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This article was created to help commercial photographers and illustrators with creating their marketing plans, and walks through the process step by step.  It is generic in nature and can be used as a guideline for anyone needing to create a marketing plan.

By Linda Whitehead

Start this New Year right with a clear vision as to how you are going to meet your business and marketing plan objectives. The time to create your marketing plan for 2009 is…NOW! Don’t think about it too long, don’t procrastinate, just get it done. Perhaps you already have some good ideas but they’re not written down? That’s not what we have in mind. If you have never created a marketing plan in the past, we at ADBASE challenge you to make 2009 the year you made it happen! Read on…

Why You Need a Marketing Plan

In the simplest terms, your marketing plan is your guiding light for achieving your business goals and vision. Creating it will take you through the process of clearly defining what you do, whom you want to sell your services to, and how you will market yourself successfully. It will help you decide how you are going to allocate your marketing dollars for the best return.

In sum: it will become your action plan to help you get new customers.

Build on Your Branding

In September’s Insight we introduced the concept of branding your business, and last month we gave you some specific ideas as to how to create your Brand Strategy. Refining and clarifying your brand is a precursor to creating your marketing plan. Think of it like this: the Brand Strategy is the “what” and the Marketing Plan is the “how”.

If you enacted the tips and ideas we offered in these branding articles, you’re already ahead of the game. To develop your marketing plan you will build on this exercise and should draw from research you have already completed. As a reminder, here’s a quick summary of steps to create your Brand Strategy:

* Do a Competitive Analysis
* Do an analysis of buyer needs and wants
* Segment clients and prospects
* Establish your value proposition
* Think through the benefits of dealing with you
* Establish your Brand Promise
* Establish your Brand Personality/Positioning
* Create Your Brand Look and Feel

Establish Your Business Objectives First

You want your business to be successful and profitable. Set your revenue goals for the year, and outline how you plan to achieve them. The role of your Marketing Plan is to support these business goals.

For example you might have a goal to increase overall revenues by 10%, or increase your profitability by 5%.

What Did You Learn this Year?

This is one of the most important elements of your plan. Take a step back and objectively look at your business and your marketing. What worked and what didn’t work for you in the last year? What did you learn about your target audience and how can you apply that learning to your marketing strategy?

For example, you might have learned that you have much better response rates from targeted campaigns than from untargeted email blasts.

Also as part of this exercise, you could conduct a quick SWOT analysis on your business. SWOT is a classic exercise, and stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SWOT_analysis). This step will help give you some direction before getting into the planning process.

Define Your Niche and Style

What words describe the kind of art you make? Describe your niche – for example: do you specialize in experimental aerial photography, technical illustration, realistic portraiture?

Next, ask yourself: what is the potential to grow your business within your niche? You really need to take the time here to focus on articulating your style; the way you think visually, combined with the way you execute your work. Once you have established this, you will know what to promote to potential buyers of your art. Knowing this ensures that you have strong, consistent messaging that will resonate with these buyers.

If you’ve already worked on your Brand Strategy, congratulations: you’re already ahead of the game and – although you’ll want to revisit your findings – you won’t have to repeat this step.

A 360-Degree View of the Market

Define whom you are up against. Are you competing locally, regionally or nationally? What is your competitive advantage? Knowing the strengths and weaknesses of your competition will enable you to better position yourself.

You should also be very aware of challenges your buyers face, as this will help you speak their language in your marketing messaging. What are the key industry trends and economic issues? Finally you should take into consideration any regulatory issues that may present constraints or opportunities.

You’ll have already looked at your competition if you tried the Branding Strategy exercise – but it’s worth revisiting this part in more depth.

Target Market: Who Makes the Cut

Earlier this year, ADBASE commissioned FAD Research to find out what buyers are looking for from artists. See our webcast launching this week: What Buyers Want. A key insight from this research was that unfocused promotion reflects poorly on your business and your brand. Unsolicited emails from sellers who do not focus on a style, or even type, of photography used by an agency’s client list was an often mentioned complaint of art directors, art buyers and photo editors from all sized agencies.

Definitively establishing the audience for your creative service is the key to marketing success. ADBASE gives direct, 24/7 online access to current contact information and offers you tools to target the key creative buyers looking for your particular service. Once you’ve targeted whom you want to speak to, our lists make it easy to focus your efforts on those buyers.

A recent quote from 1-1Weekly E-newsletter backs this up:

“During a recent conversation with e-Dialog CEO John Rizzi, he cited an interesting statistic from Jupiter Research: Targeted emails (those with segmentation and dynamic content) deliver five times more revenue than broadcast email campaigns. Profitability goes up too, he said. ‘If you want high deliverability, send email people want to open.’”

If you take the time to define your market properly and stick to targeting this audience, you will be more successful. Immediately and noticeably so!

Marketing Objectives

What to achieve…and by when? Finessing your marketing objectives is the best way to achieve your business objectives. This is where the old reliable SMART theory kicks in: ensure that your goals are Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic and Time-specific.

For example, let’s say you are a fashion photographer. In 2008 you might have a goal to increase your sales by 10% in your in-house business, increase your editorial exposure by growing your revenues by 20%, and land 2 large agency accounts with major fashion brands. All of these lead to helping you achieve your overall business goal of increasing your revenues by 10%.

…and these Lead to Strategies

Marketing Strategies explain the big picture of how you are going to achieve your objectives.

For example, in keeping with the scenario above:

* You could grow your in-house business by targeting a unique communications campaign to those fashion corporations with in-house marketing departments who do hire artists.
* You could grow your editorial business by promoting your personal work to the 10 hottest fashion magazines.
* You could decide that you are going to gain 2 new large agency clients by focusing on building relationships with the key decision makers at the top 5 national agencies with the hottest fashion brands.

Get it Done…with Tactics!

Marketing tactics are specific actions you will take to implement each strategy. Tactics are budgeted on an individual basis and roll up to a total marketing budget you have set. Be creative in order to stand out from the crowd.

For example, to focus on building your in-house business, you decide to execute a multi-channel marketing communications strategy, incorporating quarterly email marketing, a re-vamped online portfolio, personalized letters to decision makers and unique print promotional pieces as a follow-up to those who respond.

You decide to grow your editorial business by building your personal portfolio, and hiring a PR freelancer to develop a unique bio and portfolio for distribution to key editors.

You build your relationships with the large agency partners who represent the brands you want to shoot, by hosting an intimate cocktail party at your studios to showcase your latest work.

For each tactic, you need to work out the steps involved and the timeline to complete them. A good way to do this is to determine the target date, and then work backwards-assigning completion dates to all the steps involved.

It’s all About the Money

Know how much you can afford and set your budget early in the game. Spend more money where the return is greater. When setting tactics, you’ll want to ensure that the individual estimated expenses roll up to the number you already decided you can afford. You can tweak and fine-tune as needed to ensure that you have a balanced, multi-channel communication program targeted to the right creative buyers for your specialty.

Depending on the stage of your career, you will have to spend more or less on marketing. An emerging artist will have less money to invest, and will have to look at creative, inexpensive ways of marketing. Smart decisions are all at this stage: reaching out to the right contacts in the right way is critical. Veterans: you may have an established client roster and your business development requirements may be less, but your marketing efforts need to be extremely targeted to ensure new projects you take on support your reputation For most photographers in between, you will need to make the investment of time and money into marketing according to the growth you want to see.

Measure Your Success

When you do your email campaigns with ADBASE Emailer, we supply you with all the necessary stats to measure success. You can see exactly who opened your emails and clicked through.

Additionally, it is critical to test, test, test. Test your subject lines, different images and formats, and different types of print promo pieces. Find out what works best. Look out for an entire article on testing in the coming months.

Measure the results from everything you do, so you learn what works and what doesn’t. If it didn’t work: ditch it.

As to follow-up tactics you will employ when someone shows interest in your work? That’s up to you and we’ll cover some ideas in…

…The Promotional Plan!

Next month, we share some great ideas for creating effective promotional plans to get your marketing plan up and running in the best possible way.

Final Words of Advice for 2007

Marketing is an ongoing process and should form part of your daily operation – it’s not a stop and start thing you do when you can squeeze it into your schedule! You must do a Marketing Plan to maximize your full potential for success. The great thing about having a plan is that you can still be flexible and change it if it’s not working or if you learn new ideas along the way. Think of it as a roadmap: if new information comes up, you might change your route, but without it how do you know where you are?

We at ADBASE are committed to helping you achieve overall marketing success. We enjoy adding value by sharing our experience and the insights from our research and the marketing intelligence we keep tabs on. Drop us a line at any time to request free copies of proprietary articles or ask us a question: marketing@adbase.com

Published with permission of ADBASE Inc. www.adbase.com

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