Ask an Art Buyer: Targeting and Evaluating your Promotion

by Heather on June 30, 2010

Another video:

HMAb: Ask an Art Buyer: Targeting and Evaluating Your Promotion from Heather Morton on Vimeo.

For reference, here’s Ryan Roger’s question in full.

I have an account with agency access, and have been sending out printed promos. My response has been lackluster. I wonder if I’m sending to the wrong people though. Do you have advise on who exactly to send my promos to?

For example many agencies have creative directors, art directors, art producers, art buyers, Sr. art buyers, creative buyers, creative officers, chief creative officers, creative managers, graphic designers, print production managers… Anyway, the list is large, and I’m sure they don’t all hire photographers. So far I’ve targeted my promos to art buyers and art directors. But my meager response has me wondering. Any insight on that would be much appreciated.

Related to that question, maybe I could send you a set of promo cards and you could evaluate them as a potential client.

I have considered that my portfolio just isn’t up to par. But I’ve been winning some awards here and there, and the few agencies I’ve dealt with have all had very positive things to say about my portfolio.

Check his work here.

And, for the record, here are some images I found on Ryan’s site that I would have preferred seeing in his promotion (reminder: I’m speaking as a commercial Art Buyer here, not as a PE or a designer). They show a little more interest, visually and conceptually, and the retouching isn’t quite as overt.

© Ryan Rogers

Good luck Ryan, thanks for the question. Any others? Send ‘em:

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Eric July 1, 2010 at 1:23 pm

The most obvious and fundamental question I am wondering about in regard to this:
Is Ryan following up with a phone call or email to the art director after they have received the promotional pieces? This is part of the sequence of events that I should be taking place.
The information is not clear on the details of the response.

Heather July 2, 2010 at 8:51 am

Good question Eric but I don’t suggest following up on every promo that you send. In my opinion, these one-off postcards should stand as little reminders of who you are and should go out on a regular basis (3x a year? every two months? that’s up to you and your budget). At the same time, you should have an email strategy which should complement your printed promo plan- same branding for sure, maybe sent alternate months for example.

Phone calls to the AD, for the most part, should be saved for the time when you want to show your book and have a brief introductory hello (with your book). Ideally, the AD would be familiar with your name and your work a bit from already receiving a few promos over time before you call them. If your imagery is good and useful for the agency, the ADs and ABs will be saving your promotion and bookmarking your site so a phone call is really about taking the relationship to the next step.

As you’ll read here and elsewhere, it’s very hard to get these busy creatives on the phone, but rest assured, if your work is something they need, as long as you promote to them, they will be aware of you. And then, when you’ve sent your promotion and seen some click throughs to your site AND have a good solid new book to share, give them a call and try to book an appointment.

Make sense?

Robert July 7, 2010 at 4:14 pm

Came from Chase Jarvis and was going to say I’d hope that everyone in the industry is as reasonable and decent as you seem. But then I saw you’re in Toronto and didn’t want to sound like a suckup. Still I give my first impression anyhow.

PS I work really cheap.

Richard July 8, 2010 at 1:34 am

50% of this was really informative and inspiring, and 50% of it kinda makes me want to throw my camera in the trash. I’ve never felt so small potatoes…

Thanks for the insight though!

Richard July 8, 2010 at 1:48 am

P.S. –
I also came from Chase Jarvis, and I’ll be back for sure.

Andrew July 8, 2010 at 4:34 am

Also came via Chase’s blog, thanks for an interesting podcast. It made me wonder how well your thoughts will work in the UK, well there is only one way to find out so I’m of to find my signature image and get some promo cards printed.

I’ll be back, Andrew.

Ben July 8, 2010 at 9:13 am

Great advice. Thanks for the podcast! Although I’m definitely not at the right level as a photographer yet, it’s good to have a road map in mind =) Subscribed to this blog!


Came from Chase Jarvis too =]

Dan B July 8, 2010 at 10:58 pm


Thanks for the insight!

Stephen July 9, 2010 at 9:33 pm

Great podcast – Thanks for the advice!

Alan Matthews July 10, 2010 at 12:45 am

Chase who?

Great insight. Thanks. I remember when I had an AA account and green (still am) with marketing my consultant would always say to cull the list and target. Early on in shooting when developing a style it’s not so easy to do even though the answer given is correct. In time, after confidence is gained from shooting, your style is hopefully more honed. I would suggest using the resources at those places who know you and your style and they can more easily match you with people (agencies) they know….

Think I need to make a call now….

Andrew July 10, 2010 at 11:26 pm

Thanks for the video. You mentioned repeatedly how much better the promos would have been if they had images on both sides, but you also said it was important to keep the branding simple and to not have a lot of copy on the images. So where do you suggest putting your contact info on a promo if there are images on both sides? Do you suggest keeping it very simple with a name and/or url, and nothing else? Isn’t it important to have a phone number and email as well so it’s easy for people to reach you?

Kevin Winzeler July 11, 2010 at 12:29 am

@Eric – I agree with you and somewhat disagree with Heather here. Follow up with a phone call and visit as often as you can if you WANT to work with that client, AD, CD, Art Buyer. Sales 101 folks! Sure you need solid, targeted work and the ability to execute consistently, but what we miss in this digitally driven world, is that it’s about people and relationships and not how fancy your promo piece is. I’ve sent plenty of work out in the past, but the most promising jobs have come in as I’ve built relationships with people I want to work with.

You, I, AD’s, CD’s, want to be recognized for something that we are working on and doing. Get on a call or meet in person and ask interesting questions to find out what is going on in THEIR world (WIIFM). When people talk about themselves and you listen and validate, they are far more likely to remember you as someone they want to work and do business with in the future than if you are talking about how great your work is. (80/20 rule – listen 80% of the time). I’ve had scheduled “Book Showings” with a creative directors and art buyers and not even shown my book, because the conversation was either A) centered around projects they were working on and we became engrossed in an enjoyable creative discussion thereabouts or B) (and even better) began talking about real life stuff and building a relationship with the person to the point that they were relieved our meeting didn’t turn into another “book showing”. At the end of the day, I received work from these same people! Sure they’d seen my work initially through my website, “targeted” email, etc., but the real value came in meeting and building a relationship in an environment that had nothing to do with me talking about me. Those meetings only happens when you get on the phone, which fewer and fewer folks do these days.

Thanks for sharing the info Heather. Great blog.

-Kevin Winzeler
Advertising Photographer

Heather July 11, 2010 at 10:06 pm

Welcome Chasers! (Can I call you guys that?).

@Andrew: From my perspective, I just need your name, URL and maybe a phone number- this can easily be integrated subtly at the bottom/top of the image. In Ryan’s case, I mention he has his name (with simple branding) in the bottom left corner of the image- he could have easily included the URL too.

@Kevin: Thanks for making this point. Though I don’t think following up every promo with a phone call is a good use of your (or my) time, I do agree that the personal relationship is something crucial to develop if you can. Again, this is about targeting that effort- reserve the phone call for AB/ADs who have been enthusiastic in the past.

But keep in mind, calling just to shoot the shit, is not super helpful for either of us. I’ve had many conversations go like this:

Photographer: Hi Heather, it’s Joe Photographer.
Me: Oh hi Joe, how are you?
Photographer: I’m fine, I just wanted to see if you received the promo I sent over last week.
Me: Yep, I did.
Photographer: Ok, great. Well, if you have anything in mind that I’d be suitable for….

See, the photographer doesn’t have anything to say in this scenario (that I don’t already know- ie. he’d like me to hire him). BUT, if you are calling with a very specific purpose- because you have a new book you’d really like to send me (and arguably, you should have a new book to show me once a year) then that’s great- but be careful of calling just because you’ve sent a promo and you are “following up”.

But, Kevin’s point about the personal connection and the importance of good social skills is spot on. And he’s right that these qualities are overlooked when we talk about promotion in general. Get those meetings booked so that you can have those conversations that Kevin references. Slowly building a relationship with your warm targets is super smart. As competition increases, there may be several shooters who are appropriate for any given job and so we easily end up awarding based on a nice, winning personality. Thanks for adding this point to the post Kevin.

Scott Witter July 13, 2010 at 1:09 pm

Excellent advice Heather!

I’ve been working with photo consultant Selina Maitreya for the last year and you and her are definitely on the same page. It is very important to find your very own “iconic” image so potential clients can get a sense of what your vision is as a photographer. I am now in the follow-up stage of my direct mail send and am trying to get appointments to show my updated portfolio (after a solid year of strictly shooting for the book). It’s not easy and over 65% have not responded to personal emails, but I believe that’s where you have to keep at it (at a steady pace without sounding desperate). Patience, as well as having a specific target, is key.

All the best and great blog!

Dwayne D.C. Tucker II August 2, 2010 at 7:09 pm

I bookmarked your website because you’re extremely informative and I like that about you (you prob hear it a lot, but you appear to work extremely hard so you deserve to hear it one more time).

I will be here for a few more weeks and see what I can pick up from you. You never know you and I might just cross eye to eye some day. I’m a photographer. I would like to make my mark commercially for sports, lifestyles and portraits; I will.

Nassau,Bahamas | Miami, Florida

James August 21, 2010 at 12:53 pm

I’m about to send out work examples and this video confirmed some of my existing knowledge and also provided some good points to think about. I never thought of double sided postcards, it’s almost too obvious.

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