I love to ask this question of successful photographers: What one marketing thing has contributed the most to your success? I ask it because I know it is what other photographers want to know and expect me to ask, but I also know what the answer will be. Successful photographers always answer something to the effect of “everything” and usually it will settle down to that “everything” being a consistent & cohesive image of the photographer him/herself via multiple tools.
I recently asked Therese Gietler who works with her husband, Portland OR-based photographerAndy Batt, to answer this question. Andy has been featured in Communication Arts and has shot for clients like VW. Therese answered “Marketing is a strange beast. The ROI is so subtle and hard to miss. For us, it has rarely led directly to a job. It has been more circuitous.” This is accurate for most. It is the combination of all the different tools that somehow, almost magically, combine into a whole presence that reaches and touches your targets.
That being said, Therese did emphasize personal meetings in their toolbox. Andy has a great personality and it makes a big impact. Too many photographers underemphasize their appearance and personability as factors in their marketing, but if you can get a target to say (quoting Therese who was quoting a target speaking about Andy) “He was just here, he’s awesome, can’t wait to work with him…” well, you just can’t promo your way to that! Everything they do in their marketing is reflective of Andy’s personality as a photographer, and then he puts the icing on the cake with his meetings by showing up in great clothes and with his open, up-beat personality. Targets like him and targets want to work with people they like.
David Zaitz is an LA-based photographer who has shot for clients like BP Solar and Esquire. He came into photography after having been a rep and his marketing approach is also about the whole package, personality, and consistency. He puts an important special emphasis on appearances beyond the images (although as he notes, the images are the first concern, always) when he answers my question: “Presentation, presentation, presentation: I’ve always had a keen interest in graphic design and advertising so I’m innately aware of how things are presented as I believe that people (ESPECIALLY those in advertising) respond well to good, thoughtful presentation.” He also pointed out that like most photographers he has an interest in design, but he is not a designer and so he hires a designer to create all his materials.
David addresses what to do before you get those important meetings by making sure all his materials and especially his website are honestly reflective of who he is as a photographer, “I want to give art buyers and art directors an idea of what it’s like to work with me, even if they haven’t met me.” Being consistent and cohesive in all his materials strengthens that message, and he uses a lot of tools including direct mail, email, and web sourcebooks like workbook.com, altpick.com and at-edge.com. Finally, his choices for his portfolio clearly emphasize his vision as the core of all this, “My portfolio consists of primarily personal and self-promotion imagery in order to attract the kind of assignment work that I want to shoot, versus pandering to my audience by showing them what I think they want to see.”
So just what is the one thing you can rely on as being the most effective for your marketing? Being the best, most creative you you can be and putting that out to your targets consistently.