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Author Topic: 3 Essential Marketing Tactics for Photographers  (Read 4660 times)
Graham Clark
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« on: January 15, 2014, 04:55:59 PM »
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Just as a introduction to this article, I got the inspiration to write this post from another article here on LL, so thanks for the inspiration. As a result of getting my thoughts down I decided to write a book about it, and I'm excited to announce that it's been accepted by a publisher for publication in 51 international book stores, so thanks for that : )

For nearly seven years I published work in books and magazines, and quite unsuccessfully. Then, somewhat recently I had the opportunity to study marketing with one of the top three best marketers in the world. When I revisited my mostly failed approaches to marketing of my own photography I came upon a number realizations, or breakthroughs (some pretty obvious) that moved me in the right direction:

ē  An amateur photographer who markets his work professionally will always outsell the professional photographer who markets his work like an amateur
ē  Selling physical prints is not as scalable as we think
ē  Photographers struggle with finding a price point that works. As it turns out, humans are bad at determining value on both ends of the sale
ē  Knowing what to do and what not to do when marketing photographs is a very unintuitive thing for 95% of people

I think most of us can agree that photographers (and artists generally speaking) don't have a natural inclination towards the business of selling work. And yet marketing is key to successfully selling photography. If you donít learn marketing, and if you don't learn the fundamental principles of attracting and influencing people to buy, your photography business and career does not have a very good chance of survival.

I wanted to share with you a few tactics that I've used to successfully sell photographs in galleries. These tactics can be used separately but they're meant to be integrated into one overall strategy.


Gallery Tactic #1

FIND THE OPTIMAL PRICE POINT

I often times show alongside artists in galleries and I'm always curious to see what sells and what doesn't and why. Usually the stuff that isn't priced right doesn't sell. Makes sense right?

As it turns out humans are horrible at determining value, among other things. In fact, we unconsciously look to other things that are related to determine what things should cost.

My recommendation? Look to the best living photographer that inspires you and check out his or her prices. Don't go above them. In fact, unless you're better than this person definitely stay a good margin below. I'm a landscape and travel photographer, so my point of reference is Michael Anderson. Heís a better photographer than me and I could learn quite a lot from him. Therefore my prices are lower than his. Itís that simple!

 

Gallery Tactic #2

BUILD HIGH PERCEIVED VALUE

If people determine value based on what's closest to them first, and then they move to other means of determining value, you can use that to your advantage in surprisingly simple ways.

When displaying work at a gallery you have two possible scenarios:

A. mixed artists gallery or B. solo show. The latter is easier for building perceived value since you don't have a massive spectrum of price stickers.

In both scenarios however you want simplify your products and at the same time build immense value into the product you'd like to sell most of. For example, I most often sell three sizes: 16x24, 24x36 and 40x60. I prefer selling the 16x24's because they're easier to produce, they have less overhead and theyíre easier to carry around and hang.

Approach 1: I'm selling a verity of double-matted photographs in clear sleeves for $40 - $100 each and I'm also selling 16x24 archival plexi mounted metallic prints for $697.

The prospect compares the two and the gulf is too extreme, therefore the perceived value isn't compelling enough. The double-matted prints actually deter prospects from buying the 16x24 in two ways:

1. They wanted the 16x24 but didnít want to spend the money because there was an option with far less monetary commitment

2. They simply donít buy anything because the perceived value is low

Approach 2: I'm selling a 40x60 archival plexi metallic for $7500 (edition of 3), 24x36s with the same mounting method for $2200 (editions of 25) and 16x24's with the same mounting method for $697 (editions of 50) with free shipping until this Sunday.

The unintuitive aspect to this approach is the 40x60 epic image - the point is not to sell it. In fact, you don't want to because if you did you'd have to make another and it's a HUGE amount of work on your part. And try carrying that thing around to a gallery or two... exactly! So why have it? Just to build perceived value and to increase the perceived value of the high volume product you'd like to optimize for. Letís called it an Optimizer Image.

This also has a secondary benefit of showcasing the technical quality of your work. Again, your stuff has to be of professional quality for any of this to work, but if it's of that caliber a large epic print like this on close inspection establishes huge authority and trust. If in a mixed gallery setting this exponentially increases perceived quality against the other artists. If you have that competitive edge, showcase it with an image of epic size, epic price and epic quality = epic image.

Now I just made those prices up on the fly, but that's exactly what you want to do - make the prices up but make sure it doesn't exceed your niche leader (the one you can learn a lot from). When I first show at a gallery I usually start very low on price, incredibly low, to determine the buying power of that location and move the price up based on how frequent images are being sold because, as youíll see in the next strategy, everything is a test.


Gallery Tactic #3

SOCIAL PROOF AS LITTLE RED STICKERS

Okay, so we're clear on how to use epic images (epic in both price and size) to create high perceived value when displayed alongside an almost epic image and alongside the optimizer image?

One of the most important mental triggers all humans share is Social Proof, which is a term to describe how humans gravitate towards things that other humans express positive vibes about. Itís an incredibly powerful mental trigger.

One way to achieve immediate and powerful social proof in a gallery setting is to sell 8x8 Stryene mounted lustre photographs for $40-$50 each. Letís say it costs you $8.13 to produce the mounted print and another $5 in custom hanger hardware for the back. The gallery takes 50% or more. And letís say you also donate all proceeds to a well-known donation and that's made known on the price sticker. So weíll assume you make no money and you now have empty space on the wall as a result.

The intuitive course of action might be to price it higher, but the point of the donation image is not to make money, because even if you did make a few bucks here and there these little prints aren't scalable.

Instead the point is to show the world youíre capable of helping make the world a better place (humanizing yourself), and at the same time youíve now covered your costs and the red stickers represent social proof. With your epic image along with the donation image youíre on your way to building a strong high perceived value for the optimizer image.

So just to break this down here, we have a few different kinds of images that we sell:

EPIC IMAGE $$$$$
ALMOST EPIC IMAGE $$$$
OPTIMIZER IMAGE $$
DONATION IMAGE red stickers


Epic and Almost Epic images are designed to increase perceived value of the Optimizer, and the Donation images have the same purpose but from the other end of the spectrum (only if theyíre nearly all sold out).

Below is an example of at-scale images illustrating the sizes in relation to one another. Re-stocking the Optimizer is critical for maximizing profits in the very the limited time you have to sell.




MORE ON MARKETING FOR PHOTOGRAPHERS

As I mentioned I'm currently finishing a book titled Breakthrough Marketing Strategies & Tactics for Photographers. Since the inspiration from the book came from LL anyone who has an account with 100+ posts will get a free copy, just send me an email once it goes live with a link to your profile. Click here to be notified when it goes on sale.

Note: The original article can be found here.

QUESTIONS? COMMENTS?

If you have any questions, comments or anything that you have found to work for you please don't hesitate to add them in the comments below! I'd love to hear from you. And if you're a gallery owner definitely reply with things you have found to work! : )

Graham
« Last Edit: January 15, 2014, 05:01:48 PM by Graham Clark » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: January 15, 2014, 06:33:40 PM »
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Iíve been reading some books along these lines recently and there is definitely a market place for this kind of thing. If you donít already have plans to do so, contact some of the more well known gallery owners in different areas as well as some well known photographer/artists for interview, and get permission to cite their comments if you can. There are also some other authors who have addressed the topic and sometimes they are okay to have their works cited with accreditation. That kind of thing makes for a good bibliography to go with a book.

There was a recent video in the series called Brain Games on the National Geographic channel that addressed the issue of price and value perception. There are a number of additional books and videos that address this topic.

It is a good subject and Iím sure there is a good market for a well done book.

Keep us posted. Best of luck on this project!
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bill t.
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« Reply #2 on: January 16, 2014, 02:02:25 PM »
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Just thinking out loud...

I'm not sure most potential art buyers are sophisticated enough to understand where a particular pieces stands relative to the genre, or even where the artists stands in the pecking order of his profession.  And most of them wouldn't care to research such information, or make any effort to understand the fine points.

It's all irrational.

If somebody sees a piece they like, give them a little friendly help deciding to buy it.  Reduce the equation to the chemistry between the viewer and the piece.  Reduce the need for them to consider other options, like a different size.  Concentrate on the bond between the customer and the particular image that has caught his fancy, minus all possible other distractions.

We're selling objects with meaning and beauty here, not appliances.  Keep the focus there, not on some soon-to-disappear Blue Light Special!

The ideal gallery would have one picture in it, all by itself, beautifully lighted, with a tasteful button located nearby labeled "buy this piece" so as to eliminate the distracting need for verbalization.  Make each piece special, don't caste it as part of a Vertically Integrated Marketing Strategy, which is too much like the real world for the souls of many potential art buyers.

Maybe I'm too old for this.  But I am willing to sacrifice sales to maintain a respectful, non-exploitive, non-manipulative relationship with the people who like my work.  Maybe that will build up a loyal client base, which I believe has been the case for me.

Not sure I even 100% agree with some of what I just wrote.  But will post it anyway as food for thought.  Will just add that I think being really honest and communicative with a customer is a very powerful incentive for them to go ahead with a purchase.  But if a customer feels at the receiving end of a manipulative scheme, or feels marginalized as some sort of anonymous unit of consumption, look out.
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Graham Clark
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« Reply #3 on: January 16, 2014, 02:29:32 PM »
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Just thinking out loud...

I'm not sure most potential art buyers are sophisticated enough to understand where a particular pieces stands relative to the genre, or even where the artists stands in the pecking order of his profession.  And most of them wouldn't care to research such information, or make any effort to understand the fine points.

It's all irrational.

If somebody sees a piece they like, give them a little friendly help deciding to buy it.  Reduce the equation to the chemistry between the viewer and the piece.  Reduce the need for them to consider other options, like a different size.  Concentrate on the bond between the customer and the particular image that has caught his fancy, minus all possible other distractions.

We're selling objects with meaning and beauty here, not appliances.  Keep the focus there, not on some soon-to-disappear Blue Light Special!

The ideal gallery would have one picture in it, all by itself, beautifully lighted, with a tasteful button located nearby labeled "buy this piece" so as to eliminate the distracting need for verbalization.  Make each piece special, don't caste it as part of a Vertically Integrated Marketing Strategy, which is too much like the real world for the souls of many potential art buyers.

Maybe I'm too old for this.  But I am willing to sacrifice sales to maintain a respectful, non-exploitive, non-manipulative relationship with the people who like my work.  Maybe that will build up a loyal client base, which I believe has been the case for me.

Not sure I even 100% agree with some of what I just wrote.  But will post it anyway as food for thought.  Will just add that I think being really honest and communicative with a customer is a very powerful incentive for them to go ahead with a purchase.  But if a customer feels at the receiving end of a manipulative scheme, or feels marginalized as some sort of anonymous unit of consumption, look out.

Hey Bill,

First and foremost, the word manipulation doesn't fit into professional marketing. Understanding human behavior and how this drives humans to buy can be used for evil, of course the potential is there, but we should always be doing things that are in the best interest of our prospect, and never do anything that is self-serving.

Why should photographers learn marketing anyways? Why is it important? Well, for many its not important, and I agree. In fact none of this may have any relevance for most photographers! (I think the majority)

But for photographers who actually want to make a living in this amazing medium, and for photographers who wish to create a successful business of selling photography (or photography related services), it's critically important to understand who it is that is buying your work, and to meet them on their level. Too often we expect customers to come find us. This is a left-over vestige of something called having a job. We show up, we get paid, we do it over again. But unfortunately that doesn't work for entrepreneurs, and for everyone reading this who owns their own business you know what I'm talking about! : )

I completely agree with you about the "Blue Light Special". And one of the most important things is to rarely ever have a sale, and if you do it must be associated with an event in the real world. It must be event-based otherwise it's just that, a Blue Light Special, which just equals bad marketing.

By the way, I should have mentioned this in the original post, but I'm not a professional marketer by any means. And none of what I'm saying is original to me, and it's all based on human psychology and behavior, which doesn't change.

For more information on your points skip to minute 9:00 in the following video by Dr. Chaldini, who is a professor of psychology and not a marketer or even if the business of making money:

https://app.box.com/s/rdcgfdf5924ibc2vqe4q

Graham
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« Reply #4 on: January 17, 2014, 08:49:22 AM »
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First of all, I have limited experience selling anything.  I like to joke to my wife that I'm so good that I can sell shoe laces. When I have sold my work, I have created perceived (I'd like to think real) value by selling small prints that I always mat using the the finest archival materials.  Many of these mats come from the windows of my larger mats and some even have an over cut or two.  Still my customers know they are getting the same product, only smaller,  that I would display larger in a gallery.  Anytime I have done this, they have sold like hot cakes.  I know I should charge more for them, but I like to know that my art is accessible to the entire Yosemite community.  Ok, you will laugh , but I charge 25.00 for 6x9 matted at 9x12.  After all is said and done once again I have money for ink and more paper. 

With the market so flooded with photographs, I think today it is next to impossible to a mass market.  Instead, I think you will have better luck concentrating on smaller niches.  Many of my friends /customers commute daily along the Merced River and are always interested if I have a unique perspective of their drive.  I have had multiple request for a particular bend in the river, that I know would not sell in a mass market, even though technically it is a very good photograph.

Now if I really wanted to sell photographs, I would become an expert on photographing beautiful models holding cell phones.  Rob C will probably help me with this venture. Roll Eyes

Geez Graham, you must not be too bad at marketing living in SF.   
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Gary Damaskos
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« Reply #5 on: January 20, 2014, 07:50:17 AM »
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Hey Bill,

First and foremost, the word manipulation doesn't fit into professional marketing. Understanding human behavior and how this drives humans to buy can be used for evil, of course the potential is there, but we should always be doing things that are in the best interest of our prospect, and never do anything that is self-serving.

Why should photographers learn marketing anyways? Why is it important? Well, for many its not important, and I agree. In fact none of this may have any relevance for most photographers! (I think the majority)

But for photographers who actually want to make a living in this amazing medium, and for photographers who wish to create a successful business of selling photography (or photography related services), it's critically important to understand who it is that is buying your work, and to meet them on their level. Too often we expect customers to come find us. This is a left-over vestige of something called having a job. We show up, we get paid, we do it over again. But unfortunately that doesn't work for entrepreneurs, and for everyone reading this who owns their own business you know what I'm talking about! : )

I completely agree with you about the "Blue Light Special". And one of the most important things is to rarely ever have a sale, and if you do it must be associated with an event in the real world. It must be event-based otherwise it's just that, a Blue Light Special, which just equals bad marketing.

By the way, I should have mentioned this in the original post, but I'm not a professional marketer by any means. And none of what I'm saying is original to me, and it's all based on human psychology and behavior, which doesn't change.

For more information on your points skip to minute 9:00 in the following video by Dr. Chaldini, who is a professor of psychology and not a marketer or even if the business of making money:

https://app.box.com/s/rdcgfdf5924ibc2vqe4q

Graham

I must say - and have been saying for probably 20+ years - "marketers are running the world". Seriously - they began hiring mercenary psychologist long time ago to exactly manipulate better. Politics call them handlers I believe. Watch the DVD "the corporation". There is an arising school of thought which the "naked brand" seems to represent well that promotes truth based marketing. Guess what challenges it faces? The truth doesn't look as good compared to exaggerations to the unsophisticated. 
Still, I support this truth based concept. Much happier world and interactions come from it. Ebay actually - perhaps accidentally - supports this as feedback works to promote accuracy and truth.
Thanks for posting...
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robdickinson
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« Reply #6 on: January 26, 2014, 09:35:58 PM »
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Interesting read thanks.
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« Reply #7 on: February 18, 2014, 05:49:53 PM »
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Great info thanks.
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-Seth
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« Reply #8 on: February 22, 2014, 01:07:38 PM »
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Yes, I suppose. But ... I am a photographer, not a marketing wiener. I'd love to sell more photos, but not at the expense of spending a huge amount of time on marketing (mind-deadening work, I am sure). If you earn your living from photography then I guess this is unavoidable, but I am SOOOO glad I don't have to do it.

PS: Anyone want to buy a print?
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Peter
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Graham Clark
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« Reply #9 on: February 22, 2014, 07:58:19 PM »
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Yes, I suppose. But ... I am a photographer, not a marketing wiener. I'd love to sell more photos, but not at the expense of spending a huge amount of time on marketing (mind-deadening work, I am sure). If you earn your living from photography then I guess this is unavoidable, but I am SOOOO glad I don't have to do it.

PS: Anyone want to buy a print?

was this a response to a specific comment or just a general reply?

Graham
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Phil Indeblanc
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« Reply #10 on: February 27, 2014, 05:57:54 PM »
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Is the article for Fine Art to gallery mainly? or does it have other commercial markets and agency etc included? If so, what other markets, and how much of each?

I have found many agencies simple have stock image sources and they pay $5-50 for an image that they once would hire or pay a good chunk of money on.

Maybe even some pages on selling to stock agencies?...As simple as it maybe.

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« Reply #11 on: March 10, 2014, 03:28:46 PM »
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Really helpful.
I am just at the point of opening a gallery and this is really helpful advice.

Thanks
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Graham Clark
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« Reply #12 on: March 10, 2014, 03:50:36 PM »
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Is the article for Fine Art to gallery mainly? or does it have other commercial markets and agency etc included? If so, what other markets, and how much of each?

I have found many agencies simple have stock image sources and they pay $5-50 for an image that they once would hire or pay a good chunk of money on.

Maybe even some pages on selling to stock agencies?...As simple as it maybe.



Hey Phil,

These principles work across any market in any area of art, it's more about the psychology of how humans buy rather than specific avenues of where to sell.

As for stock, that will lower the perceived value of your work, which isn't a bad thing, but that's the affect. Not the intrinsic value, that's subjective (and often emotional), just the perceived value.

Graham
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« Reply #13 on: March 10, 2014, 03:51:18 PM »
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Really helpful.
I am just at the point of opening a gallery and this is really helpful advice.

Thanks

Sure! I'm glad you found it useful.

I'm seeing near sellouts of images (except for epic images, thankfully) at the galleries I'm showing at here in San Francisco by building high perceived value and optimizing on 16x24's on Plexi for $697. Printing and mounting with DuraPlaq in CO for those ones.

If you have any questions regarding anything and your gallery feel free to give me a call - 707 490.5445

Graham
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