by John R. Hartman, M.Photog.Cr, CPP, A-ASP "Just because you…
I don’t get it! It’s November and the year is almost over, and many of you have procrastinated your way through another stretch of seasonality without a promotional campaign. Opportunities abound with kids back in school, homecoming, Thanksgiving and then into the heart of every family, the December holidays.
The barrage of catalogs has already started in your mailbox, and soon the profile of TV commercials will morph into teaser campaigns by every major manufacturer in the world. They’ll do their best to plant the seeds for their products as this year’s ideal holiday gifts. Yet, thousands of you are sitting on the fence, oblivious to the ticking clock. You’re scratching your head and looking like Alfred E. Newman, unable to decide on what to do to boost your business a little.
And one more point – the year will finish up, and you’ll whine about the business. You won’t take responsibility for the opportunities you missed. You’ll never have a long talk with the face in the mirror about changing your approach to building your brand, strengthening your business and skill set.
Okay, rant over… Let’s come up with a series of things to do, starting with direct mail! Here’s the best thing about any project when it comes to marketing – if you missed doing something this year, the timing is perfect to plan for 2018!
Direct mail has come full circle. Before we all ventured out and staked our claims in cyberspace, doing a simple postcard was a primary vehicle for any promotion. The strength of direct mail disappeared when email came along, but then came Blackberry’s, iPhones and Androids but anti-spam legislation also came to the party. Technology gave us the ability to dump all our unimportant email before we even sat down at the computer! Email moved a little out of the spotlight, and a great postcard started to regain a little dignity as a useful marketing tool.
Well, done right direct mail is back, alive and well, but you’ve got to spend time and put some thought into your message. And, you don’t have to do it alone. Marathon Press has a whole team ready to give you the support you need in design, your mailing list, and your message! However, they’re not mind-readers, and you need to put a little thought into what you want to promote. Here are some things to think about:
- There’s nothing wrong with designing it all yourself, but right off the bat, this is only one component of a full marketing plan. If you want to do it right, spend some time talking to one of the experts at Marathon.
- Keep your message simple! There’s a message on both the front and the back of a postcard for example, and so often photographers forget the two have to work together.
- Start with your very best images on the front and make sure they’re relevant to your message on the back. If you’re a wedding photographer, then my recommendation is to include a great scene-setter image, a detail shot and a great shot of the couple. Depending on the size of the postcard, I wouldn’t suggest any more than 3-5 images. Remember, the message in the visual is you’re the very best storyteller, in addition to being a great photographer.
- A children’s photographer needs to do the same. Vary the types of images of children, from a more formal portrait to a day-in-the-life type photo-journalistic image. A commercial photographer would need to show a mix of product and people, but again, all with the theme being commercial work.
- Never compromise on image quality! Every image has to be spectacular if you’re going to get people’s attention.
- Your message on the back needs to be simple. Start with a one-liner about who you are, your specialty. Then hit your promotional offer. Don’t give people too much time to respond. For example, a promotion for the month will create a greater sense of urgency then if you put something out there for 120 days. Close with your contact information! Give people a way to contact you and my favorite is a phone number. Think about how much it means to you when you call any company, and you can talk to a live body!
- Look for partners in your promotions! You don’t have to do every mailing on your own. Look for partners from other photographers to other vendors. A wedding photographer might partner with a florist and a bridal salon. A commercial photographer could partner with a printing company. A children’s photographer could partner with everything from a toy store to children’s clothing shop to a local venue that caters to families and children. You can split the total costs for the postcard and the postage between you, giving each vendor more money to spend together on other mailings.
This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to developing your marketing plan, but you’ve got to start somewhere. Business isn’t going to just randomly show up on your doorstep, any more than going fishing and having the fish jump into your boat!
The best news of all is that NOW is the time to be thinking about your first promotional mailing for 2018! But remember, you snooze you lose!