OT: Manage Your Funnels

Editor's note: We are stepping outside of the box today.

As photographers, we are more likely to be hired as creatives than to hire a creative. But recently I was involved in choosing a print designer, a video production house and an illustrator.

Seeing the different paths that lead us to each of these people was a little like having an out-of-body experience. It was a cool look into the other side of the equation, and one that left me with a better understanding of marketing my own services as a photographer.

Three funnels you should not discount, inside.

Will Tweet for Food

When I was in search of a designer for my Lighting in Layers DVDs, I had one main quality in mind. I wanted someone who had a great sense of design and typography. But one thing I did not need was for him or her to be local.

And speaking of him or her, I had a feeling it would be a "her." Strobist's readership is depressingly male. So this call was sort of like trusting my wife or daughter to pick on the tie I wear (on the rare occasion when that happens.)

I thought about asking my local friends and colleagues. But I worried that I would end up with a few, all local choices -- and maybe with an embedded obligation just for putting the word out. So I asked around on Twitter instead.

Granted, I am atypically lucky in the reach of my Twitter crowd. And I try to use that as much as possible. But we tend to cluster somewhat by profession on social media sites like Twitter and Facebook, and that can increase the efficiency of such a search.

Within pretty short order, I had a good list of people to check out -- with no obligation attached. There were several great choices. But in the end I chose to work with Naina Redhu, from Gurgaon, India.

Again, this stuff all gets moved around via email and FTP. So no need for local. Besides, I felt someone from another sphere might bring a different visual ethic to the project.

My hunch bore fruit. Naina was a joy to work with, and I love what she did with the design and typography on the packaging and discs. But what about the time zone difference?

That actually worked out in our favor. The beauty of working with Naina in India was that I could hand off my raw info and (numerous -- sorry, Naina) iteration requests as I went to sleep. They would be in the inbox when I woke up. Oddly, it seemed more instant than working with a designer in the same room.

The endorsement: If you have design needs as a photographer (and you probably will, or should) I cannot recommend Naina enough. You can reach her here.

Takeaway: BE SOCIAL. For many creatives, your physical location does not matter nearly as a much as your virtual networks do. Everyone who follows you on Twitter or Facebook is not only a potential client, but also a potential referral to all of the people who follow them, too.

Say for the sake of argument that 100 people follow you on Twitter and Facebook. In truth, the average number is probably larger. But assuming each of your followers has 100 of their own, that is a network of 10,000 people who have first-level, friend-of-a-friend status.

That's what makes social media networking so powerful. Use it.

Man About Town

For the video project itself, I had a few things in mind. I wanted to stay local for travel/expense control, not to mention logistics. I thoroughly enjoyed working with Bill Millios on the first DVDs, but these were going to be a different animal -- shot in HD, more complex setups, more post production involved, etc. So this would require a full-blown production house.

There are several to choose from in the Baltimore/Washington corridor. God knows the gubmint in DC and all of the related advocacy groups need informational videos, like, nonstop.

But there was one house that stood out -- Pixel Workshop. They are a boutique production company (like many others, I suppose) but they also do something many of the others don't. Dave and Ilana, the people behind Pixel, are very engaged in the community with various social and charitable activities. They are tied into many local nonprofits, too. That's not exactly where the big bucks are, but it's the right thing to do.

They also publish a local media gateway and do podcasts, vodcasts, etc. Ilana competes in triathlons -- raising money for local orgs. Dave is as likely as not to be the emcee at any community function. They take the time and effort to be tied to the local community in many solid ways.

This kind of community integration is laudable from a civic perspective. But it also gets the word out about their capabilities in a consistent and organic way.

And even if you do not yet know them, you kinda already do. Their personality gets injected into all of these projects without conscious thought. So potential clients know to expect a healthy dose of irreverence and subversive humor in the mix. Needless to say, this was a great fit for our project.

Takeway: Take the initiative and adopt some local projects or organizations. Be of value to your local community even when you are not getting paid.

For more reasons than I can get into here, this is very powerful marketing that does not look or feel like marketing when it is happening. Plus, it is the right thing to do, which also counts. Dave wrote about our video project from his perspective, too. Check it out..

Credit Check

When Joe and I were planning the visuals for The Flash Bus tour, we had lots of options. Photography-wise, we had a couple of people in-house that might have been able to pull it off. (Joe, Drew… okay, three if you count me…) Plus, we also knew a couple of people in the industry.

Early thoughts were a head-to-head looking WWF feel: Manual vs. TTL: The Bout to Knock The Other Guy Out! Lots of high-pass in post!! Extra sharpening, too!!!

In short, one very highly evolved and sophisticated visual presentation, to be sure. Heh.

But the more we thought about it, the more we looked to go out of genre. Photography would be expected, so why not head-fake a little and go for an illustration?

Plus, have you seen us lately? Photos can be so … literal.

Choosing Sam Spratt to do our illustration was a slam-dunk, no-brainer. Sam has been hitting the ball out of the park lately for Gizmodo, who handles their own relationship with Sam in typically atypical fashion. Not only does Sam get a credit line for his work, but they also did an article on the fact that Sam is doing cool work for them.

This kind of cross-pollination is very meta, very web -- and very Nick Denton. And it has served him very well. This kind of goldfish bowl, inside-baseball, 360-degree view of his own product makes even bigger, more well-informed fans -- myself included.

Featuring Sam in a post is win-win for both Sam and Gizmodo. It is unique content for Gizmodo. (We got Sam Spratt. Now our tech stories are Even Better. Deal with it.) But it is also great for Sam, whose work you should definitely check out here.

Also, there's a great article on Sam in Harvard's Nieman Journalism Lab. (Worth the read.)

This kind of credit and exposure is how we were able to find Sam so easily, and it is something we are most definitely paying forward. Sam will have a big credit -- including his URL -- on the sides of the bus.

This kind of thing is unheard of for a commercial job. But we think it is the right thing to do. And we expect many of our readers would want the ability to dig further and learn more about someone who could fire off an illustration like that. Especially with such tragically limited source material.

Oh, and by the way, Sam is sickeningly young. As in, 22. (But you're still senor to JoeyL, Sam…)

Takeaway: Negotiate rich exposure on your published work whenever possible. Credits are good, but linked credit lines are better. Think about rich content from your projects -- BTS stories and videos, pics, etc.

Your clients may just be looking for that kind of material -- and put you in the A-stack for providing it. Which is an added benefit to the already cool exposure component for you.

So, three different visual projects, three different paths. Of notable absence: Source books, promo material, mailing lists, blindly cruising websites, etc.

If your promotion looks more like the latter and less like the former (above) maybe you rethink your strategy to include some of the client funnels which are not only very powerful, but also ... free.


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