We recently completed a 9-week blog series on Social Media for Photographers, aiming to support you in marketing your professional photography business on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest. Being active on social media is important for small businesses in the 21st century, but more traditional digital marketing tactics are far from dead. With the rise of social media, many businesses are abandoning email marketing; this is a costly mistake! There are several reasons why you should not undervalue the power of email even in 2015:
1. Email feels personal.
When a business’s posts appear on your social media feeds, there is very little connection to you personally. When you receive an email directly to your inbox, it adds a personal level not possible on social media outside of direct messaging and wall posts (which are quite difficult to do in large numbers).
2. You can reach everyone you are targeting.
Updates on social media (in particular, Facebook) have made it increasingly difficult to reach your photography business page’s followers without paying to promote your posts. Budgeting a small amount for social media promotion is a smart investment, as it’s relatively cost-effective, but it is next to impossible to reach everyone who has chosen to follow your page with any given post. With email marketing, each person who subscribes to your list will receive your updates.
3. It is an inexpensive and effective marketing form.
We will discuss just how effective email marketing can be a bit later on, but for such an effective form it is extraordinarily inexpensive. You may choose to pay a monthly fee to an email service (also discussed further down in the article), but this is not a necessity. Even if you do pay this fee, it is a low cost when compared to advertising costs in other areas.
4. You can cultivate your list of followers.
While you should never add a person to your email list without their consent, you have more control over your followers with email than on social media. When meeting a potential client, you are much more likely to maintain a relationship with them if you ask for their contact information rather than simply handing over your business card. While you cannot add followers to your social media pages, you can ask for an email address and proactively build your email subscribers list.
5. It increases your chances of booking the client.
It often takes multiple exposures to a business for a potential customer to finally invest their money in the business’s product. By regularly engaging with your target market via email, social media, your website, and other methods, you are forming their idea of your brand and building rapport. Email is a personal but non-invasive way to regularly improve your followers’ perception of your business and the value you offer. Subscribers to your list may not need a photographer at the exact moment they sign up for the list, but they might in several months when they are engaged or expecting a baby. When they’re ready to book, your business will be what comes to mind!
Now that we’ve established that email is still a worthwhile marketing avenue, we have some tips to share to be sure you’re maximizing your emails’ potential:
VALUE your list.
It is not enough to passively collect email addresses and send irregular emails a few times a year. Your list of email subscribers list is a strong pool of potential clients–treat it as such! You should collect an email address from every target client you interact with, whether in person, online, or by phone. Your website should prioritize collecting an email address; it should be obvious where visitors can subscribe and it is wise to offer an incentive for signing up. This incentive can be a discount on a session, a what-to-wear guide, a PDF of wedding vendors–anything your target client would find valuable.
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When operating a booth at a vendor event, offer a giveaway entry for those providing email addresses–and use them! Take the time to input them into your list; too many small business owners collect email addresses because they feel they should but the list remains unused because it is not valued. If you do not have the time to maintain your list, outsource! This is a great task to hire a teenager to complete for you!
CONSIDER your set-up.
There is some room for experimentation in formatting your emails, but there are some techniques that traditionally work better than others for most small businesses. In most cases, having the emails come from you personally (your name rather than your business name) is more likely to prompt recipients to open them. Once again, it is the personal connection they feel to your emails. Sending a plain text email in letter form is often more likely to promote clicks on links within the email than a beautifully-designed newsletter; one suggests an email from a friend and the other a business email. It is all about the personal connection! However, each target audience has its own specifics and email services offer statistics tracking–change it up every now and then and see how your subscribers respond!
Your email titles should tell recipients exactly what they will find when they open the email. General guidelines for titles follow those recommended for blog titles–using numbers is eye-catching (e.g. “10 Tips for Family Portrait Attire”) as are questions (e.g. “Are you ready for freshman year?”). If your content is valuable to your followers, the titles should draw them in.
Timing of the emails is important as well as format. Email services allow scheduling emails ahead of time to be sent at any time. The resources here are helpful in determining when your emails are most likely to be opened. As far as frequency is concerned, sending one or two emails a month is sufficient to remain in your clients’ minds but not overwhelm their inbox (in which case you are likely to have them unsubscribe).
Carefully CHOOSE your content.
Many of our tips on creating content for social media apply to email content as well. Most importantly, your emails should always provide value to your followers first and foremost. You should be jabbing frequently and throwing right hooks only occasionally. Look back to where you defined your target market in creating a social media plan (or define it if you have not already) and consider what sort of information would be useful for them to receive in an email.
Each email you send should have one–and only one–call to action. While your social media links and website link can be included in each email (typically across the bottom without specifically drawing attention to them), you should not be asking readers to do multiple things from within the email. Many businesses use their irregular newsletters as a time to request several actions–fill out a survey, make a purchase, follow their social media pages, leave a review–and it is overwhelming and unlikely to lead to even a single action. Make your call to action friendly and clear. The action item can be as simple as downloading a PDF you’ve sent them or signing up for an e-course you’re offering.
DECIDE how to send them.
There are a host of options available for small businesses looking for an email service. If you have a service you are currently using and happy with, stay with them! There is no right or wrong service to be using. If you are just beginning your email marketing and are looking for an affordable and intuitive option, MailChimp is a great one. Creating subscriber lists is simple, as is structuring the emails (whether in plain text or with their drag-and-drop templates). Emails can be scheduled to go out to your entire list at particular times, or your list can be segmented to test open and click rates with different email formats.
With paid accounts (pricing depends on number of subscribers), automation can be used. This feature allows a series of emails to be sent to subscribers based on when they’ve signed up. This is the feature you would use to offer an incentive for signup, such as a PDF portrait guide sent automatically upon signup. As a senior portrait photographer, you could create autoresponses of a series of tips for going off to college that would arrive in their inbox each week for the first month of their subscription. The autoresponse option can be used in addition to the emails you typically send to your entire list, which should be time-relevant.
ASSESS your success.
The work does not end once the email is sent! In order to determine how successful your emails are, you should be at least briefly examining the analytics after each email and making notes. For example, you may notice that emails sent from your name are significantly more likely than those sent from your photography business name to be opened. You can adjust your future emails to increase opens from this information. You can compare the open and click rates of your emails to the industry average for photographers, listed by MailChimp here.
When you send out an email to your subscriber list, be ready to respond! Emails can be powerful–when photography Joy Vertz sends out an email, she has to hire someone to answer phones for her following! It is very frustrating to attempt to contact someone to book with them and not hear back for several days (not to mention unprofessional). If you are going on vacation, the day before is not the best time to send an email. Be available and answer replies to your email within a few hours whenever possible.
We hope these tips have been helpful for you, both if you are currently active in email marketing or if you are just starting out. We have addressed email marketing in several interviews in the past–for more great tips, you can watch them here: