Jun 05, 2023

Mastering Email Marketing for Commercial Photographers - Photo Authentic Podcast #4

17 min read

Show Notes:

Introduction: Host Lincoln Barbour introduces the episode and emphasizes the importance of email marketing for commercial photographers. He highlights the right approach to email marketing and its potential benefits.

Building an Email List: Lincoln explains that building your own email list is crucial and advises against buying email lists. He shares strategies for building an organic list, starting with friends and family, then moving on to associates, clients, leads, and contacts from networking events.

Choosing an Email Platform: Lincoln recommends using an email platform like Active Campaign or MailChimp to manage contacts, track clicks, and store email campaigns. He explains the advantages of using an email platform with CRM capabilities for lead tracking and client management.

Types of Email Campaigns: Lincoln discusses various types of email campaigns that can be effective for commercial photographers, including announcements for new blog posts or featured shoots, sharing publications or awards, availability updates, seasonal reminders, expressions of gratitude, and "ask me anything" emails to engage clients.

Crafting Effective Emails: Lincoln emphasizes the importance of personalization and authenticity in email content. He shares tips on writing catchy subject lines, incorporating personalized greetings, and designing emails that match the photographer's brand. He advises using clear calls to action and segmenting email content based on different client categories.

Analyzing Email Campaign Data: Lincoln briefly touches on the importance of reviewing email campaign statistics, including open rates and click-through rates. He suggests using this information to identify trends and improve future email campaigns while maintaining a focus on staying top of mind with clients.

Conclusion: Lincoln concludes the episode by encouraging listeners to start implementing email marketing as part of their business strategy. He invites them to join Photo Authentic membership for further guidance and training on email marketing techniques.


Probably the biggest thing is what you don't want to do when you build an email list is to buy one.

And so this means going to things like Agency Access or Yodalist and buying a bunch of email addresses and just start sending out cold emails. That is not a very effective way to spend your email marketing dollars and time. You're gonna get very low open rates. Most of those companies, you know, will opt out of getting emails anyway, so it's really not worth it.  

Welcome to Photo Authentic Podcast. I'm your host, Lincoln Barbour, and this podcast is dedicated to helping emerging photographers like you become successful and have a long lasting career.

 Hello, welcome to episode four. I'm your host, Lincoln Barbour and I'm here to talk about email marketing for commercial photographers. So with email marketing, there's the right way to do it and the wrong way to do it, and this episode will tell you the right way to do it and also what to avoid. Email marketing seems like something that just get junk mail every day, but it doesn't necessarily have to be that for commercial photographers.

The main thing with email marketing is that most of your clients and most of your leads, they have to check their email for work. So it's a great way to get in front of them. Despite how much email you get, there's actually a very good ROI which is a return of investment. And it's reported that somewhere around 40 to one.

So for every $1 of email marketing you spend, you'll make $40. So for advertising purposes, email is probably one of the best places you can spend your time and money. Some of the benefits for using email marketing for photographers is its ability to reach a really targeted audience and stay on track with those people.

So your audience is not only your clients, but it's also former clients and as well as leads. You know, it's staying in touch. Staying top of mind is really the key to having a successful email marketing system for your business. So let's go into like how to build an email list and then this is probably the biggest thing is what you don't want to do when you build an email list is to buy one.

And so this means going to things like agency access or Yoda list and buying a bunch of email addresses and just start sending out cold emails. That is not a very effective way to spend your email marketing dollars and time. You're gonna get very low open rates. Most of those companies, you know, will opt out of getting emails anyway, so it's really not worth it.

It is worth it to buy mailing list for direct mail. So if you want to like send a postcard or a promo piece to a client, that's when you want to buy a list. But for email, you're gonna have to do it the hard way. You have to build your own. And building your own sounds like daunting cuz you could buy 10,000 names, but you really don't need a big list.

I have a list of maybe 500 contacts and that's after being a photographer for 20 years. And every time I send out an email to this list of 500 people, I usually get a job. It's almost like printing money. So you don't think that your email list needs to be very big. Just, it just needs to be very focused.

So if you don't have an email list or if you have a small one, or if you're just kind of starting out with this here's, and this is, you know, purely organic email list. Here's how you build that first list. You wanna start with your friends and family. So your mom, your dad, your brother, your sister, cousin, aunts, uncles, you know, anybody you know closely put them on your list.

Most likely your friends and family know that you're a photographer and they might know somebody who needs a photographer. So it's just a great way to kind of nurture that list. Plus these friends and family will open, and then they'll sometimes even share with other friends and you know, so forth.

So always start with your friends and family. Make sure they're getting your emails. Then you move into associates. So this can be like people who you kind of know, but not necessarily super tight with. So this will be like neighbors or you know, Contacts at a local gym. You know, some something where you're kind of connected to people but you're not necessarily super tight, but people that would, would read an email from you.

So add them to that list. The next big chunk of your list is gonna be your clients. So whether you have a lot of clients or very few, you want to have them on your mailing list. Those are probably the biggest source of your income will be your existing clients. And so you always want to nurture those.

The next bucket for your list is leads. So when you get an email inquiry or you get a, a referral from somebody. Just go ahead and add them to your mailing list. You know, it's because they've contacted you, you can email them back and as long as your email is coming from your email address, it's okay to send out, you know, put them on a list, you know, you want to save these, these leads and you want to contact them.

And plus, you know, if they don't wanna get emails from you, they can always opt out. So add leads. The last place to get emails to put on your list is from networking events. So if you go to like a portfolio event or you go to like a trade show and you get business cards, you know, just add those people to your mailing list.

It happens to me. I go out to a networking event, hand out my business card and now I'm suddenly getting, emails from some mortgage broker or something like that. So it's okay. And that's this part of doing business is getting in front and having people on that list.

That's how you build your own. So once you do that, that's kind of your core list. How you continue to get more emails is you put an email opt-in on your website. So this can look in the form of, let's say you have your pricing information that if they send you email, then you can send them your pricing information.

That's a way of getting them on your mailing list. You can also just have. Sign up in my newsletter. You can offer to give away something like a free guide or even one thing that I used to do was send out a desktop of the week. So I would send out a large photo with my logo on it. And, if you sign up on the mailing list, you'd get this desktop photo of the week.

On your social media profiles, you can also have a call to action. Use something like Link Tree to like set up different links and have one of the call to actions be join my mailing list. You can promote the things that you want to give away to get people to sign up on your mailing list.

So hopefully you get people that. We'll hire you. You, chances are, you'll probably get a few photographers to sign up on your list cuz it's just the nature. We all want to know what each other are doing, but that's okay. The more people know the right way to do things, the better off we'll all be.

That's sort of my, my, my secret goal for Photo Authentic is to give everybody an even playing field so that the best business practices can help us all grow our businesses and be successful and not get taken advantage of. Anyway, sidetracked. . So let's talk about how to create an email campaign.

You need an email platform. I use active campaign to write my emails, to store my contacts and to keep track of clicks and stats of of my email campaigns.

There's other email systems out there. I think MailChimp is a, a fairly popular one and I believe it's free to start with. But I, I find I like active campaign a little bit better cuz it allows me to do a CRM, which is a client relationship manager. So leads that come in, I'm able to track them relative to the emails I send out.

But also in general, I use it as a way of like knowing who my clients are.

So the type of emails you wanna send out as a commercial photographer can be a variety of things, but I like whenever I write a blog post on my website, I'll send out an email saying, Hey, there's a new blog post on my website. Go check it out. It's about this. If I do a featured shoot, like a case study, then I'll also, same thing, I'll just send out an email saying, Hey, got a new shoot I'm really proud of on my website. It's got some really cool features. You know, we did this and this and that for the client and it's really, really cool. So come check it out. So that's just a sort of an announcement email.

If you get published in a magazine or you get a cover or you're on some, you know, well known website, like like dwell.com or New York times.com. You know, send that out. Be like, Hey, recently featured on N Y T, you know, and send a link out and a little screen capture of the website.

So any sort of major publication, that's a good one to do. If you win an award like you won, you know, Communication Arts or some other kind of award, that's a great thing to send out. People want to know about those kind of things.

Some other ones you can do are availability update. So if you find that your schedule is getting busy, like you don't have anything available for the whole month of February, just let people know. Send a, "Hey, I'm booked through February. But if you want to get on your March calendar, start emailing me now because I'm really busy.

So when you create scarcity, you create urgency and that will encourage people to reach out and think about their shoots. Cuz often people are really just busy with their work and they go, oh wait, we need to do that photo shoot. And so they'll scramble and try to find somebody.

And so if you're staying in touch with these people and you're like, Hey, my this is my availability, that's a great way to be the right place at the right time .

Another great campaign to send out is a seasonal reminder, so if you like, if you're a catalog photographer, In June, you want to send out, you know, holiday theme emails saying, Hey, it's, it's time to start thinking about your holiday photo shoots. Get on the calendar now so we can, you know, have time to get this all dialed in. So seasonal reminders are great especially if you're like, you know, different parts of the world. Like if you want to do swimsuit photo shoots, you want to send those out in the wintertime because that's when they're shooting all that stuff. Keep that in mind when you're sending out these campaigns.

One sort of secret one that I really like is gratitude just sending it out an email to say, you know, thanks for being my client. Thanks for believing in me. Thanks for being a part of my world and just really appreciate you. So that's always a great one just to say hi and say thanks.

And, and those of you should, you'd wanna filter them so that you're just sending them to your clients. I wouldn't necessarily send those to leads but that's a really powerful one just to say thank you.

And if you're looking for more information from your clients about the kind of stuff that you want to do you can send out ask me anything emails. So these are emails that just say, Hey, you know, what's going on? Do you have any questions about our service? You know any questions about photography you want to know? Just, you know, try to get, try to get a little like dialogue going, just to kind of let people know you're available, you know, and your expertise to help them if they're, if they're struggling with something when it comes to photography.

So, what should these emails look like? Is, is often a question I get and I like to not send out emails that look generic. I don't wanna send out an email like, like you're like a big brand sending out, you know, a promo for 20% off in store. Like, your emails should be personal.

So I like to write my emails like I'm writing to my favorite client and I'm just like, Hey, Stephanie, how's it going? Got some cool stuff to show you. You know, just try to sound like yourself and make it natural. Make it you. Write like you would just be writing to your friend or your favorite client.

With most email platforms you can add personalization. So for example, I could put hey and then in bracket's first name, and then it would, when I sends out the email, it would autofill that person's first name in that placeholder. And so that way, you know, when they get an email it has their names.

Like, Hey, mark. Hey Stephanie. Hey Steve. You know, like it feels personal right away.

And the last thing that you want to do is tag people in your email database so that you can segment the emails that you send out. So, for example, I shoot for a lot of architects, but I also shoot for a lot of brands.

And the architects, I might wanna send out a different type of email campaign, you know, We're gonna talk about falls coming and, you know, we want to get your architecture shoots lined up, whereas with the brands, you know, that's not really as relevant for the most part with them.

So, I actually tag, people in my mailing list, "brand" "architect" and that way I know what kind of content I wanna send out and I can actually, with my, with active campaign, I can actually write one email and designate different sections of the content to send out different types of content.

So this is good cuz this helps with that personalization. This helps it feel relevant. And it makes it in an email that somebody would want to read.

The last thing about email campaigns is frequency. there's a lot of schools of thought on this, like whether to do it daily, weekly, monthly, semimonthly, I find the best balance between being a working photographer, doing a lot of this yourself is to send out at least two per month. But if you can do a weekly email that is, that is the gold standard, that will help you get so much work. So start off with just two per month, just kind of get used to it. And then once you start getting some feedback, you know, bump that up to a weekly email.

I set every Wednesday time in my calendar for an hour to just go ahead and just write an email of some kind. Sometimes I tie it in with a blog post writing too. .

So what goes into an effective email? You know, what's an email that people would want to open and would want to read? So really the, the big thing is the subject line.

You want to have a very catchy short subject line that people would want to read. Especially if you're featured or you're winning an award, or you're featured in a famous magazine, you know, put that in the headline. One of the best all time performing emails I ever had, the subject line was "Recent work in Martha Stewart".

So that got like 50% open rate . You're gonna have to do some tests, you're gonna have to kind of keep track of this. But, you know, try different things. Try like funny email subjects, try quick ones, try long ones. You know, just try different things and figure out what works best for your audience.

And then, you know, as far as the design goes, like you don't wanna overdo it. You know, definitely wanna include photos, you know, since you're a photographer. But don't make 'em too big so they don't take too long to download. You know, you wanna size these probably around 650 pixels wide. So just so that they, they download really quick I like to include two or three.

I like to include my logo. But otherwise than that, it kind of just looks like a regular email, so I wouldn't overdo the design. You know, you don't wanna make it look like a, like a magazine, you know? If you ever seen the email from like Dick's Sporting Goods, like you, that's, Probably not what you want to do, , you wanna have it more like a regular looking email.

You can even format it so that it it's left aligned and it looks like an email. It doesn't even have to have like a layout, but I like a little layout just to kind of give the, the client like a heads up that this is actually, you know, an email campaign and it's not just a personal email from me.

So a little bit of design goes a long way. And definitely it should match your website, you know, so whatever your website logo and fonts are like, try to incorporate that all together. Like I said, mentioned earlier, there's different types. So depending on the type of campaign you send out you want to have, make sure you have a, some good copy, you know, something like where you're writing it in a natural way and it's going to be You know, something that somebody would want to read.

So just doesn't have to be really long. But just has to be like, interesting to read. And I always like to include a call to action at the bottom of my emails. So this can come in the form of a button. Or just a big bold text, a reply to me to schedule a discovery call. If for your next photo shoot, you know, something, some kind of call to action to encourage people to reach out to you to.

It could also be like, you know, if this is interesting to you, forward it onto a friend, you know, so always include one call to action. Don't do too many. Don't do like two or three different calls to action. Just have like one call to action, like, go to my website to see this blog post. That's all you need, you know, or reply back to this email to book a photo shoot.

Just one call to action per email is, is the way.

So after you start sending out these emails most email platforms have a, a way to analyze the data. So it says your open rates and your clickthrough rates, what links they clicked on. And while this is valuable information I wouldn't get too obsessed with it.

You definitely, if you notice a spike, like if you notice some emails open up more you wanna kind of look at those and be like, why did these open more? And some people click through more. You wanna also know that. So, you know, try to, try to gain some knowledge. But it's more important just to be in that person's inbox frequently, you know, and every two weeks or every week, you know, just you're there saying, Hey, and just reminding people that you exist.

While stats and all that stuff is important as a commercial photographer, you have a small client pool and most of it's a very personal relationship, and this email marketing is really just about staying top of mind.

So I hope that was helpful. Email marketing is not what it was when I first started.

When it was we were sending out mass emails and blitzing everybody like, that just doesn't work anymore. It's really important just to build your own list and nurture it and send good content.

So to recap, here are the main points.

It's relevant. Definitely you have to do it as part of your business and it's part of your marketing.

It's probably more important than social media, so definitely do that.

It helps you stay top of mind with your clients and it also helps keep leads nurtured and, and even reactivates old clients.

Don't buy an email list. Build your own the hard way from scratch with people you know.

And then send emails that you'd want to your ideal client to read.

Segment your email content to the right, so you send the right work and the right info to the right people,

and then review your stats periodically just to see what's working and if you can make any improvements. If you're not doing email, I would recommend starting right away.

This is something I can help you with. If you become a member of Photo Authentic, I can go over it with you on our weekly calls. I'll also be working on a training on how to use Active Campaign, or I use Active Campaign and you'll be able to kind of see me actually build an email and send it off.

📍 So if that's interesting, you go to photoauthentic.com. Join the membership.

  Thanks for listening and if you have any questions please reach out to me anytime.


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