Where's the Beef?
It's more fun to write about a really fantastic new lens but the thing that keeps our business going is the marketing. If people don't know we're here, what we offer, and what our value proposition is, then eventually the income will trickle down to zero, the bank accounts will run dry and we'll have to start boiling our camera straps to make soup.
Two days ago I bought four tins of Hahnemuhle FineArt Inkjet Photo Cards. They come 30 to a box and measure about 5.5 by 8.3 inches; with rounded corners. The kind I like are the FineArt Pearl finish. They are thick at 285 gsm and they survive their journeys through the U.S. Postal Service pretty well. I printed 120 cards with a color image on the front and a brief story about the project from which the photograph evolved on the back.
But why, in this age of free e-mail blasts, do I both to spend the money to use expensive paper, even more expensive ink, and then add fifty cents each for postage? My answer would be that I keep a list of my top 100 prospects and clients and I make it a point to send them a printed, hand addressed direct mail, with a personal note, at least four times a year. I want to stay at the top-of-mind with the people who help most to keep my business in business.
A large, printed postcard, instead of an e-mail, shows that you have at least a little skin in the game. That you are willing to spend resources to reach the people you value. Given my company's track record in retaining client over decades I think it's time and money well spent. As more and more competitor advertising heads for the web I'm planning to continue expanding my "A" list and get printed pieces in front of more people every quarter. My quick research (calls to my friends who are also clients) shows me that direct mail from photographers has dropped by about 90% in the past few years. That means each piece that arrives now has less competition for attention. That's a good thing.
Once we got the postcards printed and out the door I created a web gallery with 20+ consistent images from a big job we completed in Q4 2018. All of the images are environmental portraits and all were done in remote locations around the U.S.A. We'll direct targeted art directors and marcom people to the gallery by sending an e-mail blast to about 600 people I've identified as persons I'd like to work with or persons I'd like to work with again. The e-mail will tell a short version of my story about the job and the embedded link will lead them to the gallery to show more scope.
The other leg of our current marketing that I'm finding to be more and more effective is our presence on LinkedIn. (Please don't ask me to join your LinkedIn community if you are a photographer; I won't even accept invitations from my closest photographer friends --- ). I posted a public article about photo stacking last week, with an example photograph, and the post has already had over 2,200 views. Followed by 85 profile views. All it costs is the time it takes to write interesting things for an audience of advertising and marketing professionals... That, and picking the right connections to add to your network. We currently have over 1,000 1st connections and often get referrals from them.
My goal in marketing is to keep reminding my current customers of how well we deliver on own promises while inviting potential new customers to contact me for a consultation or to give me a shot at one of their projects. After the marketing my biggest and most important job is retention. Keeping customers and collaborators happy.
A few suggestions (not all of which I'm current on...): 1. Keep your website fresh. Ignore advice to use your website only as a quick and shallow portfolio and use it to help your clients get to know who you are, what you've done and how you would do business with them! 2. Create an "A" list which has the people you love to work with and the people you would love to work with. Keep it manageably small and make sure you reach out and touch the people on this list with quality information on a regular basis. 3. No one should receive marketing pushed out from you more than once a month. The only exception is if you just did something absolutely incredible in your field and needed to share while the information was fresh! 4. You need to reach clients by multiple paths. Some passive, like blogs, and LinkedIn but you also need active marketing like e-mails, lunches with recurring clients and a healthy dose of direct mail. As more content heads to phones you also have to make sure that your media is small screen friendly. In my mind that means more video as well.
It's a lot to think about when the only thing you really want to do is go out and take great photographs! But if you want to make art for a living I think you have to master the marketing.
You may have other ideas for marketing. Share them in the comments if you'd like.