Marketing Professional Photography, continued…

Other Ingenious Ways.

There are many ways to market your services, and ingenious ideas about inexpensive marketing tactics and strategies can be read in books such as Marketing for Dummies by Alexander Hiam and Guerilla Marketing by Jay Conrad Levinson. (Note: Fellow teacher at the College of Saint Benilde, Emi Pascual, is an official facilitator/lecturer of Guerilla Marketing workshops). There are also tons of ideas on the Internet, some from fellow photographers and marketing gurus who generously share what they know or have practiced, so just go search.

In my classes on “Marketing Strategies for Photographers,” I always challenge my students to come up with unique and low-cost ways of marketing their services. (Low-cost because they are still students. When they become successful photographers, then they can afford to spend to market their photography services).

In a class contest on the least expensive way of marketing, the most popular winner was an idea from a student who wanted to go into food photography. He said that he would go to a bookstore, go to the section on cookbooks as well as on managing restaurants, open the pages of several books and insert his business cards. Very nonchalantly, of course, or the bookstore personnel might drive him out of there and permanently ban him from the premises.

Another student said she would bake fortune cookies and put her web address on the piece of paper found in those fortune cookies.

Some said that offering basic photography classes (not necessarily free) to business executives and entrepreneurs would be a great way of connecting with business persons who might be needing their services as photographers.

Your first, most perennial and least expensive business tool is your business card. An exchange of business cards could pave the way to a profitable business relationship. If you’re meeting people for the first time, offer your business card. If you’re meeting old contacts after you’ve been promoted, or you’ve moved to a new address, give them your new card. Those who love to party could try their hand at networking, while having fun – just don’t forget to bring out your business card to hand to your new acquaintance.

I once listened to Zig Ziglar, well-known sales motivational speaker, who said that he always gives himself a quota of 20 business cards to give away in a day. The inspiring story he told was when he needed to stop at a gasoline station. He was on his way home late that night after a long day of trying to sell cars. When he opened his wallet, he saw that he still had two business cards in it. He looked around, and saw only the service assistant. There was nobody else there. Living up to his goal of distributing 20 business cards, he pulled out the last two and handed them to the service attendant. “If tomorrow you see that you have a couple of customers who look like they need to buy a new car, please give them my card,” he politely requested the attendant. The next day, he received a call from someone who introduced himself as a customer of the gas station. He needed a new car, and Mr. Ziglar made a sale that day.

Check your wallet before you leave your house or office everyday, and make sure you have an adequate supply of business card. If you are going to a trade show, conference or party, bring more cards than usual.

Are business cards still relevant, when you can just send a missed call or an SMS to provide your contact info? Yes indeed, if you would design your business card to be a selling tool. Since you’re a photographer, your business card should always have a photo, or if not, then it should have the URL that will take your new acquaintance to your website.

Look for opportunities at trade shows. When you can’t afford to get your own booth, you might be able to partner with your camera equipment manufacturer or distributors by providing your images for their trade displays. There was a time when we bought a film processor from a local distributor. I asked permission if I could give out flyers at their booth at a local photography trade show. They said yes. I asked a large format printer-exhibitor if I could lend them files, and they said yes. The prints included our photographers’ names, and at the end of the show, we brought home the prints.

At another time, the Association of Advertising Suppliers of the Philippines (ASAP) of which Adphoto was a member, had a booth at a marketing event. They were undermanned and did not have anyone to man the booth. They asked me if I could deploy someone, and I readily said yes. The booth would only have a static display of the ASAP Black Book, a directory of advertising suppliers. They admitted that they had no one to entertain any inquiries about the association or any of its members, or to take care of selling copies of the directory. I sent off one of our account executives (sales) with a stack of business cards. She did more than distribute them – she was excited to tell me that she opened the trade book to the page that featured us so that the first thing that trade visitors saw was our page. Visitors might browse, but when they leave the booth, she would prop up the book again at that same page, prominently displaying our photography. We did get several inquiries after that trade show, and we gave her a cash bonus for taking the initiative to promote us.

There are many opportunities like these – just be ready to grab them. Or create your own opportunities by brainstorming on ingenious ways to promote your business. Share your ideas, and have an exchange with fellow photographers on the most creative, least expensive ways to market professional photography.

Marketing Professional Photography, continued… Giving Promo Items/Corporate Gifts

Marketing’s main aim is to place us as “top-of-mind.” When clients or customers think of the services or products that we incidentally offer, they should be thinking of us first, and not our competitors. How then do we that? In addition to other marketing efforts, promo items, or corporate gifts, are small inexpensive items (well, some could be expensive) that serve as tokens of our appreciation for our clients’ patronage and physical reminders that we exist.

These gifts could be given at trade shows and other events, sent out to those who inquire about us or reply to our ads, or given to first time clients. They could also be given to clients on the anniversary of their first projects with us, or whatever special occasion that we want to celebrate with them. (I do warn against sending corporate gifts on clients’ birthdays or anniversaries – on those occasions, they deserve to receive personalized or special gifts).

There was a time when t-shirts were popular give-aways, but I personally feel that they are too ordinary, unless we use better fabric, make them more presentable by using better designed shirts, and more cleverly, by using artistic graphics to convert those ubiquitous shirts into wearable art pieces.

I also decided that whatever we gave away should not be “screaming” Adphoto, so our corporate gifts had our logos usually inside or at the back of our corporate gifts, or if there is no “inside” or “back,” then we designed them to be small and unobtrusive; except for the “adcubes” that we give away, which had our logos on at least two sides of the adcubes, since those logo imprints would be peeled away with use. We prefer to give away practical gifts, preferring items that go on top of clients’ desks, or usable at work. (The idea is for them to see or use those corporate gifts everyday).

Our most current corporate gifts are USBs, since they are small, handy and put to use everyday, but we’ve also given away pencils, ball pens (classy looking retractable ones), leatherette (but real leather-looking) folders, magazine holders, notepads with photos on their covers, home-baked cookies in reusable canisters, and single-serve coffee makers. From time to time, we re-order adcubes (notepads), since clients actually ask for them. It’s always a challenge finding a gift that is unique or new in the market, but always put yourself in your customers’ shoes – if you don’t like the item, chances are, your clients won’t either.

Timing is also important. Giving away corporate gifts does not have to be limited to Christmas or when you have an event. We once gave away waterproof cellphone and money pouches when we learned that an ad agency we were serving was taking their people on a company outing to the beach. Our clients were thrilled with our simple gift because that’s just what they needed for the trip.

Even corporate gifts, since they help in marketing your company, must be of high quality. Once, I was about to leave for a trip abroad when we ordered notebooks (paper, not computers) for giveaways. I was still away when the proof for color separation was submitted for approval. In the rush to make the deadline, someone signed approval on the proof even though the colors were off, since the printer had promised that the colors would be adjusted in the final printing. Unfortunately, they were not and the printing was substandard. I came home to stacks of notebooks with our photos on the cover and inside dividers, but I was aghast to see that the colors were not correct. We could not distribute them to clients, and that year, we chose not to have Christmas giveaways, rather than give poor quality photo reproductions. We have since torn off the below-standard photo dividers, and now just use the notebooks for internal use. We paid the printer, since we had signed the color proof, but did not want to risk being identified with low-quality printing. We are, after all, in photography.
The design, creation and selling of corporate gifts is a big industry, but you don’t need to depend on them. If you plan your gifts early enough, you could probably design your own corporate gifts.

Do be aware of your clients’ policies on gift giving. Some companies, especially multinational firms, prohibit their employees from receiving gifts outright, even very inexpensive corporate gifts. Some set a value mark – if your gifts are worth more than a specified amount, then your gifts would get declined. Respect those policies.