The world of email marketing can seem like navigating a labyrinth at first. What should you send, how often should you send it, to whom should you send it? There’s a lot to keep track of, but as a photographer, chances are you’re already part of the email marketing world, and if you’re not, you’ll need to be. Sending emails, while perhaps not as personal or involved as sending physical promos, is one of the simplest and most effective ways to get in touch with potential clients and stay in touch with old ones. It’s cheap, it’s fast, and it offers whoever you’re emailing the chance to access your website with the click of a button, or get in contact with you with a simple reply. In short, it’s well worth your time to get a handle on the basics and send some well-targeted emails.
Email marketing has two main components: design and implementation. Design is all about what the promo will look like. You’ll make decisions about structure, image selection, fonts, and colors. This article focuses on implementation, which is all about who you’re going to send that email to and how.
Build a targeted list of clients who are appropriate for you based on location, specialty, and job title. You may be right for the company, but there’s no use emailing twenty copywriters if none of them has anything to do with hiring photographers. Be respectful of clients and other photographers by targeting just prospects who are appropriate for you. You’ll want your list to be small enough that you can reach out to each client individually at least once a year which, for most photographers, will be fewer than 500. (Note: email marketing should always be part of a larger plan that includes personal emails, follow-up phone calls, and perhaps print promos as well. More on that later.) Some photographers do their own research for prospective clients, which is fine, albeit time-consuming. Wonderful Machine also helps photographers build targeted lists of clients, which we individualize for each photographer. Our marketing specialists can create a list build that focuses on a given specialty or location or a cross-combination. These lists then become the complete property of the photographer. Companies like Agency Access, Bikini Lists, and Yodelist also provide lists of names, although these lists are non-specialized and are only available to license for a temporary time. Learn more about prospect list builds in our Expert Advice: Prospect List Services.
Cultivate your own list too. In addition to any lists that you may license, you will want to cultivate your own internal list of people you’ve worked with or especially want to work with, people who have opted into your newsletter or blog, or people who you’ve simply run into over the years. You can merge this list with your licensed list when you send out emails, but make sure you also keep your internal list separate so you know exactly which names you have a right to email without exception. It’s also a good idea to keep notes on the interaction you have with people on your internal list so that you can refresh your memory before a phone call or visit.
Choose an email service provider. Most basic email providers have limits on not only the size of your emails but also the number you can send out each day. So in order to execute an email campaign, you’ll need to use an email fulfillment service like MailChimp, Emma, or Constant Contact. These platforms are great because they allow you to send out mass emails, create a button on your blog or website that allows more people to opt into your emails, and track how well each email campaign did with your clients. They’ll show you how many people opened each email and clicked on which links, which can be valuable when following up on those emails. You can learn all about these services in our Expert Advice: Email Service Providers.
Send emailers out at regular intervals, every 2-4 months. You don’t want to over saturate your audience, but you don’t want them to forget about you either. You can experiment with different time periods, and even separate your lists so that you send them to some people more frequently than others.
Track your results. See how many opens and click-throughs you’re getting and what types of clients are paying attention. You may also find that open rates are different on different days of the week or time of day. They say that Tuesday is the magical day, and sending in afternoons yields the highest click rates, but the info on email response data is always changing, so feel free to do your own research and experimentation.
Don’t expect huge open rates. If you’re getting 20% of your recipients to open your email, you’re doing pretty well. Your open rates will also depend on the type of list you’re sending to and how targeted it is. Don’t expect travel clients to care about your automotive photography.
Follow up with a phone call if it’s someone you can pitch a project to or arrange a meeting with. Very few people will remember your actual emailers, so don’t create an awkward situation by asking them if they received it.
Email promos can be a valuable component of your marketing plan, but they should not be your entire marketing plan. You’ll need to balance your emailers with the time, energy and money you put in to your website, print portfolio, printed mailers, social media, directory listings, phone calls and meetings. What works for other photographers may not work for you and what worked for you in the past may not work for you in the future. As with all of your promotions, give it a good try and then be willing to adapt as necessary.
I hope this helps you get a little more organized in the world of email marketing! Below, we have some examples of the Wonderful Machine emailer that we send out. We organize it so we have a list of clients that our producers and associate producers are constantly cultivating—adding to, deleting from, updating contact info—and those are the people we send to. We’ve divided that list into four arbitrary groups, and we send an emailer to one of those groups every 1-2 weeks. Because there are four groups, this means that each client gets an email once every month or so. We also have a space on our website where people can sign up to receive our emailers so that we are constantly growing our network.