The real marketing behind "10 Minutes with a Stranger"
As many of you are aware I spent most of my 2013 working on a personal project called "10 Minutes with a Stranger" where I drove across America meeting, photographing and interviewing 150 random strangers. Ultimately this got turned into a book. I know, you all know that stuff. But, did you know this personal project wasn't turned into a book to be sold (although I did sell some of the books to the people who were clamoring for one). It was actually created to be a promotional piece that got mailed out to 150 Photo Buyers, Photo Editors and Art Buyers/Producers with ad agencies and several magazine companies in New York, Chicago, Detroit and Los Angeles.
I think you can imagine just how incredibly daunting of a project this can be. Sure, not only was the process of photographing people, selecting the 30 of the 150 people to be featured in the book, hiring a designer, printing the book and then having a company design the packaging a daunting task but now that the book is complete and the packaging is done I have 150 book and packages sitting here in the living room waiting to be assembled and shipped. So even though I completed the road trip and photography work in August of 2013, I still had several months of work ahead of me to complete the entire project.
This is the space I created in my apartment for the books to go into once they arrive.
On January 8th, 2014 I received 8 boxes of books for the promotional delivery. The following day I received the mailing packaging. Fortunately this was one box but all 150 pieces were flat and had to be assembled. On top of that I had 150 personal notes to write to each person receiving the book. Yep, it's a lot of work but it's well worth the effort to help raise my work, my personal project and, well, hell.. ME... above the clutter that has become part of being a professional photographer nowadays.
Here are 5 of the 8 boxes of books for the massive marketing project of mailing out the book
The first thing I did was to start the part that would provide me the least amount of mental challenge and that was to assemble all packaging for mailing. Once that was completed I worked with my team to determine who would receive this mailer. After that, I asked my wife to pick up some mailing labels from Office Depot on her way home from work. By the way, after that night when she brought the labels home my wife went on a business trip and was gone for about a week. I did all of this on my own without the help of my wife or team or assistants. This was something I wanted to do and complete on my own.
The packaging took so much time to put together but once I got going I became a one-man assembly line.
Once the packaging was done and the labels were printed it was time to move onto writing personal notes to each person receiving the mailer. That took about two days to complete and organize. Then it was time to assemble the packaging with the book, the personal note (and envelope) and sealing each package getting it ready for mailing. That process was broken up into thirds. I would work on 50 at a time and then take a much needed break.
Taking a break from putting together the marketing packaging. Of course I had to watch Hardcore Pawn!
Finally, after 4 days of working to complete this mailing all 150 pieces were complete. So now what to do? I tried going onto USPS.com to buy and print shipping labels (yes, I had to pay for all the shipping too). But, to my tremendous disappointment the USPS site wouldn't take credit/debit cards at that time as the system was down. So I did the next best thing and went online to schedule a pickup. Fortunately I was able to spread out the pick ups over two days (I know the USPS was grateful for that too). But since there was no postage I had to walk to the post office and work with the people at the 104th Street location to get labels and pay for postage. Needless to say the people in line behind me were SCREWED but I didn't care because this is one of the most important things I, or any photographer, could do.
Outside my apartment on a cold, January day in NYC helping the USPS load my books for delivery.
At the end of the week all pieces were in the care of the USPS and were mailed to 150 people. As a follow up, I have heard from several people about the book and have garnered some pretty great press about the book. When I was sitting by myself putting all of these together and working my tail off to get these mailed I often wondered if it's going to be worth it. Well, I can attest that it was very much worth it and it's something we as photographers MUST do. There is no one helping us in so many facets of this business. It's a very solitary business but the harder we can work to separate ourselves from the insane clutter that is part of our profession then the better we will be in the long run.
The cart is empty and the packages are now in the hands of the USPS.
Not everyone who received a book has contacted me and I am not disappointed by that because I do know that those people now know who I am and may be keeping the book handy just in case they have something that comes up and my work may be exactly what is needed for that shoot/assignment/campaign. Marketing is KEY to rising above the clutter.
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