Tag : stock-photography

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4 Cheap & Easy Ways to Leverage Your Buyer’s Self Interest

I received a translucent envelope in the mail, through which I could see a greetings card. What was odd about the card is also what captured my attention: a screen capture of my website.

I thought, “Why is my website on the front of this card?”

Intrigued, I opened the card and followed its prompts to a website about an impressive tool for client prospecting. I even scheduled what became a 45-minute conference call with a sales representative. Due to the nature of my clientele, it wasn’t a good fit; but I will never forget something their sales rep told me.

“People will always open something when they see themselves on the cover.”

In almost a decade of teaching and writing about making advertising consumer-centric, I had never heard the concept described that way. This salesman told me how their reps searched Google Images for the prospective company or their targeted contact to pull up a publicly-available photo. If there wasn’t much there, they pulled a screen capture of the prospect’s website.

It worked on me. I signed up for a sales pitch, and I hate sales pitches. I was that intrigued.

I know what you’re thinking. “That wouldn’t work for selling my services and definitely not for selling assets.”

Yes and no. While this specific application of appealing to buyer self-interest wouldn’t work for most of us, its underlying principle can be applied in multiple ways to what we do. Here are four of the easier ways to incorporate this approach to your everyday marketing.

Variable data names

The one thing we already know about most recipients is their name, and names are very personal. One of the things my clients are doing now, using variable data technology, is incorporating the recipient’s name into a call to action. Since each piece is printed digitally, every single postcard has its recipient’s name on the photo. If there is no name for the address, the software knows to delete the name and comma of address. (It takes me about 5 minutes longer per postcard to set it up and costs us a fee of only $20 to $30 at the print shop.) My first client to try this used a unique URL to measure his postcard response and saw an immediate jump in web traffic from his postcards of 100%. You read that right: 100%.

Grafe Sample

Variable data images

If you sell multiple categories of assets in your auctions, you can have each category of buyer receive a piece where the big image on the mail panel is from their asset category. This technology shows your prospects their interests first. So, if you sell rolling stock, yellow iron, farm equipment, and contractor machinery, potential buyers can see all of the assets elsewhere in the brochure but their asset category on the first impression panel. (Your mailing list of past bidders is segmented by purchase history and asset categories, right?) If you sell real estate portfolios, you can have the property nearest the recipient emphasized over the others on the piece.

Stock Image of FarmerDifferent stock images

Usually, when small businesses advertise their services, they show pictures of their staff, their events, their brick-and-mortars, etc. If they show asset images, they typically represent the high end of the value spectrum of their preferred asset categories. These images are typically not items from past auctions but stock photography of dramatic staging and/or brand-new assets. What these marketers typically don’t show is other sellers—or stock images of people who look like their typical sellers. One of my clients has used an image I love, when mailing to farmers with options about what to do with a life’s worth of assets. Can you see why this image would draw a pending rural retiree into the sales pitch?

Different headlines

The easiest and cheapest way to adapt any advertising to take advantage of buyer self-interest is changing your prominent text. Most auctioneers lead with “AUCTION,” because auctions are how they see their projects, their schedules, and the assets they sell. In fact, bid calling is even part of their identity and self worth.

The problem is that buyers don’t buy auctions. They want or need assets. They will visit multiple venues and/or websites until they find what they want at the price they want. Auction only factors into that decision, if they think they can get their item more quickly, more easily, and/or more inexpensively at your auction. If you’re not offering timed online bidding or the option to “buy it now” at a reserve price, “auction” might actually be the least convenience purchase method. Then, you’ll be left having to hope for either a patient buyer or for auction day bidder frenzy to overcome the presumption of low sale prices—since that will be their motivation to wait to purchase, if they’re in immediate need or want for the asset.

So, sell the asset first. Use most of the text selling items (or for benefit auctions: the cause or organization). Only then, tell them how and where they can bid and whether there is a reserve on the asset(s) or not. It’s not deceit. It’s adaptation to the realities of our culture’s consumer base.

If we’re not adapting to buyer self-interest, then whose self-interest is guiding our advertising?

Unless we as the advertiser are also the ones buying our services or assets, why should we expect that strategy to work?

Don’t Be a Cross-Dressing Advertiser

Aftergame AftershaveHave you seen the new ad where the NFL linebacker is selling an aftershave while wearing an evening gown? You know, the one where his chest hair shows lumpy through the exquisite, red-carpet style dress?

Neither have I. There isn’t one. Gillette is smart enough not to try that.

I wish I could say the same for small businesses, whose ads fill local magazines, phone books, and web sites. No, they don’t cross-dress in their staff pictures, but they force their brand into inappropriate fits all the time—through their questionable stock photography choices.

From my professional experience, I can tell you that here’s how it works: “Hey, I’ve got this really cool picture. Let’s come up with a tag line that matches the picture for this ad [or postcard or online banner ad]. I want something that will grab their attention—something creative.” Using puns and/or stretches, you can create a headline that bridges the gap, words that explain the picture.

The problem? The picture shouldn’t need explaining. You’re letting the artwork determine their message, instead of allowing your message to drive the aesthetics. Sometimes, you can get away with this, when your images closely relate to the service or product you provide. The rest of the time, though, the solutions will be forced—often to a comedic level. Indirect connections create a visual dissonance that is often loud enough to push people past your message.

So, don’t be a cross-dressing advertiser.

Before you choose your next stock photography, ask these five questions:

  1. What would my message be, if there were no picture?
  2. Does this picture illustrate that message without explanation?
  3. Does this image also match my clientele, my prospect, and my brand?
  4. Is this photograph “best foot forward” (illustrating the peak of my capability) or dishonest (illustrating something I am not or I am not selling)?
  5. Is this image available for purchase, or did I take it illegally from the Internet or another source?

I buy hundreds of stock images a year for biplane and its clients. I’ve found that sites with price tags give you a better selection and save you time from sifting through poor-fit and/or lower-quality images. But even if the images you acquire are free, you’re wasting money—and, more importantly, brand capital—when you buy the wrong ones.

I notice the change in me most, when I see the old me in other people. One of the biggest spiritual transitions I face is letting God out of the confines by which I used to define him, Christianity, faith, and the church. I’m finding him more creative, more gracious, and more sensible than the superstitious deity I had tried to appease.

The problem of forcing God into a contrived, me-shaped box, is that he becomes the kind of God I’d be: vindictive, superstitious, rules-oriented, OCD. My insecurities become his—and not in a good way. My traditions shackle his undefinable essence and limit the potential he has hoped for me since before Eden. I replace intimacy with religiousness, fulfillment with sin management.

When we attempt to box and package the infinite, we stunt our growth and maybe even put a barrier between our souls and his voice. When we define God by our man-made lists, we distance ourselves from a vibrant relationship in which we feel his pleasure. When we wrap our faith in our putrid, self-washed rags, we waft the stink of humanism over his new creation. And maybe worst of all: when we narrow our view of God, we make it difficult for others to see him in us.

[footer]Photo(s) used by permission with purchase from iStockPhoto.com[/footer]

37: A New Hybrid Marketing Tool

AstronautOver the past two years, biplane has purchased dozens of satellite images of properties, especially land tracts and commercial buildings. At about $35-$40 per image, aerial photography from Digital Globe or TerraServer proves one of the most cost-effective tools for capturing a property’s location value for marketing—and a negligible addition to auction advertising budgets.

But satellite images often don’t capture the character of a property, and many auctioneers—particularly multi-parcel marketers—opt to “fly” a property. The ensuing bird’s-eye-view photos, shot through a plane window, show more of the topography and uniqueness of the subject real estate.

A new tool combines some of the pro’s (and con’s) of these two sky-high tools. TerraServer is gradually building the scope of its “oblique” tool. In addition to the standard, straight-vertical (rooftop) shot of the subject, it allows you to view the property from a 40-45º angle. Not all locations are available, but I found access to a good number of addresses. Some of these even allow for this angular perspective from all four sides of the property—for a full 360º view, pivoting around the property.

Downtown Lynchburg
Currently, the site does not allow you to purchase these “oblique” images for download (and subsequent use in printed materials); but you can link to them individually. With an annual site membership ($149.95), you also get a larger viewing window and no watermarking. [This membership also achieves a 10% discount on all standard satellite imagery you purchase.] So, for now, this fits mainly in your Internet and e-mail marketing campaigns. It’s safe to assume, once the available addresses grow more ubiquitous, that purchasing of the digital images will come online.

Pensacola Christian College

Benefits of This Tool

  • Linkable images available for free
  • No pilot/plane/fuel costs
  • Access not dependent on good weather
  • More immediate image capture
  • Access to metropolitan/urban areas where flight patterns may be restricted

Limitations of This Tool

  • Charged per shot (download), instead of for time to take dozens of shots
  • Currently, 360º views not always available
  • Currently, only one available zoom level
  • Most shots taken late fall (no foliage)
  • Lower print resolution of images compared to digital photography from plane
  • Watermarking of image without annual membership

Astronauts and engineers are working to make you depend less and less on pilots. Early adoption of this tool in your advertising can make your prospects more likely to depend on you rather than your less-progressive competitor.

In western culture, at least its American version, we are trained to be self-sufficient and independent. With technology and education, we can now pre-research our medical conditions before visiting our physician. We can quickly book our own travel, comparing more options than certified travel agents could two decades ago. We can take college classes in pajamas, sitting on our living room couch. We can look at our house from an airplane’s perspective—without a pilot.

We are evolving from continents of community to archipelagoes of autonomy.

Spiritually, this is seeping into the culture in our churches. Emphasis on private spiritual disciplines belittles the benefits of intimate, authentic community; and preachers miss that most of the New Testament is written to us in plural. When we struggle with our depravity, fear of judgmental reactions keep us from asking for help. When we get out of spiritual rhythm or discipline, we fear a loss of status to admit our needs and failures. We try to fix ourselves by ourselves. This myopia leads some to burn out, others to develop unhealthy views of God, others to live a double life.

But God created us for community. He exists in (triune) community. He spends the New Testament teaching how to infuse and implement community in our lives for the sake of our individual and collective benefit. The more we invite others into our spiritual lives, the more voices he has to speak Truth, encouragement, rebuke, and application into our hearts.

[footer]Photo used by permission with purchase from iStockPhoto.com[/footer]

27: Buying Credibility to Build the Expert Brand

Advertorial Bill BryantFor at least as long as I’ve been in advertising, press releases have long been classified as “free press.”  The danger of free press is that, sometimes, you get what you pay for.  You can do all the right things with your press release and it still may not get published—at least through the key media on which you were relying.

One way to guarantee that your message gets in print (or an online outlet) is to pay to have the story published: an “advertorial.”  In our culture, the statement advertorial is often just an ad that buys a whole page but only uses part of it for a short message.  These often extravagant media buys, usually by celebrities or united activists, often get picked up by other media and fulfill their original intent—a publicity stunt.

Publicity stunts work; they’re great for one-shot deals.  But if you’re looking to build your brand in the community, particularly an expert brand, journalistic advertorials can get your piece not only published but read.  Here are some tips on how to do that.

Fill an Information Gap

If you are properly nichéd, professionally trained, and/or personally connected to hot button issues, people will value your advice.  So, use your space to sell your knowledge more than your company.  People hire experts.  You will establish yourself as a source for answers, which later may grow into a source for solutions. You’re reading my biweekly advertorial right now.  Would you have read this far, if this were a commercial? Do your homework.  Then be prepared to wait a long time for a grade.

Write (And Edit) Like a Writer

If you want consideration from readers, you have to write like you value their time.  Use statistics and references; use quotations and accentuate them with “pull quotes.”  Check your grammar, or have a professional edit for you.  Sidebars with stats or charts give you that much more credence.  Look at the media’s current articles; mimic their approach.

Half Full or Half Empty?

You don’t always need full pages to get noticed.  You can create a themed article and pay for it to run at regular intervals.  Name yourself as the author, and design the space to look more like a sidebar or column.  Three third-page runs will get you more consumer interactions than one big kaboom.

Reach Out and “E” Someone

It can be expensive to rent space from your local newspaper or regional trade publication.  And you may be paying for readers you don’t need.  Many online sites invite expert contributors to their oligarchy of writers.  Some even allow free access to their visitors.  Email can allow you to regularly reinforce your brand to a targeted group of people already familiar with you and open to your company.  It’s usually cheaper than print, too.

Seduce the Unsuspecting

Draw people into your stories the way that newspapers do: use large, interesting images and captivating headlines.  Make sure stock photos concretely (not abstractly) relate and that company photos are professionally shot and/or digitally enhanced.  Get multiple eyes proofing your prominent text; you don’t want to end up on Monday night Leno.

Your message doesn’t need be contained to you, your competitors, and people hiding in the restroomat work.  Hone it.  Enhance it.  If you believe enough in it, pay to publish it yourself.


Examples of client advertorial designed by publication and by biplane productions available upon request.

I’m not a regular country music listener, but I love Tim McGraw’s twangy song that became the theme song for CMT’s “Trick My Truck.”

“How Bad Do You Want It?” is one of my life theme songs.  In the land of the American Dream, I motivate myself by questioning my will, my talent—even my success.  I sort my to do list and my life goals regularly, asking myself that very question, “How much do I want this?  Is [this] worth not having [that]?”

Sometimes I have to say “no” to some pretty cool things, some fun pastimes, some lesser dreams.  But I know too many people paralyzed by the inability to choose which passion(s) to chase, which talent to exploit.  I don’t want to miss throwing a touchdown by waiting too long to decide between two open receivers.

I use my unwritten obituary as a sieve, as well as my life mission statement—among other things.  As a writer and a live-er, I realize that I will sometimes (if not often) have to pay—financially, emotionally, and physically—to impact others with the intrinsic message and lesser statements of my life.  Thankfully, like advertorials for business, those costs are outbalanced by the reward.

[footer]Stock image(s) used by permission through purchase from iStockPhoto.com ©2008[/footer]

Marketing Can’t Buy Brand Integrity

PilotYou’ve probably heard the adage, “Fake it ’til you make it.” I guess there’s some wisdom there, but I’ve never adhered to that. My mind multiplies that life approach until I get, Frank Abagnale Jr., the true life behind Catch Me If You Can.

Maybe I’m not a good faker. Maybe I don’t trust my acting skills, but I prefer the less poetic mantra of, “Project it, as you grow it.” The difference rests in more than semantics. Projection expands real elements to a grander vision. Faking covers inadequacies and welcomes falsely-acquired trust. It has its place, I guess, but not in ethical advertising.

Entrepreneurs regularly hire me to produce materials that put their companies in the best light. I’m glad to do that. I like helping Davids compete against Goliaths or even just other Davids. Stock photos and some good copy can go a long way, but they can’t make up for deficiency in the actual products or services rendered.

I can help a client magnify their commitment to professionalism, even on a low budget. I can illustrate a company’s growing and potential capabilities, even with a few pages—or less. I can exemplify a firm’s value, even with a short business history. But I can’t guarantee that their clients get what they’re expecting.

Marketing, at its intrinsic level, is brand building and management. Super advertising proves hollow when not supported by super service. So, the onus for successful marketing lands on both my best efforts and my clients’ execution.

My customers don’t have to be the best in their field, as long as they dominate their niche (no matter how small that niche has to be defined for them to dominate it). They don’t have to have the biggest staff or the highest-grossing sales record. As long as their clients feel well-served, even best-served, we’ve done it. The more of that we’ve strung together, the more indelible that public perception grows. That works both ways; it can kill you, if the shiny brand continually acquires tarnish from substandard devotion to reputation.

So, I tell people that biplane productions is a one-man show in my basement. I don’t hide that I subcontract tasks I can’t do best. And I sell hard the abilities I gratefully own. Perceived inequities between me and my competitors can be my advantage to the right clients. If not, those accounts would only be a strain for me anyway.

So, if you want a glossy brochure that matches your slick new web site or new logo, give me a call. If you want to tout that you lead your market or even your industry, give your prospects proof. A phenomenal reputation can trump fancy advertising. Married to stellar design, though, that brand integrity will stand almost unbeatable.

I know a lot of Christians who think the best way to illustrate God’s work in their lives is to hide their foibles, bury their questions, and sheath their insecurities. This approach, however, shares the same crippling nemesis as communism: sin-bent human nature. Where socialism breeds corruption; plastic Christianity builds toward hypocrisy or sensational failure.

So, why give the secular skeptic ammunition? Why not diffuse their criticism of the infallible with the evidence of our frailty? Why not show them that faith is a journey toward heaven’s perfection, instead of a fault-wiped facade? The longer we fake the holy life, the greater chasm the unbeliever perceives between their life and a Christ-led life—or worse yet, between the religious experience and the abundant relationship Christ offers.

The reality is that Jesus calls, at most, one step away from all of us—whether to the initiation of a personal relationship or to just a deeper enjoyment of the relationship we already have with him. I prefer to project where I want to be, while divulging to any onlookers that my intentions many times outpace my performance. Hopefully, that authenticity will lead to someone wanting what’s real in me.

[footer]Stock image(s) used by permission through purchase from iStockPhoto.com ©2008[/footer]