Ask an Agent is a regular monthly column tackling all your dilemmas about the photography industry – the photography industry’s first Agony Aunt!
If you have any questions you’d like to ask a photographers agent please send them to email@example.com. Questions can be on anything to do with the photography business, such as photoshoots, marketing, professional practice, pricing, contracts, legal stuff – anything!
This month we have a question from a photographer about targeting both email and printed mailers to the right person at advertising agencies.
Hi Ask an Agent,
First off ‘Ask an Agent’ is brilliant and a constant source of advice and inspiration. Thanks. I have a question regarding Email marketing, and to some extent physical marketing.
I’m sending out emails and physical mailers each quarter, or so, with a varying degree of success. Some have resulted in face to face meetings, some (I expect) have landed in the physical or digital bin! I’m constantly trying to hone my technique and method of marketing, one area I struggle with is who to contact.
I’ve noticed that a lot of Advertising agencies employ multiple people in the art buying department/process, for example: Head of Art Buying, Assistant Art Buyer, Junior Art Buyer, Art Buyer & Creative Producer, Senior Project Manager and Project Manager. When sending out emailers I’m conscious to avoid ‘blast’ emailing an entire team with the same email and come across as lazy, yet I still want to get it to the right person and engage with them in someway.
With so many people involved in the art buying process it’s difficult knowing who is the right person to contact. Can you shed any light on your experiences with this issue? Is it worth contacting everyone or targeting it to a specific person, and if so any advice on who is best to contact?
Mark Salmon, Photographer.
Thanks for your kind words and your question Mark. You are right to be conscious of trying to engage with potential buyers on a more personal level, however, a huge ‘blast’ of emailers can also be effective. I know that sounds like a bit of a contradiction, but firstly, it can sometimes be very difficult to identify who is more likely to commission you above someone else, and secondly, it also depends on what you are sending.
The roles you have mentioned are all relevant people within advertising agencies who are integral to sourcing photographers. You can in fact add to that a plethora of other job titles- creative service director, art producer, senior creative producer, head of print, print producer, creative resources manager, project director, and let’s not forget art director, head of art, creative head and creative director ! The list goes on and new positions are being developed all the time. Different agencies have different structures, and even someone with the same job title might have varying degrees of responsibility in the commissioning process from one agency to the next. A junior art buyer in one agency, for example, might only be responsible for stock searches, whereas in another might be highly influential in sourcing talent to commission. So, you see, it can be extremely tricky to pin point the best person.
When sending out physical mailers, aside from the cost issue, I would advise sending them only to a very targeted list and certainly not to every person in the art buying or creative resource department. If possible send your printed promotion to those who have shown an interest in your work, whose agency seem really relevant or who you know commission photography like yours. Failing this send to the head of art buying or the most senior person. Most art buyers sit in the same room and share what has arrived in the post, pin it on the wall or have a central filing system. There’s a team of 6 of us here at LPA, for example and from personal experience, it just seems a bit odd, not to mention a waste of money when 6 or more identical mailers from photographers, model agencies or other suppliers turn up in the post on the same day.
Julian Love/ Printed Mailer
Digital promotion is slightly different and I think a 2 tiered approach is called for here. Again, it’s a very good idea to target certain people and make them feel like they’ve been singled out, and I also think it’s crucial to build on previous communications as part of an overall marketing strategy and to nurture relationships. But, in my experience a ‘blast’ can certainly also bring in lots of commissions. There are potentially thousands of people in advertising agencies who are worth contacting (and that’s just in the UK) , mostly who hold the positions mentioned above. As you may know you can buy an off the shelf database that is updated every few months, from places such as Bikinilists.com and Filefx.co.uk. You can also enlist the services of bespoke email service providers, like our team at Image Access who work with Magic Mail, enabling you to send out bulk emails and monitor who has looked at your emailers. As Mike Laye from Image Access points out, ‘it’s NOT a good idea to send out large amounts of emails from your own regular account – you’re likely to get blocked as a source of “spam”!’
LPA/ Digital Mailer
In my experience both a personal approach and a ‘blast’ bring in more work. We are constantly building on a tailor made database of contacts, so we send emailers (and printed promos) out to contacts with whom we have an existing relationships and target particularly relevant agencies with certain accounts (food and drink or sports for example) But we certainly also adopt a more scattergun approach for general updates of work which enable us to consistently reach out to new agencies and contacts.
Of course who to see is only the tip of the iceberg when talking about email marketing etiquette and effectiveness. The content, quality, consistency, frequency and timing are equally important. And most importantly, this direct marketing approach should be integrated into a bigger strategy to build the visibility of your brand. I remember an art buyer moaning to me once that they received so many emailers from someone, another agent actually, but that this other agent never bothered to call them or try and arrange a meeting with them. These art buyers can be difficult to please sometimes, but they had a point!
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