From “Zero to Hero”, an interview with Jim Brammer, president of PPLAC
I had a long, interesting talk with photographer Jim Brammer at the recent Pro Photo conference in Pasadena. Jim is the owner of “State of the Art Images” in Tarzana, CA, and he is current president of Professional Photographers of Los Angeles County (PPLAC).
Jim also has a strong background in corporate marketing and sales, working on global challenges for companies like IBM. This expertise has been invaluable to him in starting his own photography business just a few years ago, and key to his success with his marketing and sales workshops for photographers.
“State of the Art Images” was honored last year with the “Small Business of the Year” award by the United Chambers of Commerce. Jim also received the Reader’s Choice Award for “Best Photographer” from the Los Angeles Daily News in 2009.
We discussed a number of topics: marketing strategies, social media, campaigns and promotions, blogs, and more. Jim’s latest workshop program, “From Zero to Hero”, helps photographers master the details of effective marketing and sales efforts, plan and prioritize their efforts, and execute their plan effectively – which should result in a healthier, growing business.
I asked Jim if he’d agree to a follow-up telephone interview about photography marketing and sales, and “From Zero to Hero”. Here’s a summary of that conversation, conducted Feb 11, 2010.
Please tell me a bit about your current photography business:
“I have three primary lines of business: fine art, portraiture and commercial photography. I’ve recently added workshops as a fourth line and I will be delivering a number of speaking engagements throughout the year.
Portraiture is my passion. It is very rewarding to be immersed in sculpting the light to match my clients requirements and exercise my creativity.
I also do pro bono work for local and regional charities and not-for-profits. For example, I shoot for the Valley Cultural Center and I’m on their executive board. They produce the Concerts In The Park in Woodland Hills in June, July, and August.”
Generally speaking, how can a photographer start creating a marketing campaign that improves customers’ perception that the photographer is different, and better than, the competition?
“In the context of your customers’ needs, think about the image you want to convey. Another way is “what do you want to be?” The creation of the brand, and its content, are driven by customer needs, competition, and other factors in your region or city.
Personally, in my region I want people to think of me as a “fine art photographer”. I like to think that my logo reflects that. Same for my business name – I wanted it to imply the importance of artistic style in my photography, in my brand for my business.
Create a brand, and then get that brand out into the community. Again, I want my work to be recognized as fine art photography, whether it is a head shot or a product shot.
I joined my Chamber of Commerce, and did a lot of networking. Next, I set myself on a path to seek out a number of charitable organizations and not-for-profits. The ideas was (and is) to get me out in front of people with my camera – I wanted them to see me, and how I worked.
I knew I was making progress when a gentleman walked up to me during a shoot and asked me to photograph an important family event. His reason? “I really like the way you work with people”.
This kind of effort should be part of the classic marketing drumbeat: give your customers 3-5 chances to get to know you and your business – and do it through different channels – print and electronic media coverage, on-location work, social media, email campaigns, and the like.
Plus, the explosion in social networking and social media provide a tremendous marketing opportunity, if used effectively.”
Does the scope of work in the programs you recommend differ for people just launching a photography business, vs those with more experience?
“Starting a photography business is like many others – you have to build it with sweat equity. My effort with local charities is a good example. It takes hours on the job, it takes time.
An established photography studio may have different issues – tuning up their brand, ensuring that their customer audience is hearing their message on a regular basis, and the like.”
What are some of the early signs of progress, other than increased revenue?
Earlier, I mentioned the gentleman who sought me out at an event. That really helped. And I started to enter print competition – and actually won some awards! I sat back and said: “Wow, I can really do this”.
I really got a boost receiving the respect of my peers. Doing well in print competition also helps in the studio – being able to hang that image with your award – those kinds of things keep you going.
How do I decide which marketing and sales initiatives are stronger, and which should be changed or eliminated?
I want to hear my messages about my brand coming back to me: “oh, you’re the fine art photographer” is music to my ears. We call that “brand pervasiveness”. If a core program is doing that, it is on the right track.
Who should attend one of the ZTH workshops?
“Certainly the beginner who wants to get a feel for how to launch their business, and get it off on the right foot. I also think there is great benefit for the professional who needs to put a fresh face on their marketing efforts, and take things to the next level.”
What preparation is needed for someone to get the most out of one of your workshops?
They should think about how they want to be perceived in their market. A brand is like a personality – think about what you want your prospective clients to think first when your name comes up in conversation.
You’re the current president of PPLAC (Professional Photographers of LA County) What is the primary mission of PPLAC?
Our mission is to advance photographic excellence and leadership with the highest standards of ethical practices, through networking and world class education.
We want to become the go-to resource for professional and aspiring photogs in the greater LA area! We have a great Board of Directors, and this is going to be a great year!
NEW WORKSHOP – SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETING FOR PHOTOGRAPHERS – SEE WORKSHOPS TAB AT TOP OF PAGE!
Read related article on this blog: Successful Web Based Promotion and Marketing
Download Seminar Prospectus:From Zero to Hero – How to Brand
The new 2010 schedule for “From Zero to Hero” will be published soon, so keep in touch!
Jim Brammer’s info:
Jim Brammer’s contact info: +1 818-344-0671 Office
Web Site: http://www.stateoftheartimages.com