up with day to day keeping in touch when big projects loom. In the best of all possible worlds I'd have a marketer on staff and we'd be relentless but I can't stand the idea of having employees anymore so....

Because of all the turmoil in the USA recently we've had a number of projects delayed and some cancelled and now my attention is where it should be: on marketing towards the kinds of projects of which I would like to see more.

The perennial question is, how to best market in today's web centric environment?

Let me step back for a second and set out what I'm looking for. Two weeks ago I did an event photography assignment for AmeriCatalyst. We did a thorough reportage of their private conference on banking and finance at the Barton Creek Conference Center. It was a three day program with very interesting speaker and good stage design by Media Event Concepts. I had a blast learning new information, shooting a variety of cameras, and hanging out with lots of smart folks.

This reminded me that I've always enjoyed being invited to drop into the middle of conferences about subjects outside my areas of expertise and becoming a temporary part of much larger teams. Sadly, I haven't done a good job of marketing these services in the past two or three years. I have been more or less focused on advertising and portrait projects. But can an assignment to photograph metal gears in a factory hold a candle to photographing former presidents giving speeches? Are the sandwich platters from Jason's Deli any match for the delectable lunches and dinners served at the best restaurants and hotels? Maybe not.

So, when I woke up this morning I had two plans. The first was to go for a run around Lady Bird Lake and the second was to claw my way back into the event photography market. I can clearly identify the 30 or 40 locally headquartered companies I want to work for here and I can make good assumptions about the 60 or so on the next tier. I have a number of contacts at some of the companies and also a good collection of names via LinkedIn connections. But how to reach them with a sticky message?

I could try buying advertising on social media but there's really no way to micro-target the message to the right audience on the e-media that I know about. I could try an e-mail campaign but my perception is that people are overwhelmed with the sheer amount of daily e-mail they already receive.

I've decided to go decidedly "old school" and craft a direct mail letter, on stationary, with a printed sample, and make a direct contact through the U.S. Mail. A well written letter can be a great vehicle as it allows for a quick marketing message in the first paragraph but also gives readers who want more detail additional paragraphs that make the case for using me as an event photographer.

My business has had much support over the years providing images to Dell, Inc. and the city of Austin is full of people who've become financially secure working for that company. I've decided to select an image from one of the big events we covered and to use that as the sample image for the e-mail.

The first mailing will go to 90 select prospects and, if the response is good, we'll send to 90 more in a second mailing.

The nice thing about first class mail is that you are pretty much assured that it will get to the addressee and there is a more than even chance that it will get opened and at least lightly read. If my mailing list is less than accurate I'll get back the undeliverable and that's helpful too.

I like getting letters. It's different from getting more e-mail. Perhaps the difference also differentiates my message to the prospective customer. I guess we'll see. At any rate, the budget for a targeted mailing like this is relatively low. Less than $100. And except of the very top executives there are no real "spam" filters for regular mail.

I'll let you know how it all works out.

P.S. Nice run this morning. 56 degrees and thick fog everywhere. It was a nice, slow run; 10 minutes a mile, at best. But we didn't have swim practice today so what are you going to do? One of two goals accomplished. Now on to the writing segment of our day. KT


Dan Jansenson said...

I think this is a very interesting and thoughtful take on the problem, one that many of us have even in other professions.
One question: how did you decide on the list of recipients? Presumably it's not the CEOs.

Kirk Tuck said...

Hi Dan, Thanks for reading. Ah, the list... over the last 30 years I've done a lot of events for a lot of companies. The first 40 or 50 names on my current list are almost all people I have worked for directly or who have been on a team I have worked with in the past. The most important thing I think a marketer must do is to solidify his base of happy past customers. Their patronage might be seen as a sure bet but I want to make sure I touch them with all relevant marketing. The next tier are the P.R. and advertising people within the companies I want to work for but whom I have not yet met. I might be introducing myself to them for the first time. LinkedIn is helpful in that if I have worked in some capacity for a company I can look for people with similar or complementary jobs within the org structure and try to make them new clients. If I have worked for their company before I might add a hand written note to the letter saying, "I had the pleasure to work with XXXXX a few months back. I enjoyed working with your company and hope you'll keep me in mind for similar projects."

I would only send a note to a CEO if the company in question was small, had a very flat org chart and I had a pre-existing relationship with the CEO.

For new prospects I go to their website first, look for the right marcom people and then head over to LinkedIn to see if I've missed anyone. Pretty much everyone goes on a list until I've contacted them ten or more times without any sort of response. Then we re-calibrate. Hope this helps.

typingtalker said...

My first marketing boss told me to "find out what everyone else is doing and do the opposite."

A very small list, direct mail, hand addressed, heavy stock envelope, an interesting stamp (the Post Office has some beautiful stamps) and a hand written note inside on rich card stock along with a print that they may want to hang on to. And a business card. Very old school but certainly different.

Mark L said...

I run a lab on the east coast of Australia and out of my many pro customers have 4 local pros who have all stopped social media due to too much time versus no return, all 4 have dropped websites in the last twelve months and gone back to networking and directly approaching clients and if they are interested either sending a portfolio specifically targeted to the client by email or arranging an appointment for a viewing of the portfolio in the form of prints, again an assortment appropriate to the client. Photographers love websites but there are millions out there and there was reason the old ways worked, you have to sell yourself and not wait for clients to approach you. I like your approach, I reckon it will work.

Anonymous said...

Every time I market like everyone else nothing works. Every time I market like you people call. Thanks!

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