The old day’s ways of marketing photography and the business itself were not only time-consuming but also costly especially to a wide range of clients. Apart from radio and television marketing, the newest entrant into photographic marketing is the web. The world wide web (www) as it’s is commonly known has changed the traditional markets of marketing photography in the U.S. The internet is a bi-directional communication tool which is ironically the least expensive way of advertising compared to other types of advertising such as radio, television, magazines, and newspapers.
Internet marketing is very effective in any kind of marketing adventure being undertaken regardless of the size, type, people, products, or services being marketed. It is obviously possible these days that with a click of a mouse, one can find almost anything and everything on the web these days Company locations, financial status, performance records, management techniques, products, just to name but a few of them can be found easily on the internet. Every company regardless of the business it practices needs a website. A respondent named in an interview, Robert T. Williams was quoted in the interview saying, “ if you do not have a website, get one started by the end of the week-website is essential” (An interview conducted by Lou Jacobs Jr. in the February 2007 edition of Rangefinder Magazine, Page 41 sidebar)
Things are changing, technology is taking the world by storm and more challenges are emerging for business people to cope with. In addition to this, the harsh environment that professional photographers currently find themselves in is one where their clients (families or couples and decision-makers) are extremely too busy to shop around physically for professional photography services. They, however, prefer to find out as much as possible about the photographers before stepping foot in these studios for fear of being conned by their valuable money. There is also the fear that once you step into these studios, there will be crowded situations not to mention the costs involved in doing so. Today, marketing to these clients has changed enough that now photographers are using electronic marketing tools such as websites to reach the masses.
It is evident therefore that photographers operating in today’s economic climate must have a website to effectively reach their target market and improve their business growth. If communication advances, complex marketing techniques, and growth in the digital imaging sector are anything to go by, it is absolutely mandatory for every photographer to have a website today. Even if it is just a simple portfolio page with contact information or a full-blown storefront company data and/or archives, it is important to have one. One not only has to use the web but also not using it can harm the development of the company.
It is like going to a doctor who does not believe in X-Rays. What they feel about the doctor is the way clients feel about photographers who don’t have a website. Although it depends on the type of photography one does, it may act as a portfolio or business card. For a large established business, it can be an entire online repository store for ordering, supplying, and taking instructions from clients or even making appropriate promotions (William, 2003).
Professional photography is one of the rare kinds of businesses that are needed by every other type of company, business, or even an individual. Although every photographer produces imagery that is unique to him or her, all of them have infinite permutations of how to market their services and products. Photography marketing is not just about advertising services on the internet or sending portfolios to potential customers or mass-mailing postcards; it is about the image of your customer and its overall impression when it is put on paper or screen. Poor internet marketing techniques will lead to time and money wastage let alone tainting the image of the company
A website introduced by the Professional Photographers of America (PPA) allows photographers from all around the globe to share ideas, seek answers to difficult questions and post image archives and galleries within their communities. The website is designed to allow good interactions and improve creativity for photographers not only among the PPA members but also for other photographers in America and the world at large. This is a step in the right direction signaling the fact photographers are starting to see the relevance of the internet in their businesses
Professional Photographers’ Survey
From a survey of the professional photographers belonging to the professional photographers of America’s (PPA) Forum, there are important revelations that explain the trend of business photography in the U.S today. Most of the respondents have currently developed websites for their photographic marketing business. The survey conducted was based on the PPA members is clear evidence of how professional photographers value the need for internet marketing. Reasons for the decision to use the internet as their chief marketing tool were;
- The web to them is a visual medium that perfectly fits their photography business.
- Almost everybody accesses the internet these days hence one can get a target group through it.
- Internet has detailed information and is up to date not like the radio and television adverts usually being repeated for a long time.
- Internet is simply part of life in the 21st century.
A majority of them also believe that to some extent, they have attracted new clients by venturing into internet marketing techniques. However, a good percentage of them feel that the efficiency is average and that with improved methods of internet marketing, it is possible to get 100% efficiency. The photographers also receive an average of 300 visitors to the websites per month which according to market share value is a fair and average figure. A summary of other responses obtained from the respondents considered in the survey that will encourage those photographers who have no websites so far include;
- Currently all the photographers contacted have a website.
- New customers are attracted to photographers with websites.
- Having a website is a guarantee that advertising costs in other publications will not be incurred by the photographers as their websites will serve this purpose.
- Majority of them show clients their images over the internet without necessarily coming to the studio
- A sizeable majority also sell their images on the website.
- It is unbelievable that any of them can leave the internet marketing strategy any time soon given another alternative.
- Most photographers are capable of designing their websites making the whole activity not only cheap but also interesting to the photographer.
A photographer in a survey once joked “if you are not online, you simply don’t exist” (Liz Vance, Oh Baby photography, Survey response). Other respondents in another survey when asked about the comparison of the internet services and the yellow pages provided by the companies they had been using in the last century replied “yellow pages are useless to me. All you get is a name and a phone number. Almost everything I do is online, shopping, ordering, etc. in fact, when I started a business, the first thing I did was to set up my own website ”(Jenna Beers, Times of Life Photography, Survey response).
Portrait and wedding photography businesses may market well using other non-internet marketing techniques but having a web presence works well beyond the advertisement on the traditional methods. A website for sure is not sole marketing and an advertising tool that makes a complete method of reaching the target market but rather as a support mechanism that supports other ways of marketing.
Advertising costs especially for bridal publications using other media are extremely high. For a quarter page of black and white ad which will be viewed by a small and selected audience, it may costs as high as $ 1,780 per year while a web page hosting which will be viewed by almost everybody in the world within a very short period of time will cost a mere $ 48 per year. Such kinds of disparities are clear to every photographer who intend to market products and services to other regions (David, 2003).
A photographer located in eastern parts of the United States and could wish to go wide and serve clients on the western side of the country finds it difficult not only in terms of cost but also in terms of time and convenience. Through the internet, however, solutions to such problems are presented. Transportation costs for ordering, contacting, and selling the images to far areas are reduced on a shorter-term basis
Plenty of information
The Internet can accommodate almost any kind of information it is placed there. This makes it possible to place all adverts, location areas, branches, management teams, and the photographers themselves. The more the information about the company the better some photographers also place their photos on the net and sell them through the same. This will make it possible for the photographers to minimize costs and save on time used to physically go around and sell the services. It has also been noticed that most bridal companies are switching courses and have now started using the internet to pass information to their customers. An example is a modern bride that is now using the web; www.modernbvride.com to offer its services such as wedding guides, schedules, etc
The exposure one gets by using the internet is immense given the fact that it is accessible by almost all the people in the world. It is possible that one becomes a celebrity or even a billionaire if specific information circulated on the net catches the attention of many people. This is the greatest advantage offered by using the internet in the photography business (De Kare-Silver, 2000).
Quality and quantity of images
Being a photographer, it is obvious that bad images will lead to a disaster for the business. The equality of the images being produced directly affects the income to be achieved, the higher the quality the better the sales and the best for the business. On the other hand, poor-quality images will reduce sales. Although a good or bad image depends on the eyes of the viewer, the sole factor that remains to be kept intact is the company’s public image.
The decision on what is to be sold and what cannot depend squarely on the photographer’s decision. How best your judgment can be will automatically be noticed from the profits one will gain after a sale. Through the internet, however, the photographer can create a forum where his or her customers contribute ideas, make suggestions and guide the photographer on what people want most for their images. The photographer can also get other information from the websites of other photographers that might be of importance. (De Kare-Silver, 2000)
The quantity of information usually placed on the websites determines many aspects of the photography business. The most critical factor in popularizing the content of the web and is where quantity comes in. If there are more images, advertisements, and other materials on the website then, there will be more search engines index to the site meaning that more people will continue to spread the good message in the websites to other customers who will, in turn, take the business to another level.
A word of caution is that if useless information is placed on the site that may not offer any impression to the customer, then it will possibly be used against the company and the business might suffer. It is possible to send unsolicited messages on the internet through email to photo editors, art directors, or even media houses. It is not costly to do this over the internet but most likely one will be ignored. Some photographers have used the same and have succeeded. James Brown from the State of California in 2001 jokingly sent an email to a company that he thought would offer him ridicule from his message but surprisingly, the guy hit a jackpot. The company surprisingly agreed to try his services by giving him contracts to shoot the company’s events (conferences, meetings, marriages, and pictures for its annual magazine). The company in turn paid a huge sum of money for James and as he rightly puts “this is a miracle; my life has been turned around by the email I sent”. Such kind privileges can only be achieved if one has a website (Thompson’s, 2005).
Publications from other companies
With a website, it is possible that other junior companies not only in the photographic business but also in other advertising sectors will be willing to advertise through the website. This is usually a plus for the photographer in two distinct ways; first, there will be direct income that will be injected by the junior companies or any other company using the website. The money can be used to either improve the company’s image or even widen the scope of business.
Secondly, the same companies using the website will be able to give their clients the address of the photographer’s website for them to access their services. This will directly mean that more people will be visiting the page which mainly includes the main activities, promotions, and advertisements of the photographer himself/herself. As more people access the website more clients will be trickling in hence more money, popularity, and wide exposure for the company (Dole and Lowe, 2003).
More citizens of the U.S are starting to adopt an online shopping method where all their requirements are selected, ordered, and paid for online. This method of shopping has been taken a notch higher by the introduction of credit cards in the financial sector. The use of credit cards is usually not very effective as some companies do not allow their use. Compared to other shopping methods, online shopping is picking up as the fastest growing method of shopping in America. Among the financial and ICT business sectors, the popularity of online shopping is gaining momentum and is believed that customers in the photographic business are adopting the model. Most of these customers are currently trying to create monetary blogs to allow for online shopping. Photoshopping online has also been on the rise due to the switching of most photographers to using the internet as a medium for all business transactions. The main advantage that comes along with allowing people to buy and sell products over the internet is that once goods have been sold, there is no possibility of having the money returned regardless of the quality or means used. This has however raised legal questions and issues, especially in the U.S and Germany (Dole and Lowe, 2003).
Limitations of internet photography marketing
Internet marketing for photographers in this century affects to some extent both the consumers and photographic companies the limitations include;
- Slow internet connections are making transactions slow for most commercial users of the commodity. Most people use the internet for fun and with a large number of people using it, commercial users are finding it hard to meet deadlines, offer services faster and do all their operations with the same internet.
- Security concerns are an issue of concern for every company using the internet as a marketing tool for its products and services. A photographer will have most of the images either downloaded free of charge or have some used by people with different intentions. Some photos can be used in pornographic material while others may be edited and used for ‘advertising’ purposes by other people.
- Customer information and image will not be private and subject to misuse from the public.
- Some people may use the internet for fraud purposes.
- Increased cases of lawsuits coming up against banner ads of photography on the internet.
Internet marketing offers great benefits for photographers in this century; increased effectiveness, a wide range of audiences, reduced advertising, marketing, and transportation costs, improved exposure, increased popularity, among others. The onset of online shopping has also improved the photographing industry making it possible for customers and clients to order and purchase images online. These and other issues have positively impacted the photography industry (William, 2003).
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