By Heather Elder
Every year we work nonstop from mid November until just before the holiday to create our 2012 Year in Review and 2013 Plans for our photographers. We believe strongly that doing so is crucial for the success of the next year.
The process began with a phone call in November with each photographer to review the financial situation of the year and talk through where they would like to see those numbers go in the coming year. We then talk frankly about what we think needs to happen to achieve those goals, including a realistic assessment about what they can commit to themselves in regards to shooting new work, marketing on their own and financial output. Together we set a financial goal that we then outline a strategy of how to meet.
A BIG part of the conversation this year was spent talking about the importance of shooting more personal work. I must sound like a broken record by now but once again, in the most simplest of terms, the photographers in our group that produced the most amount of new work were the busiest in the group. I have been repping for over 15 years (notice how I didn’t say almost 20 years? I feel younger this way!) and this has always been the case.
I wrote a post about this very thing in 2011 and the only thing that I would add in 2013 is that if I thought it was important in 2011, I think is is SUPER important in 2013. You can read that post here
The plan starts out with a review of what we thought about photography in general and then discusses what we thought mattered most this year and any trends were noticing. We then outline a very specific plan for how we will meet their financial goals. We end with a review of what marketing was accomplished in 2012 so that everyone has a good idea of how much cheerleading was done over the year.
Since we firmly believe their is no secret ingredient for how we market our photographers, we thought it would be helpful to share with you all the beginning parts of our plan. The power of our blog is the idea of conversation. We hope that this gets you talking AND thinking!
WAS IT A GOOD YEAR FOR ADVERTISING PHOTOGRAPHERS IN GENERAL?
From and industry point of view we think this year was a strong one. Here is why:
1) Larger Budgets
There were more projects with larger budgets this year and more library shoots. Clients are recognizing the value of a larger production for more days to yield more imagery. To be clear, they were not adding money so that we can have more shoot days for less shots. They were adding money to the budget so that they could add more shots to their list. Productions were being pushed some but shoots were larger.
2) Jobs happened. They didn’t just go away because we didn’t get them. More often than not, jobs that we did not get, went to other photographers. They did not disappear or die because of budget reasons.
3) Layoffs and client/agency movements were less frequent than last year. We did not often hear of agency layoffs or clients leaving their agencies for new agencies.
4) Repeat clients were prevalent. There were many more repeat clients for our photographers. Long term relationships mean that clients recognize the value in shooting with the same photographer and have put financial guidelines in place so that it is affordable for them to do so which in turn translates into more business for the photographers and a stronger creative partnership for the clients and agencies.
5) Many Agencies are hiring again. Agencies were hiring more freelance art producers and departments tended to be growing, not shrinking.
6)The end of the year was strong. Clients were calling for end of year AND new year projects as well extra usage. Clients had money to spend at the end of the year. Any slowness we felt early on in the fall was non existent (maybe the election?)
WHAT MATTERED THIS YEAR?
As we traveled the country and talked to art producers, photographers and creatives, here is what we found mattered in terms of staying relevant and top of mind.
1) Relevant New Work
Whenever we presented the portfolios or helped sell a photographer for a project, we heard time and time again, “Show me what is new.” All the photographers in our group are at a point in their career that it is a given that they shoot good, relevant commercial work. There is no education for them needed on this front. So, instead, what they want to see is the latest and greatest. They want to see what you are up to and they want to see it often.
2) Photographer Marketing
We must sound like a broken record but it is more important than ever and very much expected for a photographer to have an active voice in their own marketing in addition to what their agent is doing. Mailers, emailers, websites and ads are no longer enough. Clients are wanting to hear from photographers themselves. This can be done via social media, blogs, attending events, showing off their own books and personal connections. The photographers that are embracing this as a part of their marketing are getting noticed. To be clear, for the photographers who are not doing this, we are not hearing “Where is X? Why doesn’t he have a blog or why isn’t she here at this event?” Instead we just not hearing about them as much as those that are embracing this idea.
3) Being Responsive and Engaged
The world is moving fast. Clients expect to hear back from us and our photographers quickly. They are also expecting the photographer to be engaged and interested. Seems like a given right? Well, seeing how busy everyone is and distracted by projects, shoots, etc, clients are noticing when an photographer is not as engaged. Taking a second to really connect with a project and making time for a focused conversation is more important than ever.
WHAT TRENDS ARE WE SEEING?
1) Social Media
Photographers have become much better at using social media for their marketing needs. Many have grasped the idea of “finding their own voice” and have learned the power of sharing both their work life and personal life via social media in the hopes that their target market will get to know them better. Recently, I saw that The Workbook is now soliciting photographers to share their Instagram photos so they could promote them on the Workbook blog. This is one example that illustrates how social media is constantly evolving and new options for sharing socially are becoming available.
When the economy crashed clients and photographers had to redefine value when it came to photographers. They asked for more usage, turned to library shoots and began to hire photographers to shoot video. At the time, many of the clients did not know what they wanted the video for but knew it was a good value to get it at the time and that their agencies would find a use for it online. Well, now that clients, agencies and photographers have become more savvy about the whole process, things have changed. Clients are now understanding the value putting more attention and budget behind the production of the video. Photographers are more educated as to the technology and are understanding what new value they can provide the client. The process feels less like an add on and more like a strategic part of the client’s marketing
3) Production Companies
More and more agencies are beginning to make suggestions as to whom the photographer uses for production and often times they are requesting specific production companies. Now that art producers are being required to understand and produce videos, they are more savvy with the value of a production company. They are even sometimes more willing to pay the extra money involved with the larger productions just to have the peace of mind that goes along with having more people involved in a production. Not all clients can support the larger budgets but I suspect that having a hand in choosing a producer is something we will see more of in 2013.
More and more, clients are asking for unlimited usage. Some are putting time frames on it and others are not. The reason for this is not just that they want more for less. The reason is that there are so many ways in which clients/agencies are using imagery now that it is difficult for them to limit themselves to just a few images. Even when we are bidding shot rates, there are requests for library fee upgrades. We see this as a trend that will continue and maybe even a shift in the usage/fee model.
5) A Photographer’s Voice Matters
People who search for photographers want to hear from the photographers. Whether it be through a meeting, an email, a meeting, social media, blog posts, etc, they enjoy the idea of that personal connected feeling. I may sound like a broken record, but the effects you will have on your own business by being present and engaged in your own marketing will be exponential. To be clear, of the photographers that are not out there as much on their own, we are not hearing from the clients, “Where is John Smith? Why aren’t we hearing from him.” Instead, what we are noticing is that it is the photographers that ARE out there that are getting the calls. So, it is more that people are noticing when you are present, not when you are absent.
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