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Defining Your Target Market and List Building Effectively


As a serious player in the game for over a decade, we have come to realize how important it is for photographers to have a clear understanding of their market, what their needs are and how to get in front of the people who hire.

For commercial artists, it’s not only your job to share your craft with others but to be in the right place at the right time in order to execute superior creative work that begs for your vision and capabilities. In order to do this effectively, you must have a deep understanding of your niche market and know what is expected, from the quality of work to style to output and project management.

If you’re at the beginning point of determining which markets you need to be tackling, ask yourself these questions:

  • What do I like to create?
  • What are my technical skills?
  • Who would I like to work for?
  • Does what I create apply to those brands and/or clients? If not, what can I do to build my portfolio in a way that speaks to them?

Once you are able to answer these questions, you should have a better idea of what marketing you should be targeting, as well as, what your strengths are. Now, take a deeper look into the current work being produced within the market so that you are able to compete. Pick up magazines that you’ve always wanted to work with, check out the websites of your “dream clients” or if you want to keep it really simple, just start paying attention to the advertising around you. Once you’ve got your finger on the pulse of your chosen market you can start approaching buyers with newfound confidence you didn’t have before.

Let’s Get Down to Some Marketing

Now that you’ve defined your market and studied the latest work being produced, the next step is to reach out to editors, producers, and creatives to let them know you’re out there and would be a great fit for their client or brand. Sounds easy enough, right? However, with so many brands out there, how do you know which to start marketing to? Say you’re a product photographer who specializes in beauty products and fragrances. Would you market to Gap or Nissan? Perhaps better options would be Stila, Clinique, Chanel or Marc Jacobs.

OK, so you’ve figured out which brands are a good fit for your photography. Now you need to make a marketing list of the people in charge of hiring for this type of work. There are many ways to find these names:

  • Awards websites (Cannes, Webbys, Cleos, etc),
  • Magazines like Communication Arts, magazine mastheads
  • Specialized mailing list companies, such as Agency Access, that have done all the research for you already

Ideally, you should look for titles like Creative Director, Art Producer or Art Buyer. If possible, try to get their email address, as well as, their physical mailing address. Being able to follow up with a postcard promo or personal note after sending an email is always a bonus.

When researching your mailing lists, another thing to keep in mind is that you’ll need about three different lists:

  • Existing Clients
  • Dream Clients
  • All ad agencies, magazines or in-house corporations in your market

The last list mentioned is broad but super important when looking to expand your brand. You never know who’s going to love your work, and with today’s technology, they could be located almost anywhere. Perhaps they will become your biggest client!

OK, you built a list. Now What?

Now that your lists are prepped, send those targeted promos! For the clients you’ve worked with, adding a personal note always helps to cut through the clutter. Just be sure it’s not too personal. If you don’t know the editor/producer personally, it’s a little creepy.

Once you send out a few rounds of promos, study your analytics. Who is opening and clicking on your work? You may want to target them again for the next round or set-up a meeting when next in town.

At the end of the day, all clients/brands have needs. Study them and be ready to be there at the right time. So, get out there, define your market and reach out to those folks who need to know about you!

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