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Where’s the Gold?

Posted By Rohn Engh On September 16, 2013 @ 7:00 am In Business of Photography,Stock Art and Photography | No Comments

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If you were selling apples, which of the following scenarios would you enjoy most?

A.  You start your morning with a leisurely breakfast at 9:00 a.m., load three dozen apples into your cart and deliver them to one customer at 11:00 a.m. before spending the rest of the day at the beach.

B.  Your alarm goes off at 5:00 a.m., you rush through breakfast so that you can start knocking on doors in order to sell your 36 apples by the end of the day.

No contest, obviously. Yet most entry-level stock photographers resort to the second scenario or even a third one: waiting by the phone and hoping someone will call them.

In the days of the California Gold Rush, the ’49ers who proved successful were those who first panned a creek to locate gold and then went one step further: they followed the gold back to the source and then spent their time in the mine. Unsuccessful 49′ers only panned the creeks and streams.

Too often, stock photographers will sell a photo to a buyer and consider the association at an end.  The photographer goes on to look for “gold” elsewhere.

Promote Regularly

Successful stock photographers, on the other hand, know how to “mine their lode.” These stock photographers cultivate a long-term working relationship with photobuyers whose photo needs match the photographer’s own stock photo interest areas. They calculate the future net worth of the photobuyer and put the buyer into their system, which includes a program of regular promotion of their photography to that buyer.

Determining a future net worth of an editor or photobuyer is not difficult to do. The photographer estimates assignments, sales, and other revenue that can be obtained from that photobuyer over a specific number of years and then projects what potential monies will come in. (Ten years is the average length of time you can expect to remain with a buyer in the publishing industry.)

Past experience shows that each buyer represents certain predictable variables: per-picture rate of pay, average number of pictures bought per year, spin-off to other photobuyers in the same publishing house/ad agency/graphics studio/corporation. From this, it’s easy for the stock photographer to determine the future net worth of the new photobuyer.

The future net worth over a ten-year period of a typical low-budget buyer would be approximately $5,000, or $500 in sales to that buyer each year. Ten-year net worth of a mid-range buyer would be $25,000, and a high range buyer would be $75,000. The key is follow-up promotion.

Follow-Up Promotion

If the stock photographer does not set up a regular plan of promotion to a buyer who shows interest in their work, the new photobuyer could very easily slip away.

What does it cost to promote? Successful promotion can cost just 10 percent of the expected gross revenue. The key is to know who you should spend your promotional dollars on.

Which brings us to how to get good leads worth your promotion dollars (panning for gold along the creek). Leads from a marketletter like PhotoDaily are the most cost-effective. If you spend $325 per year on a market service, and obtain 10 excellent mid-level market leads during that one year, you have a gold mine: 10 x $25,000 = $250,000 future net worth — at a cost of only $325, plus 10 percent to promote to them over a ten-year period ($2,500). Not many businesses can realize that kind of cost-effective marketing strategy.

If you haven’t already done so, start following up with the photobuyers you’ve cultivated in the past and mining this hidden asset of yours.

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