When she opened Westway Studios, San Diego-based pet photographer Terran Bayer knew email would be a cost effective way to build her customer base.
What she didn't realize was that email marketing can be full of challenges for novices who don't know the rules.
“I ended up on Yahoo’s blacklist for months because I just BCC’d everyone on a message I sent using Outlook,” she says. Knowing that Outlook was not a long-term solution, she began looking for a better way to run campaigns, turning to Vertical Response to manage her efforts.
Westway's current opt-in email file has about 500 names, many collected at local events. Bayer sets up a booth to display her work, and photographs dogs who stop buy. If the dog's owner shares their email address, she'll put the pooch's pic on her blog. Readers vote for their favorite photo, and the dog who gets the most votes wins a free session. (Only one vote for each dog per IP address is permitted.)
"The contests make our website traffic go crazy," Bayer says, noting that emails alerting subscribers to the contest have open rates between 45% to 60%, well above her typical rates. "And we also reach out to everybody on our list by email, to let them know about the contest."
Eighty-percent of her pet photo business is dogs, although she has also photographed cats and horses. Sessions are shot either in the studio or on location. She also uses Facebook and Twitter to share pictures and special offers.
One simple marketing tool that has worked well for Bayer are simple promotional postcards, imprinted with her logo and photo samples. Rather than spending money on postage, she hands these out at live events, and has gotten calls from folks who kept the cards a year later. "It helps me get my name out there," she says, noting that the current economy is a tough time to launch a business. "Pet photography isn't a necessity."
Typical "just right" clients for the pet photography business are either people in their late 20s to early 30s, who don't yet have children of the human persuasion, or older couples whose kids have moved away and now have the time and money to dote on their pets.