Top Marketing Strategies for Photographers & Commercial Artists in terms of ROI

While many of us are spending way too many hours in the black hole of Instagram, struggling to be perceived as relevant, trying to figure out how to make our feed look like a color wheel of perfection, following and un-following to gain followers and then sitting in FOMO and guilt about our strategy and wasted time, we may be neglecting the marketing tools that have much stronger ROI (return on investment.)

You know what works for you, and if that is social media, keep going (also, email me your secrets!) But if it doesn’t seem to be getting you any new work, you might consider investing your time in some good old-fashioned coffee dates and personalized emails.

Here are the marketing tools that are working for me:

1. Word of Mouth - direct connections come with implied trust. If you can get a friend to refer you to one of their friends, or client to client, it’s like getting a five-star Yelp review. When you are so lucky to be introduced to someone new, be sure to follow up quickly, with gratitude, and don’t forget to return the favor/pay it forward.

Writer, psychologist, and Sheryl Sandberg’s BFF Adam Grant once said, “Making introductions is a seriously overlooked form of generosity.” My business has thrived on personal connections more than anything. It has helped me find new clients, mentors, and close friends. Don’t wait to be connected, ask your friends and clients to introduce you to others (and be specific about who you want to connect to). 

2. Networking - I know, ugh! Leave the house?! This is coming from a textbook introvert, so you know it’s real talk. Yes, leave the house with your fancy pants on and go look new people in the eye. Find an art opening, a girl-gang, business event, book club, cooking class, or co-working space and introduce yourself to at least one person. Then you can run home, get back in your PJs, and reward yourself with a scoop of non-dairy ice cream. If you have the opportunity to tell someone your story face to face, they will be a billion times more invested in helping you be seen by others. (Not a scientifically derived statistic. More on networking-for-introverts to come!)

3. Handwritten notes. This is so rare and unexpected these days, you will for sure leave an impression. I regularly receive thank you notes for sending thank you notes, and the ROI is legit. Side note, stamps are getting expensive! 

4. Email!  Which is for now, undisturbed by the soul-crushing algorithms of social media. There is a much higher chance that your email will be seen by a much higher percentage of your audience than your social media posts. Direct emails are great, especially when they are well written, personalized, not completely self-centered, and ending with a call to action.

Newsletters are also still quite valuable. Only about half of the clients I work with come to me having a well-maintained mailing list, and I think this is very important to do. Who you add to your list, how often you send it out, and your content is key.

I love this article: Newsletters are Immortal.

When I was working as an art buyer in advertising, I would create email folders organized by city or specialty and save emails and newsletters if they contained work that I liked and might want to reference in the future. So, if you are not getting any replies or immediate work, don’t sweat it, you might still be in someone’s hire-this-person-next-time-we-shoot-in-Los-Angeles folder.

5. Direct Mail. I still believe in printing postcards and if your budget allows, creating larger scale, print mailers like mini-books, accordions or catalogs. Similar to e-filing, I still save my favorite print pieces and go back to look through them every few months. There’s no end to print inspiration on the APhotoEditor Instagram account. 

I also recommend hand-written notes with your mailers. Yes, it’s incredibly time consuming, but having a third party print and mail your postcards is the fastest way to land in a recycling bin.

All of this being said, I’m not implying that you should quit social media by any means. Look at your analytics on a regular basis, think about where your jobs are coming from, and invest your marketing time in the strategies that are bringing home the bacon. Give each marketing platform a set number of hours you will dedicate to it each week in balance with your current ROI and see what happens. 

I’d love to hear what’s working for you! Need help figuring it out? Shoot me an email.

P.S. I’m rooting for you!


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