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What Not To Do With Your Direct Mail

Question: Are there “right” and “wrong” ways to approach direct marketing? What should I NOT do with my direct marketing campaign?

Marketing your images through direct mail can be a very effective way of reaching your target. However, it is an expensive undertaking if not done with a plan in mind, and can end up being a waste of your money and time.

Before choosing direct mail as part of your marketing plan, it is important to understand the different types of mailers you can send, the financial implications and the pitfalls you could encounter.

The Marketing Lab Direct Mail Photographer Richard Schultz resized 600

© Richard Schultz

All Mailers Aren’t Created Equal

In our group, we have two types of mailers: the High Profile Mailer and the Reminder Mailer. Reminder Mailers are the more frequent mailers that showcase what a photographer has been up to lately. The idea is to share a recent project or image and remind creatives that we are still out there, creating. We aim to send six to nine Reminder Mailers per year. The High Profile Mailer has a different strategy: These mailers are designed to showcase a very special body of work. They’re more expensive and more targeted, and often involve a designer. We send only one of these per year.

Regardless of how you categorize your mailing options, consider these tips before embarking on your campaign:

1) Choose a compelling image or story to share

It seems obvious, but to many it’s not. You must choose imagery for your direct mail piece that stands out when received. Do not choose an image just because it’s time to send a mailer. Each image needs to be stronger than the next, and one that you are proud to share. Because of this, we suggest not even starting a mailer campaign until you have an inventory to choose from.

2) Be strategic with your image choice

Although the people who receive your mailers rarely file them away anymore, we still ask ourselves, “What envelope will they put this in?” before we make our selection. Is it still life? Lifestyle? Portraiture? This is an important question because if you are a lifestyle photographer, typically you should not mail a landscape image. Consistency in message is crucial.

3) Determine your plan and then STICK TO IT

The biggest mistake a photographer can make is to send out a mailer and then not send out another for a few months. Do not begin a mailer campaign if you cannot follow through with your plan. Sending one mailer rarely works. You need to create a campaign plan and stick to it.

Photographers who wait three to four months between each mailer run the risk of their imagery not getting noticed. The frequency of the mailers will help the person receiving it recognize your name and work quicker.

One trick we tell photographers is rather than plan for a year’s worth of direct mail, consider planning six months at a time. That way, you can maximize your budget over that time and then reevaluate your plans before the six months are over.

4) Recognize that FREQUENCY is more important than QUANTITY

FREQUENCY IS KEY. If budget is an issue, we prefer a photographer to send out fewer mailers more often than a higher quantity less frequently.

Translation: Send to fewer people more often. Don’t be tricked into thinking that decreasing the frequency of your mailers just so you can send them to more people is correct. It just isn’t.

5) Know your list

You can have the most compelling image to share and a strong plan to execute, but without a relevant list of contacts your campaign will fail.

Make sure to determine who your target market is before you create your list. Clients appreciate it when the mailers they receive are appropriate to their accounts.

A big part of a strong list is knowing every name on it. Yes, every name. That means doing your research and making sure each name has a purpose. Does that person work on the account you are targeting? Are they an award-winner, or perhaps work at an agency whose work you admire? At the very least, if you haven’t heard of the agency, remove it from your list. Making the effort to know the people on your list, even if you’ve never met in person, will make your connections that much more relevant.

Overall, direct mail is a very strong piece of the marketing plan. It is most powerful, however, when supplemented by other forms of communication, such as websites, email blasts, source books, PR, social media, etc. Be sure to think about all of the elements of your plan when determining how direct mail best fits.

About Heather

Heather Elder represents 9 commercial photographers, hosts an industry blog and stock inspiration site as well as consults with a variety of photographers nationwide. She graduated from Boston University and started her career at an advertising agency on the east coast where she worked as an account executive. It was while working on the Polaroid account that she realized her interest in photography. She left the ad agency to become an agent and producer for a Boston based photographer where she used her agency background to develop her own business style. Heather Elder Represents

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2. 5 Tips for Effective Direct Mail Marketing

3. Dialogues Podcast: Follow-Up Call & Marketing Strategies