In February I began working with Philadelphia-based brand narrative and outdoor lifestyle photographer Brad Vassallo. Brad consulted Wonderful Machine as he sought to develop a comprehensive marketing strategy — we thought the Marketing Mentor program would be an excellent fit.
The Marketing Mentor program, which provides a photographer with two hours of support each month from a Wonderful Machine consultant, focuses on nailing down a clear and actionable process for marketing, in addition to addressing brand development and presentation refinement around specific marketing goals.
From the start, it was plain to me that Brad had a well-defined style and a clear sense of the kinds of clients that he’d like to be working with. The work that he was showing on his website, however, was not yet tailored to reach those aspirational brands like REI or North Face, nor the smaller outdoor lifestyle and adventure brands that are how a photographer achieves those ambitions.
The hardest part in finding commercial clients is digging into that second tier of prospects. It’s so easy to think of dream clients like REI and North Face when that’s what you see other photographers in your world photographing, but to find those same kinds of companies at an earlier stage in their growth is difficult.
Like those of many photographers who recently transitioned from retail-oriented to more commercial work, Brad’s portfolio was too broad. It needed narrative projects and specialty galleries demonstrating his areas of expertise. Also, some work included on his website was not as strong, which unintentionally watered down the impact of his images.
Brad and I began to discuss shifting the approach of his website towards brand narrative work that would display his ability to tell stories. He already had several projects to work with, and from there we talked through developing self-assigned projects to give more depth to his brand narrative work.
Brad’s responsiveness and ambition in this regard allowed him to very quickly move from a website that felt broad and diffuse to one more curated and specific to the types of clients that he hoped to reach. Brad’s Ellicott + Co. shoot at a small airport in Pennsylvania with a few of their bespoke items shows off his ability to make a compelling narrative project for a brand. Including this project on his website and shifting the focus of his overall presentation towards storytelling immediately gave Brad’s website an elevated look and commercial appeal.
Throughout the process of working on Brad’s portfolio, we also continued to discuss how to research clients and to grow an appropriate contact list. Through our ongoing conversations about his portfolio, we were able to put a sharper focus on what types of clients would be the best fit. We then opted to use Instagram, LinkedIn, and online research to fold into Brad’s existing process for researching potential clients. We also worked to outline goals from one phone call to the next, to have a clear idea about next steps and when and how to reach out to prospects that had not previously been on Brad’s radar.
The work of marketing can be frustrating. It requires a lot of effort and time without always getting an immediate response. The Marketing Mentor strives to make this process more efficient and specific to the goals of each individual photographer. More than anything, my goal is to be adaptable and responsive to each individual photographer and their needs with the understanding that things might shift around a bit from one month to the next. Brad was up to the challenge, and it was a pleasure to work with him. He was happy with the process and the results:
From day one Honore has been extremely helpful and supportive. Not only has she helped me to find new ways of reaching prospects, but she is always honest and straightforward in her feedback about ideas I bring to the table as well.