Photography Marketing creative tip: Homework counts. Fearless, generous creators get an A+

When all of your other marketing efforts start to pay off and you’re in a bid situation for a photo assignment, there’s one more thing that will help you land the job:

Do some research about what you’re being asked to photograph.

If you take the time to read up on the product, company, or event you’re being asked to shoot (you know you can Google ANYTHING) you appear to be someone who will be a partner in problem-solving. Demonstrating that you’ve actually taken your own time to learn about the client’s product can be a powerful way to show that you’re truly interested in their needs–everyone finds that attractive and very compelling.

Your willingness to do some research may provide a creative insight which can add value to the assignment and set you apart from your competitors. If you really are a creative problem-solver and don’t just call yourself one, then demonstrate that trait at this point of the project and share that side of yourself with your prospective client.

While some fear that “giving away the solution before getting the job” is professional suicide, others know that there are far more clients seeking to hire a creative team member for their project than there are clients who only are looking to steal someone’s ideas without compensation. If you’ve really got some awesome creative chops, you’ll always have them. If you continue to support your “muse” (spend some time with your muse so she doesn’t die from malnourishment), you can use that creative well-spring to nurture a prospective client relationship––not just on the shoot, but well before you’re hired.

Fearless, generous creators are pretty impressive individuals.

Are you one of them?

A photography marketing mindset for summer-let it snow!

Start your engines! It’s Memorial Day Weekend! Let the summer games begin! Yeah! I hope that we all get to kick back, take a break from the work stress/recession-anxiety for a moment, and enjoy the 3-day weekend. But after you’ve had some time to relax and refuel, don’t let your marketing head get too chilled out.

It feels counter-intuitive, but summer is actually a great time for a photographers to market their winter-themed imagery. While many clients are engaged in up-to-the-minute current-season marketing, other companies  produce big holiday catalogs that have really long production lead times. Many companies are planning and scheduling shoots of their winter-season products in the warm summer months.

If you’ve some ideas and examples on how to shoot “Christmas in July” now’s the time to get the word out. If you have the knowledge and experience to capture a cozy, winter, hearth- huddling mood when it’s 90º outside you’d do well to target some prospective clients and show them what you can do for their winter promotions.

Let it snow!

An easy way to have photography marketing momentum

When it comes to increasing your productivity- for the non-image-making part of your business-there are many great applications to choose from. Lots of people use Apple’s account.  There’s also another good way of developing the work flow of integrating all of your contacts, tasks, and calendar events-no matter what operating system you use- and it lives within the free universe of Google apps.

If you have a Google account, you can use it to help you take regular and weekly steps in implementing your marketing plan.Google has created yet another great feature set called TASKS . Do a search for “Google tasks” and you’ll get to the main TASKS app page that has a link to a short instructional video.

Use TASKS to create a marketing to-do lists filled with daily, weekly, and monthly “micro-steps” E.g. find the address & phone number of three prospects/add them to mailing list/pick image for June mailing/create subject line for promo/etc.Then add those items to Google TASKS.

You can also create general categories and sub-categories.For example, the broad category might be “Post Card Campaign” and the subcategories can be divided by e.g.,launch dates. A sub-category can be further sub-defined by tasks such as “contact designer” , “write subject header, etc”.

If you find it really hard to do marketing tasks, start with some super, super easy tasks e.g.”Select a folder to put promo images in” ,”create the Title of the folder for the marketing images.”, etc.  Then you can start your day off with the thrill of ticking off a couple of the to-do items check-boxes! (Believe me…I’ve had to put some pretty silly, and way-granular items on my own lists some days). Then you’ve got some TRACTION!

Now you can keep moving. If you use Gmail, your preferences can be set-up to allow you to create tasks alarms, add items to your calendar, and always see your tasks list whenever you check your email. Because you can access and update your progress from any internet-enabled device, you can maintain a good marketing momentum. Daily progress creates real progress.

Photography Marketing Essentials-Step #1: Define your “ideal client.”

The most essential step in creating an effective marketing plan is to first decide who you most want to work with. If you don’t have a specific answer to that question, you won’t know where to begin to look for them.

Almost every photographer who calls me for photography marketing help has the same basic issue: “I want more work. How do I get it?” I wish there was a simple solution to offer them; but like any goal worth going after, it first takes some understanding of what the end goal actually looks like.

One of the first things I do is first ask them: “What kind of client do you want to work with? What kind of works brings out the best in you?” or the corollary “What kind of work does NOT inspire you on any level?

Many times I get “I don’t really care. I just want work!” While I totally sympathize with that generalized need (in this economy especially!), any viable photography marketing plan MUST begin with narrowing down which would be the best client/market niche for YOU to pursue.

The narrowing down process I go through with my clients is, of course, far more individualized and in-depth, but here are a few key questions that will go a long way in helping you choose strategies and tactics to reach YOUR ideal prospects. They’re simple questions, not easily answered, but ones which are critical to your success.

When you’ve found the answers to these questions you have the beginnings of a road map that can help you eliminate or avoid marketing activities that will not give you as high a return on your investment of time and money.

•What kind of clients could most benefit from what I bring to the table?
•What do I do that an advanced amateur photographer could not do as well–or at all?
•What market segments will NOT appreciate my level of professionalism?
•If it’s an uneducated market segment, am I willing to do “”whatever it takes” to help those potential clients understand the real value I add to their business?
•What kinds of assignments/projects do I always love doing?

You’ve probably heard the advice “it’s important to first know where you want to go before picking up a map.” Knowing your destination will determine which marketing map you actually use.

Many marketing resources discuss this concept in depth, but I prefer the succinct wisdom of Lily Tomlin: “I’ve always wanted to be somebody, but I see now I should have been more specific.”

Creativity: Do you bother to protect your most valuable business asset?

What it is your most valuable business asset?
Hint: Its not your camera gear. Nor your computer hardware and software- or even your image archive or your portfolio.

It’s your creativity. It’s what sets you apart from every other photographer; it’s the distinguishing value that is added to any great image you create. Without it, you could be replaced by a machine.
Ironically, this extremely valuable asset can’t be covered against loss by an insurance policy.It’s up to you-and only you-to take precautions that you don’t lose your creativity.

Are you spending even half the amount of time and effort that you take to protect your other business assets from loss?
You probably back-up your images on multiple drives on a regular basis. Your gear is probably protected by good security systems when it’s not actually with you. Your office probably has fire, flood and theft  coverage. You want to protect your business, so you’re prudent. And you’re responsible.Why is it so important it is to keep your creativity safe? Without it you probably don’t have much to offer any client since creativity is an essential for problem-solving. Clients hire you because they have a problem they need solved; usually ones they don’t have the creativity to execute as well as you.

So what are you doing to PROTECT your creativity? Do you know what keeps it vital and alive?

What was your mental state when you had your last great idea for a portfolio piece?
Wasn’t it when you were relaxed, open, and receptive? I suspect you’ll also say it was when you “weren’t even trying”… it just “came to you.”

Do you know under what conditions your creativity is at risk?
Are you aware of how negative emotions such as fear, anxiety, and worry significantly diminish the flow of intuition? Intuition is what most often guides you in what is necessary to take a shot from good to great.

In the current sea of negative emotions swirling in the photo business, are you pro-active enough to wear a “mental life-preserver”?
That is, do you have an effective strategy to keep your intuition afloat? Can it be saved it from drowning in the swells of fear and anxiety?

Here are some time-honored, extremely well-researched, and very effective strategies to protect your most valuable business asset
: Meditate. Spend time in nature. Pray. Jog. Swim. Politely refuse to spend time on the pity pot with those who continually spread evidence about how horrible things are. Be grateful for what you DO have. And finally, volunteer to help those who have less than you.


UPDATE on “Rebooting Your Business Brain” 2/9/10 in San Francisco

Since this month the 3-day early bird discount falls on a weekend, I’m extending the discount offer through Monday 2/8/10. If you’re interested finding out if you may be unintentionally shooting yourself  with your portfolio or web presentation, please contact me directly. More info is available here

In addition to generous sponsors LiveBooks and Agency Access, I’d like to welcome my 3rd and latest event sponsor, PhotoShelter. PhotoShelter enables you to create a professional online presence using a set of tools which include high-res file delivery, secure image archiving, and website creation tools.