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14.12.11 - Creatively Reeling in the Non-Offered Bid

Question: How do you approach and make a sale to someone just looking for information and an estimate?

Someone just looking for information is quite different than someone asking you to provide an estimate. Therefore, I would handle each differently. Whenever someone contacts me for information I always make the effort to contact them either over the phone or set up a meeting in person.

I have found that there is a lot more to gain and learn by speaking with an individual than simply responding back with an additional email. In a phone call, I can learn how they found out about me, how I can tailor my services to meet their expectations, and how I can create a proposal that addresses their specific needs.

There will always be clients who do not have time to speak or would rather communicate via email, and this is out of your control. However, most times you can schedule a phone call if you send an email to the potential client explaining why you want to speak to them, how long the call should take, and suggesting some potential call times.

Calls are Your Time to Shine

A telephone call is an excellent opportunity for a photographer or illustrator to turn a request for information into an estimate and subsequent assignment. I suggest that you spend a few minutes on your client’s website to learn about what type of work they have done for their clients. This information is easily attainable by researching their clients on Agency Access and is usually evident on the company’s website. If you do obtain a phone call with a prospect, having this background information is an excellent conversation starter. Be sure to ask how they found about you and what they specifically responded to in your imagery. Offer up ideas on how your work can translate into their project.

Negotiating Requires a Little Give and Take

If you are asked for an estimate, your job is to figure out how to close the deal. Once you learn enough about the project from the potential client, I suggest you propose a number that you would be ideal for you. Just be prepared for some give and take in a negotiation process before the job is awarded.

Most clients are aware that fees are negotiable, so I don’t suggest stating that you’re willing to negotiate up front. Allow the client to reveal their given budget and if you are comfortable taking on the job for that number, find a way to tailor your estimate to meet their needs.

I believe a lot of photographers are leaving money on the table by immediately giving in to the first number a client offers up. We all have ideal budgets, but the cost of doing business does not always match up to what we would like to pay for any given service.

Most clients are looking for a willingness on your part to negotiate. If your style matches what they are looking for, more often than not they will make an effort to find a compromise. If a client’s budget is unrealistic, given the actual expenses that will be incurred, be sure to give an explanation of current rates in your region aside from your given fee.

The cost of doing business in New York is higher than in other areas, thus estimates are higher due to rental costs, location fees and studio rentals – not all clients are aware of this difference. When you do provide an estimate, be certain to break down all of the individual costs so your client can see how you arrived at your final estimate. This will help you and your client figure out how to reduce the overall cost and assist you in securing the job.

Follow up During the Bidding Process

Keep in contact with your client during the bidding process. Make sure you fully understand what goes on in the approval process and what dates are appropriate for follow up. This will assist you in avoiding becoming a pest and help you manage your communication schedule.

Regardless of whether or not you are awarded the job, maintain a positive attitude and offer up your appreciation for being considered. Your professionalism will make a positive impact and hopefully lead to future opportunities.

26.11.11 - Why Practice Makes Perfect When Pricing Projects

Question: When estimating work, how much of finding the price is hard and fast and how much is the art of negotiation? Can you provide tips or a process for each?

This is perhaps one of the most challenging parts of being an agent, or a consultant negotiating on a photographer’s behalf. I have done this as an agent for the talent I represented for over 10 years and it is always a combination of intuition, relationship and experience. There have been countless books written on the “art of negotiation,” and while the ideas may be the same, there are some techniques that I find especially relevant for photographers.

Establish Yourself as a Personality Rather Than a Commodity

By this, I mean you need to justify what makes your approach to the assignment unique and why YOU are best qualified for the job – beyond what they have seen in your portfolio. It’s okay to assume that the client already likes your work and that they consider you to be a good choice for the assignment since they are asking you for an estimate. Your real challenge is to establish a comfort level with your personality, and a confidence in how you approach their project.

Ask Questions

When you are asked to provide an estimate, be sure you have a basic template of questions that are relevant to ANY assignment you have to estimate, such as final usage and production requirements. This will reassure your client as to your competence and will provide you with the information to provide an accurate estimate.

Don’t be Afraid of the Money

Ask for what you need to do the job properly. Once you have established what is required, either enlist a producer if it is an advertising client, or contact the proper people to execute the shoot, and get their day-rates. Clients understand that there will be hair and makeup, styling, assistants and location scouts.

Know What you are Willing to Negotiate On

This is different for every photographer and every assignment. Some photographers are willing to negotiate on usage rates but not on day fees. Be clear in your own mind what you are willing to reduce rates on, and produce an assignment that will please the client and allow you to make a profit.

Do Not Give “Ballpark” Figures

If you give a ballpark number, you are essentially locking yourself into a price that may or may not be realistic. It is totally acceptable to ask for some time to produce an accurate estimate. Offer up a realistic time frame to create it and explain the reason. Time is always of the essence and clients are always in a rush, however, if you jump to a ballpark figure under pressure, you are setting yourself up for potential problems. Remember, once you quote a price it is next to impossible to raise it unless the client changes the scope of the project.

Use Silence to Sell

After you have provided your client with an estimate, do not to rush in to fill in the silence or provide reasons or excuses as to why your fee is what it is. Give your client time, at least a few seconds, to digest the information and let them state their objection or approval. I have been surprised how many times clients have stated that my estimate is fair when I gave them the chance to tell me this.

Validate Others

Once you have provided an estimate, there will usually be some negotiation involved – even if it’s not a financial one. You may need to negotiate on timing, the number of assistants required, locations or other line items. It is important to let your client know that you understand there are a lot of people involved in determining the requirements of a shoot, and you are willing to be flexible in order to satisfy their needs in the most cost-effective and time-efficient way.

Don’t be Defensive

One of the reasons photographers have agents and consultants is to help keep emotions out of the negotiation process when explaining the specific reasons and strategies you used in determining the estimate structure and fees.

Ask What’s Working

This is a great way to establish what is positive about your estimate and create a dialogue that will provide you the opportunity to address specific objections.

Can you Tell me Why you Would Like to do it This Way?

Asking this question gives the client an opportunity to offer their ideas, as well as give you the insight as to why something needs to be done a certain way.

Know Your Bottom Line

If you do not feel their budget will allow you to do a job you will be proud of, or make a profit, be prepared to WALK AWAY. This is perhaps the hardest thing for photographers to do because more often than not, they just want to do what they love. However, this is a business like any other, and you should not feel you have to compromise or make concessions that you are not comfortable with. If it’s an editorial job that you feel will enrich your portfolio and give you exposure AND is worth a financial loss, then it might be an opportunity you want to seriously consider. Overall, just know your bottom line.

08.11.11 - Capitalizing on Trust

Question: What is the best way to seamlessly integrate marketing and sales?

“Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.” – The American Marketing Association

The art of sales is converting prospects gained from your marketing efforts into clients. Part of the skill of integrating your sales and marketing is to provide clarity and an effective reason as to why your prospective client should place a monetary value on what it is you’re marketing. Your client needs to have a distinct reason why they should purchase your products and services over others offering similar products and services.

First Things First: Do Your Research

The first step I take to integrate my talent’s marketing and sales is to create a one year plan with an outline of their quarterly direct marketing goals, where I rotate email promotions with print promotions that augment each other. When it comes to creating a successful marketing plan, I make sure I clearly understand the type of potential clients who would be most receptive to the artist’s vision and final product. We work together to develop materials that specifically appeal to the target audience. My goal is to create marketing promotions that create desire to hire my talent.

Of course, it takes time to produce my “clear vision” of prospective clients. Before presenting any material, I research advertising agencies, design studios and editorial firms to create a targeted client list. I tend to look through a database to see which firms are producing work that is relevant to the artist I represent.

I also spend time looking through ad agency websites, as well as magazines to see new campaigns that are using similar images – I take note whenever I come across relevant work, which I mention in my phone call with the client later on. It is important to indicate your knowledge of what the client is working on and provide a specific example of how they could benefit from hiring you, or your represented photographer or illustrator.

Next Step: Establish Trust With Clients

After the research phase is complete and promotions are sent out, I follow up with a phone call to each potential client to get their feedback within two weeks of a promotion being sent. My end goal is always to try and arrange a meeting for the photographer with a potential client. Face-to-face meetings are the single best way to establish trust between prospective clients and talent.

A yearly marketing plan provides my artists and I with a consistent plan to follow through on. It enables me to objectively analyze results, which, if needed, I use to determine the best way to tweak the strategy. I find this is the most time and energy-efficient way to obtain the best results.

On a “Final” Note: Keep In-Touch

It is important to spend the extra effort to keep communication open with existing clients and to not take them for granted. These marketing efforts can focus on congratulating them on promotions, noteworthy campaigns and any personal milestones you may be aware of.

Be aware that it takes time to integrate your marketing with your sales. Develop a consistent plan and stick with it. Do not be discouraged when your efforts do not pay off immediately – remember you are building your brand’s awareness. Trust is a process. Tenacity and perseverance, as well as a willingness to adapt based on changing market conditions, are the keys to turning your marketing efforts into sales.

10.10.11 - 10 Simple Steps for Executing Email Campaigns

Question: How can I be successful with email blasts?

Email marketing has recently come under fire from a number of creative directors who complain that they are inundated with unrequested promotions and unsolicited e-blasts. I cringe when I read examples of how photographers misuse this basic marketing tool. In essence, misuse tarnishes what is a valid and effective means for communicating with over-worked art directors, who simply do not have the time to field phone calls or schedule daily meetings with photographers and illustrators.

The key to successful e-marketing is to use it as one tool in your arsenal of promotional materials. Below I have listed ten tips to help you create effective email campaigns that get you noticed and create good will at the same time:

1. Create a targeted email list. If you don’t know what accounts your recipients work on, then do not send them an email. By the same token, ensure that your email is sent to individuals in a position to hire you and that your email contains images or links that are relevant to the creatives you are sending it to.

2. Remove and update your contacts quarterly. If you do not subscribe to a list service, it is important to verify that your contacts are still viable and are working on accounts that are relevant to your specialty and style.

3. Enable users to unsubscribe from receiving your emails. This is not just smart business, it is a law designed to protect consumers from unwanted email solicitation. It is known as the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 and is regulated by the FTC.

4. Do not send an email using your Gmail or yahoo home email account. Only use your professional email address: John@johnsmithphotography.com. This seems fairly obvious, but I still get emails from photographers that I do not know, who communicate with their home email address. If you do not have a website, you should not be sending out promotional emails. Your email address should contain your website domain name. So, if you are John Doe and your website is johndoephotography.com, your email address should be john at johndoephotography.com, not johndoe@yahoo.com.

On a side note, do not send people to your Tumblr, Flicker or other free image hosting accounts. If you’re marketing yourself as a professional, you need to promote and present your work on a professional website.

5. Consider creating a quarterly newsletter. This is an excellent way to engage your viewers and encourage interaction. Keep your format and brand consistent so that viewers will quickly recognize who you are. Maintain and commit to a style and font for at least a one-year period. Create active links within your newsletter.

6.  Monitor traffic to your site from your email. Most website providers now have built-in analytics, but if yours doesn’t, use Google Analytics to monitor your daily traffic and identify where it is originating from.

7. Use an email marketing service. There are now many companies that will send emails for you for a very reasonable fee.

8. Build your fan base through Facebook. Facebook definitely has its flaws, but it is now used by more than 750 million individuals worldwide. By creating a fan page on Facebook, you will establish a list of contacts interested in following your career while allowing you the opportunity to add additional fans through association.

9. Do not inundate your contacts. If you do not know the individuals you are emailing, do not assume they know you or remember you. Be respectful of their time and work demands. My advice is to limit your emails to individuals you do not know to a quarterly basis. Keep you emails professional – do not use overly familiar subject lines such as “Hello” and “How are you?” Keep the subject line relevant to the email or newsletter. Do not use all caps or bold colors in your emails – keep it simple.

10. Test your email. If you are sending out an email to a large group of unknown recipients, be sure to send it to a few trusted friends first. This will ensure that all the links are operable and that it reads as you intend it on all computer platforms, web browsers and email clients.

16.08.11 - Amazing Pictures

I came upon these amazing images over at National Geographic.

Click here to see them

27.07.11 - 10 Ways to Focus Your Promotional Marketing Towards Clients

Question: As an artist, what is the best way to promote myself to get my work in front of the right art directors? What gets noticed/makes the most impact?

One of the most important aspects in promoting yourself as an artist is that you have a recognizable style that differentiates you from others in your field. This needs to be apparent to an art director in a matter of seconds.

Copyright: Everett Collection

1. Print Promotion Still Exists

There has been much discussion about the value of print promotion in a digital world. This time-tested method has consistently worked well for many of my clients.  Their success was augmented by researching those clients most likely to respond to their work. I advocate sending a carefully chosen amount of print promotion material to a select group of art directors.

The new Communication Arts photography annual has some fantastic examples of well designed self-promotion, along with the best advertising campaigns shot over the last year.

2. Email Only Those In Your Target Market

Email marketing is undeniably the most cost-effective means for promoting your brand, but it is also the most overused. Be selective in the image that you use for your template or newsletter. It should represent your best work and be reflective of the images in your online and print portfolio.

3. Build Your Database

Use a list provider such as Agency Access to build your email database. They will maintain your database to keep your client list active and current. Another benefit to this service is the ability to view those individuals who have opened your emails, allowing you to identify those most likely to be receptive to further contact.

4. Update Your Website

Keep your website current with new personal images and your latest commercial assignments. Don’t allow your website to become static or simply shuffle images around. An awareness of posting fresh images should be in the forefront when maintaining your website.

5. Shoot Editorial

This is one of the best ways to build your book and get your images seen by a large group of people. This will build your reputation and establish professional relationships.

6. Enter Contests and Competitions

Communication Arts and PDN hold respected annual photo competitions that are well publicized. Also, seek out alternative venues to display your work. Many agencies provide space for photographers to show their images. This increases the opportunity for art directors to see your work.

7. Remember the Importance of Personal Contact

When you work with a client, be sure to thank them. One suggestion is to send them a signed photograph from the shoot that incorporates the talent, as well as the clients who have attended the shoot. Write down birthdays, children’s names and other personal information your client has shared with you. So few go the extra mile to remember these details that creatives will notice those who make the effort.

8. Get Involved In Social Networking Sites

Use Facebook and Twitter to announce professional and business-related news, and blog entries. Be sure to post your professional profile on LinkedIn.

9. Find a Project That is Meaningful For You

If, for example, you have an interest in protecting endangered wildlife, pick a project that showcases your beliefs and vision.  This will enhance your rapport with a client.

10. Stay Inspired

Inspire your audience to want to work with you. Avoid following trends. Stay consistent and be persistent.

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