Steve Chazin, a former Apple marketing executive, has put together an e-book  containing five of what he calls the company’s marketing secrets. Actually, they’re more like five strategies that he’s seen Apple use and which he believes other businesses could benefit from using, too.
Not all of them would work for a photography business. Putting silhouettes into an image the way Apple did for its iPod ads might not be a good move for a photographer, but there are a few lessons there that any photography business — both an agency like Black Star and a one-man/woman studio — might be able to benefit from.
Join the Club
The first is that people buy Apple products because they want to be part of the community. As Chazin put it:
Those white iPod headphones were not designed by engineers — they are a pure Apple marketing trick designed to make the visible part of their product a status symbol. Wear white headphones and you are a member of the club.
We do something similar at Black Star. We don’t hand out distinctive headphones with every set of images, but we have been around for a long time and we have a history that we’re very proud of. It’s a record that suggests that our photographers don’t just photograph events — they document them. That’s true whether they’re telling the story of the civil rights movement  or capturing the rise of a company in its annual report. That dedication to honest, picturesque storytelling is part of our brand and it’s what our clients become a part of when they receive their images.
Photographers can do the same thing when marketing themselves directly. Every photographer sells photos, but every photographer creates those photos in a different way and with a different focus. If you can identify what makes your images unique, you can invite clients to join the community that values that approach.
Make What You Do Matter
But first, you have to show that your approach is valuable. Or to put it another way, you have to make people want to join your club. That’s not as hard as it sounds. It wasn’t difficult for Black Star, for example, to persuade magazines like Life that they wanted to be part of a club that values dedicated photojournalism — or that membership of that club included using Black Star’s photographers. These days, we’re just as likely to be telling businesses that the photographers they hire and the images they use need to be as professional as their corporate image — and that means using a photo agency with a rich pedigree.
For photographers though, it’s more likely to mean finding a niche and promoting yourself within it. Anyone can take a picture of a car, for example, but companies like Ford and BMW want car photographers — people who understand what they see when they open the hood and who can appreciate the beauty of the engine design. If that’s you, the dedication of your approach will matter to those clients.
Create Embeddable Content
Creating a brand and leading clients to value it has generally been a long-term venture. Creating embeddable content, though, can now spread your name and your brand very quickly. As Chazin says:
…in the Web 2.0 world, make part of your website embeddable on any MySpace or Facebook profile and make it easy to cut and paste your HTML code anywhere.
Handing out images under Creative Commons licenses might not always be a good idea, but it can sometimes be a useful marketing technique, provided you keep the attribution and a link back to your portfolio so that potential clients can see what you do.
It’s unlikely that Chazin’s ideas are going to make any photography business (even ours) as big as Apple, but they might just land you clients who are that big.
[tags]Apple, photography marketing, photography business[/tags]