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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

DPP Solutions: Promo Postcards

This marketing staple is still as essential as ever


A promo card from photographer Jay Fram.

The photo business is as much about business as it is about photography. Marketing is crucial, but many of us aren't pulling our weight. So here's how to get into the self-promotion game with the most basic, most essential marketing tool: the postcard.

Though simple, postcards aren't an easy undertaking. To do them well takes time, energy and dollars—all of which are in perpetually short supply. But as the foundation of a well-rounded marketing campaign, they're a necessity. Simply reaching out at the right time might be all it takes to land an assignment. Short of spurring an immediate call, postcards build up brand awareness and keep your name top of mind. Mailing the occasional postcard is simple, effective and the industry standard.

Los Angeles photographer Elon Schoenholz relies on postcards as his primary marketing spend. "My goal is to always have at least one image that recipients would like enough to post on a bulletin board," he says. "We're a fleeting thought in their mind once a year when they need a picture made. I think a good postcard is a way to be a constant presence in their workspace."

Why not just email? E-newsletters are certainly popular, but that's part of the problem—everybody is doing them; art buyers are overwhelmed. According to photographer and marketing stud Michael Clark, another email just gets lost in the noise. Since postcards aren't free, when you commit to producing one, you're automatically in rarified air. Says Clark, "I'm seeing a decline in the effectiveness of my e-promos as art buyers get bombarded with more and more of them."

Photographer Jay Fram agrees. "I feel like sending printed promos is a way of saying, 'I'm serious about this.' It's a way to separate myself from amateurs and hobbyists."

Since you're in the visual business, everything about your promo card must be top-notch—from images, font and design to paper, print quality and finish. Cut any of these corners, and you'll send the wrong message. Improve your odds by working with a designer, or at the very least, a printer with pro-caliber templates.

"If you're going to do it," Fram says, "I think it's important that it look and feel like a cool card. It should be designed. I usually end up spending a bit less than $500 every time I do a card blast, but I could probably lower that because printers these days are allowing smaller runs, and combined with a more narrowly targeted list, it would really reduce the cost."

There are several online printing resources from which to choose. 4by6, Bay Photo and Mpix cater to photographers especially, and traditional printers (such as Modern Postcard, Minted and Vistaprint) offer simple, broadly appealing options. Choose a company known for quality workmanship and fine materials—which you can determine by keeping an eye on the promos sent by your friends and colleagues or by requesting samples from the printers you're considering. If you're working with a designer, he or she is sure to have recommendations for printers known for good work.


 

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