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The power of marketing

February 3, 2017 Marketing, Technique, Workshops No Comments

The reason why most photographers can’t make a living from their work is because huge efforts are necesary to convince them to spend money on marketing but no efforts are required to get them to spend their money on cameras and gear.  The problem is that just about any camera can take a sellable photograph, but no photograph will be sold unless they are marketed in a convincing manner.

What made me successful selling my work is I decided to reverse this process: I stopped spending my money on cameras and started spending it on marketing instruction instead. ”
Alain Briot

A best seller
The quote above sums up what I often say when I talk about the importance of learning marketing when you want to make a living selling your work.

In 2007 I published my 3rd book on photography.  Titled Marketing Fine Art Photography, it focused on teaching readers how to market their fine art photographs. The book was, and continues to be, a huge success with photographers and entrepreneurs.  It sold tens of thousands of copies, received rave reviews, has a 5 star out of 5 stars ranking on Amazon, and is regularly featured as best-selling photography business and marketing book.

What is most interesting is I could not predict how successful this book was going to be.  The two photography books I published previously focused on the art of photography: composition, light, cameras, etc.  When I told  my publisher that I wanted to write a book on marketing, their response was negative. They believed that no one would be interested in learning how to market fine art photographs.

Today everyone is a photographer and everyone want to sell their work
2007 is a long time ago.  However the publishers were obviously wrong.  Today ‘everyone’ is a photographer and many want to know how to make money from their photography.  For most the goal is to recoup the cost of their equipment, software and consumable.  However this is just the tip of the iceberg.  Many have a more powerful and personal reason: to learn how to make a living from their art.  For these photographers, making a living from their artwork is a dream they want to make come true.  This is why they buy my book.

This is great but there is a caveat to that situation.  The fine art market is a small market and when tens of thousands of photographers try to make a living in that market they create a bottleneck situation.  Quite simply there are too many photographers trying to make a living from too small of an audience.   In other words, while the number of photographers trying to sell their fine art photography has exploded, the audience interested in buying fine art photography has not grown any larger.  In fact, the audience has actually shrunk.  It has been significantly reduced by the economic recession we just went through and out of which we have not totally emerged yet. Quite simply: people don’t have as much disposable income as they used to.  Because it is disposable income that is used to buy fine art for the most part, the sale of fine art has decreased significantly.

The consequences brought by this economic situation are simple: only a very small number of photographers actually succeed in making a living selling their work.  For all the other photographers, sales are just too few and far in between to justify their efforts and their financial investment.  As a result, many photographers quit after a couple of months or a couple of years at the most.  In the process of trying to sell their work unsuccessfully, they usually waste a huge amount of time and money.

Back to my book
Going back to my book, this means that if you want to learn how to sell your fine art photography in today’s economy, you need to be realistic regarding how much my book can do for you.  You must know exactly what it can and cannot do for you.  What it can do is give you a  foundation on which to build your business.  This is because my  book contains solid marketing advice and can be used as a manual.

What it won’t do is teach you how to be successful selling your work in today’s economy.  This is because my book was written in 2006, before the recession started.  As I mentioned, many things have changed since 2006.  Today everyone is a photographer and many want to sell their work.  Today money is tigher because customers think more about what they buy. Before the recession people bought freely.  Today people are more careful about what they buy.  They also have less disposable income as I mentioned. Because artwork is usually purchased with disposable income, artwork purchases have declined.

These are very important changes that directly affect how successful you can be  selling your fine art photography today.  However, it is still possible to make a living, even a very good living, selling fine art photography today.  But, to do so one needs to use a new approach to marketing, one different from before, one that I call a post-recession approach.

Introducting The Fine Art Photography Marketing and Business Success Seminar
I describe this approach in my new Fine Art Photography Marketing and Business Success Seminar.  The goal of the Seminar is to go beyond my  marketing books.  None of the materials featured in the Seminar are featured in my books.

When considering the cost of the seminar what I often learn from photographers who contact me looking for help with their marketing is that ‘this is a lot of money for a starving artist.’  Fact is, you are only starving if you cannot eat.  This is the true meaning of the term.  If you can buy food, or can afford to purchase camera gear and travel to exotic locations for photography, what we are talking about in regards to ‘starving’ is a matter of resource allocation.

In other words you prefer to spend your money on cameras and on photographing exotic locations than on learning how to market your work with a professional who made millions selling fine art photographs for over 15 years.   As I always say, this is a free country do I don’t see a problem with this choice.  However, I do see a problem with expecting to be successful selling your work on the basis that you use  fancy cameras and photograph exotic locations. You need to do a lot more than that to sell your work!  Beautiful photographs simply don’t sell themselves.  You need to be actively involved and you need to use the latest marketing techniques to be successful.

You may say ‘that’s easy for you to say because you’re the one selling it but I’m the one buying your materials. At the end of the day you’re the one making money here.’  That’s true and I won’t argue with that.  However, what I will argue with is that what made me a successful photographer selling my work and living my dream of making a living from my photography, is that I did invest a huge amount of money in learning how to market my work.  In fact I  invested more money than you ever will! To this day I invested over 25 thousand dollars in consulting fees (I did the math),  paid to professional marketing experts who helped me get to where I am now.  What would have happened if I did not do that?  Simple: I wouldn’t be where I am.  When asked ‘what is the one thing that made you successful’, a question I get very frequently, my answer is always the same: what made me successful was learning how to market my work.

You may also ask: where did you find the money?” That’s an excellent question because as I was learning marketing I was actually a ‘starving’ artist.  But starving is an expression, not a fact.  As I pointed out earlier on, unless you have nothing to eat, you are not starving.  I had something to eat, and I had credit cards, so what we were talking about was resource allocation, not unavailability of funds.  What I did was quite simple:  I decided to spend my money, whatever amount I had, on paying people to teach me marketing rather than on buying new cameras, lenses, software, etc.  I also decided not to spend my money on  photography trips to exotic locations.

Instead of going to Namibia to photograph, for example, I stayed home and photographed locations that were nearby.  Instead of buying new cameras, I continued using the ones I had.  My cameras worked just fine and they made photographs that were just as pleasing to my customers.  The locations I photographed locally were just as beautiful as far away ones and sold just as well once I learned how to market them.  In other words, not having new  cameras, and not having access to exotic locations , was not the problem.  The problem was not having marketing knowledge.  Without that knowledge I couldn’t sell my work because photographs can’t sell themselves, no matter how good the cameras you used might be, and not matter how great the locations you photographed actually are.

Holding on to financial resources is not always wise
Another response I get is ” I am trying to hold on to all of my financial  resources at the moment  in order to pay for printing, new business cards, art cards etc. ”  To which I usually answer: ‘which may all be for nothing if you don’t know what you are doing!’

Fact is, it is common for beginners to waste their money on things they believe they need to sell their work such as business cards, art cards, etc.  Furthermore, they often order high quality prints, four-color offset or better, to make their materials more impressive.
But impressive materials don’t sell artwork.  They get you compliments but they don’t get you sales.
Fact is, the best marketing is inexpensive or simply free. If this sounds counter-intuitive that’s because it is.  In fact,  most aspects of successful marketing are counter intuitive.  This is why this marketing is so difficult to figure out.  As an example my most profitable marketing material, the one that brought me millions in sales, is a black and white xerox copy.  Even today, now that I can afford the finest marketing materials, I continue to use it because it works so well.  It’s not how it is printed that matters.  It’s what is printed on the page.  Knowing what to write is the million dollar secret!

Boosting your self confidence is not marketing your work
Most photographers’ idea of marketing comes from having low self-confidence when it comes to selling their work.  They do all sorts of costly things to boost their level of confidence in their work.   For the most part, these things are aimed at making their work appear legitimate.  As I just mentioned, they include costly-looking business cards, four color brochures and art-cards, expensive displays, sophisticated framing and print presentation.  By making their work look like a million bucks they expect people to fork over their hard earned money.  Unfortunately, this is not how marketing works.  In fact, this is not how any of this works.

The other problem is that these  marketing materials cost a lost of money, money that is no longer available for real marketing.  If done well these materials can certainly look impressive. However,  by themselves these things  do nothing to make fine art photographs  sellable.  Just because something is impressive does not make it sell. There are many impressive products out there, but it is not the fact they are impressive that makes them sell. It is the marketing used by the companies who own these products that makes them sell.  Ferraris are impressive and so are Rolex watches, Versace clothing, Dior beauty products, Vuitton bags and many more luxury products.  However, the reasons why these products sell goes way beyond their impressive presentation.The impressive presentation and marketing materials are only the tip of the iceberg.
What makes these products sell is the complex marketing strategies used by these companies.  These strategies are not visible to us.  They are hidden by the impressive presentation.  The presentation is where most people stop looking.   What lies behind the impressive presentation is where I start to look.  The presentation doesn’t really matter.  Anyone can do that if they have enough money.  The marketing machine that lies behind this presentation is all I care about because this is hard to do.  It is this machine what I teach.  It  how to construct it and make it run that I teach.  I do this because that is what will make you successful.

Learn what Real marketing is
There is a lot to marketing and as I said much of it is counter-intuitive.  The best approach is to start by learning the correct approach right away.  This is because it is much more difficult to correct mistakes than to do the right thing immediately.  In fact, in some instances it is impossible to correct mistakes.  The goal of the Fine Art Photography Marketing and Business Success Seminar is to prevent you from making mistakes.  Never forget that there are thousands of new photographers trying to sell their work every month.  There are your competitors. They come in  huge numbers and they are hungry.  Most of them read my books, but because I sell so many books, the books are no longer enough to make you or them successful.

This is why I created the Fine Art Photography Marketing and Business Success Seminar.  Because of its cost, this seminar is attended only by a small number of photographers.  Attending it therefore gives you a huge advantage.  Think of the Fine Art Photography Marketing and Business Success Seminar as being the access point to privileged knowledge that gives you the edge you need to compete successfully in the fine art market and outdo other photographers.

Don’t get it wrong: your competition is using my services and I make sure they are successful!  That’s bad news. However, I can do the same for you and make you just as successful. That’s the very good news!

The power of marketing comes from doing something that others are not doing.  The purpose of attending the Seminar is to give you this power by giving you access to knowledge that, first, is not widely disseminated and second is tailored specifically for you with the goal of giving you the power to master the market, take control of your own destiny and make your dream a reality.

Here are the link to  The Fine Art Photography Marketing and Business Success Seminar

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