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Seattle based and California bred, John Keatley’s photography business is run with the help of a small staff who collaborate on a gamut of marketing projects, including a well-oiled email marketing campaign.
“It’s really important to be creating work and content, but what do you do with that content, and how do you communicate your vision? That’s why email marketing is very important. It’s a big part of our marketing process, but our approach is something we’re constantly talking about. There’s not one magic bullet — there’s a whole toolbox of things that need to work together,” says John, who typically targets photo editors and photo buyers.
A couple of years ago, John decided that along with a website, a blog, and a rep, consistent e-blasts should be part of his marketing strategy. For him, this meant finding a targeted list of buyers without having to spend hours paging through magazines looking for names. John was using an email service that he wasn’t totally happy with. That’s when he landed on Agency Access, which offers pre-generated lists of photo editors and photo buyers. For many commercial photographers, these kinds of services, which require a considerable monetary investment, are very valuable. John says, “It’s important to find a list, wherever you get it. It doesn’t matter to me where the list is coming from as long as it’s current and accurate and I’m interacting with the people who can potentially hire me.”
Just about every six weeks John sends out an e-promo. It typically include images from about five recent projects and a funny caption for each. “I used to be very professional,” says John. “But as we’ve grown we’ve figured out that my work is a bit quirky. So it’s appropriate and fun to relay that through the voice of the copy.”
John believes in catchy subject lines that tell a little about the content; that it’s something they might actually want to check out. “We take an approach of ‘bold, simple, and clean.’ You want to get your point across as quickly as possible. Our point is, we want to share this work with you. We’re proud and excited about it, and we think it’d be appropriate for what you’re doing. We’d love to work with you.”
Though the goals of John’s e-promos are to stay top of mind, get his work in front of buyers, and showcase his ever-growing body of images, he strives to make his email marketing something that people look forward to. He is constantly setting and raising the bar on his own creativity as a way to create a following. And his holiday card is one thing he can point to as a perfect example of this. “I hear from people that they are looking forward to my annual family photo. It’s not a typical picture, it’s very conceptual and strange. If people can come to expect something that they actually appreciate, they are going to look forward to it.”
His approach has worked well. Though he does track click-through rates, he doesn’t place all that much importance on them. And though he has a calendar for e-blasts, if something comes up and he wants to share it, he will. But he’s not looking for instant gratification. Someone new to the game might have a great response to an e-promo and think, “If someone likes it so much then why aren’t they hiring me?” But, he says, you can’t think that way. “We take a big-picture, long-term approach. I could put work in front of someone for seven years before they hire me. You can’t lose patience or be upset,” says John. “Publications might only have a few slots each year, and if your work isn’t right this time, by staying on their radar, come next year you might be the one they go for.”
For more tips to showcase your personality and attract new photo clients, check out our guide, 10 Branding Secrets for Photographers.