1-2-3 Approach to Broadening Your Reach
Attract Prospects by Casting Wide and Narrow Nets
by Lou Manna
Most marketing experts say you need to strictly adhere to a plan and adopt specific tactics and objectives in order to be successful. Well, as a photographer with a creative soul whose spirit prefers shooting wonderful images more than being awash in spreadsheets, I follow three pretty simple rules: I cast a wide net in the right waters by having a great website, practicing targeted email marketing, and making sure to stay in touch with current and potential clients.
The Internet offers a huge sea of potential clients, so one of the key things for me is to cast a wide net with a great website. This net is my 24-hour presence and my virtual storefront, so it’s important to show my best work. I love the way my liveBooks website displays large, high-quality photos and permits me to change or move around photos in a snap. I cannot tell you how many times I have had a potential client tell me they decided to call because they saw my site. In the past 18 months (the time I switched over to liveBooks), my revenue has risen over 50 percent. One client even told me he looked at more than 250 photographer sites before narrowing it down based on site views alone. It came down to me and one other candidate. I got the job.
Of course, you can never be sure who’s surfing the Internet, so that’s why I constantly include fresh images and keep the range of displayed photos wide. Just after updating my site, I reeled in a big client, the National Mango Board, who in turn referred me to their agency. I was hired to shoot a campaign for them, including recipes and beauty shots of mangoes. As it happens, the account executive we worked with loved my photography, decided to tie in the American Lamb Board, and sent them to my site for their feedback. Once again my site came through without my knowledge. That union led to another client through the same agency, the National Peanut Council.
Besides this wide cast, I like to use personalized email marketing to nab or influence individual targets—the ones I know. I call this my narrower net. My list is up to 3,000 names, mostly clients, peers, and people I have met and think might one day be a source of business or referral. My email marketing process is not highly polished or mailed at consistent intervals; I’ll send out HTML emails featuring a fresh image whenever I have the opportunity. These shots are simple and clean with appetite appeal! I add a few personal sentences and hit “send.” I think recipients appreciate the sentiment and see this as a greeting card, not a marketing push. Just staying in touch reminds people of your work. A few holidays back, I emailed about 500 notes using martini-glass photos. Nearly 10 percent responded with well wishes, and I netted two big jobs. Today I count 80 percent of my clients to be repeaters, so email marketing is definitely an inexpensive and positive mainstay for me.
The third part of my marketing is getting out there as often as possible to network face to face, the old-fashioned way. People like working with a photographer they have met and with whom they are comfortable. I always carry plenty of business cards, which have a mouthwatering photo on the back. Combine this with a great website and consistent communication through the Internet, and you have a winning recipe.
Lou Manna, owner of Lou Manna Photographer (www.loumanna.com), is an award-winning commercial photographer, author, and teacher based in New York City. His latest book is Digital Food Photography.
High-Risk Project Sets New Course for Fine Art Studio
Local Market Shows Strong Support for Commercial Work
Just a few weeks after coming to Greensboro, North Carolina, I got a freelance assignment from a local paper to photograph patrons at a local bar on a Saturday night. From the moment I arrived, I couldn’t take my eyes off one of the waitstaff. She was stunning. “You won’t take my picture because I’m ugly,” she said as I stepped up to the bar for a Coke. I was unable to convince her that I wouldn’t be taking her photograph because I was there to cover the patrons, not the waitstaff.
Frustrated, I bet her an hour of my time against $50 that I could prove her wrong. A few days later, when Tracy looked at the first photo I took of her (near right), she was amazed. That photo won the Digital Camera World Gold Star Award a few months later. The scenario would be repeated over and over during the next two years, only the names and faces would change. “The Face of Woman” project was born.
Those early days were difficult for our studio. We needed to do something dramatic to get a hold in this market. We believed in “The Face of Woman” project, we believed in our work, and we were convinced that if the story behind the project were told effectively, we could overcome the resistance we faced in the market.
We decided to use a gallery showing to promote the project, although the risks were significant. Greensboro had never had a photography show of that scale, and in a very conservative market, we were pushing the limits and challenging long-held views. Our fine art work was already viewed as controversial, so the danger that we would further alienate ourselves was significant. The cost to us was immense: several thousand hours of work and more than $3,500 to print the photographs. Still, we were committed to the project and to the idea that every woman is beautiful. We knew it was the right thing to do, despite the risks.
In May 2005, we took a critical step in promoting the project by involving a local radio personality, AJ DiDonato (far right, bottom). Like so many women, despite her obvious beauty, she was unable to see how beautiful she was.
Her endorsement brought access to radio, television, and newspapers, helped us get the word out effectively, and gave the project immense credibility. She promoted the show opening and even interviewed me on the air. With every interview, every article, every mention of the show, momentum grew. Without AJ’s support, the show would not have been as successful.
In September 2005, “The Face of Woman” debuted at the Upstairs Gallery in Greensboro. Nearly 500 people attended, some from as far away as New York. More than 60 20x30–inch photos of 10 women were displayed. Half an hour after the show opened, the gallery was packed. I knew it would be a success.
In the month that the show hung at the gallery, more than 2,000 people visited, and 25 percent of the net profits were donated to the local women’s resource center. Six months later, GraphiStudio published our first book based upon the show. It sold as far away as Bombay, India. That book garnered significant international exposure for us.
With the success of the project came access to three commercial accounts we had been unable to penetrate and a plethora of requests for portraiture. The fourth quarter of 2005 saw revenue up 75 percent over the previous quarter and nearly triple the fourth quarter of 2004. Aside from the financial gain, the project established our reputation for artistry, technical excellence, and the emotional impact of our work, which have become our hallmarks.
In retrospect, had the show been less successful, we could have crippled the company. Instead, it clarified our position in the market. We learned that our European fine art style was out of place here, but that our unique style was what a number of architectural firms had been looking for and had been unable to find in this market.
What we were unable to achieve on the fine art side of our business, the show accomplished on the commercial side, opening a new and highly successful market to us.
Falcon, founder of NyghtFalcon Photography (www.nyghtfalcon.com), was educated at Fordham, Yale, and Emory Universities and holds a Ph.D. in Biblical Theology. In 1998, he was awarded a Computerworld-Smithsonian Medal for his accomplishments in technology and is a published poet and writer. He began his photography career in 2000 in Switzerland, driven by a fascination with light and shadow. His work has won several awards and has appeared in several U.S. magazines and galleries. The studio is part of DxO Labs’ Image Masters program.
“Concierge Night” Program Serves Untapped Market
Tourist Portrait Sessions Up in La Jolla Luxury Hotels
La Jolla, California, has long been a favorite vacation destination. And while we’ve marketed to new moms, local families, area schools, San Diego charities, and brides and grooms, we‘ve ignored those who take over our beaches and parking spots June through August and most weekends thereafter: tourists. What we have always taken for granted—our “cosmopolitan and resortlike” hometown—was a business opportunity just calling out to us.
How would we reach this exciting new market without spending millions on ads in distant states? We decided to reach out to the concierges stationed at San Diego’s best hotels, because they are the first point of contact for the city’s visitors.
As a member of the local nonprofit business association, I helped plan a “La Jolla Concierge Night.” Concierges from San Diego’s finest hotels were invited to enjoy an evening at several locales, including restaurants, bars, and retail stores, to experience a taste of our village. They dined, drank, and shopped as they venue-hopped on a rented double-decker bus.
Our studio developed a custom marketing piece designed exclusively for the concierges. With clever content and images related to experiencing our town, the piece invited each concierge to experience our studio with their own families. While, to date, not a single concierge has taken us up on the offer, four sessions were booked for hotel guests—by our new concierge friends—the following week.
We recently acquired an email contact list for a majority of the local luxury-hotel concierges. We had to do a little begging and offer a couple of complimentary sessions to those in the know to get this list, but based on the results of our concierge night, it’s going to be well worth the effort.
Our next step is to develop an HTML email campaign to reach those who didn’t make it to the concierge night and stay in contact with those who did.
Last year, in Studio Photography’s first “Special Report on Powerful Marketing Strategies to Help Grow Your Business,” we mentioned one of our most powerful marketing efforts: sending postcards to local schools, inviting their fund-raising committees to contact us for donations for their annual school auctions. With each completed auction donor form, we returned a gift certificate for a customized experience at our studio.
This year we increased the number of schools we approached, updated the poster with new art, and added an offer on the back of the flyer for each event attendee, bringing more than just the auction winner into the studio. Several organizations contacted us for donations for their own silent auctions, which were attended by those in the area’s affluent society circles. While we felt the donations had to be more substantial for the charity events, the awareness they generated for our studio within these circles was well worth our investment of the additional time and materials.
During this year’s auction season, we’ve donated more than 80 certificates. In general, auction winners invest between $1,200 and $2,000 on additional portraits. So if all 80 certificates are redeemed, we’ll do 80 sessions at our own cost, make up to $160,000 in sales—plus have at least 80 new clients and the respect and gratitude of several local schools and charities.
We also increase the awareness of our brand, garner more of the area’s event business, and become known as key players in contributing to our community. Pretty powerful stuff.
sStudio M/Michael Spengler Photography (www.studiomlajolla.com) is located in the heart of La Jolla, California. Michael Spengler and his creative team specialize in family, children, high school senior, and wedding photography, and offer corporate and commercial photography services.
Photo Coverage of Local Events Raises Visibility
Fund-raiser, Pro Bono Project Build Name Awareness & Goodwill
by Kirk R. Tuck
At our studio in Austin, we don’t think in terms of marketing campaigns. We think in terms of Total Immersion Marketing, an organic process that happens all the time.
Here’s what I mean. My 11-year-old son, Ben, is on a summer league swim team at a local club. The club is in the middle of the most affluent school district in central Texas, where membership is restricted to families who live in the school district.
For years, I’ve been going to every swim meet, photographing the kids in candid situations, groups, and during races. Then I build Web galleries on SmugMug, where the parents can order prints for a reasonable price. All proceeds from the print orders go to the school’s education foundation to support school programs.
Everyone involved looks forward to seeing the galleries. The local paper writes an article about our financial contribution. And at the end of the season, there’s a party for the swimmers and their families, the highlight of which is the slideshow at the end of the evening.
Many of my clients and potential clients live in the same school district. Their kids go to school—and swim—with my kid. It’s a win-win for everyone. I get priceless name awareness and the goodwill of my community. Parents get professional images from a known and trusted source. Potential clients get to see me in action with a wide range of subjects.
While I can’t tie a specific sales increase to this marketing project, I can say that nearly every time I pitch an executive in our town, he or she has “already heard your name all over the place!”