Marketing lesson #8: email newsletter

As is true for so many things, the best time to have built your network was yesterday. The second best time is right now.

Ryan Holiday, The Perennial Seller

One of the most powerful marketing tools available is the email list. There’s a reason everyone uses it. It has stood the test of time, and it works.

Your email list is the follower’s list you should be building instead.

You will own this list. It enables you to communicate with your followers directly, and you can take this list with you. It’s platform-independent.

Even if your website gets taken down for some reason, you can still communicate with your people. You can keep them updated, share your thoughts, and tell them about your new products, exhibitions, events. It serves you a lifetime.

Most people don’t change their email addresses very often, and there’s a much bigger chance of them seeing your email.

If you want people to consume your work and to know what you do next, you have to make it possible for them to hear about it as easily and regularly as possible.

Ryan Holiday, The Perennial Seller

Ryan Holiday, before he published his first book, started an email newsletter where he gave monthly book recommendations. By the time he was about to publish his book, the list had grown significantly. Do you think there were people who bought his new book because he told about it in his email newsletter?


Marketing lesson #7: own your platform and your followers

Many photographers and artists don’t have their own website. They rely solely on Instagram or some other social media platform.

Erik Kim has long promoted the idea of owning your own platform and why it’s important.

Indeed, being dependent on someone else’s platform poses many problems. I use Instagram as an example here, but it applies to any social media platform.

First, imagine that Instagram disappears one day. If you have spent years building your following on that platform, then you would have to start that all over again on a new whatever popular platform at that time.

We think it’s unlikely that Instagram disappears. True, it probably won’t fade in a way that e.g., Myspace did, but it might happen some other way. Everything is in constant change, and social media platforms come and go. Something else could quickly become more popular than Instagram at any moment. Flickr is an excellent example of something popular falling into obscurity.

Second, you are a guest. You don’t own the space; you rent it. And you pay rent. You pay with watching ads and providing data about yourself so that Facebook can sell it to advertisers.

Since you’re a guest on their platform, you can be thrown out, and you won’t even get a month’s notice. You have to be politically correct and behave nice, otherwise you might upset your landlord. That means if e.g., your art is to make erotic photos, you’re censored. You can’t express yourself freely. Instagram has the final say so, what is allowed and what is not.

On your own platform, you can do whatever you want. It’s your little corner on the Internet. You own it; you control it, you choose what and how you curate it. It offers freedom and believe me, freedom is worth paying for.

Third, your customization is very limited. You can’t choose how you present your work. Once, a photo is uploaded, you can’t simply delete it, change it, and reupload it the way you can do it on your website.

Fourth, Instagram controls your photos and your followers. It can delete photos if it wants and ask you money if you want to reach your followers. There’s nothing you can do except to protest. Protest with the equivalent effect of yelling at a wall.

Fifth, your followers are not really your followers. They’re Instagram’s followers. There’s no real way to interact with your followers directly. You can post a story or a picture, but only a fraction will see it. So you have to beg for people to enable notifications.

Also, if Instagram disappears, blocks your account or restricts your access to your followers, you are done.

This doesn’t mean not to use social media. I believe social media is a very powerful marketing tool but a poor choice for your platform. It’s a good idea to spend your energy on your own platform.


Marketing lesson #6: price is marketing

Every once in a while, there is an article or a story of a photographer who complains about clients lowballing them or that photographers don’t get paid fairly.

This is a marketing problem.

“Marketing changes your pricing. Pricing changes your marketing.”

Seth Godin, This is Marketing

This means that the price you ask depends on what you offer (and the other way around). What is the story you tell?

If you offer high-quality luxury service, then your prices should reflect that. It’s not just the physical or digital pictures you take or your years of experience that make the high price. It’s everything. Your emotional labour, your respect, your caring about the customer, all the way to the packaging and paper you use. Essentially you are offering more than a service. You provide an experience.

It’s okay to charge a lot of money if you’re able to provide a “change” in your client. We’re all in a journey of transformation. We seek transformation. If you can give that to someone, you’re golden.

“Low price is the last refuge of a marketer who has run out of generous ideas.”

Seth Godin, This is Marketing

According to Godin, lowering the price has further implications: “Lowering your price doesn’t make you more trusted. It does the opposite.” This is because people rationalize spending a lot of money by making up a story and a low price takes that story away.

Obviously, before you can charge a lot of money, you need trust. The more money you ask, the more trust you need. Would you buy 500 dollar sneakers from an unknown brand? Would you buy a (cheaper) generic brand of Coke for a house party? Most people will not. Because they don’t trust these brands.

Over the years Erik Kim has given away a lot of value in terms of literally thousands of blog articles, videos and dozens of e-books for free. He also charges a lot of money for his workshops. He can do it because he has trust. Because he can offer an experience.

According to the Veblen good, the more something costs, the more people want it.

Of course, not everyone can afford what they want, but that’s not even necessary. As Erik has pointed out, he only needs a handful of students a year to make a decent living.