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NYC Fotoworks is a professional portfolio review for photographers and illustrators happening from June 13th to 17th, 2011 at Canoe Studios in Manhattan. The portfolio review is a targeted professional networking event.
Here’s how it works…
Artists must apply and be accepted to join the event. Because of this, the many editors, creative directors, art buyers, agents, and galleries that attend our event do so will the aim of finding new artists.
The reviewers are all currently working professionals, not just big names from a time past, but instead the industry professionals that are shaping the look and feel of the visual medium everyday.
We talked with Marc Asnin about this event back in 2009. You can view Marc’s post here. The spirit of the event is the same but the particulars are different this year. For more information on the event or to apply go to www.nycfotoworks.com.
Before Jason Aten gave himself completely to photography, he worked in sales and marketing for a “little company called FedEx.” It’s no surprise, then, that he has built his own workshop series teaching business principles to photographers, as well as a thriving wedding and portrait photography business. Social Media has been an important tool in keeping both businesses strong and growing. During our conversation Jason shared many important insights, including why you need to get to know your funnel and how to tell if you and your blog “need to talk.”
Miki Johnson: Tell me about your Starting Out Right business classes for photographers, which you launched recently with an independent website and blog. What has been your strategy for social media, starting basically from the ground up?
Jason Aten: It was completely predicated on putting up a blog with a bunch of free resources and figuring out how to drive traffic to it through communities that already existed, like forums, Facebook, and especially Twitter.
The first thing I knew was that no one would read the blog or care about it if there wasn’t valuable content there. Most people have a hard time putting up valuable content if no one’s reading it — but no one will read it if there’s not valuable content there.
Even the first person who comes to your blog is going to want to feel like it’s been there for a while. I probably posted 10 posts, one a day, before I told anyone the Starting Out Right blog existed. If they come and just see a post that says, welcome to my new blog, they’ll never come back. Because if they don’t get engaged the first time they come, they’re not going to bookmark it or subscribe to your feed.
Then I knew, doing the kind of workshop I was doing, it wasn’t like some famous person finally deciding to do a workshop; most of the people who needed this wouldn’t know who I was. So the blog also provided credibility.
From a business standpoint, where we really make money is when we do a workshop, or when someone purchases a book or eBook. But to get anyone to consider coming to a workshop or buying a resource, they had to feel like I know what I’m talking about and I’ve already shared a lot of valuable content.
I posted consistently for two months before ever saying we were doing a workshop. We had people reading on a regular basis, and then suddenly it was almost as if they asked, hey, do you have more? It was the perfect time to say, yes, I have more!
MJ: How does the online strategy differ for your wedding business?
JA: For Facebook and Twitter, I had to decide, what’s my objective? I decided I was going to use them to do two things: 1) drive people to articles on the blog to look at their friends’ wedding photos, and, 2) while they’re there, we want them to make some sort of decision, either going to the online gallery to buy a print or contacting us because they want us to shoot something for them.
On one side, Twitter and Facebook are a portal to drive people towards where we wanted them to engage. And then the other side is, both Twitter and Facebook allow you to continue the conversation with a large number of people on an almost no-risk basis. You use Twitter to drive people to come to the blog and read something, and then they have question that you answer on Twitter. It helps them get in the funnel, and then helps them stay, because it is the easiest way to engage with people.
MJ: Tell us more about “the marketing funnel” and how it applies specifically to social media.
JA: The top of our funnel is Twitter or Facebook. That’s probably where we engage with the largest number of people. It’s interesting that of 1,100 Twitter followers and 1,100 Facebook friends, there’s only about 250 of those that are the same. Which I like, and it’s why we think of them as two different audiences.
Then we give that group free stuff: the blog. You don’t really make any money off that level of people, except you have the opportunity to convert them to the next level of the funnel where you have the five- to ten-page white paper on business or marketing or some topic. Maybe those cost $10. For us those are easy because I can sell a billion of them and it’s no more work than selling one. That’s the number one transaction we have in terms of volume because it’s inexpensive and it’s easy for us to scale.
The next level from that would be the book. That was more work on our part, so it’s more expensive, and fewer people are going to buy it. After that you have a lot fewer people who will pay to come to a workshop, for example, but they’re paying a lot more money. Then at the very bottom of the funnel would be one-on-one consulting where we spend 2-3 days with a business. So you use the top of the funnel to get people in and then you get people to move down the funnel.
It’s the same with our photography business. Our blog and Facebook is the top of the funnel, where all the guests from the wedding come and look at those images. Then some of them will click on the gallery and purchase something. And then some of those people will actually contact us and book us to shoot something.
There may be fewer layers with weddings, but it’s the same idea. You want to attract as many people as you can to the top, because if you need 50 people to come out the bottom, you have to get 1,000 in the top. That’s just the way it works. Most of us think, I need 50 workshop attendees, so I need 50 people. Well, no. Part of knowing how the funnel works is understanding how many people you need at the top to get 50 people out the bottom.
MJ: Let’s talk about weddings. How do you use social media there?
JA: When we market to clients we focus mostly on Facebook since Twitter tends to be more industry people. The goal for Facebook is to get them to the blog, and to engage when they get there. We really wanted the blog to be a place they could share their friend’s story, and then make a decision about going deeper, either going to the gallery and looking at all the images, or contacting us to get more information for their own photography.
We also wanted the blog to be a place where people felt like they could get to know me, personally. About half of my weddings, I don’t meet the client until I do their engagement session or I show up at their wedding, so there had to be a way for people to reduce that barrier. On Facebook, I post pictures of my kids more than pictures from clients, mostly because, as a guy, having two cute little girls let’s people know I’m harmless and helps me relate to brides. And I want to make it as easy for them to feel comfortable with me as possible.
MJ: How about using Facebook specifically?
JA: We post a gallery, normally 10-15 images on the blog and 20-30 on Facebook. On Facebook we post images we would never post on our blog. We want to include a bridesmaid shot because I can tag every bridesmaid, or one with all the guys smoking cigars. Maybe it’s not something I would ever put in my portfolio, but it’s an opportunity to tag people.
So we tag the bride and groom, who we’re hopefully friends with, and send them an email that says, you’ll notice we’ve tagged you in some images. Please feel free to tag anyone else you think would like to see them. We kind of put the ball in their court and let them run with it.
I used to wonder how other wedding photographers got so many comments on their blogs. I don’t know why I cared except if people weren’t leaving comments, it’s hard to know they were there. Some friends of mine said, we offer the client something for free if they get a certain number of comments.
We might offer the client a free print, which is pretty low-cost for us, and it makes the client the evangelist. Suddenly our clients are posting on Facebook saying, please go to this link and tell us how much you love the photos. Then some of those friends who might never have made it past Facebook, they see not only their friend’s wedding, and comment, but then most of those people go and look at other events and offerings. It brings them deeper into the funnel.
MJ: You also talked about being part of a private photographers Facebook group and using forums to drive traffic to your blog. Do you feel like you get a payback when you put effort into those kinds of groups?
JA: My philosophy in a forum or group, is I want to earn credibility by adding value with no strings attached. Then when you have something that has strings attached, people are much more receptive.
A forum I spend a lot of time in is the Pictage Forum; I call it the “friendly forum.” I have a lot of genuine friends I’ve met there, and as a result I work really hard to try to help people there. I know if I post something about a workshop there, people will go, we like this person, we trust this person, he’s shown he’s an expert on this, and they respond accordingly. Same thing is true with the group on Facebook. If you spend some time helping people or answering questions, it’s really an easy way to establish credibility.
MJ: Can we talk a little about your book and eBook and how you’re promoting it on social media?
JA: The book was originally written as a workbook that goes along with our workshop. I spent some time filling in the blanks because, obviously, if you come to the workshop you get a lot of information as dialogue. The idea was always that it would be available as a physical product. Then, it was probably Seth Godin who inspired me, I thought, why not also make it available electronically? That requires no extra work for me.
I try to position the book as, you can have all of it for free, but have to do all the work on your own. Or you can pay for the book. When I speak publicly, at the end of my talk I say, all this information is on the blog for free. If you want it more organized, with a bunch of resources and worksheets, here’s the book. It’s reasonably priced and provides all the content from a two-day workshop. Or you can come to the workshop if you want to talk about it. I haven’t pushed it a lot on social media, but we did run a $39 special eBook deal on Twitter and it was huge. Once we are done with workshop season, it will be easier for me to spend more time promoting the book.
You can spam people on Twitter and Facebook just like with email, and I definitely don’t want to do that. If I post something about a workshop, I can almost guarantee it would be a week before I would post about our book. When we send out an email to our database of 2,500 photographers, every time I send something out, I am heartbroken when someone unsubscribes. Not because I didn’t sell something to them, but because it wasn’t relevant to them, so I no longer get to send them anything. It’s the same thing when I send something on Facebook or Twitter it’s the same. If this is irrelevant, they might stop following, and I’ll never know about it, but I’ve now lost the opportunity to have any conversation with them.
MJ: What do you do to assess and measure the success of your social media strategy?
JA: I’m an economics guy, so I’m a huge measuring guy, that matters to me a ton. If I’m looking at my website, I want to know how someone got here, what they did when they got here, where they live, etc.
For instance, I posted on our blog the other day and views spikes. Let’s say 45% came from Facebook and 55% came from Twitter. I’m trying to figure out why. Turns out Facebook actually imported the whole post into a note, so readers didn’t have a reason to click over to the blog. Which makes me think, I don’t want my blog posts to import to Facebook, because I can’t track it. Tracking helps me understand my different audiences. For example, when we announced an upcoming workshop in Michigan, I posted it on Facebook, because I knew I was connected to more people in Michigan there than on Twitter.
MJ: Could you give me some details on the difference you perceive between your Facebook and Twitter audiences?
JA: For me, Facebook is mostly people I know in the real world and clients or people who might be looking for photography. The interesting thing is, we do have a business Facebook page, but I don’t spend any effort on it, because, if my goal is to show people images and let them get to know me, what better place to do that than my personal Facebook page?
I know a lot of people struggle with, well, I wouldn’t want potential clients to know this about me; it’s like, then maybe that shouldn’t be true about you. So the Facebook appeal is it’s authentic and transparent. If you’re constantly worried about filtering that, it loses the authenticity.
Twitter was more where I was interacting with other industry people, like wedding planners, or other photographers I didn’t necessarily know and I wanted to engage about our business offerings. I’ve noticed people will become a Twitter follower first, and then later will become a friend on Facebook after we’ve gotten to know them.
Twitter helped me expand my sphere of influence. For instance, I went to Imaging USA in San Antonio, and a photographer I really respected but didn’t know was going to be there. Twitter made it really easy to say, great, I’ll be there too, let’s get coffee. But I never would have called that person.
When I moved back to Michigan in 2007, I started following planners on Twitter. It really easy to say, hey, great to see that wedding you did that was featured in some magazine. I’d love to buy you lunch and learn more about your business.
People start to trust you when there is consistency and time. Twitter is a way to have conversations over time. It’s much less threatening than picking up the phone. If I just want to send someone a casual note, I’ll send them a Twitter message; if it’s a little more important, I’ll send them an email. You have to know someone to call them.
MJ: You mentioned that you had too many blogs at one point, and ended up breaking your own rule of always posting regularly. Can you share any lessons you learned from that?
JA: The reason we ended up with four or five blogs was that we were intentionally segmenting our audience. So our signature wedding, the ones I shoot, the only thing I wanted on that blog would be the wedding I shoot and then personal stuff about me and my family. I didn’t want what my associates’ shots there and I didn’t want high school seniors, for example.
So we moved all our associates stuff and lifestyle sessions to a completely different website, brand, blog, everything. But then we shot 110 seniors! I couldn’t blog all of them, are you kidding me? And with high-school students, if you blog more than three photos, you won’t make any sales. We just didn’t have a good strategy.
Then for the Starting Out Right, we were very intentional about putting it somewhere else, because I did not want my wedding clients to feel like I was selling their secrets or anything like that. It’s good for them to know their photographer is considered an expert on something, but I did not want them worried I’d talk about them in workshops.
And I wanted people who came to the business side to understand, this is a place where you learn about running the business of photography. I didn’t want those posts mixed with one on album design. I wanted to be judged on business not the photos there.
If the whole point of a blog is to engage people, it’s kind of like if you have a marriage but you never come home. I was dating too many blogs, and I didn’t have a good relationship with them any more. Now we’re moving toward all our blogs being managed within the same interface and space to make everything a lot easier. We want to maintain the individuality of the brands, but also make it sustainable.
When I met up with David, I assumed we’d be talking about the “business” of social media. He is, after all, a very successful photographer, author, and eBook publisher because of his robust online community: the Pixelated Image blog and nearly 13,000 Twitter followers.
“Everything I’ve gotten professionally has come through my social media involvement — without exaggeration or exception, literally everything,” he says. But when I ask him about “metrics” and “ROI” he looks at me with a bit of exasperation.
“The most important thing I’ve learned about business,” he explains, “is that every opportunity is the result of a conversation.” The heart of social media engagement is that it allows you to have more conversations with people farther away — that’s it. Trying to sell something through social media, David says, “misses the point.”
“The last thing I want to do is be known as a salesman, because that sabotages the community and then people put up their walls and keep you at an arm’s distance,” he explains. Trying to “monetize” social media, using it to make the sale, means you decrease your conversations, and your opportunities.
So what’s the right way to engage with social media? Here are the five things you really need to know. After David’s top tips, you’ll find an edited version of our conversation, including insights into eBook publishing and why social media doesn’t have to be a time-suck.
1. Don’t forget, the online world is still the real world.
You would never walk into a room and, without introducing yourself, assume that everyone wants to hear about your latest greatest thing would you? Most of us will spend time actually listening to people, finding out who they are, and gaining their trust before we try to sell them our AmWay products. Just because it’s technology, that doesn’t give you carte blanche to abuse people with your sales pitches.
2. Use your strengths
We all have ways that we prefer to communicate. Give blogging or Facebook or Twitter a try, but if you don’t like it, don’t force yourself. Because that’s going to be obvious. Some people are not naturally writers; you’ve got to use your strengths. If writing is really truly not your thing, do a video blog or a podcast. Or maybe you don’t even need a blog. You can use Twitter as an ongoing microblog. It’s still a place that people will come to hear little bits and pieces and connect with you.
3. Be yourself
You’ve got to find your own voice. If that is crass and rude and foul-mouthed, then be that person. Because you want your audience to be authentic, one that comes to you because there’s a genuine connection. I don’t really believe in this distinction between work and play. What’s amazing about that is, if you’re not seeing the division between work and play, you’re also not dividing people into “friends” or “clients.” They’re just people.
4. Be a rebel
It’s so funny, because everyone gets into photography and they want to be free spirits and they would never consider shooting the same photograph as someone else — and then when it comes to the business side of things, everyone is looking for a template. Everyone wants to follow rules. I think building your photography business should be as much an act of creativity as your photography. And by implication, your communication about the stuff you do should be creative. It should be quirky. It should be unique to yourself.
5. Be vulnerable
In comedy, you can either screw up on stage and pretend it never happened — and totally lose your audience — or you can screw up on stage and call the moment. When a joke falls flat, the funniest thing you can do is just recognize that the joke fell flat. Because we all feel like we’ve been there. The same is true in social media: You screw up? You fess up, you make a joke about it, you apologize, you move on. And I think that draws people in. The more human we make ourselves, the deeper the connections we make. And even if none of this ever makes a penny for anyone, I think that’s the ultimate reward.
Miki: So what was life like before you got your first book deal three years ago?
David: I spent a lot of time doing mailing lists and creating post cards and following up with clients and working on improving my portfolio. All of those keystone pieces of marketing that everyone, including myself, advocates you do. Then all of a sudden I found my activities switched, and I was spending more of my time just engaging.
I’d been blogging for several years, since 2005 but I got into Twitter kicking and screaming. A friend convinced me to get into it finally and the learning curve was just easy. And there’s something about Twitter that’s less unilateral than a blog, more immediate. Little things fly back and forth, and it keeps people engaged in small bursts, which is more like real life. You know, you make a quick phone call to your buddy, you go have coffee, it’s much more episodic than it is like one massive post every week.
The most important thing I’ve learned, someone said to me a long time ago, David, every opportunity comes as a result of a conversation. Every good thing I’ve gotten in terms of my career has come as a result of my engagement in social media. I think that’s because social media is about having more conversations. More conversations, more opportunities. You don’t pursue it because of the opportunities, but they’re a happy byproduct.
My books also came in some sense from having a platform. When you go to a publisher and you say I have a great book idea, the first thing they say is not what’s your great book idea? The first thing they say is what’s your platform, who’s your audience?
I started to realize that the strength of my audience — because it’s large but it’s not gigantic — is that I’m kind of in it for the long haul. I’m not interested in just selling someone a $5 eBook when I could spend time connecting with them and making friends. And I don’t really believe in this distinction between work and play. What’s amazing about that is, if you’re not seeing the division between work and play, you’re also not seeing the division between people in terms of friends or clients.
I know one guy who was initially sort of a fan/follower, he came on a workshop, then he became a friend. Since then I hired his company to do a $10,000 website project. People become friends and they become part of your community and hopefully there’s an honest interchange. It becomes this small-town mentality people used to have. They knew the guy down the street and they’d hire him because they knew him.
Miki: Are there common mistakes people make when they’re first getting into social media?
David: I think the biggest mistake is treating social media like it’s not the real world. Just because it’s technology, don’t treat it like you have this carte blanche to abuse people with your sales pitches. You would never walk into a room and, without introducing yourself, assume that everyone wants to buy your latest greatest thing. Most of us will walk into a room and spend time actually listening to people, finding out who they are, and gaining their trust.
Everyone is talking about monetization, and I’m sure there are industries where that matters, but I think talking about monetization misses the point. If it’s social media, let it just be social. I mean, I advertise our eBooks, but it might be one in twenty tweets, MAYBE that. When a new eBook comes out I say, hey the new eBook is out, here’s the discount code. I might tweet that a second time. But other than that, it’s like, ok, it’s out there, now let’s go back to having a conversation.
When you start looking at people as a potential cash outlet, a potential client, you start kind of writing people off. Because you’re assuming you know how it’s going to pay off for you. The “pay off” might just be relational, it might just be a good friendship. Or you may assume they have nothing to offer you and miss out on an opportunity.
People are pretty savvy. When they feel like they’re being sold to, they tune out pretty quickly. And the last thing I want to do is be known as a salesman. Because I think that sabotages community. Then people put up their walls and they keep you at an arm’s distance.
I want to be the kind of person where people want to have a cup of coffee with me. Instead of being the guy everyone tries to avoid because he’s just going to pitch me something. “Thanks for meeting me for coffee, you want to buy an eBook? You want to go on a workshop?”
Pursuing community for the sake of community has this fantastic pragmatic spin-off. But the moment you try to pursue the money, it kind of short-circuits itself. It has this natural self-destruct built in that forces you to be real and authentic.
Miki: What did you first tweet about and has it changed?
David: I think I was a little more guarded than I am now. Then I was trying to come up with things to tweet about and trying to be clever. Now I’ve become more off-handed and quite willing to be a little more me. I’ve become more sarcastic, which I am by nature. But certainly the way I use Twitter has changed in terms of me feeling like I can be a little more casual with it. Not planning so much. When something comes up you just kind of throw it out there.
Again, conversation is spontaneous. It’s not, ok, I’m going to meet with Miki and I’m going to talk about these three things. That’s a meeting, it’s not conversation. Whereas if you have a friendship it’s like, oh, I wanted to tell you this! That’s the kind of stuff I’m more and more tweeting…and the stuff I like to read. When I’m reading people’s stuff, I like the stuff that’s a little spontaneous, a little goofy. It’s a small little window into someone’s life. I think that’s the kind of stuff that builds connections. It makes you feel a little closer to people and again, and pragmatically speaking, the closer we are, the tighter community is, the more we want to support each other.
Miki: Do you feel like your blog has gone through that same transition of you opening up more and being more yourself?
David: When I started blogging, I remember writing something like, “I don’t know if anyone’s ever going to read this, but it will be a nice place to document my journey as I come back to photography.” So right from the beginning, the goal was not to create some thing with an audience, the goal was just expression.
Communication, you need an audience for. Expression, you can be in an empty room. And I think that was kind of the point for me. Just to journal it, to get it out there. So it’s always been pretty open and I’ve never kept anything hidden except really personal stuff.
Being authentic creates connections. And it’s all relationships, it’s just in a different kind of world. It happens through the keyboard and on iPads and laptops, but it’s still relationships. It’s reciprocity, it’s trust, it’s openness, it’s vulnerability.
There was this great TED Talk by Brené Brown on the power of vulnerability. It’s phenomenal. It’s nothing none of us knew, but she puts it into such a concrete sociological terms: vulnerability is a powerful thing. It’s just scary as hell sometimes.
I was in comedy for 12 years, and in comedy, you can either screw up on stage and pretend it never happened — and totally lose your audience — or you can screw up on stage and call the moment. When a joke falls flat, the funniest thing you can do is just recognize that the joke fell flat. Because we all feel like we’ve been there. The same is true in social media: You screw up? You fess up, you make a joke about it, you apologize, you move on. And I think that draws people in.
The more human we make ourselves, the deeper those connections can be. And I think, even if none of this ever makes a penny for anyone, that’s the ultimate reward. We have an opportunity to put our work in front of more people than ever would have seen Shakespeare’s plays in his lifetime. You share the work that you create, which is for most of us why we create it, and you build community and connections. What else is there?
Miki: The big thing I hear is, people are worried it will take a lot of time to be as engaged as they need to be. Do you think that’s true?
David: I don’t think it is. I think you can be very engaged, very high-touch, very warm, very human, without being the guy that sits across the dinner table and is always checking his email and twittering while you are trying to have a conversation.
If you’re comfortable with the technology, when you have a moment, you can just pop open Twitter on your iPhone and create a little tweet. I mean, it’s only 140 characters. It’s only when you think, “Oh my gosh, I have to blog today and I have to tweet today,” when you make it a big to-do items, that it becomes a little intimidating.
If you ask me, is it time-consuming to maintain a friendship with your best friend? No, it’s not time-consuming, because we want to fit it in. Now blogging, I do make sure to get it in a couple times a week if I can. But for me twittering, it’s quick. I sort of launch it to see what conversations are going on, I check in, type out a quick little reaction or retweet something. It’s more conversational. I don’t think most of us would say, oh, I don’t have time for conversations.
You’ve got to find your strengths. If you don’t want to blog and all you want to do is Twitter, then you look at Twitter as an ongoing microblog. It’s still a place that people will come to to hear little bits and pieces and connect with you. If writing’s not your thing, do a video blog or a podcast.
I have a friend Matt Brandon, who does a similar style of photography. I don’t think he’d mind me saying, he’s not a naturally talented writer. What he is good at is audio. So rather than force a square peg into a round hole, he’s just mostly doing video blogging. He also does these Depth of Field podcasts that are unbelievable. Or look at Gary Vaynerchuk, who sort of admits in his book Crush It that he can’t write, but his video podcasts are great.
Not everyone needs a blog or Twitter. It’s a powerful tool, so give it a try. But if you don’t like it, don’t force yourself. Because it’s going to come out. It’s like with me and Facebook. I hate Facebook, so as a result, I don’t post as often to it, I don’t respond as quickly. Anyone that’s watching would pick that up pretty quick. Twitter, on the other hand, I love. I just hate saying it. I hate saying I’m going to tweet you. But it’s better than saying I’m going to poke you.
Miki: Tell me about your eBooks and the Light & Vision online bookstore. Are eBooks profitable?
David: The eBooks are always $5 or less on my site, and last year we sold somewhere around 80,000 of them. Now, I have other authors, designers, a manager, so that’s not $400,000 in my pocket, but the numbers are certainly great.
The first book: I was in Thailand with my buddy Henry, who sells software, and he said, “David you’ve got to get some kind of eBook or something.” I said, I’ve seen eBooks; they’re white papers with lots of highlighting and underlining and they’re all written in courier and just shoot me now.
But he said, David, we’re sitting on this pier in Thailand eating Pad Thai, and I’m making money right now. When I go to sleep tonight, I’ll wake up in the morning and I will have made money. Because people are buying my code. But you have to BE somewhere to make money. If you want to make money on an assignment in Kenya, you have to go to Kenya. You always have to be there, so you’re limited.
I came home and I started thinking, if I could do eBooks my way … I also had intended to learn InDesign, so I gave myself an eBook as a project, because I don’t learn very well unless I have a deliverable. It took me about three days start-to-finish, and when it was done I thought, huh, I’ve got an eBook.
I found a way to sell it online, and I posted it on my blog, and damned if people didn’t start buying it. And then I thought, this is too good not to see if it can’t be done a second time. The first one was called Ten, the second one was called Ten More. I don’t think I’ve since become much more creative with my titles. But people kept buying it.
Soon I realized this is the reason people buy photography magazines, but without all the ads. It was great, big, glossy photographs that could be downloaded and shared. We don’t use any digital rights management, so you can print it, you can email it to someone, you can put it on five devices. And I found I really like putting them together. Then once a couple of them started doing well, I invited some others. My buddy Dave Delnea wrote one called Below The Horizon that did really well. And the whole thing has kind of steamrolled.
Growing up in Ohio my basketball coach used to drill us non-stop on the basics. So much so that we often wondered when we would actually get to play ball. But once the season started we discovered we were in better condition and better prepared for the season than our competition. We ended up going to State and I’ve never forgotten the importance of having the discipline to work on the basics every week. It is what makes winners.
I suggest that taking time each week to work on your contact database is one of the most basic things that you can do to assure that your business continues to grow. Some of you may be asking, “so what is a contact database?” In the simplest of terms it is a list of all your past clients and all of your prospects. At a minimum it should contain their name, company, title, address, phone and email.
Do you know that 40% of creatives at advertising agencies change jobs each year? 40%! So that great Art Director that you worked with last month may not be there next month. Where did they go? Who took their place?
The average family moves every five years, every three years for those under 30. So for those wedding photographers out there who are interested in developing a long term relationship – the so-called “photographer for life”, you have your work cut out for you as well.
Take the time each week, let’s say Friday mornings from 9:00 am until Noon, to do research and maintenance on your contact list. For prospecting I suggest you do the following:
For example, let’s say that my client was Rick Jackson, the Chief Marketing Officer at VMWare. A quick search on Rick Jackson VMWare and I find in his LinkedIn profile that he was in major marketing roles at Borland and BEA. He has recommended two Borland Marketing people in LinkedIn. I’ll send Rick an email to say hello, mentioning that I saw he used to be at Borland and had recommended a few marketing people there, and I was wondering if he might make a few introductions for me. I also notice that VMWare is owned by EMC, so I will ask Rick if there are other people at some of the other brands within EMC that he could also introduce me to.
Within minutes I have identified prospects that I think I can get introductions to from someone that knows me, likes me and can vouch for my work style and professionalism. Repeat this every Friday for a few hours and I guarantee that your business will thrive.
What is it that you want with your business? Write it down on a pice of paper and put it above your computer. Why? Because success requires discipline and discipline often times is simply remembering what you want.
An interview with Mary Virginia Swanson, creative consultant on making and marketing art. Written for our friends at APA National.
MB: First of all, thank you for taking the time to add your insight and expertise on this subject for the rest of us to benefit from. As we’ve discussed in the past, I started out as a fine art photographer in the late eighties, well before the internet gave artists access to a global marketplace. I’ve seen first hand how commercial photographers have gone from shipping physical portfolios from agency to agency as their primary form of promotion to circulating links to a wide distribution list with a well designed email campaign. How have you seen the world of promotion and commerce change for the fine art photographer over the last 10-15 years?
MVS: Today, introducing your work to new audiences or keeping in touch with those whom you’ve met should be consistent in brand identity and intention whether it is in print or via email. Depending on the market segment you are targeting, using social media such as Facebook and Twitter may be appropriate. Regardless, your website should be the anchor of your marketing, featuring a tight edit of images, and a clear message, with simple navigation.
Remember when you were in high school, and your parents and teachers constantly reminded you to plan ahead, avoid procrastination, and get your work done early? As adult professionals, too many of us forget these lessons in early autumn when the holiday season looms. We feel pulled in so many directions year after year, we too often forget that marketing for the holidays actually begins months in advance.
This year, your customers will be more bargain-hungry than ever. According to an eMarketer 2010 report titled Online Holiday Shopping Preview: What Retailers Need to Know, nearly half of American consumers will be comparison shopping and only purchasing gifts that are on sale. And these days, consumers are especially motivated to make online purchases that come with free shipping or special holiday discounts.
But, that doesn’t mean a decrease in sales. In fact, according to a September 2010 article, Deloitte Development has projected a two percent (2%) increase in total domestic retail sales in 2010 compared to last year’s holiday season. In fact, for online sales, an even bigger increase is expected for 2010.
So, take advantage of the buying frenzy by staying ahead of the game with some tips from our experts here at EngineWorks:
1. Push promotions & gift ideas on all your social media channels
Your customers are looking for special offers everywhere during the holiday season, so make sure they find them on your social media profiles. Tempt them with all kinds of creative gift ideas, and they’ll see you as a helpful friend who’s on their side. This is also a good time to overdo it with extra tweets and posts about all your holiday-themed goodies, seasonal promotions, and more.
2. Give your PPC ads a “holiday” theme
Your year-over-year best-sellers should be promoted as gifts right now. Landing pages for your Paid Search ads should feature attractive, festive holiday themes. Choose from your best-performing keywords, and add holiday terms such as “Christmas” and “Hannukkah.”
3. Optimize your holiday content
If your website doesn’t already display fresh holiday content, be sure to create some and optimize it with holiday keywords. Find out which keywords are getting the most buzz and use them to your advantage. Terms like “gift ideas” and “holiday gifts” are always hot at this time of the year.
4. Offer – and advertise – free shipping
You can add your logo to the list of companies and websites that offer free shipping through December 17th, on www.Freeshipping.org and join the likes of Macy’s, Toys ‘R’ Us, Amazon, and many other top retailers. The site’s holiday traffic will undoubtedly have a positive impact on your conversions.
5. Optimize your website for mobile
Is your site ready for mobile customers? Today, more and more people are using mobile to find and buy what they want. Such purchases are increasingly high-end, and more people will buy items in stores that they’ve previously researched online.
So, don’t put off until tomorrow the holiday optimizations you can do today!
When we are defining our company’s branding identity, we often create a design based on our preferences. We like red and such our identity becomes a red logo. Or, the trend color is turquoise and the website becomes turquoise. The problem with creating branding identity based on these preferences is that it is built on the surface of a business. This type of identity doesn’t represent what runs deep in our business.
Want to build a strong brand that best represents your business? Sit down and define the following:
From here, work to define the identity that will draw people to your company. Powerful identity will work to link the customer’s eye with your business inside and out.
Branding is so much more than your logo, website, and stationery. It is in the way you answer the phone, the way you dress for a meeting, the way you present your porfolio. Branding that is carried through all aspects of your business will create a consistent experience for your customer. It is this consistent experience that makes your brand strong. These factors are what makes a brand become instantly recognizable and highly valuable.
Wanna learn more? Visit Sage Wedding Pros’ blog for more on mission statements, values, and branding.
It’s hard to pass up on buying new gear, new equipment. There is always something cool and cutting edge out there. And, we feel compelled to keep up with our competition. We hope this will improve our work, give us something unique to offer the client. So, we purchase and run with it…. Only for a few months… Until the next big thing.
The client could care less. Sure – they want quality and they want delivery. But ultimately, there is only ONE thing the client cares about: YOU!
The client wants to know that you are listening and want to meet his or her needs.
The client wants a RELATIONSHIP.
We all want this. We all want to know that whomever we hire for whatever we need is listening to what we say. We take our car to the mechanic. Do we care what tool he is using to fix the thinga-majigger? Nope. All we care about is that he is listening to our needs. We care that he is trustworthy and dependable and is quoting us a fair price for the work done. We want to know that he is looking out for our best interest. I had a mechanic like this when I lived in LA. I still dream of driving my broken down car 3000 miles cross-country just to have John do the repairs. Why? Because I know he listened to me. And, I trusted him. And, I liked the guy. I wanted (and still want) to do business with John.
When you stop to think about this, the client’s needs are quite simple. The client wants a relationship with YOU. Sure, your work will impress him. You bet that she’ll want to know you can deliver. But ultimately this all boils down to WHO YOU ARE. Are you listening to him? Are you helping them? Are you kind? Are you trustworthy? Are you fun?
We are in the business of selling relationship, nothing more.
Wanna learn more? Visit Sage Wedding Pros’ blog for more on sales to the wedding and event industries.
I don’t care if you’ve been in business for 2 months or 20 years; this is something that is always of concern to small business owners. And, for those people who feel comfortable in their pricing, it is a short-lived comfort. Pricing must always be examined and re-examined.
Are you priced appropriately?
Take a look at the following factors and consider how they impact your pricing:
But, in the photography world there is one major component of pricing that is often forgotten: YOU. What about your TIME, your LABOR?
You don’t become known as the “elephant photographer,” receive a “Best of ASMP” award in 2008, and get your series featured on Nikon’s “Learn and Explore” page without being a great photographer. But an outstanding branding and marketing campaign doesn’t harm either. So, how did San Francisco-based fine art photographer Carol Stevenson do it?
She did it with some help from a great consultant, a liveBooks website and tools provided by other vendors, like Moo. You can read our recent case study, in which Carol shares some of her online and offline branding secrets, or hear more about her work with Moo by listening to a snippet from our podcast with Carol below. To listen to the full podcast, click here.
A SPECIAL OFFER FOR YOU: As a “thank you” to Carol for all her help with this case study and podcast, we’d like to extend a special offer to you, which will benefit the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation, the organization with which Carol works. By signing up for a new liveBooks website for $39 a month, and using promo code lbcarol5, you will save 5 percent on the initial cost of your site. In turn, we will donate 10 percent of the proceeds of that purchase to the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation.
If you’d like to hear the full podcast, click here.