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Self-Promotion For Photographers: GETTING THE GIGS
Self-Promotion for Photographers Series, 5
GETTING THE GIGS
Once you have the foundations laid for your marketing efforts you’ve really only just started. In a perfect world you’d put your website up, your potential market would feel a tremor in The Force, and your phone would ring. But then you’d also have an evil empire to deal with, so you can’t win either way. It’s time to talk to your market.
How you contact your market, and how you convince them that you are the one they want, is a little like asking “how do I order the veal when I travel to a new country?” – it depends on the country. Knowing your market is the first place to begin. With any luck your advertising efforts won’t bereave the world of baby cows, either.
So you’ve settled on a market. Let’s assume for this discussion that you want to shoot food. The first question is, “who is buying food photography?” You know WHAT market you want to work in – now find out WHO your market is. And there ain’t nothing like some basic research to get a mailing list started.
Here’s a starting point. Make a list of the top 100 clients you want to work for. These might be corporations if you’re a commercial photographer, it might be magazines if you’re a travel shooter, or edibles photographer. Picking 100 forces you to dig deep and fine-tune your Google skills, it’s also a manageable number for your first forays into direct marketing.
Now find out who it is within that organization that buys media resources or hires photographers. It might be a VP of Communication, it might be an Art Director or Senior Editor. Who it is and what title they go by are key pieces of information usually acquired by a phone call or two. I put all this information into a spreadsheet that I can keep updating, and editing, and from which I can make mailing labels. It also allows me to keep track of responses, notes and the results of phone calls.
Now make the introduction.
There’s a fine balance between keeping your name in front of someone and being a pain in the ass. Aim for the first, it will get you more work. A simple way to do this would be a postcard or classy mailer that is followed up with a phone call. Or a series of postcards mailed once every month and a half or so. Once you’re known to them a quarterly mailing is probably good. Any less and you become shuffled to the back of the pile in their mind.
At some point you need to call them. Most people hate cold calls and I truly believe that’s because they feel they have to “sell themselves”. You don’t; you just have to introduce yourself.
I make it simple when I call. I call, I ask if they got my mailers, I ask if I’m sending them to the right person (you never know, even the best market research doesn’t tell you everything), and then I tell them the truth, that I just wanted to make contact personally, and make a connection. I leave them with that, let them know I’d love to hear from them if there’s a chance to serve them, and I ask them if I may continue sending them occasional promo pieces. And then I thank them and let them go. Being Canadian I am a bit “soft-sell” in my approach. I believe the best client relationships are just that – relational.
I once sat down with a top advertising executive for breakfast. He said if he had a dollar to spend on advertising, he’d invest it in direct mail. If he had two dollars, he’d invest it in direct mail. If he had three dollars, he’d invest two of it in direct mail and think carefully about spending the third on something else like a print ad or professional directory. It’s been solid advice.
Dollar for dollar, direct mail is the most targeted marketing you can do. If you decide to go with direct mail remember it’s only as strong as the combination of the elements involved: a great mailer, a targeted and reliable mailing list, and the comitment to see it through. This is a long-term strategy you’re working on. If you want gigs tomorrow, direct mail isn’t for you. If you want to establish yourself in a market and build long-term relationships with prospective clients, it’s excellent.
Stay tuned – tomorrow’s article is part 2 of Getting the Gig – Getting the Gig…AGAIN.