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Email Is Your Secret Weapon

When marketing your services online, you can depend on one thing. Change. Just ask Jeeves, or try a search on Alta Vista or Lycos. Anybody remember those? Look at once-hot companies that are now not so hot, like Myspace, spiraling down to a zero user base. Facebook is today’s juggernaut, because “everybody’s on Facebook,” but someday you can depend on somebody saying, “what was that thing called Facebook?”

There’s a deeper question that needs asking: “Where are my buyers online?” Where do they look for buying opportunities? Facebook? I post pictures of my cat and baby on Facebook. So do the art directors, creatives and photo editors who hang out there. Generally, they don’t go there to buy or license your images.

According to a Pew Internet survey from 2011, 92% of those who use the Internet use email, with 62% using it on a typical day.Wired Magazine ran a story discussing how email is where people go to seek relationships with someone they might actually buy from.That means that if you can make it into somebody’s inbox and not get deleted, you have their undivided attention for a moment. Email is for closers.

In a weirdly comforting way, that’s something you can depend upon.

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Let’s talk about working this to your advantage. If you are smart, you create an email campaign that sticks, that is anticipated. It’s like what photo reps used to say about postal mailers: Create one so beautiful no buyer will want to throw it away.

What if you sat yourself down and thought about the storyline you tell about your work? What does your buyer need to know about you? Are you fun to work with? A risk taker? Expert in exotic locations? Great with people? Let those thoughts form the theme for your next six months of emails. You’ve got yourself a campaign right there.

Then, put these tips into play.

  • Send regularly. Once a month is good. Once a quarter is ok. Be dependable.
  • The subject line rules the day. Most people say they open an email because of the subject line. Spend some time thinking of what your audience wants to read. “Joe Photographer’s Monthly Newsletter” won’t work.
  • Feature your portfolios in your email campaign. Focus on a different portfolio each month, and note who clicks. You’ll quickly get a sense of what resonates with your audience.
  • Some viewers will be interested in your landscapes, others in your portraits. So be specific, and divide your list based on those interests. Send smaller and more precisely. How to do that?
  • Consider going pro. Sure you can bcc everybody on your list and send an email to yourself, but then you don’t get any data. If you use a platform like MailChimp, Constant Contact, or Emma you can track who opens and where they click. Then you can divide your list into interest groups. The pro platforms also allow a custom design that matches your online portfolio.

Email list building is slow work, but you’re after loyalty, focusing on the people who open your campaign every month. They’ve come to know you, and they are most likely to buy.

Lee Schneider

Lee Schneider is the creative director at Red Cup, a communications agency that uses digital media to launch campaigns and build online narratives. His podcast, TechSmart, covers start up culture and online entrepreneurism. He writes for The Huffington Post and for Medium. He is the founder of DocuCinema, a media production company. He has written, produced, directed and edited documentaries for The History Channel, Discovery Health Channel, The Learning Channel, Bravo, Food Network, Court TV (tru tv), ReelzChannel, A&E and many corporate clients. He began his career as a freelance writer at Good Morning America and was a producer at Fox and Dateline NBC.

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