In the age of social media and email marketing, traditional marketing efforts like direct mail campaigns are often overlooked or discounted as outmoded.
The number of unsolicited marketing emails in inboxes grows daily, and popular social media platforms regularly tweak their algorithms to make it harder for businesses to reach their followers. With these challenges and limitations, some photographers are turning back to direct mail as a way to target potential clients—often with great success.
Perhaps you’ve tried a direct mailing campaign in the past and received little response. Unlike many social media or email marketing campaigns, direct mailing can be costly and certainly disappointing when it doesn’t deliver the desired return on investment.
What makes some photographers’ campaigns successful enough to sustain the business for the whole year, while others’ struggle to get a single conversion? Successful direct mailing campaigns tend to have a few things in common:
It isn’t the only marketing channel used by the photography business.
While some businesses certainly do bring in a year’s worth of clients through direct mail, the vast majority of successful photographers incorporate a variety of marketing tools.
Perhaps a potential client has already seen your website or social media pages when they receive a marketing piece in the mail from you. Or maybe they receive mail from your business and aren’t quite ready to book a photographer, but follow you on Facebook and bookmark your website for when they are. These multiple touch points will improve your chances that the person will take the final step in booking a session with your business.
There is a high-quality list of contacts.
Sending mass mail blindly is a great way to waste a lot of your marketing dollars. When initiating a direct mailing campaign, the list of recipients should be carefully selected to ensure that your marketing piece reaches those who match your target client profile.
You may compile this list from local events you exhibit at, lead generation through your website or email newsletters, or databases available for local groups—the important part is that you vet each name on it. The small expense you’ll pay to have your images arrive in someone’s mailbox is worth it, but only if they are someone you’d actually want to photograph.
The piece being mailed is exceptional.
If you have high-quality leads, the last thing you want to do with it is mail them a form letter shoved in an envelope. You’re a photographer—you’re a creative visual artist, and each and every marketing piece you produce should showcase that. In addition, your marketing pieces are representative of the quality of print products you offer to clients.
If it isn’t your area of expertise, consider occasionally bringing in a graphic designer to produce a new piece with your images. Select eye-catching photographs that invoke an emotion in viewers. Research creative ways to present your mailer (see Sarah Petty’s fold out piece here for an example).
Make it impossible to overlook your piece!
They offer something unique.
Consider what incentive you might offer to recipients of your mailer that would entice them to book with you while maintaining the value of your work.
This is a great application of StickyAlbums–perhaps anyone who mentions the mailer when they book their session receives a complimentary StickyAlbum of their session portraits. You have the option to create unlimited apps for clients with your membership; this is an affordable way to offer something unique to attract new clients.
In addition to offering an incentive, highlight what it is that makes your business unique to others they might book for a session or event. Showcase images from your favorite shoots that will give potential clients a strong sense of your style. Include testimonials from past clients who can speak to your signature style and what sets you apart.
You don’t have to write up an endorsement of your special skills; let your work and your clients speak for you.
They don’t discount previous clients.
If you would benefit from repeat customers in your photography business, don’t forget about previous clients when planning your direct mail campaigns! The marketing piece sent this audience may be different from the one sent to potential new clients, but can still include the special offers and testimonials that will remind past clients what they loved about working with you.
Spending a few dollars to mail an attractive presentation of your work to past clients will show that you value their business and would love to see them back. It would be worth the time spent to include a short handwritten note with a memory from their last session and a request that they consider you for their next.
Is direct mail marketing a good fit for your professional photography business? You’ll never know until you try. While it may not be the solution for reaching target clients in every setting, setting up a test campaign following the guidelines above will help you to determine if it’s right for your business.
Do you use direct mailing campaigns in your photography business? We’d love to hear how! Post your thoughts to our Facebook page.