This article was originally slated for publication at Northrup Photo (you can read my other published articles here at Northrup), but they recently dropped their blog format so I’m now free to post it here at Expat Journal. My photography articles are obviously geared towards photographers of all skill levels (from “Newbies” to “Pro-togs”), but they sometimes overlap into other creative efforts. If you’re an Indie-Artist of any persuasion you might find this article informative and useful. If you know other Indie-Artists (photographers, writers, artists) feel free to share this information. Thank you. SFD
Photographers are mostly Indie-Artists. Few of us have the luxury of working for companies or large corporations. I worked as the staff photographer for a newspaper in Mexico for about a year, and I quickly tired of the constraints. Photo assignments tended to be rather mundane and tedious: shooting the politicos, rich & famous, and various events around the city. We called these photo shoots Grip & Grins (handshakes & smiles).
I retired after thirty-years in banking, and was eager to pursue my photography interests (instead of those of the newspaper), after almost fifty-years in corporate harness I wanted to be free of limitations (so I quit the newspaper). I’m primarily a fine art photographer (wildlife, scenic, and street photography), but it’s tough to make money selling fine art prints. It can be done, however, and one of the best ways of doing it is with self-promotion using email.
I recently partnered with MailChimp to develop a marketing plan. To succeed in any business effort you must have a plan of action, and then you have to execute it. MailChimp has all the tools you’ll need, with the added benefit that they’re free. I am not tech-savvy, so I need things to be simple (and intuitive). The learning-curve with MailChimp is short. Here’s the Cliff Notes version of self-promotion with email:
Build an effective email list customized to your business
Segment that list for different emails
Establish an effective schedule for email distribution
Build Your List. There are many ways to build your list, with the caveat that people have to opt in. It’s important that your customers sign-up themselves so your emails are expected and not reported as unwanted spam. MailChimp provides convenient sign up links that can be embedded easily into your website and social media. Build your list by soliciting people on your present email list, social media, and face to face contacts (people who express an interest in hearing from you).
Segment Your List. I have a segment of people with the name: VIP Patron of the Arts. To qualify for VIP status they had to buy a fine art print from me (these are my buyers). This is my most important group of people, because they actually buy my photographs (and that’s what the business of photography is: selling your photography). Read my article How to Make Money Taking Pictures. Different list segments receive different emails at different times.
Schedule Your Emails. Consistency is paramount in any successful email campaign; you have to establish a regular expectation (when your customers can reasonably expect an email from you). MailChimp’s scheduling tools are easy to understand and use. Here are three types of emails I send regularly:
Newsletter Email. My newsletter is: Indochine Photography Newsletter. Each issue features one of my fine art prints available for sale, with a caption and brief description of the subject and location. I update my readers about my world travels in the On the Road segment (with a link to a related post from my blog Expat Journal). In my Indochine Photography segment I link to photographs featured in my eCommerce store. In my Expat Journal segment I link to interesting posts (travel, photography, writing, and lifestyle). My Northrup Photo segment links to published articles at Northrup, and invites readers to visit and browse the site. I often feature a memorable person I’ve met during my travels, and include a photo and brief narrative. I finish up with my short biography and contact information. I send out my newsletter on the 1st day of the month to everyone on my list. If you would like to receive my free newsletter subscribe here.
VIP Email. Once a month I send a VIP Patron of the Arts update. This email is only sent to my VIP members (my buyers). It’s a short email with a featured photo, updates about new fine art prints added to my store (as VIPs they get notified before anyone else), and most importantly their monthly private Discount Code. All VIPs can buy any fine art print in my store at a discounted price (typically a 15% to 25% discount). I generate a private Discount Code every month through my partner Fine Art America – FAA. I send this email out on the 5th of every month.
VIP Invite Email. Once a month I send an invitation email to each of my non-VIP subscribers inviting them to become a Patron of the Arts. I explain the features & benefits of becoming a patron, and tell them how they can do it (I urge their participation). It’s a short email, soft-sell, and I’m not bombarding them every other day with a sales pitch. Consistency of message is important in any sales effort (repetition), but customer abuse (over-solicitation) usually produces negative results. I send this email concurrently with the VIP email on the 5th of every month.
In conclusion: A dynamic email list is your key to marketing success (yes you can make money selling fine art prints). It takes a considerable amount of time and effort to build and maintain an effective email list. Consistency is of the utmost importance (you must be diligent with scheduling). Email content, whether it’s in a newsletter, VIP promotion, or a call to action, has to be interesting, informative, and timely. If you want to be successful in business you have to offer a quality product or service at a reasonable price. This concept will be of interest to many of you, so feel free to ask questions and I will answer them to the best of my ability. Visit me at www.IndochinePhotography.me.
Stephen F. Dennstedt
Photographer, Writer, World Traveller