Marketing: Twitter: Using it as a platform to get current information on potential clients. Many times it is more up to date than an agencies website.

The other week I got a twitter notification, adam&eveDDB had a huge win as they were awarded AOR for Playstation.  It was also tweeted by Adweek.

It was on Adweek on line, but many times you need a subscription to read the articles on account wins or articles of interest.  This huge win was not featured on their landing page but within the sub-categories.  So it was hard to find.

If you congratulate Adam&eveDDB on this win, you stand out among your peers.

I have positioned my Twitter account to only follow accounts of agencies, trades, advertising experts and others who offer value to forward valuable information to my clients.  You can create a separate Twitter account just for your marketing research.  This allows you to focus on personal emails verses a large list of email blasts.  Instead of relying on another company to have accurate clients/brands listed, your separate business Twitter research account only follows the companies you want to work for, allowing your marketing to be more accurate to your work and their needs. Stand out.

If you take a few minutes from time to time, you can see so much that would be valuable in your marketing in “What’s happening?”  For example, a One Show Pencil is an honor for an agency to win, so I follow the The One Club.  On Friday, one of the gold winners was in their tweets:

If you click on the tweet you get the entire team who worked on the project:

You can click on someone’s name and it shows all the awards that person has won at The One Club for that year.

(Some other awards are Cannes, ClioCommunication Arts) and local ad clubs)

In todays market you have to stand out above your competition, and reaching out to agencies and companies you admire will do just that.


APE contributor Suzanne Sease currently works as a consultant for photographers and illustrators around the world. She has been involved in the photography and illustration industry since the mid 80s.  After establishing the art buying department at The Martin Agency, then working for Kaplan-Thaler, Capital One, Best Buy and numerous smaller agencies and companies, she decided to be a consultant in 1999. She has a new Twitter feed with helpful marketing information because she believes that marketing should be driven by brand and not by specialty.  Follow her at @SuzanneSeaseInstagram

Success is more than a matter of your talent. It’s also a matter of doing a better job presenting it.  And that is what I do with decades of agency and in-house experience.


Marketing: Agencies to put on your radar (if they aren’t already)

In this business, it is crucial to make sure you are keeping up with the agencies to market to and get on their radar.  When a former co-worker asked his FB connections, which is largely top creative people, for the top agencies to watch and up and coming agencies, I knew it was a list I wanted to research for my clients.  My clients receive weekly/bi-monthly articles about recently awarded accounts (brands) to an agency.  They also receive articles of importance in this business and a marketing booklet on how to find these agencies and their email.   

I have always said that our marketing should be done as it was before we had computers but now with the luxury of computers.  Yes, many years ago you had to read the trades to see what was happening in advertising.  As an art buyer, it was those people who had read the trades and called to discuss actual accounts we worked on that got my attention.  Today many people rely on companies to do the research but it is important to do it yourself or supplement their information.

Here is a partial list of the agencies mentioned to get you motivated to do your research and get noticed.  In your marketing, it is a personalized email complimenting them on the work they feature on their site or an article in their news section.  Google agency’s name to see if they have been featured in an article or an award show.  It is crucial that you stand out above your competition.  The previous article on branding ( that was featured last week can help you as well.   If it is an agency you really admire, then check back on the agency to see what they post, and if you like something new they post, then mention it to them to keep on their radar.   We are in sales while being artists so it is important to get in front of the people who can hire you.

McKee Wallwork & Company        Albuquerque, NM    *


Fact & Fiction   Boulder, CO


Wond3r company     Houston


Mekanism    San Francisco


Heartbeat    New York, NY    (Ad Age- best place to work)


Joan      New York

Preacher      Austin, TX  *


MGH    Baltimore


Cayenne Creative   Birmingham, AL


Baker St. Advertising    San Francisco


Tom, Dick & Harry     Chicago, IL


Human   Boulder, CO


Chemistry    Atlanta, GA  & Pittsburgh, PA


Battery     Los Angeles  *


Johanes Leonardo   New York, NY


Push   Orlando



*voted one of Adage’s small agency of the year

APE contributor Suzanne Sease currently works as a consultant for photographers and illustrators around the world. She has been involved in the photography and illustration industry since the mid 80s.  After establishing the art buying department at The Martin Agency, then working for Kaplan-Thaler, Capital One, Best Buy and numerous smaller agencies and companies, she decided to be a consultant in 1999. She has a new Twitter feed with helpful marketing information because she believes that marketing should be driven by brand and not by specialty.  Follow her at @SuzanneSease.  Instagram

Branding and why it matters

Branding and why it matters.

Think of a restaurant, hotel or store where the whole experience was not only fantastic, it was a great experience that you wanted to go back and you tell all your friends about it…this is why branding is important.

So this is what you should be asking yourself about your brand.  What are the misconceptions you are saying or not saying about your brand?  Many think that a brand is your logo, but it is so much more. It is your images, your website navigation, your Instagram account, your twitter account and most important, your reputation.  How do you conduct business?  How buttoned up are you in your marketing?  Are you consistent in your marketing?  Are you targeting the right audience?  What message does your marketing convey?  And it goes beyond that when a project comes through from estimate, creative call, pre-production before the project starts and how professional are you on set?  Are you a team member with your crew and do you treat them fairly?  How do you treat the entire agency team (and not just the creative team), craft services that take into consideration dietary restrictions, getting images to the client quickly and then does your invoice match the estimate? This is all a part of your brand. Why this is important is because one person’s misconception of how you conduct your business can affect your longevity.

When I was an art buyer, I was fortunate to work with many photographers on all levels.  I have witnessed so many careers end because of the photographers lack of understanding that the whole experience was important.  I had creative directors tell me of on-set horror stories.  A photographer screamed at his crew in front of everyone; no food during the shoot for my art director although there is a receipt for food at a restaurant on the invoice; or photographers treating the account executive and client like they didn’t matter (client is paying the invoice).  During my career as an art buyer, I have seen it all. Photographers telling the client (major alcohol brand) to leave the set, overages on an invoice that were never approved or even bought to our attention, purchased wardrobe that wasn’t a part of our shoot and never returned to the agency, the receipt for a shirt and tie came from Neiman Marcus but the items returned to the agency were from JC Penney, invoices with missing receipts and even a meal receipt that included cleaning supplies, pet food and cat litter!

The majority of those photographers are no longer in this business.  Production is a part of your brand just like an experience at a hotel, restaurant or store is a part of their brand.  The hotel may be nice, but if you are charged for items you didn’t order, you are not going back. The food may be great but no one wants to pay top dollar to hear the chef scream at his staff.  Or the store may have nice merchandise but if the sales folks don’t acknowledge your presence then you are not going back.

On the flip side, we went back to a photographer’s studio over and over again because the whole experience was not only professional with fantastic results on our project but an all around enjoyable experience.

It is crucial that you look at your entire brand and what type of experience you offer.  Be honest with yourself as your longevity in this business depends on it.

APE contributor Suzanne Sease currently works as a consultant for photographers and illustrators around the world. She has been involved in the photography and illustration industry since the mid 80s.  After establishing the art buying department at The Martin Agency, then working for Kaplan-Thaler, Capital One, Best Buy and numerous smaller agencies and companies, she decided to be a consultant in 1999. She has a new Twitter feed with helpful marketing information because she believes that marketing should be driven by brand and not by specialty.  Follow her at @SuzanneSease.  Instagram

Marketing: Is LinkedIn the new Facebook?

Is LinkedIn becoming the new Facebook?

When I asked Kelly O’Keefe, brand expert and partner of Brand Federation about LinkedIn (LI) becoming the new Facebook (FB), his concern was how will LI be able to control the quality of the content people are posting.  A recent New York Times article notes that Sandburg and Zuckerburg were so hell bent on growth that they ignored signs in their product being infiltrated by Russians to effect the 2016 election.  More professionals are moving away from FB to LI so now it is crucial for LI to control content so as not to fall in to the same predicament as FB.

I have noticed more articles and versions of e-promos being posted on LI since email promos are usually being deleted or unsubscribed. Facebook is full of either uplifting stories or political articles and concerns, so it seems as if LinkedIn is the place to show your professional talents.  But to what extent should you continue promote your work without folks disconnecting from you? How do you strike the balance and how do you connect to your market in a professional way?

I did a survey to Art Producers and asked them if they thought a photographer using the LI platform to market.  The majority said that is not how they use LI. It would be acceptable if they saw work from photographers they knew and had worked with but not random connection requests.  And to be honest, I agree with them. If I have never worked with you and don’t know your work ethic, I am not going to connect with you in an effort to protect those who I have worked with in the past.  My LI account is strictly for business. For assistance, I post the Art of the Personal Project on my LI account.  I enjoy seeing my business connections showing great campaigns they have worked on but not work they shot to direct me to their website.

When I see recent portfolio shoots on LI, I noticed vague hash-tags so I reached out to Heather Lefort to explain how to use LinkedIn professionally.  Heather owns iHeartmrktg to help photographers keep up with their marketing and the best ways to do it. “The LinkedIn algorithm is far more superior to FB or IG. When they launched in 2003 their purpose was to connect people professionally via resumes, networking and professional talents. Their growth rate ( has exceeded the levels of FB and IG and is expected to grow faster in 2019! Relevance, credibility, followers and connections play a huge part in the LI algorithm. So, it’s clear that you should be growing your personal or business audience (or both) on LI. The algorithm and tools allow you to tailor your feed accordingly. But be careful of spammy posts as the feed have precise rating tools based on the relevancy of your posts and other people’s preferences. In other words ask yourself these 3 check questions before posting:

  1. Am I over-posting?
  2. Will People in my network care about this post?
  3. Is my post relevant to others’ professional lives?

All of the posts on LI pass through a computerized virality check and a human check which is part of the uniqueness. These parameters determine: how you engage others as a poster and the quality of your personal network. This is the stage where your posts can potentially rank into the “Top” posts. Understanding the content checklist that LI craves is a great start to make sure your posting quality, useful information! “

LinkedIn is a professional business platform and it should be used as such.  The people I have surveyed all agreed-it should be used to showcase your work professionally, but personal posts should be posted on Facebook.


APE contributor Suzanne Sease currently works as a consultant for photographers and illustrators around the world. She has been involved in the photography and illustration industry since the mid 80s.  After establishing the art buying department at The Martin Agency, then working for Kaplan-Thaler, Capital One, Best Buy and numerous smaller agencies and companies, she decided to be a consultant in 1999. She has a new Twitter feed with helpful marketing information because she believes that marketing should be driven by brand and not by specialty.  Follow her at @SuzanneSeaseInstagram

With over 18 years of expertise, a love of marketing, and compassion for businesses Heather Lefort opened iHeart Marketing. Her years of sales and marketing experience allowed her to bring her personal services to business owners with a one-on-one strategy. Leading iHeart Marketing with the highest level of integrity she assists businesses in achieving all of their marketing and sales goals with a planned effort. Whether you are brand building, looking for marketing guidance or need assistance measuring your strategies iHeart Marketing can help! We are a one-stop marketing solutions boutique.

iHeart Marketing, Inc., is the parent company of Social Sparkz, a visionary agency focused on marketing and advertising, events, PR and brand building. In short, we make sparkz happen when it comes to your business!

Marketing: Stop talking about you and make it about them

In the past two weeks: Droga 5 just got Hershey’s from CP-B; EP+Co got the social media business for LinkedIn; Heat got an assignment from Levi’s to tap the millennial market; Deutsch got Neiman Own’s account and Peter Mayer lands the Mississippi Tourism account.

First: Why is this important? Because if you are going to do your marketing efficiently then you will stand out in congratulating your marketing targets on the work they do and the brand wins they receive.

Second: What is the difference between assignment and account (technically AOR- agency of record). Years ago a brand would assign their creative work to just one agency, but these days many brands are awarding assignments to several different agencies to handle a portion of their marketing needs. For example:

Droga 5 is added to the creative roster of the Hershey’s brand. They have split with Crispen, Porter & Bogusky. According to AdAge, the Hershey’s account is working with Droga 5, MDC’s Anomaly and Dentsu’s McGarryBowen.

EP+Co (formerly called Erwin Penland) Greenville, SC office is doing the social media for LinkedIn.

Heat (SF) got an assignment from Levi’s for one market-the millennial market.

Peter Mayer (NOLA) has landed the Mississippi Tourism account.

I have been in this business for years and have witnessed the changes in not only how brands award their business but also the mediums in which the work is awarded.

I have said you should do your marketing as it was done before computers but now with a computer. The most effective photographers and agents read the trades (Adage, Adweek and others) and called us or sent a promo piece congratulating the agency for winning the brands business. Now, you should send an email to congratulate them on their recent win.

Why does this stand out? Because not only are you congratulating them on a win in this market, but it shows you are researching current information about them. It is a more direct way to do your marketing in addition to sending out epromo’s about recent work you have done in collaboration with the company that hired you.

APE contributor Suzanne Sease currently works as a consultant for photographers and illustrators around the world. She has been involved in the photography and illustration industry since the mid 80s.  After establishing the art buying department at The Martin Agency, then working for Kaplan-Thaler, Capital One, Best Buy and numerous smaller agencies and companies, she decided to be a consultant in 1999. She has a new Twitter feed with helpful marketing information because she believes that marketing should be driven by brand and not by specialty.  Follow her at @SuzanneSeaseInstagram

Mailer Printing For Photographers

I want to create a couple resource pages for photographers with your opinion about the various services in the comments. If you are game for it I’d like to start with printing mailers.

A great resource for looking at mailers and promos is the blog No Plastic Sleeves:
You can also visit many of the agent sites on our Agent List and they will many times show promos on their blog (just click the rss feed icon on the listing to visit an agents blog directly).

Wonderful machine has an excellent resource page where they list lots of companies under Printing – Business Cards & Mailers.

I know that Modern Postcard is an old standby for printing mailers and Moo has been very popular in the recent past, but what else do you recommend?


Agency Access “does a great job, quality is a bit better and a bit pricier”

Paper Chase Printing In LA “does a really good job”

PsPrint “been using them for years and they do nice work”

4by6 “really great printing quality and paper. their color has been incredibly accurate too”

The Newsletter As A Marketing Tool

When I give my Social Media Marketing talk to photographers I like to break up all the talk about blogging and tweeting with an example of a good old fashion newsletter. Because, as much as things change they remain the same… meaning, a blog or series of tweets or concerted effort to post things on facebook is no different than producing a newsletter to attract potential customers and win fans for your work. I use Michael Clark as my example, because in this soured economy his success continues to grow and he churns out a good old fashioned newsletter as part of his marketing efforts.

APE: Give me a history of the Newsletter: How did it start, how has it evolved and where is it now?

Michael: I created the “Michael Clark Photography” Newsletter over ten years ago in the Fall of 2000. In its early form it was a one-page, front and back sheet that was printed and sent out to a select group of photo buyers and art directors.  I printed about 200 copies and sent them out quarterly to photo editors that I worked with or wanted to work with. The newsletter included updates on recent clients and assignments, equipment reviews, an editorial or two and, of course, samples of my latest work. At that point in my career a lot of the photo editors I worked with were also avid photographers so I decided the equipment reviews might entice them to actually read the newsletter. Looking back, I will say that those early issues of the newsletter were pretty rough looking compared to how it looks now.

I created the newsletter initially as a marketing tool. I was looking for another way to keep my name in front of photo editors and art buyers in addition to my other marketing efforts. I got the idea of the newsletter from the Bulletin sent out by the ASMP. At that time lots of businesses sent out Newsletters and it seemed like a good way to offer something more than just a postcard. And the response was great from the get-go. I had editors calling me every time they got the newsletter asking for certain images or just calling to talk about my latest gear review. Either way, it allowed me to create a relationship with a lot of photo editors.

In the fall of 2004, I started playing around with Adobe InDesign and realized that it would allow me to expand the newsletter and send it out as a PDF via email with no printing costs. And because it was a PDF I could send it out to a much larger audience without any additional expense. This new PDF version still had the same types of articles as the printed version but I was able to expand and enhance those articles because with the PDF, I pretty much had unlimited space. The PDF version of the newsletter includes editorials, updates on recent clients and assignments, greatly expanded equipment reviews, a portfolio section, digital post-processing tips, feature articles on recent assignments and a lot of images. It is basically a PDF magazine that runs anywhere from 15 to 30 pages depending on the content – and how much time I have to put it together.

After I started sending out the first few copies of the new PDF version, I realized that I should offer it for free on my website and let people subscribe to the newsletter via a mailing list. Little did I know then that so many people would be interested in what I had to say. I suppose a big part of the draw for the newsletter was the equipment reviews. Early on, I got a lot of emails with questions about gear and I thought I could nip those in the bud by giving an unbiased professional opinion on the gear that I use and abuse. It proved to be quite popular, especially among amateur photographers, and it has led to a number of sponsorships with distributors of imaging software and photo equipment.

It takes a lot of work to put together. At a minimum, it takes about four days of solid work to lay it out and write the articles. I certainly wouldn’t say I am a great writer but I can get the point across and I am efficient.

One of the other great things about the newsletter is that it is unique – and that counts for a lot. I have seen a few other photographers try to copy it but they usually give up on the concept after a few issues when they realize how much work it takes. I don’t know of any other photographer out there producing anything like this. I also realized a few years ago that creating a following for my work was very valuable – and the newsletter allows me to create that following and tap into it as well. I can advertise e-books, workshops and market my work to would-be clients all at the same time. And since the newsletters are linked to my website they are great for SEO (search engine optimization) because they all show up in searches on Google.

The newsletter now goes out to over 6,000 photo editors, art buyers and both amateur and professional photographers around the world. It has led to numerous assignments, sponsorship deals and other great career opportunities. My first big break, a major assignment with Adobe, was a direct result of the newsletter, as was my first published book. The editors at Lark Books got a great sense of my writing style via the newsletter and approached me to write a book for them. That book, Adventure Photography: Capturing the World of Outdoor Sports, was published in December 2009. I am currently working on a third book which closely resembles the newsletter in style and content. In fact, I’d say if it wasn’t for the fact that the newsletter gets me work pretty much every time I send it out, I would have stopped producing it years ago. It is an insane amount of work.

The newsletter has been and continues to be the best form of marketing I have ever done. I wouldn’t be where I am today in my career without it.

A PDF newsletter seems so old fashioned. I’m sure you have your reasons for continuing the format, can you tell us why?

These days the PDF newsletter is old fashioned. I’ll give you that. Back when I started sending out the PDF version in 2004 it was a pretty wild idea and people sat up and took notice. Maybe it isn’t the most cutting edge publication now, but the reason I stick with the PDF format is that it allows me to control how the viewer sees my work and the content. I can control the layout, the fonts, how the images are presented and their resolution. It looks like a magazine and even though it is a simple PDF document, I think it is well laid out and graphically pleasing. It is something people will remember and that is half the battle when it comes to a marketing tool.

You told me you are having your busiest year ever, can you attribute this directly to the Newsletter? Can you help us understand why clients respond to this over traditional marketing?

Yes, I am having my busiest year ever right now. And before this year, last year was my busiest year ever. It just keeps getting better and better. I’m not sure I can say this year’s or last year’s success is a direct result of the newsletter. The newsletter is just one piece of my overall marketing strategy. I think my success this year is a result of 15 years of really hard work, having a book published last year, making an effort to show my portfolio around and continuing to reinforce all of my other marketing with the newsletter. However it has come together, I feel really blessed because there are still so many people struggling out there in this economy.

I think clients respond to the newsletter because they remember it, and as a result, they remember my work. I once wrote an editorial about “Finding Inspiration” and one of the people I worked with at a major software company told me he quit his job after reading that article to go do what he really wanted to do. I strive to discuss and talk about current events in the industry that are timely and relevant. And, as in the case with my editorial on “Finding Inspiration,” every once in a while I really connect with a reader.

Do you do traditional marketing in addition to the newsletter?

Yes, I do a lot of traditional marketing. I send out e-promos every six weeks or so and postcards every now and then (but not as often as I should). I have a blog. I go in and meet with clients as often as possible and set up portfolio reviews. And I send out the newsletter four times a year. I also write for two other blog sites: Pixiq and Outdoor Photographer Magazine.

This is still a tough profession to make a living in so I think we have to do everything we can to get our name out there and market ourselves and our work. After all, it isn’t just our work we are marketing, it is ourselves. We are the product just as much as our work is. Are we easy to deal with? Can we come through with the goods? Are we professional? Those are all part of the equation, and the newsletter serves as a good reminder to clients that I am professional and will come through with the goods when they give me an assignment because they can read about my latest assignments and see the images I produced.

I see you’ve got some instructional e-books and you are leading workshops. Is education a significant part of your business model? Do you think it should be a part of most pro photographers business models?

Education makes up about 20% of my income these days. I teach anywhere from four to six workshops each year. The workshops range from two-day Lightroom workshops to week-long Adventure Photography workshops at the Santa Fe Workshops and the Maine Media Workshops (I’ll be teaching in Maine later this month). I also do a few workshops in tandem with other photographers like the Surfing Photography workshop I’ll be teaching in January 2012 with my good buddy Brian Bielmann, who is one of the world’s top surfing photographers. Teaching workshops is rewarding, tough and exhausting but I always learn from them and it is a burgeoning business for photographers.

I’m not sure I would say teaching or education should be a part of every photographer’s business model. It depends if you enjoy it and are good at it. I will admit that teaching workshops can be quite draining. It isn’t for everyone. These days there is a lot of competition in the photography workshop business. It seems like everybody and their dog is teaching a workshop and rightly so, because there are thousands of amateur photographers out there craving knowledge and yearning to further their skills. And there is a lot of money to be made in workshops, especially if you are a big name photographer who enjoys teaching and can attract students on a regular basis.

My  e-book,  Adobe Photoshop Lightroom: A Professional Photographer’s Workflow, lays out my entire digital workflow from in the camera to delivering the final images to the client. It has been wildly popular and I don’t think there is any other book like it on the market. I wrote it after working on assignment with Adobe. I am still a beta tester for them (and teach workshops on Lightroom) and that really helps me to keep my workflow dialed. I got the idea for the e-book from my newsletter and through teaching workshops. In a workshop, it is nice to be able to give the students some materials, and early on I simply outlined my digital workflow and handed it out as a Microsoft Word file. The e-book grew out of that and is in its fourth edition. Each edition was massively expanded and adapted to the new software and post-processing techniques and for $24.95, it is heck of a lot cheaper than a workshop.

As you can see, my business model is very diversified. I think this is also a big reason things have been going so well the last few years. I learned early on not to trust any one single source of income. Hence, I do a little bit of everything: commercial assignments, editorial assignments, stock photography, books, e-books, fine art prints and whatever else comes my way. I am still predominantly an assignment photographer but all of the other income streams ad up significantly .

Do you have any advice for photographers looking to create unique ways to market themselves?

I did a presentation for the ASMP New Mexico chapter here earlier this year about “Staying Relevant in the Current Economy.” In that presentation I spoke about a number of topics that I think are key to marketing yourself effectively including creating unique images, perfecting your craft, being professional and making sure your marketing and branding are up to snuff. None of those topics are revolutionary by any means, but I do think that we greatly underestimate just how important it is to create unique images right now. If you have something different from the rest of the pack then you’ll go far in this industry. As a photographer I realize it is easy enough to say, “Just go out there and create unique images,” but the reality is that creating something unique and different is really hard.

In that presentation, I also spoke about building a following. This idea isn’t new but it also isn’t obvious. In this world of social media we can now connect with people around the world and share our work, get feedback and talk about the work via a blog, Flickr or any number of avenues. Right now, I think it is very important for professional photographers to build up a group of people that follow your work. Doing so helps when you need to fill up a workshop, market an e-book or a regular book, or even for an assignment. The workshops idea is pretty obvious. If you have a following of amateur or pro photographers that want to learn from you and you have a means of connecting with them and marketing to them then you’ll be able to fill up workshops easily. A good example of this is Joe McNally. The guy is killing it on the workshops front. Another good example, perhaps less well known, is Andy Biggs. He fills his very expensive safari-style workshops routinely and his clients come back thrilled with the experience.

Having 6,000 people on my mailing list is helpful when I need to market an updated version of my e-book. It also comes in handy when a publisher approaches me to write a book because they know that I have a following that might be interested in the end product and I have a marketing vehicle (the newsletter) to get the word out – and it doesn’t cost them anything. By choosing a photographer with a following, the client already has built in marketing. This is what Chase Jarvis has done so well. Some clients come to him because they want to tap into the huge number of photo enthusiasts that follow his blog. He has even done the marketing for the companies while he is on assignment by posting the behind the scenes details of a multi-day shoot as it is happening. How much is that worth to a client? If you have a following like Chase does then that is obviously huge.

Of course, having a group of people follow your work isn’t a guarantee of any kind. People make up their own minds if they are interested in something or not. You have to provide something that is interesting and valuable to them. Marketing to this group and offering them quality information and services that they want is the key. They get valuable information; you get to make a little extra money. Amazingly, once you create a following, doors start to open and new marketing opportunities will pop up that never would have or could have otherwise – and this is the real reason to create that following.

Now, the reality is this is a long-term process. You don’t just go out and build a following. You have to offer up solid information or something that people want for a few years or more.

In the end, I don’t think there are any real secrets in this business. There is no magic bullet. It all comes down to hard work and really, really wanting to “make it” happen. I still think one of the best forms of marketing these days is meeting with art buyers and photo editors in person for a portfolio review – if you can get a meeting set up. I think I got very lucky with the newsletter. I didn’t know it would become such a great marketing tool when I started it. Early on I just had more time than money and it was a good way to promote my work. Now, I have to make time for it. Because the newsletter is a very ‘unique’ marketing tool it not only gets me work but it also helps me to get in and set up meetings with art buyers that I want to work with. It is just one part of my marketing effort that helps support the rest of the effort.


If you would like to check out the newsletter you can download the latest issue at:

Also, if you are interested in reading more you can download back issues of the newsletter at:

And finally if you would like to subscribe to the newsletter please send an email to Michael at

Is Lürzer’s Archive Worth It?

I got a question form a reader about Lürzer’s Archive that was similar to another one about CA Photo Annual. Basically, are these things worth it? Both these publications are read by people in the Advertising industry so I have very little experience with them, but the panels I’ve been on they are always mentioned as sources for finding photographers. But “is it worth the $750 for a 1/2 page” in Archive, the reader asks?

My opinion, based on just listening to people, not actual experience, is that none of this is worth it unless it’s part of an actual campaign to reach potential clients. A general rule that a client must see your work in around 5 different places before they will place you on the “to hire someday” list seems smart. That means if your work appears in Archive it should also hit their desk in a mailer and their email box then possibly on a blog or magazine they check out and finally at a portfolio showing. Actually this is related to another question I got about resource books. Are they still worth it? Generally, people are still advertising in them because of the websites and events they have along with the books but also because they create additional points of contact. Don’t forget the old advertising adage: “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.

Love to hear some empirical evidence from readers about this.

Cold Calling

Here’s an email conversation I had with a reader about cold calling I thought you might be interested in.

Reader: I was reading over one of your past posts => “Photo Editor And Art Buyer Survey” => and noticed that calling potential clients is a bad idea! However, all the agents, ADBASE writers and others really push this as a successful way to get future work. ADBASE constantly posts blogs that really push this as a great way to follow up email promo campaigns. Send out your promo, check back to see who opened your promo and then follow up with that person via a phone call. I was speaking with [redacted] at an LA APA event and she was promoting calling and asking to be put through to voice mail. That way, you don’t bother the person with an awkward phone call. My feeling is that I don’t want to cold call either; on the other hand, I do want to generate business. So what is the right approach? I’m new to the game and I don’t want to come out sucking.

APE: Ok, so tell me what you will say to the person when they pick up the phone?

Reader: I have a partial script worked out. But truth be known, I’d rather not call. It’s as much of a problem for me as it seems to be for them. However, if it’s necessary to get hired then I’m willing to try. My confusion lies in all the things I read online, in mags and listen to at the photo lectures. There seems to be contradicting viewpoints. Which is correct? I don’t want to misstep and come out creating a bad first impression. For example, I have been collecting a database of people that have been showing interest in my ADBASE email promo campaign. The data is tallied from the last six months. Anyone that has opened my email more than 50% of the time (whether they just open the email, click directly to my website or both) seem like a potential candidate to call. I was planning on doing this today for the first time. I was constructing what to say based on various blogs. Then I came across your survey and changed my mind. I then remembered the APA event at Chiat Day. Both the AD & AB said they hate calls. If calling is taboo, then the real question becomes: How do you get hired? Are email promos and direct mailers enough (coupled with all the FB’s and Tweets of course)? After all the emails and mailings, should I just sit back and wait for the right ad campaign or editorial story to pop up in my favor? In essence wait for my phone to ring?

APE: What I’m trying to get at, is do you have a reason for calling them other than they looked at your work? Obviously if they liked it and had a job they would call you. What are you going to say on the call that will move things forward?

Reader: Good point. I guess nothing.

APE: This is how those calls went on my end.

caller: Have you been receiving the promos I’ve been sending you?

me: yes.

caller: do you have any questions?

me: no



“can I have a job”

The better way to do this is call and ask if you can send in or show your portfolio. If that’s not a possibility you need to produce some targeted promos that will grab their attention. There were plenty of times when the first time I ever talked to a photographer was when I called them up to give them a job. Of course waiting for the phone to ring is a ridiculous proposition so you’ve got to get things under their nose in mail, email, magazines they read, blogs they check out contests they follow that will get them interested.

Reader: Thank you for the advice. Makes sense. What you’re saying is kinda what I was/am planning. I just figured that the “Follow Up” call was a necessary, yet unsavory element to the marketing process. I’m actually relieved that I don’t have do this.

I’d love to hear from anyone who advocates cold calling since this is my very myopic point of view. NOTE: I checked out the readers work and it’s good stuff so those “opens” are real interest and this is not just someone clawing at the wind.

Deborah Schwartz – The Art Of The Keeper Promo

by Heidi Volpe

Deborah Schwartz of DSReps is well known for sending out impressive promos that can’t possibly be thrown away. When I heard this years was a box of prints representing each of her photographers I had to see it and ask her a few questions about it.

Heidi: Would you say you are pretty sure all your promos get opened?

Deborah: Yes, especially for this particular promo. There was a great amount of hype from last year’s similar promo, so people were excited and anticipating the arrival of this years’.

How did you select who got a box of prints?

I spent the most time that I have ever spent on a list for this promo. I gathered a combination of lists that included our clients from the last few years, adbase lists and a targeted list of people who we want to have as clients. We then called each and every agency and magazine and design firm on the list to check the names and make sure that important Creatives were not left off.

Was it agencies first and then editorial and then studios?

I would say that it was more about a gathering of lists of clients (editorial graphic design, client direct and advertising) and then adding wish lists of clients found through research. And we printed a few extra boxes of the promo so that we can still give some away to new clients or new potential clients throughout the year – and before the next promo comes out.

Are you concerned about offending someone who doesn’t get one? Was it like making an invite list for a wedding?

Yes and YES!! Which is why I specifically made the list 200 total short of our total number of promos. And over the next few months, we will send promos out to anyone who did not get one and should have – and then add them to the list for next years. Even when we call and talk to a reliable source at each agency, some names get left out inadvertently. There is no way to avoid human error.

Do you have a less expensive promo to give out to reach a larger audience?

Yes – each of the photographers do a much larger run on a smaller promo each year so that it can go out to more clients and potential clients. We try to space it out so that it is sent out at least a few months after the DSREPS promo.

How are your 2011 promos different from last year?

A slightly different package, the NEW office in New York City is listed on the promo, a few changes to the roster and a newly curated group of images for our photographers.

How much editorial vs commercial work do you think this promo garnered from last year?

A good mix of both. We sent the promos to ad agencies and magazines alike, and got great response from both parts of the business.

Is this the second year you worked with Perfect Holiday? Why them?

Yes – Bryan (the owner) is very creative and collaborative and he has a great design style. I think that his style and our style are a good fit.

What was some of the feedback you’ve gotten?

It has been so nice for me to get such great feedback. Everyone is so thankful and excited to receive the promo – and it has been referred to multiple times in thank you notes as a “gift”.

Did the photographers have a voice in the the final edit?

Yes – we all work together so that they are happy with the edit in the end. Sometimes there is some back and forth, and in the end – both sides are happy with what is picked.

I like the fact that is titled “ready to hang”, it has a more casual feel to it. More longevity then a post card but less precious then a fine art print.

Where do you hope these promos end up? Do you think they are shared with respective staff?

Yes they are being shared based on feedback that I have received. And they are apparently ending up on many, many walls – both in offices and homes. From what people have said, there are framed DSREPS promo images everywhere. Which is nice. ; )

Is the cost of putting something like this together off-set by new work you receive?

Believe it or not, the promo was actually cost effective. The promo costs are split among the 12 photographers, and it is costing less than a spread in a sourcebook per photographer – including design, printing, box construction and mailing of 2,000 pieces. Having only made 2,000 total pieces did force us to do a much more targeted mailing, but I feel that the specialness of the promo makes it worth that sacrifice.

Have you ever had a promo cost more then the results yielded?


Was it hard to edit the individual prints and then string them together as a series?

No – this is the part that I love the most about my job. It IS in the end a commercial business – but I love to be able to have this opportunity to curate something of theirs that is more about their art work. I feel like Creatives really love to see artistic images. And then we sell the photographers’ ability commercially by showing “work” on their sites in order to sell them through to the client.

What lead you to this type of promo? Did you feel you weren’t having success with your book series you did years prior?

Not at all. The book series was very successful, but I got to a point last year where I felt that I wanted to make a leap into something a bit more bold. And I have been wanting to curate something for a long time – so this became my outlet for that. I hope someday to have the time to open a gallery.

What other types of promos do you do? And how often?

I do one big DSREPS promo per year, and I encourage my photographers to do at least one of their own each year. And we do still send out e-promos, but I am very aware of the sensitivity around these since so many Creatives feel bombarded by e-mailings. Although I will say that from my experience, if an e-promo is great, it is VERY well received. An example of this is the e-promo that we did for Jason Nocito after he shot the MTV Skins campaign. This campaign was all over the place, and it was so cool. When we sent out the e-mailer, so many people were excited to receive it and had been wondering who shot it. The percentage of people who opened that e-promo was off the charts compared to others. The other e-promo that had that same level of success was Chris McPherson’s Microsoft Windows 7 campaign. Again, the billboards had been everywhere, and people loved them and were excited to know who had shot them.

Aside from yours, what has been the most memorable promo you seen distributed?

Commune did a really cool newsprint poster promo that I absolutely loved.

Creative Director Tries To Bully Photographers Into Not Emailing Him

A new site that’s sure to get photographers riled up sprang up last week called “Stop Photospam.” Creative Director Calle Sjoenell from BBH New York is using the site in an attempt to stop photographers and agents from spamming his and his colleagues email. In the first posting on the blog he states:

I have tried everything since I started at Fallon Minneapolis in 2006. I open my new email account and found photographers mailing me without my consent. Since spamming is illegal in Sweden. I got really upset and have tried to fight it ever since. I’ve, been unsubscribing, mailing, even calling them. But the flood continues. I get btw 10-15 every day. This is how we stop it. Join, retweet, spread!

Then on the main page he’s got a list of Art Directors and Creative Directors at major agencies who all claim they will never use a spam photographer and then go on to “declare never to use any of the following spam photographers” with a list that they claim to all be spammers. To add someone to the list it looks like all you have to do is forward the mass marketing email (spam?) and you’re on it.

In theory this list could grow to include most of the working photographers in the world. I’m not sure how Calle and his fellow creatives plan to manage that or even stick to their word of not working with these people. And, of course I know enough people in the business who like receiving these emails that it seems unrealistic that a small group who doesn’t could even put a dent in the traffic.

What’s interesting and hypocritical about this whole thing is that many of the people who say they don’t want emails from photographers are listed in AdBase as wanting them. Craig Duffney, Paul Wagner, Greg Hahn and even Calle himself are listed in the database along with their emails. Why not, before you go getting all huffy online, remove yourself from one of the largest databases that photographers use to reach creatives? Seems stupid to not start there.


If the database owners are to be believed, all the creatives listed have agreed to receive marketing emails, but even if they didn’t or didn’t know they were agreeing to this it’s pretty simple to opt-out of both. I do have some sympathy for Calle and his friends, because there’s a large amount of garbage and irrelevant emails that come in from being on a list. If you don’t have the time or patience to sift through it then you should remove yourself from the marketing databases at Agency Access, AdBase and Workbook and leave the heavy lifting to the Art Buyers and Photo Editors whose job it is to plow through all of this. Additionally for those who aren’t using the main marketing databases to email creatives there is a law in the US that requires all marketing email to have an opt-out option that must be honored (CAN-SPAM Act).

I do believe this signals a change in attitude towards email marketing, from mildly annoyed to outright anger. I’m sure there are plenty of creatives who feel the same way but are not as vocal as Calle. If your list is not targeted you’re likely just pissing someone off.

Best. Promo. Ever.

Ok, these scratch and sniff promo cards that Melissa Hennessy does for her photographers at Hennessy Represents are a great idea for standing out in a crowded marketplace:




But, this video telling creatives to be on the lookout for cards is straight up hilarious. The combo makes this one of the best promos I’ve ever seen.

I asked Melissa for a little background on it and here’s what she had to say:

In the 6 years I’ve been an agent we’ve sent out everything from postcards to water bottles, to expensive multi-page books, etc., hoping to make the “keep” pile of creatives. What seemed to be a hit were our scratch n sniff postcards- a single image card, with no plastic sleeve, & a one inch circle that invited you to “scratch here.” So with our second print run, we thought why not put out a teaser video? It could announce the mailing date so creatives could be on the lookout, and we’ll play off of the interactive nature of the sniff/scent circle & the types of things creative receive in the mail. We’re really poking fun at ourselves, but saying we understand how much stuff is sent out. The feedback so far has been very positive & we’re glad that it’s being viewed as something purely meant in jest, with no suggestion that plants of any nature inspire creativity :-)

Keith Gentile – Agency Access

I had the opportunity to talk with Keith Gentile who owns Agency Access, about marketing for my business awhile back. His company and others like it are vital to photographers marketing themselves, but I quickly discovered there was more to his business then just selling lists. I’m always surprised by the photographers I talk to who don’t know you can buy a list of Photo Editors, Art Buyer and Creatives who hire and buy photography. And, those who are on the list generally don’t know anything about this side of the business either. So, I took the opportunity to interview Keith and transcribe it for the blog. [Full Disclosure: I never ended up doing anything with Agency Access.]

APE: I wanted to just start at the beginning. How did you get started
 in this business and what was the beginning like for you?

Keith: Well, I had just turned 19. I was working for the two owners that created Agency Access back in ’96. I just jumped into the mailing operations. I was stuffing envelopes and helping out with the mailings. Back then, they only sold lists and did the mailings 
together right then and there. It wasn’t a company where you could buy a list and do what you wanted to. The mailings had to be done in house.

APE: Was it always Agency Access? Was always geared towards
 advertising agencies?

Keith: Yes, it was always geared toward advertising agencies. It was created by a rep and a businessman who provided the funding. They were two friends, and they targeted ad agencies because the rep. thought, “Wow, it’s so difficult to maintain your own database. Maintenance is a whole job within itself. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a service that would maintain the database and do the stuffing and the labels just for artists and reps?”

In ’96, direct mail was a lot stronger. Lots of people were doing direct mail and it was very, very effective. It’s still effective now, but it was more effective before email hit the field.

So his theory was, “Wow, I don’t want to do it. I would love for someone to maintain and update my contacts.” The main goal was to keep a quality database and keep it as updated as possible, while tracking these people wherever they went. There is so much movement in the industry. People are jumping around from agency to agency and magazine to magazine.

APE: Now the lists, as far as selling lists and direct mail,
 that has been around forever, right?

Keith: Sure. Lists and direct mail have been around for a long time but they were not specified to the ad agencies, magazines and corporations hiring artists. In our industry, selling of Creative lists, the originator would be Steven Langerman and Creative Access. Steve founded Langerman Lists. At that time Langerman Lists had been around for about 15 years. He would produce labels and sell them. He was probably one of the inventors of the specialized list service and he made a really good business out of it for himself.

With Agency Access the partnership between the rep and the businessman eventually ended. Then the businessman was working alone. As a result, I took on more responsibilities and became more involved in doing direct mail, research, and sales. Then, I was actually managing the data. I just got into it and really enjoyed it a lot. At the time, I was also in school majoring in business and the 
business wasn’t doing that well. I didn’t think the business model was correct for the company. 

I ended up buying out the previous owner in 2000 and I was able to implement the things that I really wanted to do: building the website and turning the database into an online Rolodex. I felt that it would be more beneficial for people come in and maintain their own contacts and search independently. We also started selling lists on floppy disks, labels and eventually in email form. People no longer had to do the mailings with us and they could purchase a list to do what they wanted. This was the turning point for Agency Access.

APE: And there was nobody else doing that at that time?

Keith: Adbase, which is probably our leading competitor, was definitely doing it around ’96 as well. Denis Kane, of Adbase, had a
 partner who was very big into programming. They launched their site way before I even had the opportunity. There were others providing lists as well, Langerman Lists, Workbook, Creative Access. Those were probably the four main competitors who we were up against. 

It just kind of evolved from there.

APE: So, I’m gathering that you’ve got to have a passion for this type
 of business.

Keith: I guess I do. I was a worker. I was there at 7:00 in the morning until 8:00 at night. That’s what I liked to do. I was young and
 still living at home and had a lot of passion for what I was doing. I wanted to see it succeed. My farther once told me “good things happen to good people,” but I also know if you work hard good things happen for you as well.

 The deeper we got into this database, the more I started to realize that I didn’t want to be a database service. I wanted to have a database because I knew the importance of it, but I wanted to mold the company more into a promotional agency specifically for the artists and reps. 

This way, photographers, illustrators, and reps, could use our services to do more rounded marketing, not just, “Oh, here’s the 
list, go do what you want,” but rather “Hey, we have the lists, we can do your mailings, we can do your emails, we can do your printing, we can do the fulfillment,” and it just evolved more from there. 

Every year, we just kept adding more and more services, like the consultant services, telemarketing services, PDF portfolio services and creating this one-stop shop.

APE: What’s the telemarketing service? I’ve never heard of that.

Keith: The telemarketing is basically where we make phone calls. Typically, once an email is sent out, we’ll call the clicks, opens, or we might possibly call the customer’s dream clients.

APE: You’d call them for the photographer?

Keith: Yes, on behalf of the photographer.

APE: [laughs] That sounds like a photographers dream. I think that the
photographers would say cold calling is the worst thing, but anybody
 would say that right?

Keith: Yes, it’s scary. It’s not an easy thing. You have to have a certain knack for it. You have to have thick skin because for every ten people you call, you may only get one person who gives you a good response. We have a call cycle that we do. The photographer picks 25 people they want us to call and we put a script together.

Do you want us to source portfolio reviews? Do you want us to source meetings? Do you want us to send the PDF portfolio? Do you just want to get your name out there and get them to go to your website? So, it’s up to the customer what they want us to do.

APE: That’s amazing, I never heard of that.

Keith: Yeah, and it’s a fantastic service, and it brings marketing back down to its roots, personal relationships.

APE: Well, no it’s no personal, because you’re calling on their behalf, but…

Keith: Well, they don’t know it’s us. We are calling on behalf of the client as if we are in their studio. So Rob, we’d be calling on behalf of your studio, and I would be like your studio manager.

APE: Wow, I’m just suddenly realizing that I’ve gotten those calls before.

Keith: Yes, so we call on behalf of the photographer as if we’re working with them. It doesn’t come off too well to say, “Hey, we’re from Agency Access, calling for this person.” By doing it this way you can develop a personal relationship. 

Once we make a connection, whether it’s setting up a meeting or a portfolio request or a PDF portfolio, then we supply a report to the client with the results.

 It gives them a breakdown of the people we called, the responses we got, and the people who want you to reach out to them with a portfolio, a PDF portfolio, or those who are interested in a meeting.

 Then the photographer jumps into an already established relationship. The photographer has an easier time communicating with the Creative because they have already accepted the communication. This service is our third step, implemented in our five-step program, of how we envision our service to work for a customer.

APE: Give me that five-step.

Keith: The five-steps start with building your list and sending emails. Then step two is evaluating your opens and your clicks. Your opens are people who may be interested in working with you. The clicks are the people who basically, checked it out and went to your site. In most cases these are warmer leads.

 Then we take the clicks, and we do what is called the “small lot print run”– where you can print only 100 cards, let’s say. They are very cheap, it ranges between $100 to $250 depending on the size. You can get 100 of these cards printed, and we do the fulfillment and send it to the people that clicked or opened your email. That’s one week later.

 One week after that, we do our telemarketing. So we’ve sent an email, One week later we’ve also sent a direct mail. One week later, we call them up on the phone. That would be, technically, step three.

 Step four, to us, is getting a leave behind portfolio book like a blurb book, or a paper chase book, or creating a PDF portfolio with Agency Access, or getting them a special promotion on your own. The telemarketing qualifies them to receive a portfolio so you can actually send that off to them. That’s what we would qualify as the fourth step.

APE: So you’re drilling down; you’ve had your big list, and now you’ve 
got a smaller list, and now you’ve got an even smaller list…

Keith: Exactly, you’re drilling down at each step and getting to the main people of interest. The fifth step is really an overall “have a marketing person.” Either it’s you, an assistant, your wife, your husband, or it’s Agency Access. We actually have a program called the “Campaign Manager,” where you work with someone in-house.

 You also work with a consultant on things like image selection and making sure the execution of this plan is done properly. It’s very, very, important to have a marketing plan, and sending an email is not a marketing plan. You can’t market like that. You need a solid plan with aggressive follow-ups as email is just not enough.

APE: [laughter] Yeah! You’d be surprised at how many photographers think it is.

Keith: If people buy these lists and send out emails, and then say “Oh, it didn’t work.” There’s a reason why it didn’t work. That’s such a small piece of the puzzle, and there are so many elements.

 The five-steps break down spans from net-branding with an email to tangible branding with direct mail — something they can touch. The telemarketing would be referred to as the voice branding. Within those three sets, they’ve seen your name and your brand name, or at least heard your name and your brand name three times. 

By the time you’re qualifying them to receive a leave behind portfolio book, your actual portfolio book, the PDF portfolio or setting up a meeting, they’ve seen, heard or touched your name three times. As a result, you’re starting to build a relationship with them which is key.

The fifth and final element in “Building that Marketing Campaign” – is that you’ve built a relationship with the Creative and you didn’t just spam them with a lot of email. You actually went down the line and built a relationship.

 They may or may not have a job for you right then and there, but, Rob, in like five, six months when you call them up again and you say “Hey, it’s Keith Gentile Photography,” or whatever, they will give you the time of day because you have built a relationship with them. That’s what my company wants to do for the artist is build relationships, and not just throw spaghetti on the wall.

 We want to narrow it down to five core people that are going to give them jobs for the rest of the year. This way they can actually 
maintain and be a photographer, and survive in this kind of market as a business.

APE: It’s obviously changed so much over the years, I mean, since ’96 
till now. Email came on and now email’s a lot of noise, right?

Keith: It definitely is.

APE: A couple of years ago it was too bad. A lot of people were not 
feeling like that’s a great way to market, but it seems like I hear a
lot of stories of creatives getting 100 emails a day and photographers reporting not too many opens from their email campaigns.

Keith: Sure, sure. There’s always going to be that issue, and I’ve been hearing that for the eight years we’ve been doing email, “Are you sure it’s OK? Is it spam? It’s not effective.” We’ve heard Creatives say it, too. No matter how many Creatives say it, there are so many Creatives that use it and hire. They definitely do, and I’ve heard it before. I’m not denying the fact that it might have been better eight years ago when it first started, and more effective, but it is still a vital part of a marketing plan and it needs to be done.

 You’re just looking for one percent. That, to us, is a good effort on the email promotion and is effective, because now you’ve seized that one percent. Now you’ve got those 30, 40, 50 people that clicked, you have a base to work off of.

 Now, you’ve narrowed your list down and you could actually start getting more direct marketing on those core people. You can spend more marketing dollars on 40 people, than doing a direct mail of 10,000 people.

 I’m still a huge believer in email and I don’t deny the fact that there’s been some shift in it. Also, there has been a lot more noise lately, but it’s still an effective way to market, and I don’t think it’s going to go anywhere anytime soon.

APE: And do you see direct mail becoming stronger, now that more 
people email because is just so cheap to do.

Keith: Yeah, a little. The reason why people stopped doing the direct mail is because email was so cheap. Direct mail is still effective, from the standpoint of someone being able to touch something and pin it on the wall or put it in their cabinet to keep for awhile, but it costs more. 

I’ve dealt with consultants, that were art buyers, and they showed me all their printed pieces and these promos were 15-16 years old, so the life span on a direct mail piece is so much longer than an email where you can easily delete it.

We see our mailing department increasing in the last few months.

APE: You do?

Keith: Yes. Not a lot, but a little bit. I think it’s the right move if they can call for it in their budget. But with direct mail, you can’t do it once a year. You have to do at least quarterly direct mail promos to the same people.

 If you can’t afford a larger direct mail four times a year, then you might want to go with the small lot and send the direct mail to only 
the people that opened and clicked on your email. I do recommend it, because I do see it — it just has a longer lifespan than email.

 I feel like the Creatives kind of missed the element of getting the direct mail and looking and touching it. Yes, it’s still a lot of junk mail to look through for a Creative, but believe me, a lot of these Creatives hire talent from these mailings, and they hire talent from email too, no matter what they say they do.

APE: OK. You’ve mentioned spamming and you’ve mentioned junk mail.
 Basically, you walk that line, that fine line, between being a spammer 
and providing a service that people need. How do you walk that line?

Keith: Well, I guess I use those terms because we hear them so much from our customers. The people in our office, we don’t look at it in that way, but we hear it so much because that’s the fear of the photographer. “Oh, if I’m sending all these emails, they’re going to think I’m kind of spamming them.”

 But, these are people that are opting-in to receive email promotions from talent. These are people that are industry-related. If you’re 
going to take our lists and try to promote something that has nothing to do with the photography or the Creative industry, that’s what we consider spam.

If you’re going to send a photography promotion with a good image, and well-branded design, we feel that to be real marketing; that’s real marketing emails. That, to us, is not spam at all.

APE: Do you kick people off the list if they’re not using it in the
 right way? I don’t know if you can do that.

Keith: Yeah, that’s kind of a fine line. What we’ll do, is we’ll contact the customer and we’ll try to offer them help. Especially, if we see someone marketing and we don’t think they’re going in the right direction with their branding or design. It’s a very difficult phone call to make, but we feel like we owe it to them if we’re going to be providing this service.

APE: I mean, don’t you have to protect your list? You have a list of
 opt-ins, and they can opt-out, right?

Keith: Yeah, they can. You need to protect the value.

APE: You have to make sure that people using your lists aren’t causing
 Creatives to take their names off it, right?

Keith: Correct, and I think that’s why we decided not to quickly jump in to a self-serve service like our competition does. When you do emails with Agency Access, you deal with a real person — an email engineer. They produce your template with you. They help you brand it. They really see everything before it goes out.

 So if we actually see some issues, we can address that issue before it goes out. We don’t want to send out an email promotion that isn’t going to be effective for the customer or for the Creatives on our list.

APE: How do you verify your list? You have 50,000 contacts worldwide.

Keith: The verification is a process that’s set up with the research department and we have about 24 native-speaking researchers in-house. We have half of them here in the US, and half in Glasgow, in the UK, who do the international data.

APE: So you have 24 people whose job is to simply research.

Keith: Yes, and their job is to call these companies every 12 weeks. We have a system in place where every morning when we
come in, it shows us what companies are 90-days old. This indicates that they “haven’t been called in 90-days.” That’s our 12-week cycle.

It’s their responsibility for that date to call those companies: update their addresses, emails, contact titles, new people, people 
that aren’t there any more, changed websites, phone numbers, faxes, whether or not they hire illustrators, hire photographers or
 purchase stock photography or illustration. They go through a scripted method for each company that is due to be updated that day.

That’s just a continuous daily battle. The companies that were updated today, now they’re 1-day old. Tomorrow, when they come in, the ones that were 89-days old are 90-days old. You won’t find anything in our database that hasn’t been called in a 12-week cycle.

APE: That’s pretty amazing.

Keith: Yeah, it’s a big task. It’s probably the biggest challenge here.

APE: Is that where people will opt-in or opt-out of the list?

Keith: Correct. If there are people there who are already listed with their email address and they ask to be removed from the list, then yes legally we have to remove them from the list. Typically, not many people will opt-out of direct mail, but they will opt out of email.

APE: I’m curious, because it seems like direct mail is so much
 different than email, because with direct mail you can’t really
 opt-out can you?

Keith: Yes, the Creative can send a letter to the photographer and ask to be removed. The photographer will have to take them off their list. They can also call us and ask to be removed from the database too but we will fight to keep them. The value in our service is the more data we have, the more opportunities we provide for our customers. 

We explain why we’re doing it and nine times out of ten, people will say “OK, leave me on the direct mail, but maybe on the email, take me off.” If they want to be removed from the list, we do have to remove them. We have to respect that.

APE: One thing, just from having been on the other end of the list. It
 just was never clear to me about removing. I mean, you want to be
removed from some photographer’s list, but you want to still be open 
to receive people you’ve never heard of. You get a few emails from
 somebody and you’re like, “I really don’t want to ever get another
 email from that photographer again, but I would like to still be
 open.” It doesn’t really seem to be an option, does it?

Keith: With us there is and I’m glad you asked that, because that’s one thing that not many people know about. We don’t really market it, but it’s one thing we’re very proud of, because I think we’re the only company in our industry that allows this.

 We have a double opt-out system on our email. Any email you receive using the Agency Access system, when you opt out, it says “Would you like to no longer receive promotions from this photographer?” Then, underneath that, “Would you like to unsubscribe from the Agency Access database completely?” This gives the Creative the option to stay on the list while removing themselves from the individual’s list.

APE: Wow. Are you the only ones that have that?

Keith: As far as I know.

 Other companies that do not do this have a huge unsubscribe rate because they don’t allow for it. It’s funny, what you said is the mentality of the Creative on the other side “I don’t want email unless it’s good email.”

APE: Yeah, only good email. [laughs]

Keith: That’s why email will never die, it’s still effective.

APE: My fear of opting out was that I would never get anything again.
Yeah. So I just never opted out, and ended up deleting them, and it’s
 one of these things where it’s like “Argh.”

Keith: We did that right from the beginning, and I think that’s why we were able to keep such a strong email database.

What’s great is that the system recognizes that, and the next time that person goes to send an email, even if they put that person on the list, it will not allow it and it automatically scrubs the email out.

APE: YDo you think you’ll start collecting Facebook and Twitter
 addresses for Creatives?

Keith: You may have just given me a good idea.

APE: Yeah, it’s basically the opposite of direct email. You put
something out there and you have no idea how many people saw it.

Keith: It’s funny. It’s totally true. To bring it back to personal communication — blogs are great to learn more about a photographer, as a person. Of the people that we’ve spoken to, and we have done some research, typically it’s the art directors/creative directors that are more interested in Facebook and blogs. Where the art buyers and the photo editors don’t necessarily have that much time to read the blogs, and look at Facebook, and stuff like that so they stick to more traditional promotions such as direct mail, email and portfolio sites.

APE: Tell me about the videos and white papers that you’re doing 
inside the site?

Keith: That’s the “Inspiration Section,” it’s a member’s area where we have white papers from different consultants, and different marketing experts in the industry. They’re very small, very basic, easy to read, simply and they get the point across quickly. We also did some telemarketing dialogue guides, because we do understand that not everyone is going to hire us for telemarketing. These are simple scripts to show the photographers and illustrators what to say when they call up, if you are going to start doing calls on your own. Then we added some educational audio MP3’s too.

APE: How can you help photographers with the face-to-face meeting; 
landing that, and what’s your ideas behind that?

Keith: First of all, the idea is getting the point across of what our database can be used for. There is still this blockage out there that
 companies like myself and others are only for email and direct mail.

 It’s so much more than that; to know what art buyer is at what agency, to know what company has the Dell computer account. That’s such important information.

APE: Do you have that information?

Keith: Oh, absolutely. The brands in our database for ad agencies allow you to look up Fed-Ex and we’ll let you know BBDO in New York is the lead agency on that account. You can look up any of the major brands in our database. And, they’re linked to what agency is working on those accounts.

 So, it’s like this huge, online “Rolodex” of information, and I think we need to get our customers more comfortable with calling and setting up meetings but that is how we help them get the meeting. If they know this information, they can book the correct meeting. We have this success story with a photographer who wasn’t really doing much email or direct mailing. He was just calling and calling. The guy set up so many face-to-face appointments. Within three months — it was weird because it was so crazy — he got 10 jobs; 10 assignment jobs within a three month period, from calling up and setting up appointments using the rolodex and brand database search.

APE: I’ve met guys like that, too. They get you on the phone and you 
can’t “not” take a meeting with them. Then, they get in your office
 and you can’t “not” give them a job.

Keith: That’s what photographers need to add to their marketing. I know, not everyone can do it, like you said. The more they get
 familiar and comfortable with that, and realize that, “Hey, I’m not just a photographer, and it’s not just based on the talent. It’s also
 based on how I can run a company, and how I can do marketing, and how I can do sales. And, how I can talk to these Creatives and actually communicate with them, and show them that I’m an organized, business person that would be right for the job.”

APE: How do you reach your customers? It’s through direct mail?

Keith: Sure we do. We practice what we preach.

The Marketing Mix

Really enjoyed this post (The Mix – The Marketing Formula of Successful Photographers) over on the Photoshelter blog by Selina Maitreya–ok, I got name checked but still it’s a good read for those looking to get started marketing their work.

No vision? No need for anything else. All subsequent steps rely on a body of work. ALL your sales and marketing tools are worthless if you don’t have the goods. Lets take a look at why.

Lets assume a buyer has a project (finally). They refer back to one of your marketing tools, and call to ask for your print book. If you don’t have one (because you’re convinced that nobody looks at print books), there goes the assignment. Maybe the next interested creative goes to your site looking for a “deep example” of the type of vision needed for their assignment and all they see is one or two things they are looking for mixed in with lots of other types of photography. The “body of work “needed isn’t there and you’ve wasted their time and your money. They wont be calling again.

Picture 1

The First Law Of Self Promotion

I like this response by Neil Binkley of Wonderful Machine to a question about self promotion:

As someone who has reviewed so many outstanding portfolios and self-promotional pieces, what distinguishes the very best?

Certainly, the “wow” factor of an unorthodox or expensive portfolio/promotion is always something that catches my attention. However, if that “wow” isn’t met by “wow #2,” ie. excellent photography presented in a cohesive form, then I feel sorry that the photographer spent so much money putting lipstick on a pig.

The interview is on a blog promoting a book called, No Plastic Sleeves: The Complete Portfolio Guide for Photographers and Designers (here) that I found via, Wonderful Machine Blog.

The book looks great and the blog seems like it will become a wealth of information and inspiration for portfolios and promos.

Here’s another quote from an interview with Art Director Robin Milgrim, a recent PDN Self-Promo Judge:

What do you think is the most challenging and rewarding part of being a judge for an awards competition, such as the PDN Self-Promo Awards?

There are so many talented people out there. When reviewing work for the photo-annuals I am most struck by how many people do not understand their audience, or how to distinguish themselves. At this level everyone is good, but only few are great. It’s easy to choose the winner’s. I am saddened by how many very capable talented people do not understand whom they are talking to. When submitting work for these competitions, keep in mind that the judges, as well as those that will hire you, see an enormous amount of work everyday. They devour creative. They have seen it all, and are hungry for something that breaks with convention.

Photographers & Social Media Survey Results

A little while back I linked to a survey Jim M. Goldstein was conducting (here) to see how photographers are using Social Media. The results are in (here) and can be seen in this slide presentation:

We all now know the value of social media in strengthening a community or bringing together groups of people with similar interests but the big question hanging out there is always “can it bring me new business.” Certainly, it’s been proven that you can build your reputation as a very connected photographer online and garner assignments because of this and you can also sell products back into the community you’ve created, but what about your average professional photographer looking to add blogging, tweeting or facebook as a component to their overall marketing? This survey doesn’t seem to prove that it works (Jim says the potential is there), but I do think we are trending this way faster than we think, just not the way you might expect. It’s less about your connections buying something from you in the 1000 true fans model and more about them spreading the word about something you’re working on or buying into a product your been assigned to shoot.

Looking at it from a magazines perspective I think that hiring 20 photographers and writers each month who are each connected to 1000 people who might then each be connected to 100 people makes a lot of sense as a consideration in the hiring decision.

Photographer Branding

I’ve always been a bit branding agnostic when it comes to photographers and marketing. While I enjoy a nice typeface and smart color palette I’ve also witnessed photographers dumping tons of cash on die cut business cards/letterheads and intricately designed logos when they really need to be spending time, money and effort on shoots that will give their photography an identity. I’ve always felt that as long as it’s not offensive, it really has no effect, but if it gives you confidence then it’s well worth the money. I’ve seen Art Directors fawning over marketing material a handful of times, but you really need some serious design chops to get to that level.

Heather Morton Art buyer has a nice piece on branding (here) where Art Buyer Leila Courey of Leo Burnett, Toronto has the same sentiment:

I don’t mind if photographers want to bling out their promos for extra attention as long as the quality of the work goes along with it. What I don’t dig, is photographers spending what looks like a ton of money on business cards, expensive promos or portfolios meanwhile they really need to spend more time crafting their work.

Heather goes on with an in-depth look at emerging photographer Michael Clinard’s branding journey.

Also, the Black Star Rising blog has a piece today on branding entitled “you are a brand start acting like one.

I feel like photographers can really get caught up in tinkering with all the marketing material and periphery that goes along with being a professional photographer because, let’s be honest, it’s quite difficult to “improve your craft” and a lot easier to improve your letterhead.