Photographers have been sending calendars as marketing tools for decades. So have pharmacies, auto-parts makers, UPS, the Sierra Club, and untold other businesses and charities. If you don't get one (or three) in the mail around the holidays, surely some relative who's run out of gift ideas will fill the gap.
It's a crowded marketplace. If your beautiful, painstakingly produced calendar is used at all, could it ever hope to garner more than a passing notice each month when the page is turned? Enter the brave new world of digital imaging and inexpensive, high-quality desktop printers.
Over the past few years I've been keeping in touch with clients through a monthly calendar. Each month I produce, print, and mail a new calendar. It's not cheap and it takes a few hours, but the good feeling and attention I receive far outweigh the time and small extra cost.
My clients look forward to each month's installment. I frequently travel to interesting places around the world, and I share these images with my clients. Sure, I could use images from the high-end residential architecture I photograph, but I save those few I have permission to use for my website and for specific marketing pieces to the architects, builders, and designers I work with.
Furthermore, those images wouldn't be appropriate for my corporate clients. Through desktop printing, I could customize the calendar to the client base, but they know what they hire me to shoot. Sharing my latest travel, nature, or landscape images is far more personal.
So what's involved? What are the steps and software required to efficiently and inexpensively produce a quality piece eagerly awaited by your clients?
I use Calendar Builder from www.tailwagsoft.com to create the actual calendar. The software costs $19.95 and is simple to use. The software allows you to change the date, color, and layout of a one-month or multi-month calendar. Once the calendar is designed, I bring it into Photoshop to add the images and size them to fit. Once all the layers of the file are complete, I simply flatten the layers and sharpen it, using PixelGenius' PhotoKit Sharpener.
I started with 11x17 calendars using sheets of Epson Glossy Photo Paper. Using roll paper instead of sheets can bring the cost down. Initially I sent them in a USPS mailing tube. The cost of paper, ink, mailing tube, and postage totaled $3.45 for each calendar.
I hated the tubes, though. They were hard for my clients to open, and the calendars curled.
I was able to find rigid, flat mailing envelopes, which seemed to be the answer, but in the size available, postal regulations required me to mail them Parcel Post, which was prohibitively expensive--so now I send 10x14 calendars in an 11-½x14-½ clasp mailer. Adding a chipboard to stiffen the envelope means the calendars don't get damaged. To save money, I buy the chipboard in 23x34 sheets and have them cut to size.
The total cost for doing a calendar in this much more personal manner is $2.83, around $34 a year per client. Sure, this is somewhat more than a 12-month calendar, but marketing these days is all about personal connections. One small extra job more than pays the total year's marketing costs.
Dennis Jones (www.dreamcatcherimaging.com) photographs high-end residential architecture and corporate events for clients and Fortune 500 companies around the country. When not exploring the world with his camera, he divides his time between his home in Vail, Colorado and his cabin in western Colorado, Hummingbird Knob. Follow his travels through his blog at www.dreamcatcherimaging.com/blog.