I simply don't get it! It's the end of August and we're coming up to the fourth quarter, the "Last hurrah!" for seasonality in this industry. Opportunities abound with kids back to school, homecoming, Halloween and then into the heart of every family, Thanksgiving and the December holidays - all ramping up 30 days from now.
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 make a decision 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 every morning about changing your approach to building your brand, strengthening your business and skill set.
Some of you really get it and are creating some amazing Fall campaigns, but there are thousands of photographers who are missing some amazing opportunities! Okay, rant over...let's start with a series of posts of things to do, starting with direct mail!
Why direct mail? Because used together with other marketing tools it can be really effective. Plus, it's time sensitive and you've got one last opportunity...NOW! Once the window is closed it'll be too late for you to do anything this year...so, like a bartender at 2:00 a.m...."This is Last Call."
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 to any promotion. The strength of direct mail disappeared when email came along, but then came Blackberry’s, iPhones and anti-spam legislation. We could 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 an effective marketing tool.
Well, done right direct mail is back, alive and well, but you've got to spend some time and put some thought into your message.
Designing an effective promotion is a topic for another post. For now, let’s just talk about the postcard as a marketing tool. You've got so many opportunities in the next few months to test a few concepts and develop a great little campaign around a fall and holiday theme.
- There’s nothing wrong in designing it all yourself, but right off the bat, this is only one component of a full marketing plan. If you really want to do it right, then test the expertise of a real art director or graphic designer. Look for somebody in your community whose work you like. Look at your lab and talk with other companies in the industry who specialize in printing. You're looking for somebody with tried and true design skills.
- Keep your message simple! There’s a message on both the front and the back 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 that 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 them to much of a time window to respond. For example, a promotion for the month will create a greater sense of urgency than if you put something out there for 90-120 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 actually 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.
- Whether you actually design a series of postcards all at once or not doesn’t matter, what does matter is setting a timeline. There are logical dates to create promotions. Right now we’re not only leading up to the Fall with all the October, November and December holiday events ahead of you.
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 good news is - there's still time to do some things to create bu
Illustration Credit: © Ben Chams - Fotolia.com