With all the electronic forms of communication, surprisingly enough direct mail is on the rise. More and more creatives in our industry are appreciating the tactile, personal and touch. Even print has gone digital and this has made it much more affordable, especially in small-batch runs.
Direct mail marketing is most effective when combined with other marketing channels, such as email (personal and blasts), social media, cold calls, portfolio reviews, and portfolio sites. It’s important that you pick the channels you are most comfortable with. However, we recommend that you choose at least three in order to be the most effective in establishing a relationship with your target audience. You can use email to help determine who’s showing interest in your work, and then send these people your direct mail piece.
You only have one time to make a first impression, so make sure you take the time to think through your mailer from start to finish. Remember that your goal is to drive traffic to your website, build brand awareness, establish relationships that are in the same market segment as you are, and, of course, get work!
Who’s Your Target Audience?
First, you need to establish your target audience. Who will you be marketing to? If you are already using email as part of your marketing campaign, we recommend using your clicks along with your dream clients to make up your direct mail list. Your dream clients should be a balance of high, medium, and low-hanging targets. If you put the work into your dream client list upfront, this will save you time and allow you to focus throughout the remainder of the year.
How Often You Should Send
As part of your marketing plan, you should figure out how often you can send your cards out. We recommend sending a direct mail card 7 to 10 days after your email goes out. If you are not doing electronic promotion, then you can send cards on a quarterly basis or even consider doing a special, one-time campaign.
Direct mail should be used to deepen your relationship with your targeted leads, so we suggest keeping your distribution list tight and send between 100- 250 direct mail cards.
Choosing the Right Images
Think about your work as a campaign and create visual variety within the same market segment you are going after. If you know your targets’ buying seasons, be sure to consider them when selecting your images. Also, consider the season you are sending your cards in. We are huge fans of showing more than one image on your cards. Showing a visual story helps build confidence and trust with your targets. Showing them you have a consistent style and that, if they hired you to do the job, you would provide the same quality. Think about the production value of the images you are choosing, along with how many times you’re telling the same story. Try to show visual diversity through contrast. Sometimes contrast is in color, subject or shape. That contrast creates a visually stimulating story, which holds the viewers’ interest.
Make Sure It’s Branded
Make sure to include your visual brand, whether it’s your logo, type, or color choice. It needs to feel like you and be consistent with all your marketing materials, including your website, business cards, estimates, etc. This is your chance to shine and convey your visual brand.
Look beyond the 4×6 postcard. What is going to make you stand out amongst the crowd? It could be a poster, 5×7, 6×8, or 6×11.
The options to go further have grown tremendously, from specialty inks to foils and embossing, just to name a few. Think about your paper choice, as this speaks to the tactile component of what we do. Creatives appreciate a good paper stock and feel of the paper. Feel like you need to customize it even further? Try choosing between a matte, glossy, satin, or textured finish.
Some Advice from Buyers
According to Photoshelter and Agency Access guide, What Buyers Want From Photographers, here are 6 tips direct from buyers that can work when promoting your work through direct mail
“I am looking for images and ideas and have no time to read long text explaining the visuals. Send me something that is simple, clean and easily filed. Make it
something I would want to put up on my wall.”
-Creative Director, Advertising Agency
“If a direct mail piece has powerful, eye-catching imagery, I not only look at the piece, but I keep it on file for later use.”
-Art Director, Advertising Agency
“Attention paid to the design and message reflects an artist who cares deeply about their work, right down to the final detail. Packaging, design and craft all matter.”
-Art Director, Editorial Publication
“I love items that are not just normal 6×9 or a 5×7 postcard. I once got one on a tin. It was a great idea! I set up a meeting and flew up to see him.”
-Creative Director, Advertising Agency
“Showing me a series of postcards or small booklets on nice paper can get my attention. I also like to see how the image was used in ads and brochures.”
-Art Director, Freelance/Independent
“We like to see what types of projects are being featured in the photographer’s mail promotions. Are they working with firms we know? Do we recognize the projects they’ve photographed?”
-Marketing Manager, Corporation
A Final Note
Remember that marketing is based on consistency and relationship-building, so make sure you have a plan, put it into your calendar and stick to it. You can reevaluate at your 9-month mark to start thinking of what efforts you want to consider for the next year and the effectiveness of your current efforts.Enjoy the process, as good direct mail finds itself on the walls of offices for years. They act as a conversation piece in the office among the creative team and have a longer lifespan.
Enjoy the process, as good direct mail finds itself on the walls of offices for years. They act as a conversation piece in the office among the creative team and have a longer lifespan.
Karen D'Silva is one of today's most influential creatives in the commercial photography community. She founded Karen DSilva Creative Services, a trend, marketing and research company designed to help photographers understand the marketplace, find where their images fit, and profile and market to clients who share the same photographic vision. She is also currently a Creative Consultant at Agency Access.
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