What Every Photographer Needs to Know about Email Marketing

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Photographers are increasingly turning to new social media technologies to get word out about their businesses (Facebook pages, Twitter, Google+ and more are topics we’ve featured in the last year).

There’s certainly some wonderful potential to engage people with social media – but my suspicion is that many photographers are ignoring a method of online communication that is much much more powerful and effective at reaching out to potential clients and building loyalty with previous ones – Email.

Email is Not Dead

email.jpegBack when Digital Photography School was just starting out (April 2006) there was a lot of talk going on around the web about how Email was Dying as a technology. At the time it was the Syndication technology of ‘RSS’ that was going to kill email but since that time there have been numerous other ‘Email Killers’ touted including Facebook and Twitter.

While there has certainly been an upswing in the number of people using social media – email is still alive and well. In fact it is central in my own business as a blogger. Since 2006 we’ve had over half a million people sign up to receive our weekly newsletter while in the same time around 140,000 have signed up to connect with us on social media. Thank goodness we didn’t put all our eggs in the social media basket!

We’re certainly not ignoring social media marketing – but email is where our #1 focus is.

Our use of email highlights that people do use it – usually on a daily basis, that they respond to emails (both to visit sites and make purchases) and that it is also a way to virally grow your business (emails get forwarded on from one person to another).

To ignore email as part of your marketing mix could be costing your photography business revenue.

Email Marketing for Photographers

Email marketing is not just something for bloggers – it is also something that those in all kinds of businesses should be considering. It is useful to build relationships with current and potential clients, to help you build your brand and profile and to drive sales.

It can be used in any number of ways but a number of photographers that I’ve been interacting with online lately tell me how effective that they’ve found it to be in a number of key areas:

  1. showcasing work – Many photographers have blogs which they use to showcase their work and build credibility with potential clients. Two photographers that I’ve chatted with this week tell me that they send out weekly emails with a couple of their best images and the stories behind them (and then links to the blog to show more). In doing so they’re reminding people on a weekly basis of the quality and style of their work.
  2. running promotions – Another photographer tells me that any time he’s got space in his schedule he simply emails his email list with a promotion offering XX% off his services for the first 5 people to respond. This isn’t the only kind of email he sends (he too sends out emails showcasing this work) but he reported that every time he sent his email he found his schedule would quickly fill.
  3. word of mouth promotions – another photographer this week told me that he follows up all clients that he’s worked with with an email giving them incentive to pass on word of his services to friends. He gives them a free print for every new client they bring in.

The key with email marketing is to get the balance right between ‘promotional’ emails and emails that people genuinely find useful and interesting in some way. I’d recommend that emails showcasing work, telling stories and even giving clients tips/advice should probably make up the bulk of the emails that you send – with promotional ones being less regular.

The way you use email will of course vary from photographer to photographer depending upon your business model. For some it will be more about keeping in touch with previous clients while for others it will be more about reaching out to potential ones.

Update: One other strategy that I know of one photographer using is to email new clients after a shoot with a quick and simple survey to see how they found his service. He not only gets valuable feedback from clients with this but makes an impression on them with his interest in improving what he does.

Invest in an Email Service Provider

Sending clients and potential clients emails is a great idea – but you should seriously consider HOW you send those emails. I would recommend using a service designed for this purpose rather than just sending these kinds of emails via our own email provider.

The reasons for this are numerous:

  • Email Service Providers will increase your deliverability rate – send too many emails like these from your own email service and you’ll find the deliverability of these emails will decrease over time. ESP’s specialise in email and their deliverability rates will be significantly higher – as will your emails open rates.
  • Statistics – ESPs provide you with stats on how successful your emails are. They’ll tell you how many people received your emails and how many bounced, how many people open them, how many people click on the links in them etc. All of this helps you work out how to improve future emails.
  • Split Testing – most ESPs allow you to test different versions of the same email to work out which is most effective. For example you might send emails to 2 halves of your email list with different subject lines to test what people response to best – again this improves your results.
  • Spam Testing – some ESPs give you tools to test whether your emails will get caught in spam filters before you send them. This increases deliverability.
  • Auto-Responders – one great feature that many ESPs have is the ability to automate your email marketing. You can set up a sequence of emails that all new subscribers to your list get at predetermined intervals. You might start off with a welcome email, follow up a few days later with a showcase email of your best work, send an email a week later with a discount etc. Over time you can test which sequence works best to both deepen client relationships and drive sales.
  • Double Opt in Subscriptions – it is important to note that what I’m NOT talking about in this article is spamming potential clients. In many parts of the world it is illegal to email unsolicited emails to people and you need to use what is known as a ‘double opt in’ system where someone needs to give you permission to email them by confirming their subscription after they’ve subscribed by clicking a link in an email you send them. ESPs have this tool in place to make it easier to get important opt ins.

dPS Uses and Recommends Aweber Communications

aweber-logo.jpegThere are many good email providers but the one that we use and recommend here at dPS is Aweber.

Aweber have all of the above features plus a lot more. They offer a wide range of templates to make your emails attractive, give you a range of widgets to get signups to your email list (including one to put on your Facebook Page), integrate with Facebook/Twitter, offer the ability to segment lists into different types of subscribers, let you send emails based upon the RSS feed on your blog and a heap more.

This is a paid service but you’re paying for a heap of features that will increase your effectiveness and you’ll only pay based upon how many subscribers you have.

Aweber also give you the ability to test drive their service for free – to do so just sign up below and you’ll be emailed the details:


Can You Have More Sales, Too?
Helping over 102,000+ businesses like yours raise profits and build customer relationships using AWeber’s opt-in email marketing software for over 10 years.




Take a Free Test Drive today!

Alternatively check out what Aweber has to offer here.

Do you Use Email to Build Your Photography Business?

I’d love to hear how photographers are using email as part of their marketing strategy – please share your own stories in comments below!

Note: Links in this article are affiliate links and dPS earns a small commission if you sign up and become a paying user of Aweber – however dPS is also an avid user of Aweber and recommends the service whether you sign up with our links or some other way.

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Darren Rowse is the editor and founder of Digital Photography School and SnapnDeals. He lives in Melbourne Australia and is also the editor of the ProBlogger Blog Tips. Follow him on Instagram, on Twitter at @digitalPS or on Google+.

  • Todd H.

    About the viability of email and the importance of marketing – Five Stars!

    About the recommendation of the provider – Fail. While the recommended provider is an industry giant, there are great less expensive alternatives. If you have under 2,000 subscribers, and send less than 12,000 total emails per month, MailChimp.com is your friend at the grand price of FREE. Not a trial subscription, no credit on file.

    My 2¢.

  • I have been using Constant Contact to send a weekly newsletter for almost one year. This was what last week’s looked like:

    http://campaign.r20.constantcontact.com/render?llr=75gnt6dab&v=001YzRvM3yRJwR5viEuC3G_sy-V8k0qjEAt_qaoy8Ep9BJajc3fvOdAa5i9vdUpW9Qf4ELF36mJ6cn9SvqLivbsTcCkC6OwSO_jKM5achKfzaA8vYWMkVoHzQ%3D%3D

    I cannot say I receive that much business directly from the newsletter, but I always get positive feedback from recipients about it.

    I keep sending the newsletter for some of the reasons in the post above, mainly because it makes me feel I am keeping a dialogue going with clients and showing them and reminding them of my work.

    Of the 450 people on my mailing list, I get between 65-85 opens each week.

  • There’s no doubt that email marketing works BUT in addition to the traditional email marketing (mass email) one should look at another marketing opportunity and that is the emails we all send from our corporate email addresses every day. I represent a company that has developed a solution for just those emails and thus this post.
    The basic idea behind WRAPmail is to utilize the facts that all businesses have websites and employees that send emails every day. These emails can become complete marketing tools and help promote, brand, sell and cross-sell in addition to drive traffic to the website and conduct research. WRAPmail is available for free at http://www.wrapmail.com.
    WRAPmail also helps search for missing children with every email sent by incorporating an optional RSS feed from the Center for Missing and Exploited Children

  • Since I don’t profit off my photography, I do not pay for any regular services. However I do use tools like the link shortener bit.ly so that I can track the number of hits I get on my Flickr account (and other sites).

    Feel free to critique my pics or ask any settings/gear questions. I have no clients to worry about critiques or any profit to be gained from training.

    Flickr:

    http://bit.ly/oufr4c

  • Hangwire

    Are you guys benefiting from the links in the article? Is this a biased recommendation?

  • I’ve been giving away a free ebook of my travel photography as an incentive for my newsletter. It has worked well.

  • Ha ha! I have 6 followers, you have zillions.. I’m gaining on you. But seriously, your articles are spot on. I give your site the Big Daddy “Rock Star” stamp of approval.. This and few bucks, will get you a good cup of coffee! Enjoy!

  • nothing biased about it Hangwire – we use Aweber ourselves and have done for 5+ years now to deliver all our dPS emails.

    We’re an affiliate for it but you’re welcome to sign up using someone else’s links if you choose (as per the disclaimer at the bottom of the post). We do participate in some affiliate programs where we’re users of the products and genuinely recommend them – it’s part of how we keep our blog and forum free.

  • Mailchimp is certainly worth looking at Todd – have many friends who are fans. Also Campaign Monitor comes highly recommended. Each vary slightly on features and pricing at different levels. Not sure I’d ‘fail’ Aweber just because someone else is cheaper – I’m just recommending them because I use them and have found them to suit my needs.

  • very thought provoking article. Your article came at the right time!

  • I have being looking into email service providers, thanks for the tips. I also read though your article on how to start a successful blog which I thiought was really useful as well.

  • Alexander Rose

    My two cents: Never. Never. Nevernevernever send HTML mails.
    Many people like me who are in the IT today and grew up with the Net since the early 90s have HTML mails automatically deleted.
    If I received an interestingly written text mail with a link to a blog, I might take a look.

  • Very good post.
    I use a simple and free setup with google/feed burner to distribute a weekly digest of blog posts on my wordpress website. I have less than 100 subscribers at the moment,but i think I can increase this by advertising the subscription box more.

    I also like the idea of using email to send out unique offers just for subscribers.

  • ColininOz

    I do not have any need to send multiple emails, or tro advertise, but as a possible ‘customer’ for those who do I will say that old folks from the bygone days of print and mail communication ( like me) have learned to use and trust ’email’ both inward and outward. However, many of us do not patronise so called networking sites like Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and etcetera. We have nothing in common with 90% of the users, do not trust their privacy, and would as soon visit a nightclub Halloween part as visit them. Which is to say, NO WAY ! So if you want to reach the Old Fart demographic use email !

  • Over the years we have found that our email marketing is more effective when focused on repeat business and not generating new clients. Facebook has been the #1 online source of generating both new and return portrait clients. Therefore we divide online strategies between the two. FB for generating new leads and repeat business. Email for only bringing in repeat business from VIP clients. Why only VIP clients? Because the return on time spent is lower than other media so we only target above average pervious clients. For example parents who brought a child in for senior pictures and spent $3000+ … Now we can put together a special offer that will attract big spenders rather than us wasting our time bringing back clients who only spent $600 or less.

  • 255 Pixels Community

    We have developed a photography community – 255pixels.com dedicated to the travel and cultural photography artists where they can share their photography art and inspire everyone to travel and explore different locations. They can also grow their audience who can appreciate the photography artist in them and also they can grow their network of dedicated photography enthusiasts and artists.

  • Paul Jones

    Most of the photographer using http://nanourl.in to short their photo url and submit to social site

Some Older Comments

  • Boudoir Photography October 22, 2011 10:03 am

    Over the years we have found that our email marketing is more effective when focused on repeat business and not generating new clients. Facebook has been the #1 online source of generating both new and return portrait clients. Therefore we divide online strategies between the two. FB for generating new leads and repeat business. Email for only bringing in repeat business from VIP clients. Why only VIP clients? Because the return on time spent is lower than other media so we only target above average pervious clients. For example parents who brought a child in for senior pictures and spent $3000+ ... Now we can put together a special offer that will attract big spenders rather than us wasting our time bringing back clients who only spent $600 or less.

  • ColininOz October 14, 2011 02:41 pm

    I do not have any need to send multiple emails, or tro advertise, but as a possible 'customer' for those who do I will say that old folks from the bygone days of print and mail communication ( like me) have learned to use and trust 'email' both inward and outward. However, many of us do not patronise so called networking sites like Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and etcetera. We have nothing in common with 90% of the users, do not trust their privacy, and would as soon visit a nightclub Halloween part as visit them. Which is to say, NO WAY ! So if you want to reach the Old Fart demographic use email !

  • Chris October 14, 2011 09:21 am

    Very good post.
    I use a simple and free setup with google/feed burner to distribute a weekly digest of blog posts on my wordpress website. I have less than 100 subscribers at the moment,but i think I can increase this by advertising the subscription box more.

    I also like the idea of using email to send out unique offers just for subscribers.

  • Alexander Rose October 14, 2011 04:24 am

    My two cents: Never. Never. Nevernevernever send HTML mails.
    Many people like me who are in the IT today and grew up with the Net since the early 90s have HTML mails automatically deleted.
    If I received an interestingly written text mail with a link to a blog, I might take a look.

  • Chappie October 14, 2011 02:23 am

    I have being looking into email service providers, thanks for the tips. I also read though your article on how to start a successful blog which I thiought was really useful as well.

  • Lester October 14, 2011 01:27 am

    very thought provoking article. Your article came at the right time!

  • Darren Rowse October 13, 2011 02:15 pm

    Mailchimp is certainly worth looking at Todd - have many friends who are fans. Also Campaign Monitor comes highly recommended. Each vary slightly on features and pricing at different levels. Not sure I'd 'fail' Aweber just because someone else is cheaper - I'm just recommending them because I use them and have found them to suit my needs.

  • Darren Rowse October 12, 2011 11:24 am

    nothing biased about it Hangwire - we use Aweber ourselves and have done for 5+ years now to deliver all our dPS emails.

    We're an affiliate for it but you're welcome to sign up using someone else's links if you choose (as per the disclaimer at the bottom of the post). We do participate in some affiliate programs where we're users of the products and genuinely recommend them - it's part of how we keep our blog and forum free.

  • Tom Dwyer October 12, 2011 09:49 am

    Ha ha! I have 6 followers, you have zillions.. I'm gaining on you. But seriously, your articles are spot on. I give your site the Big Daddy "Rock Star" stamp of approval.. This and few bucks, will get you a good cup of coffee! Enjoy!

  • Gary Arndt October 12, 2011 09:30 am

    I've been giving away a free ebook of my travel photography as an incentive for my newsletter. It has worked well.

  • Hangwire October 12, 2011 08:55 am

    Are you guys benefiting from the links in the article? Is this a biased recommendation?

  • Gnslngr45 October 12, 2011 02:36 am

    Since I don't profit off my photography, I do not pay for any regular services. However I do use tools like the link shortener bit.ly so that I can track the number of hits I get on my Flickr account (and other sites).

    Feel free to critique my pics or ask any settings/gear questions. I have no clients to worry about critiques or any profit to be gained from training.

    Flickr:

    http://bit.ly/oufr4c

  • Rolv Heggenhougen October 12, 2011 02:34 am

    There's no doubt that email marketing works BUT in addition to the traditional email marketing (mass email) one should look at another marketing opportunity and that is the emails we all send from our corporate email addresses every day. I represent a company that has developed a solution for just those emails and thus this post.
    The basic idea behind WRAPmail is to utilize the facts that all businesses have websites and employees that send emails every day. These emails can become complete marketing tools and help promote, brand, sell and cross-sell in addition to drive traffic to the website and conduct research. WRAPmail is available for free at http://www.wrapmail.com.
    WRAPmail also helps search for missing children with every email sent by incorporating an optional RSS feed from the Center for Missing and Exploited Children

  • Jason St. Petersburg Photographer October 12, 2011 01:26 am

    I have been using Constant Contact to send a weekly newsletter for almost one year. This was what last week's looked like:

    http://campaign.r20.constantcontact.com/render?llr=75gnt6dab&v=001YzRvM3yRJwR5viEuC3G_sy-V8k0qjEAt_qaoy8Ep9BJajc3fvOdAa5i9vdUpW9Qf4ELF36mJ6cn9SvqLivbsTcCkC6OwSO_jKM5achKfzaA8vYWMkVoHzQ%3D%3D

    I cannot say I receive that much business directly from the newsletter, but I always get positive feedback from recipients about it.

    I keep sending the newsletter for some of the reasons in the post above, mainly because it makes me feel I am keeping a dialogue going with clients and showing them and reminding them of my work.

    Of the 450 people on my mailing list, I get between 65-85 opens each week.

  • Todd H. October 12, 2011 01:07 am

    About the viability of email and the importance of marketing - Five Stars!

    About the recommendation of the provider - Fail. While the recommended provider is an industry giant, there are great less expensive alternatives. If you have under 2,000 subscribers, and send less than 12,000 total emails per month, MailChimp.com is your friend at the grand price of FREE. Not a trial subscription, no credit on file.

    My 2¢.

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