In my previous “Eye on Image-Making Column,” I began a series about business planning by writing about the importance of having a mission statement for your business. A mission statement is typically the first part of any business plan — it tells the reader what products or services you offer, who your target clients are, and who is doing similar work, i.e., your competition.
The next part of a business plan consists of a marketing strategy and a resume. Your marketing strategy answers the following question, in the words of Seattle-based travel photographer Cliff Hollenbeck: how are you going to get your images, your ideas, and yourself in front of the people who buy the kind of work you do? Your resume provides concise documentation of your professional career to date.
Before deciding on an appropriate marketing strategy for your business, you should revisit your list of target clients. Notice the word “people” in Hollenbeck’s question. If you are a freelance photojournalist who wants to get assignments from Time and National Geographic, you need to discover the names and contact information for the individuals within these organizations who are responsible for hiring freelancers. The same is true if you are a corporate photographer hoping to shoot for Apple and Intel.
This discovery process may take many long hours of going through magazines, surfing the Internet, and dialing for dollars, i.e., telephoning businesses and corporations. However, once you go through this process of qualifying your list of target clients — i.e., making sure the people on your list are actual buyers of the types of images you create — you have a gold-mine’s worth of information from a marketing standpoint. Now it’s time to begin extracting the wealth.
There are many possible ways to reach your target clients — to present them with your images, your ideas, and (hopefully) yourself. Marketing makes heavy demands on both your time and your money, so you don’t want to throw either away.
The best way to decide on an appropriate marketing strategy is to engage in a bit of brainstorming: get lots of ideas on paper and then rank them in terms of feasibility and effectiveness. You want your marketing strategy to be both feasible and effective. In other words, the strategy needs to be something you are able to do — in terms of time and money. And once you carry out your strategy, the result should be more assignments for your business.
So how will you be able to rank your marketing strategy in terms of feasibility and effectiveness? It’s important to realize that, when it comes to marketing, no single approach is best — your strategy needs to be tailor-made. In other words, what works for me won’t necessarily work for you, and what gets you assignments from one type of client won’t necessarily get you assignments from a different type of client.
In trying to determine the feasibility and effectiveness of your marketing strategy, here are some questions to consider:
- What media do your target clients routinely use?
- Which trade and professional organizations do they belong to?
- Does your marketing strategy include opportunities for informal person-to-person contact, i.e., networking?
- How do your target clients find all the other vendors and suppliers they buy from?
- If your clients rely primarily on referrals and word-of-mouth to find vendors and suppliers, what can you do to get on their “A” list?
- Why does your chosen marketing strategy seem right for your target clients?
- Will your marketing strategy help get your images, your ideas, and yourself in front of your target clients?
Be as specific as possible. For example, if you plan to use the Web for marketing your business, how will you drive your target clients to your site, and what will they see when they get there? What will entice them to contact you for an assignment?
If you plan to buy print advertising space, what publications will you advertise in and why? How will you assess the results, given that print advertising is expensive and may take repeated insertions over a long time period to succeed. If you plan to use direct mail, what can you do to avoid having your mailers end up in the “round file” with the junk mail?
Obviously, as an image-maker, your primary sales tool will be your portfolio. However, a resume is an essential part of your business plan for two reasons. First, it gives the reader of your plan, such as a banker or potential investor, a concise snapshot of your professional career. Second, it lets you see at a glance what you have accomplished over the years.
But a resume doesn’t have to be merely a listing of work history, education, awards, and so forth. In fact, some experts recommend replacing this traditional type of resume with one centered around your business skills and achievements. For example, instead of “Owner, Sally Smith Photography, 1990–present,” you might instead list your photographic skills and achievements thus:
- Ability to direct large productions involving models and crew to create stunning still and video images for advertising and corporate use.
- Expertise in all aspects of pre- and post-production, including location scouting, casting, set design and construction, digital editing, and Photoshop retouching.
- Created more than 100 print advertisements for clients such as Apple, Intel, Wells Fargo, and United Airlines.
- Produced more than a dozen corporate videos for use in trade shows, sales presentations, and employee training.
- Directed the development of an online archive of stock photography and video clips easily accessed by clients worldwide.
See how that puts the most important information up front? Below these headings you can then include your work history, education, awards, etc.
Note the use of “action verbs” such as “created,” “produced,” and “directed,” in the achievements section — these verbs convey a sense of vigor and keep your resume from sounding like “I did this, and then I did that.” Other useful action verbs include “designed,” “organized,” “prepared,” and “planned.”
This type of resume is well suited to creative professionals, because it emphasizes what you can do and what you have done, not merely where you’ve worked and what schools you’ve attended. For more resume tips, check out How To Write a Resume.net and JobStar.
Future columns in this series will deal with sales techniques and financial planning. As always, I welcome your input. Stay tuned!