1-What is marketing?
I am sometimes asked what I consider to be marketing or what I mean by marketing exactly. By "marketing" I mean all sorts of promotional activities. There's really no limit as to what marketing venues, approaches, etc. can be. Networking is certainly a good one, and so is working with groups and so on. In general I don't recommend print ads. They can be useful but only when used in the context of a larger marketing approach. The real secret here is to develop a marketing system that works for you and that you fine-tune over time. Then, apply this system systematically.
2-The need for marketing
What you do not want to forget, or ignore, is the absolute need for marketing in order to sell your work. This is true regardless of the type of marketing you chose to do.
It can be as simple as talking to your co workers in the next offices/cubicles or as complex as a national campaign orchestrated over a long period of time. What is important here is not the type of marketing that you choose to do. What is important is that your marketing is targeted towards meeting your financial goals and needs.
As someone pointed out earlier on in this thread, creating photographs costs a lot of money when all the costs are tallied up. Furthermore, as your level of involvement increases, these costs increases proportionally and, sometimes, logarithmically (unfortunately).
For example, if you ramp up your business and open a gallery, or a studio, you will have to pay rent for office space, buy insurance and probably pay employee salaries and more.
All of a sudden you will find out that you need to make additional sales to cover these new expenses, and/or that you need to raise your prices. You will also find out that your previous marketing approach no longer works because it either does not attract enough customers, or it does not attract customers willing to pay high enough prices, or both.
The need for marketing really doesn't make itself known until such moment, that is until your financial business needs call for a certain number of sales. Until then marketing is an option, not a need. When the time I just describe comes things take a280 degree turn and marketing becomes a requirement. It is no longer something you could do. It becomes something you must do.
I mention this because I have seen too many photographers start a business and hope to make a good income without doing much, or any, marketing. Opening a website without any marketing is suicide. Opening a store or a studio without any marketing is suicide. How are people going to find you? And if they do find you why would they buy? How are you going to attract the people that want your product or services? How are you going to find out who these people are? Did you find the correct marketplace for your work? Is there a market for this work in the first place? Do you have to compromise and make your work fit a specific marketplace? Can you offer a new style or do you have to fit within the current, sales-proven style? Are you going to sell quantity or quality?
These are just some of the questions (there's many more) that are rarely asked because they don't focus on taking photographs. They don't focus on the making of the photograph. They don't involve getting new camera gear, or new software or new equipment or new photographic knowledge (although all that is important in its own respect). They don't focus on the look of your studio or gallery either (although that is also important in its own respect).
Instead, these questions focus on how to make a business income, something that many artists think will happen if they do great work. The problem is that great work is just that: great work. It's great, it's beautiful and it's commendable. It's a lot of things but there one thing that it is not and that is marketing. It's marketing once it is used to create sales. There countless ways that this can be done, but it has to be done in order to generate business income, and it has to be done in the amount necessary in order to generate the business income that you need or desire.
Answering these questions is often difficult for artists and creative people. They find themselves struck because of preconceived ideas, or values they were taught and that no longer apply, or never applied to a business situation. It is then necessary to examine one's ideas and beliefs and evaluate them in the (new) context of running a business.
I expand on these concepts in my Marketing and Advanced Marketing Mastery Workshops on DVD. If you are planning to sell your work, or if you are already selling your work and want to increase your sales, the Marketing Mastery Workshop on DVD will save you years of trial and error by providing you today with knowledge that took me over 10 years to acquire. It will save you from making the mistakes I made along the way!
Essay and photographs Copyright © Alain Briot 2010
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