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Industry Insider: Professional Photographers of America (PPA): December 2010 Archives

Professional Photographers of America (PPA): December 2010 Archives

Fifteen days and counting! Can you tell that we're excited to see everyone in San Antonio for Imaging USA? Registrations are still coming in, so while we don't know exactly how many of us will wind up down on the river--here's a hint: bring plenty of business cards. What other last-minute things can you do to maximize your Imaging USA investments? Go back to last month's article, "Five Ways to Get the Most Out of Your Imaging USA Investment" and check it twice for ideas.

We've added an all-new event at Imaging USA this year to honor the hottest of the hot images of the International Photographic Competition. Here's how it works.

In order to qualify for a Grand Imaging Award, images not only have to earn a merit in one of the world's toughest photographic competitions, they also have to be judged the best of the best--awarded entry to the Loan Collection. (What a strange name, huh? Not so much when you consider that years ago, these were the images that formed a traveling exhibit for museums and prestigious public gatherings.)

But let's go back to the future. On Monday, January 17 (6:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m., with doors opening at 5:30 p.m.) we'll award prizes in each of the International Photographic Competition categories. We'll also honor the 2010 Photographers of the Year--all the photographers who merited all four images in the competition. So many outstanding photographers. So many beautiful images--that's one happy hour.

The Grand Imaging Awards celebration is open to everyone attending Imaging USA. To make it an even happier hour, there's a cash bar, light refreshments and the opportunity to visit with friends, so come on over and help us cheer on the best of the best.

Do you date your customers? (Date, as in cultivating a relationship, I mean.) Farrah Braniff, CPP of Farrah Braniff Photographs in Houston, Texas, does. She knows the power of connecting and making a good impression, and she put that into her marketing.

"As photographers, we are our brand," says Braniff. "Our customers have to like and relate to us."

Creating the First Impression
Braniff sees websites and blogs as her best chance to make a good first impression to her customers. "I want my website to be like a really good first date," she laughs.

Think about it: A first date is your chance to make your date want a second one. It's the first chance to get the other person invested in you. And because it's the first impression, even the smallest items matter on a website. Many potential customers will make decisions about you based on what they see on your site, and you don't want to give the impression that you're outdated or unprofessional. The font, the grammar, the layout...it all means a lot, especially for the more sophisticated consumers.

To make a great first impression, Braniff focused on her sites' design, technical improvements and "voice." While she loved her previous website, she couldn't update it by herself (and fresh online content is so important). So Braniff redesigned both her blog and her website in Adobe® Photoshop®, and then partnered with Into the Darkroom to bring the technical pieces of the puzzle together (like search engine optimization).

Into the Darkroom put the main skeleton up, allowing Braniff to then populate it with images and text. This allowed her to blend in the same eclectic feel that she has in all her printed pieces--a mixture of contemporary, colorful images, softer black-and-white images and handmade quality (with textures that mimic fabric, ribbons and handwritten fonts). It's important to have that connection between all your marketing pieces.

Having an authentic voice is also very important to Braniff, for she knows that she is her brand. She wants the website and blog (and all marketing) to really look and sound like her. For example, she pays a lot of attention to the "About Me" section on a site because she wants to establish common ground. She'll say she has children, as mothers are a huge target market for her. "Be yourself," she advises. "You want to sound human and approachable, not dry and business-like."

And that's what she loves about blogging. "Your blog doesn't have to be just about your product--it's about you. It helps your customers get to know you in a different light, and writing from the heart will develop readers."

In her blog, Braniff has developed themes, or reoccurring posts, which help her stay accountable. Her goal is to blog four times a week...or at least twice, depending on her schedule. She knows that you can't just write a single post and expect to have a readership. "It's like working out," Braniff explains. "Commit to it for at least six months before you look to see where you're at and if it's worth keeping up."

Keeping up with her blog and website is definitely worthwhile for Braniff, and she says that her customers comment about them often. To her, it's a great way to connect with people throughout the year.

Leaving the Last Impression
But Braniff doesn't stop with the online connections. What makes her marketing so effective is how she ties everything together into creating a remarkable experience.

"The best marketing is to have a client tell friends about you," Braniff states. "The more remarkable their experience with you is, the more 'stuff' you are giving them to talk about! That's why we do anything we can to stand out...because they'll talk about it."

Every year, we share many of the statistics we gather from the Professional Photographer Magazine Reader Survey with business partners in our media kit. But until now, we've never told all--all the advertising and product input we gather, that is. So this year, we're dishing more data than ever, starting with some advertising info that's sure to help you reel in more business than ever from your advertising investments.

Let's start by sharing that 7 in 10 of our readers say they regularly look at advertisements. Believe it or not, 4 in 10 of them report that they "always" take a peek at what you're promoting. New math or not, that's tens of thousands of prospects every month who are paying a lot of attention to Professional Photographer advertisers. But when the rubber meets the road, what do they do?

Taking Action
After reading an ad, the majority of our readers report that they visit your website. Get this, though--almost 20% say they purchase your product. That translates to roughly 10,000 potential buyers--not just prospects--every month. We also asked readers to tell us what actions they take after reading a product review and a whopping 8 in 10 are enticed into more research.

So what can you do? Make sure there's a clear call to action on your website and that it's easy for prospects to find information about products you're advertising. You might even want to think about creating specific landing pages or pointing users directly to product pages within your site.

All for One and One for All
All of this adds up to a pretty persuasive argument for being in the magazine, but what about other properties in the Professional Photographer media network? Well, almost 9 in 10 of our magazine readers also visit ppmag.com, which means it does make sense to be in two places at one time.

Where else do our magazine readers get trusted information to make product buying decisions? Many say they look to PPA events like Imaging USA, the PPA Tour, online courses and other events. Not surprisingly, 60% say colleagues or word of mouth. And that leads us to our next story and what we hope will become a regular feature in Industry Insider--how PPA members and our business partners work together to drive new business and merry marketing opportunities for all.

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