By Mary Fisk-Taylor
This year we tried something new at our studio and it is truly one of the best things we did all year. Operating from a very small home studio in Richmond, Virginia, our specialty is definitely large wall portrait installations and décor. After more than 22 years in business, we wanted to do something this year that would create a buzz and make a huge impact.
I decided to design a portrait magazine to publish on our website and email to prospective clients. In a world where we are inundated with email inquiries, I have found that just simply responding and asking them to reach out to me or make an appointment for a consultation was rarely working and that asking them to go to our social media sites or website was simply not happening. It seems that people today are just too darned busy for their own good and asking them to make a few more clicks on their computers or phones was too much to ask. To convert these inquiries into clients and sessions, it was necessary to make an impact right then and there.
They needed a simple link or document to click on and immediately see what we do, who we are and how our portrait work was different. I needed to have them understand from that initial email that we were portrait artists and we wanted to create beautiful heirloom portraits to grace the interiors of their homes. We were not a studio that sold files and images on CD’s. We were portrait artists who custom design the perfect photographic memories for them.
I began to painstakingly go through my portrait images and images of my clients’ homes. The easy part was finding images I loved. The hard part was editing it down to a select few images to reach a broad spectrum of people, show diversity, and grab the attention of potential clients enough to convert them to portrait clients. It was very hard to keep the presentation simple and to make sure it truly represented our style and brand. The process was a lengthy one but I was thrilled with the final result.
After the design process was finished, the next step was to create an online magazine using www.issuu.com and adding the magazine to our website. It was important that every single email inquiry that was received be provided with the link to the magazine so that potential clients could immediately, and with one simple click, take a glimpse at who we are and what we do. The GREAT news was that we saw immediate results. Where we previously got a small percentage of email inquiries, we now received a return email or phone call from most of them. It was thrilling and the feedback was very positive.
Some time later, I was walking from the mailbox looking through the stack of mail and immediately felt the rich beautiful paper of a Tiffany catalog. I LOVE these catalogs and love to look through and dream about things that could be mine some day or browse at things to leave as hints for birthday and Christmas presents. While glancing through the book, it occurred to me that, in my little corner of the world and after almost 23 years of building and creating a brand name, my very own portrait work was on a lot of people’s wish list.
At that moment I decided to invest in printing the portrait magazine and mailing it out. It was a significant investment and, believe me, some people would have considered it very successful had I left it as simply a digital piece. But printing and distributing the book to not only our existing client base but to a very selective list of homes in our market area was a game-changer.
Just like that Tiffany catalog, I chose to use a higher end paper, beautiful heavy envelopes and mail each and every one first class with a hand-addressed label but it paid off in a huge way. This decision was definitely an investment but after tracking the calls and inquiries for the past 6 months from this mailing, I can tell you it paid for itself ten times over.
My personal theory is that, in this automated overly digital world, people really loved getting a beautiful piece of mail. It was evident that people opened it and read it because we booked so many portrait sessions from it. A large number of our clients and now new clients have related that they could not throw it away and it resides on their coffee table or they shared it with a friend, family member or neighbor. It was thrilling to hear this because that is exactly how I feel about those beautiful books and catalogs that come in the mail to my house. I was very proud of the book and super relieved that it was so well received.
The great news is that we now have a win-win marketing piece. This magazine did a great job for me digitally when used for email inquiries and when printed. Regardless of the way it was used, it created interest and portrait sessions. I know for a fact that this single marketing piece contributed to a large percentage of our profit this year and that is indeed a good thing!
Mary Fisk-Taylor and Jamie Hayes will be teaching at the 2017 Texas School of Professional Photography, April 23-28. Their class, “The Best of Both Worlds,” is all about business and photographic techniques that have grossed their business over $1 million a year. More info about Jamie and Mary can be found at: