Reps, Marketing Assistants, Consultants:
Which Partner Is Right for You?
TEXT BY SELINA OPPENHEIMToday's market demands that photographers actively and consistently market their services. The question faced by most imaging pros is how to facilitate the many tasks related to marketing while continuing to serve clients.
While an agent is indeed a solution for some, it is not the answer for most photographers. In fact, a marketing assistant or consultant will serve most photographers well. Read on to discover how each of these professionals may help you grow your business.
AGENTS & REPS
While the responsibilities vary from rep to rep, historically they:
• Create an overall marketing plan
• Prospect new client leads
• Send/show the portfolio
• Negotiate assignment bids
• License all images.
In addition, some agents will work on talent development.
Most seasoned agents—those in the business five or more years—are looking to rep advertising photographers. Clients in that market are comfortable with reps and fees generated by the usage of a photo drive the project rates to the highest fees paid in our industry.
Agents take a commission of 25-35 percent of the project fee on new accounts and often look for an across-the-board 10 percent fee on house accounts. They tend to look at seasoned photographers, i.e., those with a highly developed vision and client list. It's a rare rep who will take on new talent or a corporate or editorial shooter.
A marketing assistant performs the tasks related to marketing your studio that you choose, or have little time to do. Historically, they:
• Research new account leads
• Arrange appointments for you to show your portfolio
• Oversee and facilitate a drop portfolio program
• Develop a database for new prospect leads
• Facilitate your direct mail program.
While there is no central place to find marketing assistants, consider the following as prospects: grad students, recently retired senior citizens, and mothers looking for extra hours. Know what tasks you want performed and create a short list of personal and professional skills any prospect must have.
This is usually a part-time responsibility; they can start for as little as five hours per week. Tasks should be clearly defined and geared toward your business needs. Having as few as 20 hours of marketing support per month will surely improve your revenue stream.
The job of a consultant varies according to the skills and interests of each professional. As one of the first in the country, I have had the opportunity for the last 20 years to watch the industry develop. Consultant services usually revolve around one or all of the following:
• Working with the photographer to develop a clear, focused, marketable vision
• Creating sales and marketing programs
• Developing portfolios
• Teaching shooters how to price, negotiate, and license images
• Training sales staff.
When choosing a consultant, make sure the experience and services offered match your needs. For instance, while consultants from an agency art-buying background might be perfectly suited to an advertising shooter, their advice might not be appropriate for an editorial, corporate, or consumer portrait photographer. Consultants generally have hourly fees for short-term work.
If you're interested in repositioning your business, need help developing a portfolio that sells, or need guidance in creating a defined sales and marketing program, this pro may be right for you.
Any relationship you forge with a marketing partner will require your continual effort, presence, and commitment. To figure out which pro is best for your company:
• List your short- and long-term marketing goals.
• Determine the tasks associated with each goal and honestly evaluate your skill set, time, and commitment to getting the job done.
• Review the tasks you truly do not want to do or are not capable of doing well.
• Match the list of tasks with the responsibilities listed above under each service provider.
Spend the money it takes to work with a great professional who is dedicated to helping you grow your business. Don't get caught in the "I can't afford help" mentality. If you won't invest in your company, why should clients invest in you?