The more informative your advertising, the more persuasive it will be. David Ogilvy
I just completed my Color Harmonies series last month. I am now getting ready to start my next essay series which will be titled Photographic Vision. However, rather than start with the first essay in the Vision series right away, I thought I would provide you with an interlude by publishing an essay on marketing photography. This is a good time to do so because we are at the beginning of the year, a time that is used by many artists to prepare for their selling season.
This preparation takes many aspects. There is the selection and the creation of the pieces you will be selling. There is the preparation of your booth and display, if you sell at art shows. There is the preparation of your paperwork such as business and tax licenses, show applications and the like.
However, there is another aspect of preparation, one that is often overlooked, and that is the preparation of your marketing approach and materials. It is overlooked because marketing is not the forte of most photographers selling their work. Marketing is challenging, somewhat mysterious and often considered akin to twisting the customerís arm behind their back in order to convince them to make a purchase.
Say it ainít so. I did and it made me successful. I understood that marketing is not coercion. Instead, marketing is one of the fundamental aspects of business, one that is as important as creating artwork, preparing your show display or getting your paperwork in order. Marketing, in other words, is one the foundations of your business. Effective marketing is one of your business assets. Ineffective marketing, or worse lack of marketing, is one of your business liabilities. As I like to say, if you donít market one thing will happen: nothing.
The goal of this essay is to help you make marketing one of your business assets. Letís get started right away.
You have created some great photographs and you are considering selling them. Doing so makes sense. You have skills and you want to recoup the investment you made in photographic gear. Maybe you want to make your hobby Ďpay for itself.í Maybe you want to generate extra cash. Maybe you want to start a photography business. Or maybe you are already selling your work and you want to reach the next step with your business.
Whatever the case might be, selling your work involves marketing it. The problem is that marketing is a challenge for most photographers. This is because marketing has very little to do with creating fine art photographs. Most artists abhor marketing their work. In fact, most have never studied marketing. I know. I was one of those artists. When I started selling my work I believed that marketing was putting a price tag on my work. No, cross that, because at first I did not even use price tags! Just deciding what price to charge for my work was what I considered to be marketing.
My early attempts at selling my work were disappointing to say the least. So much so that it was the lack of sales that forced me to change my mind. I realized I had to study marketing or die trying to make a living as an artist. I did study marketing and to make a long story short I became financially successful selling my work, making a six figure income only two years after taking the decision to embrace marketing.
In 2011 I published my third book, Marketing Fine Art Photography, in which I detail how to market your fine art photography successfully and profitably. I wrote this book to save you from having to go through the tribulations I went through early in my career. The goal of this book is to save you from having to attend the school of hard knocks, an institution whose door is better left unopened.
About This Essay
The goal of this essay is not to repeat what I say in my book. The book is over 300 pages long and has 23 chapters so doing so is not doable in a web essay anyways. Instead, the goal of this essay is to introduce you to some of the fundamental concepts of marketing. I selected 14 that I consider to be the most important. There are more, but those are a good start.
About the 14 Commandments
Each of the 14 paragraphs below consist of a title followed by a short statement, usually one or two sentences long. The reason for these brief statements is to keep this essay interesting and to the point. If the information I am presenting here is not for you, then reading these will not have taken much of your time. If, on the other hand, you like the material presented here and want to learn more about each of the 14 aspects of marketing listed below, then this essay will work as a first step in your marketing studies. Also keep in mind that each of these points are addressed in detail in my book together with examples, photographs, exercises and much more.
1 1 Sell quality, not quantity.
Art is a luxury, not a commodity. Luxury items are sold on the basis of quality, not on the basis of quantity.
2 - Don't sell on the basis of price, sell on the basis of uniqueness.
To achieve this you will need to work hard at developing a personal style that is unique to you. Having a personal style unique to you and based on your vision for your work will make you unique and give you an edge that no competitor can ever take away from you.
3 - Don't be faceless.
Show yourself. At shows, be present in your booth. On the web, show a shoulder-up portrait of yourself on your website, on your artist statement, on your Facebook page and everywhere else you have a presence and sell your work.
4 - Increase your prices regularly.
Everything increases in price and therefore so do your expenses. If you donít increase your prices you eventually reduce your income. Furthermore, increasing your prices regularly means that the investment you customerís made in your work continues to increase.
5 - Donít be passive.
Take charge of your business. Enforce your policies and donít try to be all things to all people.
6 - Think like a business owner.
Think like a business owner, not like an employee. Business owners are critical thinkers and responsible risk takers.
7 - Ask for the sale.
Donít let potential customers walk away without trying to close the sale. The least often asked question in sales is Ďdo you want to purchase this product or service?í Make it your most often asked question!
8 - Know your audience.
You are not selling to a faceless crowd, you are selling to people who like you and your work. Learn who they are and find out why they like what you do.
9 - Sell emotions.
Sell emotions, not gear and technique. People purchase photographs for emotional reasons, not logical reasons. Print size, camera used, printer, ink paper, etc. do not sell photographs. Beauty, emotional impact, meaningfulness, vision, personal style and other emotional reasons do.
10 - Never stop marketing.
Market when business is great and market when business is poor!
11 - Believe in yourself.Believe that you can. Whether you believe you can do it, or whether you believe you cannot do it, you are correct!
12 - Show what you want to sell.You sell what you show. Therefore show what you want to sell. You canít show all the photographs you have taken, so you will need to make a selection!
13 - Offer packages.Packages always outsell a la carte. This means, for example, that a package price for 3 or more photographs will sell better than 3 single photographs. You can offer packages of photographs in any quantity from 2 to 10 or more.
14 - Continue to study marketing.Marketing changes as economic conditions changes. While the basis, such as these 14 commandments, remain the same, how they are implemented, to what extent, and with what emphasis, changes. For this reason you need to continuously study marketing in order to remain competitive.
And - buy my book!My book Marketing Fine Art Photography expands on the concepts presented here. It is a best seller and it will change your life. As John Steffer, a recent reader, put it: Alainís book has completely changed the way I think about selling my work!
Alain Briot - NPN 2054
Alain Briot creates fine art photographs, teaches workshops and offers DVD tutorials on composition, conversion, optimization, printing and marketing photographs. Alain is also the author of Mastering Landscape Photography. Mastering Photographic Composition, Creativity and Personal Style and Marketing Fine Art Photography. All 3 books are available from Amazon and other bookstores as well from Alainís website.
You can find more information about Alain's work, writings and tutorials as well as subscribe to Alainís Free Monthly Newsletter on his website at http://www.beautiful-landscape.com To subscribe simply go to http://www.beautiful-landscape.com and click on the Subscribe link at the top of the page. You will have access to over 40 free essays by Alain, in PDF format, immediately after subscribing.
Alain welcomes your comments on this essay as well as on his other essays. You can reach Alain directly by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org.