Episode #4 of the Sprouting Photographer Podcast features a discussion with Rob and I, talking all about local offline marketing techniques for photographers to get more recognition and reach in their market.
- Marketing doesn’t mean only social media.
- Comparing ourselves with other businesses or start-ups.
- Why photographers try and not spend money in traditional advertising, and why that’s a mistake.
- Why photographers have it “easy” with advertising.
- When you take the internet terms out of today’s marketing avenues, you’re left with the “foundations” of marketing.
- Why you may want to consider hiring someone to help you with graphic design, web design, writing, etc.
- Speaking at local churches, libraries, Mom groups or other events.
- Consider seeking out high schools, Rotary Clubs, Chamber of Commerce events to speak and deliver value.
- Why not everyone should seek out speaking opportunities.
- How to build up your confidence as a public speaker.
- How to build trust and rapport at networking events.
- How to make networking work for you.
- Use your skills and talents as a photographer to get yourself “seen” in the community and at events.
- The importance of “giving value first” at networking events.
- How you can approach the media to get press and local recognition.
- Why the newspaper may be a great way to get your name out to your local market.
- Repetition and consistency is key for traditional advertising.
- What Facebook and traditional advertising have in common.
- How Rob partnered with a local jeweller to reach a new target market.
- Advice on how to build relationships with local business owners for co-marketing.
- Using display advertising to market your business.
- How Rob partnered with a local children’s boutique clothing store to build relationships with new potential clients.
- Why we need to consider strategic “for credit” shoots as an advertising stream – what would that placement cost you otherwise?
- Measuring your advertising and marketing results – continually re-evaluate.
- Why you should consider physical postcard drops.
- The value that a well-printed physical postcard portrays.
- How to successfully run a postcard drop campaign.
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- Bryan Caporicci’s portfolio and website.
- Robert Nowell’s portfolio and website.
- Sprouting Photographer in iTunes.
- You can leave a review for us in iTunes here.
- Seshu’s educational website for photographers, Tiffinbox.org.
- My blog post over at Tiffinbox.org about local marketing techniques for photographers.
- My blog post here on SproutingPhotographer.com talking about my article on Tiffinbox.org.
- Tim Sander’s book “Love is the Killer App” on Amazon.
- Direct Mail Campaign with Canada Post (for those Canadian listeners).
Consider an offline component to your market plan. Be sure to include speaking, networking, press, co-marketing and direct mail campaigns.
Focus on one specific tactic or idea per week and dedicate yourself to doing this week after week.
The best testament to confirm that your marketing is working is when people say “I see you everywhere”
Bryan Caporicci: Today, when I say the idea of marketing, a lot of photographers assume that we’re going to go into the topic of social media, Google Adwords, blogs, or websites – those kinds of things. That’s sort of become the norm and standard for marketing your photography business today. Would you agree?
Robert Nowell: I would, and I think one of the dangers that perhaps a lot of photographers have fallen into is throwing the baby out with the bath water. People don’t like to use the word advertising anymore because that’s kind of old school. That’s the way things used to be done. But the reality is, a lot of advertising is very much essential for a business to be successful.
Bryan: Why do you think that is? Photographers, we’re almost in a breed of our own – we’re proud of the fact that we’ve built our business to where it is by no advertising. Why do you think that is?
Rob: Well, first of all, if you’re able to do that, kudos. Great. That’s not a bad thing. But I don’t think that’s the norm. I don’t think that’s typical for many people. I think one of the reasons that so many photographers embrace social media as their sole means of marketing their business is that it is mostly free. Again, as we’ve mentioned before, a lot of people that get into photography as a business get into it through the love of photography, with virtually no business background. No marketing background.
They don’t really know where to start other than, oh, let’s see what Facebook can do for me; let’s see what Twitter can do for me. And there’s certainly a lot of things online giving advice on those particular areas. But the reality is, a lot of people that start businesses simply don’t have the kind of start up capital necessary to start a business properly. They’re really doing everything on a shoestring. Any business book will talk to you about the idea of having some type of a budget for marketing and advertising. If so much of your social media advertising is free, that’s great. But that’s not where it ends.
Bryan: Right. It’s interesting because I’ve heard you talk about this when you talk about sales and marketing and branding. In a way, photographers are in our own market – our own mindset – where we feel that we can start with just organic marketing. It’s true to an extent but what other businesses do you know that could start up – a dentist, a hair salon, or a coffee shop. Most businesses that start up have some kind of marketing budget and will put efforts into marketing and advertising. But a lot of the time, that’s not the case for photographers.
Rob: And why is that?
Bryan: Because social media is so great. And we’re not saying that you can’t do great things with SEO, Google Adwords, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. But, like you said earlier, let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water.
Rob: And one of the things that makes a huge difference for photographers is that our business is visual. Prior to the internet, how did you get so many people to look at your photography? It was very difficult. We would pay a thousand dollars for a Yellow Page ad that had one photo in it. You had one photo to represent your business for an entire year in the Yellow Pages. As soon as the internet came along, where we can put our entire portfolio online and everybody can see that, the hard part now is just pointing people to that portfolio. But when you mention people like a dentist, a coffee shop, and so forth, they can’t compete – in terms of visuals – the way we do.
People love to look at photographs. They love to look at images. That was a fantastic advantage for photographers when that first happened. That’s kind of a new thing – well, it’s not new anymore, obviously. The thing is, I’m convinced that if photographers who are doing reasonably well with their social media marketing were to also employ some of the other tried and true methods such as brochures, pamphlets, outdoor advertising, even radio advertising – heaven forbid, you’d actually have to spend money for that – imagine how your business would be perceived by the general public. If you were standing alongside all the other kinds of businesses, that adds so much to your credibility. When people hear your photography studio name on the radio or if they see your photography studio images on a bus going past them, that adds not only an awareness factor but it adds a huge amount to your credibility as a business.
Bryan: Right. It’s funny because I think a lot of photographers would say, well, that stuff doesn’t work or that cheapens the brand. I would argue that it wouldn’t be around as long as it has been if it didn’t work.
Rob: Exactly. All these forms of advertising wouldn’t be doing as well as they’re doing if it didn’t work. You’ve probably seen the bus stop advertisement that says “made you look, you should be advertising here” – it’s kind of true. The fact that you read it means that’s a form of advertising that works for many businesses. Now, would it be effective for photographers? It’s hard to say. But when I see how many insurance agencies and hair salons and various other businesses use these traditional methods of advertising, it seems to be pretty effective for them. The thing is, you talk to some of these people, they’re spending hundreds if not thousands of dollars a month on their traditional advertising methods. And yet every photographer I seem to talk to, I say, how much of a budget do you have for advertising per month? It’s like, “what, I don’t have an advertising budget per month”.
Bryan: Right. And it’s something that you can definitely work up to. Not to say you have to start at that. You want to dip your toe in and try a bit.
Rob: Absolutely. That’s such an important point that you bring up because you can kill your business very quickly if you overspend and then can’t maintain that.
Bryan: Absolutely. Right. Let’s get into this then. I recently wrote a blog post over at Tiffinbox. If you haven’t heard of Tiffinbox, I definitely recommend you guys checking it out. Seshu runs an amazing educational resource over there. It’s tiffinbox.org. And in the article, I talk a little bit about what we’re going to get into today. I say a lot of the hot marketing terms and terminologies and buzz words today are things like social media, social networking, engagement on Facebook, retweets, content marketing on our blogs – content marketing is really big. But when you take out what the internet has done to these terms – we’ve added the term social, blog, Instagram, and Twitter – when you take out the social media terminology there and the online components, we’re left with media, networking, engagement, content marketing, relationship building. We’re left with the basics of marketing, and that’s exactly what you’re talking about. Radio, display ads – whatever it is, it’s all these basics and foundations of marketing that we’ve just adapted for the internet.
Rob: Yeah, absolutely. The thing is, traditional advertising has come through it’s own evolution. Most companies now are not wanting to pad the wallets of big executives at advertising agencies because so much has been made available to the common man. Remember years ago, if you wanted to get just a newsletter made for your organization or church, you had to go to a typesetter who would actually take physical little pieces of metal and line them all up to be able to put the words and sentences together. Well, when desktop publishing came along – bam. There’s no more typesetters. That just changed the whole face of that ability to do that kind of work for yourself.
Now, here’s the kicker. A lot of people – when desktop publishing first came along – thought, hey, I can do that; I’m now a designer, a graphic artist, a this and a that. And with their little desktop computers, started doing all their own brochures and newsletters and everything else. The problem with that was, they had no graphic design background. They had no design background whatsoever, so they’re putting out a lot of bad design. So we still need to employ some of the traditional avenues of getting our message out. Sometimes people aren’t good copywriters. You want to put out some information about your business, but you just don’t know how to word it properly. It makes sense to hire somebody. That’s what they do and they do it very, very well. Let them make you look good in words just as much as we’re saying to people, let us make you look good in images. Does that make sense?
Bryan: I totally agree. This can go into another tangent, too. It’s really interesting because even the topic of web design – a lot of the times photographers, we like to do our own stuff. Because we’re so particular about it and we feel that we can. But we’re not professional web designers. We’re not professional programmers. We don’t have the skills that a web designer would have. And I think for us to take the mindset of “we can do it all ourselves” would be very similar to a company saying, “we can do all of our own photography” and they just throw a point and shoot over to Joel in marketing. And it’s not the same thing – we know that.
Rob: No. Let’s give some examples then of what we would call traditional ways – non-social media and non-internet related ways – of getting the word out.
Bryan: Right. We’ve broken these down into a couple different categories. One would be speaking. One would be networking. One would be press or media. One would be co-marketing. And the last would be direct mail. We’re going to dive into each of them and talk a little bit. Rob, you’ve been in business for a long time – thirty-some odd years. I’ve been in business for almost nine now, so we’ve both got some experience in these avenues. Let’s talk a little bit about them.
Rob: Let’s start off with speaking. One of the biggest benefits of speaking pretty much anywhere to anyone is that it puts you forward – it puts you out there as an expert in your field. And the keyword here is AN expert in your field. You never want to come across trying to say that you’re THE expert in your field. That’s dangerous waters to be swimming in. But I remember the very first speaking engagement I ever did was at a church in our area where they had mothers that came together on a Tuesday morning, with their children – babies and small kids. And they could put the babies and kids into a little nursery and the women would branch off into all these different rooms to do all kinds of things.
And they’d gather them all together for coffee and snacks or whatever, and they’d have a speaker come and talk for like 20 minutes. I was invited by somebody I knew that was one of the organizers at this thing to come and speak. I had no idea what to talk about. She said, “let me give you a little bit of advice; do not make this a commercial for your business, but just come in and talk abut photography and your passion and maybe some tips for the ladies”. That helped me enormously, because I just came in and talked about getting great pictures of your kids and taking better vacation pictures. And literally was bombarded with questions afterwards and then, I had at least a dozen ladies come up and ask for business cards, which I thought was just amazing.
Bryan: It’s an interesting approach, even if you look at it very simply. You’re educating and showing how they can improve their photography. But then you’re also adding value to what you do and saying, it isn’t as easy as it seems. You’re almost telling them, here’s why you need to hire me in the same breath. But in a very organic, value added way.
Rob: And as we know, the whole basis of sales is trust. I established a trust because I wasn’t trying to sell. That was the big thing for a lot of these ladies is that I basically talked all about what I’m passionate about – which is photography – without ever giving them any inclination that I was trying to solicit business from them that day. That made all the difference. So when we talk about speaking, what we’re talking about is going out to your rotary club, any of the organizations – maybe even high schools. Anything like that. At no charge, volunteering your time in the community and saying, I just want to talk about what I do, my passion, and try to give some great information out to people. There are a lot of people looking for speakers like that.
Bryan: Absolutely. Especially if you can bring something that is applicable to almost anybody. If you say, I’m going to put on a workshop at the local library on how to take better pictures with your camera for an hour or two, who wouldn’t want to go to that. And so you’re building a huge following.
Rob: Absolutely. If you want to take it beyond the simpler method, you can do a presentation that’s even a little bit more specific on something you think will spark a lot of interest – that’s even better. Here’s the kicker – if you’re not a good speaker, if you’re not comfortable in front of people, if you’re going to stand there and get blotchy-faced, sweat, and just really fall apart, this is not one of the best avenues for you. You have to be comfortable speaking and be articulate, a good communicator, otherwise this would probably be a negative thing – probably backfire for you.
Bryan: Probably wouldn’t help your business.
Bryan: And actually, if you are interested in learning more about speaking – have you ever been to Toastmasters?
Rob: No, I’ve never been. I’m lucky because I was one of those kids that loved drama all through school, so I was always in every school play – all that stuff. I remember being like 15 or 16 and I was talking to 800 people at the time, and it just didn’t bother me at all.
Bryan: You’re comfortable in front of people.
Rob: I was so comfortable doing that.
Bryan: There’s organizations like Toastmasters though, is what I’m saying. If you’re not comfortable with speaking and you want to improve, you can go to these associations and organizations and learn to better yourself.
Rob: Totally. It’s a skill like any other skill. You want to become a better photographer, take photography courses, take a lot of pictures. Learning how to speak in the public is just about getting over your fears.
Bryan: Yep, and even taking that further, you can start small and build up from there. You can start with a small group of four or five moms and go from there – build it up as you go.
Rob: Yeah, that’s a really good idea. A more intimate setting instead of a whole bunch of people in front of you.
Bryan: Yeah. Public speaking – great way to get out there and get noticed in your local area. Next, networking.
Bryan: We’re not talking about social networking, we’re talking about physical networking. There’s so many opportunities in the business community to get out there and be in front of other like-minded business people. To share business cards, share ideas, and figure out how you can help each other. What are some of the things you’ve done?
Rob: Well, certainly, Chamber of Commerce. That’s just a given. It’s surprising to me how many photographers I meet who are not in their local Chamber of Commerce, because anybody who’s in business in your local community, you should belong to your Chamber of Commerce. Again, it’s important to note that when you go into these kinds of networking situations, if your only agenda is to hand out as many business cards as you can and just get business, business, business in your door, you’re probably going to be disappointed. I know people will say, “I tried the Chamber; you know what, I went to like ten meetings and I didn’t get one job out of it”. You’re kind of missing the point. The point is not to see an instantaneous gratification response.
It’s something that needs to be built. And again, where does this come from? It’s trust. People have got to get to know you a little bit. They’ve got to interact with you, see you on more than one occasion. Not everyone you bump into is going to need photography the day you bump into them. What you want is to build the kind of relationships that we’ve talked about, so that when they do need photography – be that one year, three years, whenever – you’re the go-to person. You’re the person that pops into their mind, because they’ve built a relationship with you and they think, he’s a nice guy, I trust him; he’s the guy I’m going to call – or she’s the girl I’m going to call.
Bryan: I think the average person, non-photographer, probably knows at least one or two photographers, right? The average business person would know someone that is a photographer or know someone who knows someone that is a photographer. So when they’re looking at hiring a photographer, you want to be that one that’s top of their mind. And the only way to do that is having consistent interaction with that person.
Rob: Absolutely. When I think of the direct result from networking, a lot of times it’s not with the person I actually directly networked with – it’s a referral from that person. I’ve been able to make an impression of trust on somebody that doesn’t even need photography and they’re going to sort of evangelize my business for me. And actually tell their friends, coworkers, and other people they bump into, you need a photographer, go to this guy; I met him through Chamber and he’s got a great business, does this, does this – they’ve never actually worked with me and yet they’re already referring me. That kind of ripple effect is gold. That kind of networking. Now, I’ve only talked about the Chamber – there’s so many other ways, right?
Bryan: Right. I was actually just going to comment on that. I agree that Chamber is a great place but I’ve found it’s not necessarily for me – I prefer a more intimate group. I know that you and I are in other similar business groups. I’m in one here locally called BNI, which is weekly group. There’s about 30 of us. We get together and it’s a little more formal. It’s a little bit more structured. But it’s great because you see the same people every single week, week after week. So you build awesome relationships with them.
Rob: Yes, absolutely. I belong to a similar lunch business club like that and again, you work every week. But let me go back a little bit to that idea of something huge, like the Chamber. Sometimes you go to those meetings and there’s like 150 or 200 people. One of the ways I found for being involved in the Chamber is by volunteering my time. So when the Chamber has their annual awards where they’re going to be honoring different businesses and there’s some of the movers and shakers of the entire Niagara region, for where I’m at, at this event. And they’re seeing me photographing all of the award recipients and I’m shaking hands with everybody. I become a known face to a lot of businesses, because I’m at almost all of these kinds of events. I don’t think it’s enough to sort of stand in the corner with your hand full of business cards and hope that you’re going to get a ton of business. You’ve got to get out there and become omnipresent.
Bryan: Yeah, you have to. Even taking that further, you can’t just be there with business cards and hope to hand them out. You have to go there with the intent of trying to meet people, build relationships, and give value.
Rob: Yeah, and I think you actually turned me onto the book by Tim Sanders, “Love is the Killer App”. That really changed my approach to going to those kind of events, where I completely walked in with a different agenda. My agenda was no longer, I’ve got to come out of here with some jobs and some business. My agenda was trying to facilitate, trying to help people get connected to other people. I know a lot of people from my business. I’ve dealt with a lot of business to business, a lot of one-on-one consumers, and so forth. So just meeting up with somebody at a Chamber event and they say, you know what, I really need somebody for landscaping; just moved into a new house. And I’m like, I know an amazing landscaper, let me connect you with them. I don’t get anything out of that. I’m just introducing one business to another business. But that kind of relationship building comes back to you – always.
Bryan: Awesome. Love it. Networking. Let’s go down to the next one, the idea of press. Or media in it’s traditional form, not it’s social form. I would say that media and newspapers and magazines – they’re having a hard time. It’s difficult right now because businesses like us aren’t supporting them like we once did. And it’s becoming more and more challenging to get a full-time job at a newspaper writing, editing, or doing content for them. They’re struggling as much as any industry. So the more we can make their job easier, the more likely they are to help us – if we help them.
Rob: I think so. It’s an area right now – I don’t know where it’s going to go, to be honest with you. It’s really a struggle to watch. I’ve had two calls in the last week from newspapers trying to get me to agree to a subscription. You know, “we give you a full week for six months, no charge”. I’m like, what? And then, no, thank you. It’s like, “well, would you take one day?” It sounded really desperate. The problem that creates is that because there’s less demand for physical newspapers and physical magazines, the advertising rates are shooting through the roof because they need the revenue. So less and less people are interested in advertising, which makes their business in jeopardy. It’s a tricky place to be. So we’re just talking specifically about the in print stuff right now, but that doesn’t mean that’s all the press. For instance, lots of areas will have a local television station. What if you could get on local cable TV and do a show that talked about photography? Does it have to be about families and portraits and weddings? Not necessarily. It could just be a photography show that you are the expert in again. You’re presenting yourself as the expert. It gets your face out there, maybe even your logo out there. There’s avenues of press other than what we’re talking about in print.
Bryan: Yeah, and that’s something that I’m familiar with. I went through a press campaign and I got to be on all the local TV channels, radio channels, and the paper and all that. It got me a ton of business. But it was because it was editorial and not necessarily advertising. That being said, I’m not saying that you can’t advertise. A lot of the media outlets today are kind of operating in this pay-to-play model where they’ll give you the air time or the editorial space – in a newspaper, for example – but they want to see that you’re supporting them with money in an advertisement. You can get in both places, which is really good. And a lot of people say, “ah, no one reads the newspaper; no one watches this anymore”. Depending on the market that you’re on, it’s actually a great place to be in. For example, if you’re hoping to photograph families that have children who are in the 16- to 20-year-old range, that’s a great space to be in because those parents are 50- to 55-years-old. They’re probably watching TV. They’re probably reading the newspaper, because they like that physical, tactile feedback that we get from reading a paper. Like we said earlier, throwing the baby out with the bathwater – not everyone is 100% digital.
Rob: Yeah. One of the reasons a lot of people don’t use traditional things like a newspaper is that they try it once and they go, oh, that didn’t work. And anybody that has any knowledge about that kind of advertising through paper, they’ll always say, repetition, repetition, repetition. Consistency, placement, repetition. If you put an ad in a paper and you think about how many pages there are. And you put it in one night of the week, how many people who every day sit down and read their newspapers probably missed your one ad. Right? If you had that same ad – maybe it’s not that big, maybe it’s small – but if you had it in there three days of the week, and you had it there for like 10 weeks, there’s a pretty good chance that those people are going to see it at least 70% of that campaign time. Or something like that.
Bryan: It’s the exact same thing – right now, all the buzz is about Facebook. And you can’t just post one thing on your Facebook page and hope that someone five days from now is going to see it, because it’s not going to happen. You have to be posting regularly and you have to have that sort of consistency with it. And the same would be true for this.
Bryan: Let’s jump down to co-marketing. Now, I know you’ve used this example of doing co- marketing with another business in the jewelry space, for engagement portraits. Do you want to talk about that?
Rob: Yeah. What I thought was a bit of a stretch at the time turned out to be a pretty good idea, which was to approach a prominent local jeweler in my community, and go in with a pitch that basically said, I have these gift certificates made up with your logo – the jeweler’s logo on it, not mine. And it was a gift certificate for a complimentary engagement session. I put the value on it, which at the time was significant value. And said, what I’d like you to do, if you’re interested, is give these away to anyone who purchases an engagement ring over this dollar amount. The reason I wanted to be specific about only give it away to these people or this dollar amount, was I’m trying to qualify my clients. If I said, for anybody that comes in and buys an engagement ring, that means anybody who spent $500 on an engagement is going to come and get a free portrait. They’re not necessarily the client I’m looking for. But if I say, anyone who comes in and spends over $4500 dollars on an engagement ring – that’s the client I’m looking for, because they’re likely going to have the kind of budget for photography that I’m looking for.
The jeweler was like, where’s the catch? I said, there’s no catch. I’m going to give you 50 of these. Let’s see how that goes. And he was pretty happy after – people responded really well. It’s like, “thanks, that’s amazing; we’ve never purchased something for this much and then got something for value on top
of that”. For me, it was exceptional because I got the first crack at every single one of these new young couples that had just gotten engaged. The ring is always the first step – before the dress, before the flowers, before anything else. And for me to at least meet with that couple and say, hey, let’s do an engagement session, established what? Trust. When they started having to think about wedding photography, I would say more than 80% of them didn’t really go anywhere else. They didn’t have to think about it, they just booked me.
Bryan: Right. Let’s go off of that for a second. I’m assuming you can relate with this. I get asked a lot locally – from insurance agents or real estate agents or salons – they say, “oh, can we put some business cards in your studio?” It’s like, ok, yeah, it’d be nice to have a little business card rack. But me, I’m always hesitant because either there’s not a relationship that’s already established there or what’s the value or benefit to me, without sounding too sales-y to my clients trying to push these other businesses. So what are some pieces of advice that we can give photographers when they’re approaching businesses , in terms of how they might be able to make co-marketing work for them?
Rob: Absolutely. When I think back to it now, I’m actually kind of surprised that the jeweler agreed to it, because he and I didn’t really have any kind of a relationship. So the first thing I would say to people today is, rather than going in and doing a fairly cold call pitch like I did way back then. I got lucky. That was sort of a fluke. I would suggest go in and try to establish some kind of relationship first, before you make any kind of pitch like that. And how do you do that? First of all, you should be a customer. If you’re going to go to this jeweler, it would make sense that any time you’re going to buy any kind of jewelry or even get your watch fixed, that should be the place you’re going. So that your face is familiar, and when you do say, hey, would the owner have like 15 or 20 minutes to sit and chat, you’re going to be in a much more favorable position than if they don’t know you whatsoever. That would be my first thing – always work from an established relationship, if it’s possible, rather than doing cold calling. On the other hand, cold calling is not something that is no good at all. Sometimes you play a numbers game. It’s like doing a lot of different kinds of marketing. Sometimes that will work in conjunction with other kinds of marketing plans. But if you rely on just one, that’s not necessarily going to give you the returns you’re looking for.
Bryan: There’s a lot of popular campaigns that educators in the photography industry will talk about – the idea of doing displays in other places of business. I know I’ve done this locally. I know that you’ve done it as well. Do you want to talk a little bit about some of your successes in that?
Rob: Yeah. Probably one of the most successful ones for me, in terms of establishing a good base of family portraiture, was – they’re no longer here, but there used to be this high-end children’s clothing store in my community. They were a mother and daughter business team and they brought in absolutely stunning clothes for children. These were not cheap clothes. I used to personally wait for the sales to come before I would consider anything in that store.
Bryan: Oh, you were that guy?
Rob: But the store was beautifully done, in terms of their visual merchandising. Here’s the interesting thing. When I first came across this store, they already had a photographer in the store. There was already a photographer’s display. And they actually were very open to me taking over that spot. I had to ask why. They said, “Because once the photographer came in and put up their pictures, we never saw him again. Ever”.
Bryan: He got in, did his stuff, and go out.
Rob: “All he wanted to do was put his stuff up. But he had absolutely no interest in our store, no interest in us, and there was really no relationship whatsoever”. They said, “These photos have been in here for over a year and a half, and we feel they’re starting to get stale. Rather than call him back, we’d rather see if you’re interested in working with us. If you’re in agreement to put up more fresh displays maybe two or three times a year, at your expense – not ours”. And I thought, are you kidding? That’s an incredible opportunity. So then we met every two weeks for coffee and we started to brainstorm a little bit about different things we could do through photography to enhance their business. One of the things we came up with was photographing some of their clients’ children in new stock that arrived.
They had a newsletter that they produced once a month – it was a physical newsletter, not an e-mail newsletter. So I had my work being displayed in their physical newsletter with photo credits and, in exchange for that, they gave me an ad in the newsletter as well so I could put all my contact information. In addition to that, once a year we did an in-store photo shoot, where basically it was 15 minute shoots. We created a set in the store. We cleared all kinds of space and created a setting in the store. And the clients had to call the store to make the bookings for that. All the prints were returned to the store – not to my studio – because that just kept traffic coming back to their store, which was great. It was a win-win situation for them and for me because it gave me incredible exposure to families who had the kind of disposable income to be buying this high-end clothing for their children. They were thrilled; I was thrilled. It worked out so, so well for both of us. The only reason we’re not still in business is, unfortunately, the daughter – the principal of the business – got very ill.
Bryan: Right. I can hear photographers right now with us in their ears, listening to this, and saying what they’re saying. I want to clarify something and maybe even get into a discussion about it. There’s this thing in our industry right now – maybe more in the wedding industry than in the other industries – but a lot of photographers will be invited to do work for free in exchange for photo credit. And you can read it all in the forums, people always go crazy about the fact that photo credit doesn’t pay the bills. But what does this mean for us in terms of advertising and marketing?
Rob: There’s a difference between working for free and marketing, because if you have an advertising budget or marketing budget, you’re going to allot a certain amount of money that you’re going to spend every year. So if you say to yourself, if I was doing real traditional advertising, I would be putting ads on buses. I’d have billboards. I’d have radio advertising. I would have a newspaper advertising. Maybe a quarter page in the monthly magazine locally. What do you think that would cost me? What would that cost me, in terms of an actual spend-out-of-my-pocket budget? I could be looking at $3,000 a month or something crazy. So if I say to myself, what should I have been paid to do these photographs for this store that went into their newsletter? That’s part of my advertising budget – that’s how I look at it.
Bryan: It’s also about being strategic, because you’re not going to go and do it for everyone.
Rob: No, I’m not going to do it for everyone, and I’m not going to do it indefinitely if I don’t see a return on that investment. Ultimately, if I go to that store, and after three years, I haven’t booked one client from that store, I have to re-evaluate and say, wait a minute. Something’s not working here. Why isn’t it working? Why am I not seeing the clients coming in? There’s got to be something that’s not happening. And chances are, it’s not them, it’s me. When you’re doing that kind of introductory, at no cost to you, you have to have some parameters to that. You have to be able to measure it and say, how is this effectively working for my business. And as business people, we’re supposed to be analytical. We’re supposed to be following and tracking what we do. Many photography businesses, when they get
a running start, they’re just so busy with everything else – meeting customer orders. Can I keep track of this? That’s something that Sprouting Photographer is going to be spending a lot of time on over the coming months to help people know how to prioritize their time and how to successfully manage all the various aspects of running a business that we have to do effectively.
Bryan: Love it. Let’s jump into the last one here – the idea of doing direct mail postcard drops. We’re familiar with newsletter campaigns. We do e-newsletters through Mail Chimp or whatever it is that we’re using. If you’re not doing it, that’s definitely something you should be doing because it’s effective. But let’s talk about the physical version of that. There’s so many ways that you can reach people in your local community. The thing that I love about postcard drops is that you can literally specify exactly where you want to be reaching people and exactly where they live. You can decide based on income, geographical area – you can just hit parts of the city. It’s so amazing how specific you can get. Here in Niagara, specifically in Ontario, it’s as easy as going to your post office, looking at a map, and circling the regions that you want to hit. Let’s talk a little about that.
Rob: First of all, one of the best things about a direct mail postcard mailing is – if we as photographers talk about the value of having an album, of putting your photography in print – there is nothing that can compare to the tangible, high-quality postcard. Beautiful color, beautiful gloss, or matte – whatever the finish you decide on. The idea is, if you’re going to create a direct mail postcard mailing, it should be a quality piece. Both in design – quality photography – and actually in the finish of the final product. When you’re able to get that in the hands of the client, it’s physical. It’s tangible. It’s a whole different thing than them being bombarded with imagery on their Facebook page or just on the internet. And people get fewer and fewer things in the mail these days than they’ve had in the past. Even still, they’re going to probably get some coupon books that are printed on newsprint. They’re full of 10% off, 20% off. You’re not trying to get your business to look like the discount business or store. You’re trying to give a visual, tangible, physical – hey, we’re quality. This is the offer that we do have for you right now. Here’s the benefit of taking advantage of that right now. And here’s a good example of what we can do.
Bryan: That last point is really important. When you’re doing a postcard drop, there has to be some sense of urgency. Some sense of a call-to-action. Some reason why they should do it right now. If it’s just an, “oh, by the way” thing, it’s not going to have any immediate action to it. And I think that’s important.
Rob: I agree with that. At the same time, it’s a great thing to do what I call image advertising, which is a consistent message of quality that your studio does this. It’s letting people know regularly, hey, we’re here. This is what we do and this is how well we do it. It reinforces and reinforces and reinforces your brand. Because I don’t think there are very many photographers – let’s just talk about the area that we know. Our own market area. How many photographers do you think in our market area actually do any kind of print campaign? I’d get out on a limb and say virtually none. Imagine then, if you’re the new photographer on the block and you’re literally every month putting out an incredible image on beautiful quality stock. Going to a very specific group of people. You’re going to get some calls. You’re going to start getting a call-to-action and people are going to respond to that. It’s a fantastic way to get things rolling for a business. If you’re in dire straits and you need business tomorrow, it’s not going to work. But if you’re trying to build business – if you know that this is part of an ongoing plan to increase your quantity of business and your annual revenues a little every year – it’s an excellent tool. Along with the other ones that we’ve talked about today. Alongside the other ones we’re talked about today, it’s also an excellent tool.
Bryan: Right. That’s the most important thing, right there. One of these things individually won’t be
nearly as effective as they all are collectively together. The best thing that you can hear someone say is – when they come to you and they call your studio – “I’ve seen you everywhere”. If you can get that, you know you’re doing something right. They’re not just seeing you on Facebook. They’re not just seeing you in the newspaper. They’re seeing you in every touch point of their daily lives and that’s what you want for local marketing.
Rob: Yeah. If you walk up to ten people in a shopping mall and say, photographer, who comes to mind? And your name comes up, you’ve done your job.
Bryan: There you go. Alright. That’s a good discussion for today. Hopefully everyone’s heads aren’t about to explode with all of these ideas. As always, if you want to catch the show notes, you can visit our website at www.SproutingPhotographer.com. Rob, thanks. It’s been nice.