Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Email Newsletters

Brand loyalty is often talked about in large retail companies, but it is just as, if not more, important to a small specialty company. Your past, present, and future clients are one of your biggest assets because they will help spread the word about your business and attract new clients in ways exponentially more powerful than any of your other marketing efforts. When a client falls in love with your business - they WANT you to succeed and they want to celebrate in your successes!

Newsletters have been a powerful business building tool for a looooong time. The coolest thing is that through the power of email, we no longer need to spend valuable resources on printing and postage to communicate visually with our client base. Wedding photographers are in a unique position because we are hired so far in advance- we have ample opportunities for building trust and loyalty in our brand before the wedding day even begins! One of the quickest and most effective tools is through email newsletters. But isn't that what my blog is for?? While many of your clients may keep up with your blog regularly, some are simply too busy to keep up with it as often as they'd like, which is why email newsletters are still just as effective as ever and can be a great way to sum up specific information you'd like them to know about. There may also be information which you'd like to share with your clients but not with the general public, which can be communicated through newsletters as well.

Here are just a few quick tips for how you might use email newsletters to help your business...
• Monthly updates featuring your latest work and favorite images to build trust with future clients
• Announce sales and promotions to generate additional income
• Run contests to drive more traffic to your website or blog
• Personalized newsletters for clients to forward to friends and family with links to purchase their images
• Share awards and publications to increase excitement about your service
• Create polls for feedback and suggestions to help evaulate your business strategies

In order to have the most impact, a newsletter needs to be visually appealing with minimal text (stick to headlines and short, easy-to-read paragraphs) and maximum images - especially if selling images is what your business is all about!! Here are a few great email newsletter services that can help add impact while streamlining your newsletter marketing efforts. One of the things that makes these services so effective is that you can actually track who opened, clicked, forwarded, or unsubscribed to your newsletters- giving you maximum feedback over the effectiveness of your marketing efforts. Also, many of them make it super easy to get started by allowing you to upload a file of exported emails from your current address book. This is by no means a definitive list of services, but rather a few that I have found attractive. Each service is slightly different, so I suggest shopping for the one that will work best for your needs. If you need help understanding some of the terms, check out this wikipedia entry on email marketing.

Constant Contact
Vertical Response
MyNewsletter Builder
My Emma

Here are some questions to think about before choosing a service:
- What is the fee and what is included?
- Do I want to use templates or have a custom design?
- If I'm using templates, how much customization of each template is available and is it easy to customize?
- What kind of support services are available if I have questions?
- Does the name of the email service show up in the email? How does that affect my presentation?
- Are the reports and statistics easy to read and obtain?

Perhaps using an email marketing service isn't the right answer for your business. You may find it easier to create your own html email or pdf documents from the software that you're already familiar with, which is entirely possible - though you may not be able to guarantee that all of your client email serviers will display it properly. Charles Bordner recently started selling .pdf style templates for customization if you need a little help getting started.

Let's not forget- sending a printed newsletter isn't dead!! While it could be potentially more costly, it can also be something which sets you apart, like it has for LaCour. Click play to see how they've used mini-magazines to build buzz around their brand...

Sunday, May 27, 2007

List Your Business Locally Online

In this world of instant access through online search tools, it is vital to list your business locally online. As gas prices continue to skyrocket, consumers will be less and less likely to travel a great distance or to pay for someone to travel to them and will instead be relying more and more on local services and doing more of their local shopping online before making a decision or stepping foot out the door to meet with someone. Aside from making it easy for someone to choose your services before meeting with you, you should also make it easy for them to FIND your business online (and your website)!! Search engines realize that they are taking the place of local directories, and they are changing their listings to reflect local directory access first when a city and state are listed in combination with any other search terms. If you haven't already done so, set up a FREE business listing with the top search engines! Here are some links to help you get started:

Google Local Business Listings

Yahoo Local Business Listings

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

The Golden Rules of Great Websites

No matter what you're selling, you'll sell more of it if you can show large, beautiful images of your product. Lucky for us photographers, the images are our products- so make sure that your images are large and wow the eye. The first impression should be biggest and best- which will set the tone for how the rest of your work is interpreted. When working in restaurants, I can tell you that undoubtably, the food that was pictured on the menu almost always outsold the food that didn't have a picture, or had a much smaller image. Is your competitor outselling you simply because they have bigger pictures and make a bigger impact? One word of caution - make sure your pictures aren't too big- just for the sake of being big. If a client has to scroll around in a standard screen resolution (1024x768 - 1280x1024) just to see one image, than it's probably too big.

While it is essential to show what you have done, it's even more important to show what it is that you want to do more of in the future. This means that the first impression you give the viewers of your website should suggest what you want to do more of. If you want to do more children's photography- put an image of a baby first or up front, if you want to do more weddings, make sure wedding images are the first things people see on your website. If you don't have any images of what you want to sell more of in the future, go out and make some- even if it means giving away a free session or hiring a few models. Just make sure that the first images a client sees on your website are consistent with what you want to do more of in the future. And if nothing else, get rid of any images that "old" or "outdated." If you have a hard time telling which images fall into these categories- have a teenager or college student look at your website and tell you.

If there's one thing that has the greatest impact on a website- it's navigation. All of the beautiful products and images in the world cannot make up for a site that's difficult to navigate. Make it quick and easy for clients to get to the info THEY want to see. If you make it intentionally difficult, you have to make sure that you don't mind losing the attention people who don't have the time or patience to wade through everything to find their answers. This also means making your menu items easy to decipher. For example, I put "investment" instead of "pricing" on my website for a while and you can't believe how many people I had asking me for info about my pricing. What I thought was fairly clear and straight-forward was obviously not for the people viewing my website. If you find that you get the same questions over and over again from people who view your website, make the answers easy to find on your website so that you can save yourself time by not answering redundant emails. When it comes to pricing- if you don't want to lay it all out there, at least give a starting price and/or average package price to help clients determine if you're even in their budget.


Your photography or products may be phenomenal, but if potential clients don't know where you're located because nothing on your website gives reference to your location, than you could be missing out on clients who are right in your backyard. That doesn't mean you'll miss out on destination gigs, just list where your business is based and that you're available for travel. Also, some people feel like they can trust you more once they know where you're from, which leads to my final point...

If your clients didn't care who took their picture, they would have gone to Walmart or JC Penny, and they wouldn't be searching through website after website to find the perfect photographer. They need to be able to trust the person behind the lens because they are putting some of their most prized posessions- the ones they save when there's a fire- in the hands of someone they may have never met. They are also going to be shelling out a large sum of money to hire you- so the least you can do is tell them a little something about yourself on your website. This applies even if you're a large studio, or a studio with multiple photographers. People just feel like they can trust you more if they know something about you in advance, or can find something that they can connect to, which serves a basic human need to feel safe. You don't have to share your whole life story, but you do need to be human and make sure you include a great, recent picture of yourself. If you want to get really fancy, you can even put a whole video interview on your website.

While many of these things seem quite obvious, I continually see photography and small business websites that fail to acknowledge one or all of these five golden rules. Don't let that be you!! Make sure that you revisit your website from time to time to make sure that you are constantly giving the best first impression possible. If you don't make a great first impression, you may never get a chance to make a second.