Need marketing help!

Discussion in 'General Shop Talk' started by rabhobbes, Apr 14, 2009.

  1. rabhobbes

    rabhobbes TPF Noob!

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    Hi---
    Thought I'd get some opinions on doing marketing for my animal photography business (or lack thereof)...
    I am trying to figure if it's me, the economy, or ????

    Basically, here's where I am:

    Did a booth at a dog-related fair recently...first time out, had different framed prints and merchandise of my pet portraits.
    Everyone LOVED everything, which was great. Had TONS of people all day. I was giving away coupons, my spring pricing brochure, and running a drawing for a free session and 5x7. I had close to 80 entrants. BUT, so far, I cannot even give away the *****ing prize! The winner was notified twice, no response. Then I pulled more names at random, told them they have a free session and 5x7, and got one response. Another batch of about 15 entrants were notified they have a free session, no strings attached, and I got zero responses.

    SO...I have about 50 more contact names I can do something with...but WHAT? These are people that on their own entered their info because they loved my stuff, and now I feel like I'm trying to run a scam or something. Getting frustrated.

    I have also been sending nice letters of introduction to vets, groomers, etc. (about 20 so far) about hanging my framed portraits in their places for free, or having my brochures available on their counter in trade for free photography for them, and I got one "maybe"...

    I am NOT wanting to go the route of the "$10 picture with your pet day" at the local pet shop, it's not my style on alot of levels.

    So, anyone have any advice, ideas, or anything?
    Thanks in advance.
     
  2. bdavis

    bdavis TPF Noob!

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    That's some predicament you have there. I'm not sure what to tell you, I'm still trying to get my own thing up and running, but I could throw out some ideas.

    You say you have contact information for all of these people but dont know what to do with it. I would think sending a nice letter to them and tri-fold brochure stuffed in an envelope might help some things along. You said they saw your work and liked it, well maybe by sending them a nice letter as well as a brochure with samples of your work on it would remind them what they liked about your photos.

    I think you are going on the right track for having some businesses advertise for you in exchange for discounted or free photo sessions, but be careful they don't exploit you for it.

    Here's a radical idea. Maybe the next time you have a booth at the fair, set up a mini studio and start shooting some pets. Of course you'll want some samples of your best work hanging up and maybe an assistant to help you run the booth. Also be sure to have plenty of business cards and brochures available for people to take. But back to the studio idea...Just get a simple 1 or 2 light set up and when people come to your booth, just ask if they would like some sample shots of their pets or something. Then just pop off a few and show them on the back of the camera to see what they think. If they like them you can give them your business card and tell them to contact you about purchasing them. This way you might be able to snag a few clients, but also get some more work for your portfolio as well. Seems like a win win to me.

    Other than that, I dont know what to tell you other than keep trying and dont give up. I've looked at your site and you do have some really nice work.
     
  3. SnowNow12

    SnowNow12 TPF Noob!

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    At the next event, I would recommend setting up a mini studio (as said above) and photograph the animals. I would hand out your card that directs them to your site where they can view online proofs of their animal. Then, if they want, they can purchase photos from you or other pieces (mouse pads, cups, t-shirts, etc.). MIght not be the exact direction you want to go in right now, but it could get your name out there. Just a thought.
     
  4. Moon Baby

    Moon Baby TPF Noob!

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    Set up a studio booth and shoot free, no sitting fee or anything. Prior to that, sign up at SmugMug Photo Sharing. Your photos look better here. or Zenfolio | hosting service for photo galleries | a place to learn and enjoy photography, wear a custom printed t-shirt or give out business cards with your link to the site. Set up proofs and price your prints and accessories. I'd provide a free 5x7 or 8x10 print apon a set amount purchase.
    That's as much as you can do atm, there isn't much of a demand for the type of photography you do.
    Another marketing idea is to advertise your business at local pet groomers, petsmart, petshops or any business that would accept commision to advertise you.

    Good luck.
     
  5. Marc Kurth

    Marc Kurth TPF Noob!

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    What was your business model going into this? What did your research tell you about the market in terms of volume and pricing?

    I hear frustration in your post, so I wonder what your projections and expectations were when you decided to invest in this.

    Marc
     
  6. rabhobbes

    rabhobbes TPF Noob!

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    Thanks for the comments and ideas everyone...

    I am doing marketing to try to get into petshops, groomers, etc...just not alot of yes's yet. I am proposing doing "doggy photo days" at local dog daycare centers, and doing like suggested by directing the client to my site where they can view and purchase their prints, etc.

    As for shooting at these events, my initial thoughts have been "no way."
    First, I'm in Florida. It's hot. There's no way me or the dogs would last to shoot at a booth (for the next 7 months anyway). That leaves indoor fairs...which would work. It'd cost around $100 or more to get the space and pay for the electricity (that's another thing...some of these fairs don't have electricity available or you have to pay double fees to get it) .

    I may sign up for a booth at an indoor fair here but it's not until September...

    I was trying to avoid the quick, on the spot shoot type thing, it seems like if someone did that they might spend $30 on merchandise or prints, and be done with it for the next couple years as far as getting their pet portraits done. There's also not a ton of creativity shooting like that... a few minutes per animal at a 10 x10 booth seems limiting in that respect.

    What I don't get, and was my initial main question, is why no one even wants to claim thier ABSOLUTELY FREE session and portrait, especially since they are the ones who took the time to enter? Maybe it is a timing, spur of the moment, impulse buy, and that shooting on location like a fair is the only way to get clients, but it shouldn't be! :grumpy:

    As for my business model, I did do research in my area and online for other larger markets, and there seems to be a very small handfull doing just animal photography in my area...and to tell the truth I also didn't care for the quality or look of what is out there in my area. Also, business marketing people, other acquaintances, as well as my own pet related market research, shows an increase in spending in the pet-related industry. People love their pets, and spend $ on them. Maybe not right at this moment in this crap economy, but there is definitely a market. I also worked at an Animal Photography studio years ago, he has since taken his studio mobile and is still in business--but he always had bookings at his studio, so yes, there is definitely a market for it. If I was half as busy as he was, I'd be happy.

    I have no illusions of making this a full time thing at all...I planned on using this year to market, build business contacts and clients and see where it leads.

    Yes, I am frustrated a little...the level of excitement and interest in my work has been extremely high, and it seems like that should translate at least a little into appointments.

    Anyway, thanks for the input!
     
  7. bdavis

    bdavis TPF Noob!

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    I'm just going to add that you may not need electricity at one of these indoor fairs. You could simply put a speedlight flash into a softbox or umbrella. It would run on batteries so there's no need to be sucking up tons of electricity.
     
  8. Jim Gratiot

    Jim Gratiot TPF Noob!

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    It's possible that in this case, FREE is actually backfiring. Especially at things like a fair, everybody is giving away free stuff. Maybe there is some perception that if you're offering a free session, that you're not very good.

    You might try the opposite approach by, for example, saying that you will only photograph pets that you deem photo-worthy, and that you require a $50 up front payment to reserve their spot. And, by the way, you are booked for the next 2 weeks so they better sign up soon.

    A bit extreme, perhaps, but telling people that their pets aren't worthy of having their picture taken might get people signing up with you.

    Just a thought...
     
  9. rabhobbes

    rabhobbes TPF Noob!

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    I will eat my own shorts if that works :lol::lol::lol::lol:

    ...I may just try it!
     
  10. mamun

    mamun TPF Noob!

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    for marketing you need financing. by financing it is easier for you.
     
  11. guitarkid

    guitarkid TPF Noob!

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    I hear your frustration and I feel the same. Maybe it's the economy. I blew my savings throwing good money after bad, researching marketing countless hours at night when I should be sleeping, where to place ads, etc. I strategically placed ads in the areas that were most popular in my area. I spoke to friends of friends who are girls and brides to see what magazines they pickup, where they look, etc. I have been in a few large publications, centered around Chicago, modern bride, david's bridal, websites such as the knot, and others. Nothing works well, especially this year. My wife suggests pulling all advertising to see what happens. I have mailing lists that brides subscribe to and they know they will be contacted by someone. But, when I email them, it's as if my emails are sent to no one....and they are asking for info! I too feel like we can't give stuff away, even though everyone who sees our work loves it. Potential clients just seem to disappear. I don't know if I should raise prices by $500 or drop by $500. We're right in the pocket with most studios. I have no high expectations. It is really odd. This year is worse than last. It's as if I have never done photography, have no site, have no advertising...that's how dead it is. I hear this from a lot of vendors, who think it could be the economy to blame. Right now I'm chalking it up to it is what it is, I am doing my best. Good luck!
     
  12. Jim Gratiot

    Jim Gratiot TPF Noob!

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    Raise your prices. I think the economy is being used as an excuse for poor marketing (not referring to you specifically; just a general comment). While it's true that potential customers who are struggling financially have even less to spend than they did, people who had lots of money to spend still have money to spend.

    A billionnaire who is now a millionaire is still a millionnaire. Our economy sucks, but that doesn't mean that Porsche, Ferarri, Gucci, and Tiffany's are all going to go out of business.

    Raise your prices. But stop marketing to "regular folks" who are now without jobs, and are struggling to pay the rent. Raise your prices and market to people who have lots of money.

    Poor economy or not, people are still going to buy pictures. You just have to change the way you market, and change who you're marketing to. Be different than your competitors, adjust to the times we're living in... but most importantly (and this holds true no matter what the economy is like), market to people who have the money to buy what you're selling.
     

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