Marketing cooperatives

Discussion in 'Presentation & Marketing' started by Donald Miller, Jan 15, 2004.

What is your opinion about marketing cooperatives

  1. What cooperatives?

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  2. I think that cooperative marketing is a good idea

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  3. I consider cooperatives a bad idea

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  1. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

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    I have noticed an increase in the number of marketing cooperatives that are advertising in the publication Black and White the magazine for collectors. On the surface this seems to be a means to get several photographers names out into collectors awareness at a reduced cost for advertising. I am not sure what the criteria are for inclusion in one of these cooperatives. The downside to this that I can see is that the individual thrust is diluted. What are your thoughts about these?
     
  2. lee

    lee Member

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    As you and I have talked about this, I agree that the concept is sound. Like you, I am not sure if there needs to be a leader to select the members of the cooperative. Whatever happens count me in if I fit.

    lee\c
     
  3. Thomassauerwein

    Thomassauerwein Member

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    For me the cost of advertising in those publications always broke even at best. I think it is a good idea because it gives people who otherwise would not get that exposure a chance to become visible. It is a double edge sword however. Once th popularity rises more people saturate it with lesser quality images and the magazine I had the experiance with rather than edit lower quality simply raised the advertising cost. So I guess With good leadership it is a good Idea.
     
  4. bmac

    bmac Member

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    In a previous life, I ran a small independent record label. I used to do co-op ad buys with my distributors all the time. Some times they worked, sometimes I just hoped I got a little bit of exposure. The key is consistent high quality work. Someone needs to be the yes/no guy/gal. And people need to deal with it. The key is to do it issue after issue, and have it professionally designed and consistent. I too would be interested if selected, and have a few designers at work that I could tap for the design work. Let me know. Oh yeah, I think it would have to be full page if not a two page spread. Pricey, but it would have impact.

    Brian
     
  5. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

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    Brian,
    Even though this doesn't directly apply to a cooperative effort, Michael Smith shared his experience with Black and White Magazine (for collectors) with me. He indicated that he advertised there a year (double page layout) and after that year a collector contacted him and bought his work. The collector indicated that he waited that long to see if Michael was "serious". I think that his experience directly speaks to the need for a commitment to a continuing effort.

    My thoughts are that if one were to enage in a cooperative effort that a full page ad would be indicated at the outset and that as photographers were added the size would increase to a two page spread. A different segment of those photographers work represented by the cooperative would be featured on a rotating basis. I think that the existing cooperatives, while better then nothing, often have their impact lost among the little 1/4 page ads at the rear of the magazine

    Additionally, the magazine advertisement would list a website URL in which all photographers represented by the cooperative would have their work shown and a further link to an individual website if desired.

    These are my thoughts on the matter. I am interested in hearing the thoughts of others.
     
  6. Jim Chinn

    Jim Chinn Member

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    A few thoughts:

    I agree that you would need to run at least a one page layout to get any kind of attention. My own experience with B&W is that I take the work presented at the front of the magazine (usually the full page or double page ads) as the most serious collectible work. I think you really need to be among pages that contain advertising for galleries and current exhibits to achieve a certain cache of "being there" as opposed to the 1/4 page adds in the back.


    Also it seems to be my impression that artists who advertise a lot seem to get spotlight articles. I have no opinion about this practice, but maybe a full page or eventual double page add would give one or two coop members a leg up in getting a spotlight feature.

    Finally, I think you need to determine the number of members and cost per member and present that. Then decide on a procedure for accepting members to the coop. And be prepared for some one getting mad at you if there work is not accepted. I might submit some work for consideration and if it is rejected I would just try another time. Some people might take it kind of personal about it.

    If it happens I will look forward to seeing it in the future.
     
  7. photomc

    photomc Member

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    Jim, I think you are right on with your post. Since I have been reading B&W since the first issue and have not missed any of them, I have watched the evolution of some of the folks showing their work.

    There may be a relationship to advertising and spotlight articles, but I really do not think so. Bill Schwab, who is a member of this site I think, was featured and yet I do not recall seeing his work advertised. On the other hand, Michael and Paula have been there forever it seems and the current issue is the first to have a spotlight article on them.

    You have a very good point about some might get upset..... but I think there is some outstanding talent on this site and it might be a good way to let others know. I would add that it would be in the participants best interest to have a good selection of work available for the buying public to choose from, just something I've always been told. That and they like a variety.

    Good luck to all who go for it..and keep the rest of us posted.
     
  8. Jorge Oliveira

    Jorge Oliveira Member

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    I've never sold any photo in my life, for me it's a one way street - pocket to store.
    But IMHO a cooperative, made by commited professionals makes a lot of sense.

    Jorge O
     
  9. Robert Kennedy

    Robert Kennedy Member

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    It does sound like a good idea.

    Personally I would only watch out for people ADVERTISING such things very openly. Not like people here, but people taking out ads saying "For only $$ you can make $$$$ with our "Co/op"" You know what I mean. Besides the obvious "vanity publishing pitfalls, I'd want to be a part of a co/op whos work compliments mine and vice versa.
     
  10. Michael A. Smith

    Michael A. Smith Subscriber

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    From my experience:

    Sounds like a good idea, but before you begin, have a web site in place, at least.

    In the 1960s and 1970s there were groups of serious and well-known photographers who did things together--had exhibitions, published quarterlies, etc. My opinion is that to have any credibility at all, any co-op needs to be much more than just a group organized to get cheaper ad rates.

    Done right, and doing it right is the only way to do it, a co-op will entail a more serious financial committment than most of you are probably aware.

    Someone, and that is some ONE, will have to take charge and make decisions--who is in, who is out. These things CANNOT be run by committee or it will not happen or will quickly fizzle out. This person should be paid for his/her time and effort, which will not be inconsiderable.

    Everyone involved needs to have along-term committment. Years.

    Ad is Black and White: Don had the story almost right. We met the very reluctant collector and had to contact him about four times. and even then it took two showings of our photographs before he committed to buy work. Only a year later did he tell us that he even consented to meet with us because he had been following our ads and saw that we were serious. The real point of this story is that to sell him work, we had to meet with him personally.

    Do not expect to sell work, ever, from an ad in B&W. Not that it can't happen. It can. (Over the course of a couple of years one fellow sold 34 prints from one picture that he kept putting in one of the small ads at the back. I think the print sold for only $200, however.)

    Which brings up price point. A lot more prints will sell for $200 than for $1,000. About 20-1, or more. but do you want to sell prints for only $200? There are pros and cons to doing that. It needs to be considered. Will everyone in the co-op have the same price on their prints? Probably not, this being an individual thing. But it is something to think about. My own recommendation would be that everyone in the co-op should be roughly in the same range. If you are selling your prints for $1,000, you don't want to have others selling theirs for $200--at least not in the same ad.

    Again, do not expect to sell work from an ad in B&W. If that is your expectation, you will be disappointed and the energy for the co-op will soon dissipate. An ad in B&W must be looked on as only a part of a marketing effort, not the whole thing.

    Relationship between having a feature and advertising in B&W. There is no relationship, really. One reason there sometimes seems to be is that by advertising, the Editor/Publisher, Henry Rasmussen, who, by the way is wonderful to deal with, gets to know your work and will ask if you would like to have a feature. Recently, we recommended a photographer to him, whose work will be featured in a forthcoming issue, and this photographer cannot begin to afford an ad of any type. And often, we know of at least several cases, where a feature was offered and then the photographer thought to begin advertising. Henry wanted to do a feature on us for years. He thought we were a good story, being a couple, yet still quite different. We wanted to wait until the magazine became more established, which is why this did not appear sooner.

    There is so much more I could write, but this should do for starters. Bottom line: good idea theoretically, practically there are lots of pitfalls and problems, ahead, as well as a lot of harder work and effort than you can imagine if you want it to be successful and not just a lark.
     
  11. Jim Chinn

    Jim Chinn Member

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    The internet in many ways eliminated the need for such cooperatives. Everyone who can afford to place a monthly add in the back of B&W can afford a pretty nice web prescence. And anyone who has done searches of sites knows there are thousands of photography sites.

    Now it seems that things have come full circle. Even the best photography sites get lost in the heap. I have read about very few photographers who sell prints over the internet, and the few that do so I don't think are living in luxury unless they have income from commercial and gallery sales.

    Now in order to stand out from the crowd you have to have presence like ads B&W and be actively soliciting galleries and individuals. I think a continuous 1 or 2 page advertisement shows you are serious. What shows you are more serious is if you can post a gallery showing somewhere in each issue.

    That means a person(s) needs to be actively sending to or visitng galleries with a portfolio of the artists. They see the ad every month, they are more likely to take you seriously, maybe not accept the work, but have more consideration. I don't think the ad or a website will sell prints on its own. There has to be that personal contact and aggresive effort to get work out to people.

    I agree that one person needs to make decsions. Feedback and suggestions should be taken, but there needs to be a "director" to be final arbitor.

    Finally, you will need to be pretty merciless when it comes to deciding who gets to be involved and what prints are selected. I would suggest that perhaps you solicit (pay for their time) a gallery owner/director or museum curator who could help you decide on prints or give input. They would have a more objective POV and have a better understanding of the marketplace.

    Personally, I would rather be rejected because my work was crtically evaluated and judged not to meet the co-op standards, then be accepted because my money helps defray the costs. Besides, that just gives me incentive to improve my art and craft.

    It seems it would be much more successful to have a small group of dedicated artists, rather than a large group that might have some individuals who would demand results for the money they put in.

    Just some extra thoughts,

    Jim Chinn
     
  12. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

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    Michael, Jim, and others have reiterated what my thoughts have been on the matter. I personally think that this marketing approach has merit, it has a need, and the means are available. The question is how many photographers on this site are "serious" about their photographic efforts. By that I mean "serious" enough to commit to the financial obligation that this approach will require. I will do this in order to know what this will cost.I will contact Black and White Magazine (for collectors) to learn what the ad cost for a full page (initially) and a two page (ultimately) ad will run on their bi-monthly publication.

    I have a HTML editor program and also MS Access for database so the web page is doable with little additional expense. I personally don't see the need for "flash" in the programming. Something distinctive and professional carries more impact then a lot of glitz in my books.

    I agree that equal quality and comparable pricing in the work is a necessity. The matter of gallery contact needs to be recognized and dealt with. I am open to thoughts on what Jim said regarding this matter.

    I would appreciate all who would be interested in participating, if their work were chosen, message me of their intent. This will serve as a further indicator of whether to proceed or not.
     
  13. Michael A. Smith

    Michael A. Smith Subscriber

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    Following up on something I mentioned in passing, and that I thought about after my post, and which I see Jim mentioned.

    Crucial is the quality of the work. The work of the entire co-op will be judged as being as good as the least fine of the work. So it all better be top notch. As Jim said, no one should be accepted merely because they can help pay the bills. If I saw the listings of a co-op and a few people in it did sub-standard work, I would not pursue any part of it. That may be just me, but I don't think so. I assure you that all serious collectors will feel the same. The only sales that would be made otherwise would be the very occasional one if someone falls in love with a print--and that kind of sale only happens at very low prices.

    If the object of the co-op is to sell prints, you all have a lot of work ahead of you. If you are going to be successful, consider that you will have a new full-time job. Putting less time into it is a waste of time and will lead virtually nowhere.

    This sounds harsh, even to me, but my recommendation is to go into this with your eyes wide open with no illusions. And really, do be prepared for 40-hour weeks on this if it is to amount to anything.
     
  14. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

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    Michael,

    Those are my sentiments as well. Sometimes reality is harsh. There is nothing worse then doing something half way. It is better to not have done it at all. That being said, I am still trying to determine if there is sufficient interest and following that will be a determination of the quality of the work.
     
  15. George Losse

    George Losse Member

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    Don,

    All the answers here have been from the point of view of an artist. Harsh or not. Maybe you need to step back and look again from the point of view of a business. If this conversation were about something other then "our work" (which we are all passionate about) would you want to invest your money or something more valuable, your time.

    I would suggest you map out your goals and make a business plan just as you would any new business. Know what you want from it, and what other's want from it. Maybe its not the best thing for you. Maybe doing your own thing might give you the most return on your time.

    Just a quick couple of thoughts,
     
  16. Scott Edwards

    Scott Edwards Member

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    I am currently involved in 2 artists cooperatives, and the benefits are palpable. Gallery space becomes more affordable and you are allowed a certain amount of political stature (ie; creative visibility and clout). Now, a photography coop makes much more sense in that it draws more attention to photography as a viable art form (read f64) and as mentioned above gets more money invested in important ad space. There is a book out there titled "The Business of Art" (sorry the author's name escapes me) that outlines the importance of garnering a broader base with other artists in gaining gallery attention. I am all for this idea, regardless of whether my work fits the standard here, and I will continue to pursue coops as a method of putting more of my work in galleries.