December, 2011 issue
"My dad always said 'make a plan and work the plan,'" said Walden. "A lot of people have great ideas and they execute those ideas, but they needed to start 2-3 months earlier than they did to work out any bugs. The idea could still have been great, but the execution wasn't."
Walden and his team began their holiday marketing in dog days of summer, meeting every week to build and tweak the plan, and creating the time line. Before the summer ends, Walden has the time line and plan ready to go, while at the same time, leaving flexibility to change and adapt the plan.
"Come August we're kicking off our time line and making sure we have it right," said Walden. "You can't do that to the nth degree but you can build a skeleton plan that will help you stay on course. Have a message early and be consistent while repeating that message."
Walden sees this messaging strategy as critical for the success of his marketing efforts. Walden uses a number of vehicles through which he markets his services, including online, social media, direct mail and partnerships. Throughout all, consistent messaging permeates, ensuring that clients hear early and often what Walden can offer them for the holidays.
"Successful marketing is about layering – thinking in terms of campaigns and messaging and how you reiterate that message through all channels," said Walden.
The newest channel for Walden is social media, specifically Facebook. When Walden first considered using social media, he went into it saying "you staff your weakness." He hired a firm that specializes in branding and social media and worked with them to create the most effective strategy to extend his marketing efforts through social media.
"We don't want it to feel structured, but there's a lot of structure behind it," said Walden. "What to post? When to post? How do we layer in our messages without making it look like an advertisement? What got a lot of attention and what died on the vine? We constantly talk about what works and what didn't."
One of the most effective tactics for Walden on Facebook is making it about his clients rather than his studio. He shares clients' photographs and makes sure he tags them so they can share them with their family. He also posts testimonials from customers.
"If you make your marketing about other people, you'll succeed," said Walden. "If you make it all about you, you're going to decrease its effectiveness. And talk about the emotion of the work, rather than the work itself. Build it slowly and very strategically."
To drive holiday sales, Walden begins his marketing efforts as early as September. This past year, he mailed sample holiday cards to his best customers, with a note saying "Your first holiday card." With the card came an offer to receive free holiday card design services if the customer came into the studio before October.
In addition to direct mail campaigns, Walden partners with a number of businesses, including children's boutiques, salons and women's clothing stores. Walden will provide his partners with an offer of a free portraiture session to give away to a customer. In addition, Walden will work with his partners to identify their top 10-12 customers and offer them a similar package, serving to drive more clients in the door sooner.
Once interested, Walden and his team make sure to make the session as productive as possible, including identifying and eliminating what Walden calls the "enemies of creativity." He offers clients design appointments prior to a session to combat these elements.
"We actually put paper work in their hands and provide a list of things that will make the portraiture go best," said Walden. "We tell our clients that creativity has enemies so we want to make sure that we overcome them – things like putting a lot of pressure on a child, the time of day, clothing, make-up, too much going on in a room. Before the session starts, we strive to have those enemies of creativity defeated."
Walden also works closely with his clients to help them visualize the possibilities for the photography.
"It's so hard for people to connect but when you get them into the studio with a cup of coffee and beautiful music and start to show them what they can do, they have that 'ah-ha' moment," said Walden. These products include portraits, albums, photo books and cards.
For example, Walden says, for one client with three children, he suggested not only a family shot, but individual photographs that can be grouped together. Walden strives for a very classic look in his photography so it's never dated. By creating individual prints as well as one family shot, Walden creates a treasured photograph that each child could take years later.
To ensure that his clients consistently receive high quality output, Walden turns to White House Custom Color for all his printing. White House Custom Colour (www.whcc.com) is a full service, professional photographic and press printer, offering full lines of photographic prints on KODAK PROFESSIONAL ENDURA Media, finishing services, press printed greeting cards, products, and books.
"One thing I love about Kodak's papers is, after all these years and changes in this industry, Kodak papers have not missed a beat in being exceptional in every way," said Walden. "I put my heart & soul in creating my imagery. Why would I trust it to just any photographic paper? When I choose Kodak's papers, I know I am producing my image at full potential."
Walden cites his relationship with WHCC and the open lines of communication that foster creativity and innovation as key to his success.
"As we look at our lab, we also look at what they have and how they fit our brand," said Walden. "We communicate things that we hear and what we would like to see – is there something that they already have or something for which we need to create a solution. Then, if you think about it, make suggestions."
Walden credits WHCC for introducing him to press products. Previously, he printed them in-house with an inkjet printer. Once he began working with WHCC, he found a partner to help him offer new products that helped his bottom line. "This is something you have to have in your lab," said Walden.
For more information on Tim Walden, please visit his site online at waldensphotography.com.
You can also find Walden's on FACEBOOK at www.facebook.com/waldensphotography