Before we get into the notes, I wanted to give you all a taste of the WPPI 2010 Jasmine Star experience. Being ginormous fans of Jasmine Star, it only seemed appropriate that we make it a point to attend her first ever WPPI platform lecture. At least, we hadn’t seen her prior years, so we think it was her first, perhaps she can confirm for us.
Either way, just the simple act of getting into Jasmine’s platform class felt like trying to get back stage at the first ever Lady Gaga Miley Cyrus crossroads concert. As I exited the prior platform class, I saw this line of about 600 people, and immediately the first thought that came into my head was, “this has got to be Jasmine’s line.” That thought was confirmed by another fellow line-stander and hence our 2 hour journey to get back row seats at Jasmine’s platform lecture had begun.
Two hours and 37 new friends later, we finally made it into our room and got our seats. I would use the term nosebleeds to describe the seats, but I distinctly remember having a better view of Kobe’s face than I did of Jasmine’s. Taking a look around us, our little crew of four boys (Justin Lin, Max Young, Harrison Long and myself) felt a little bit like a fish out of water given that we were completely surrounded by a sea of girls! There had to have been at least 10 girls to every guy in that room. Were I single, I think a Jasmine lecture might in fact be the holy grail of meet and greets.
Nonetheless, we were seated, and ready for the show to begin! Jasmine came out on stage, did her thing, KIR (Kept It Real… Jasmine, I feel a little weird saying that) and wowed us with her amazingly warm and personable self. Afterwards, we had a wealth of great information, and an even deeper respect and admiration for Jasmine Star. So, without further adieu, on to the notes!
Jasmine’s lecture was named “Ghetto Fabulous Marketing” or GFM for short. The whole concept behind GFM is being able to take what you got and make it work. To understand GFM and why it was relevant to Jasmine, it is important to understand her story and background.
Jasmine grew up under very humble circumstances, she even mentioned how she has stories of using food stamps and waiting in line for government cheese and such. Stories that really struck a chord with me being that I come from a very similar background being that my father, a single parent without more than a few dollars to his name, immigrated to the US to provide me a better life. So, I can definitely relate to Jasmine’s story as I stood in those same lines with my father 25 years ago.
Despite her challenging childhood, Jasmine worked hard and earned a full ride scholarship to the UCLA law program. Which mind you is no easy feat. But, it wasn’t until her mother had a relapse with cancer when she left school and had a moment to think about what she really wanted to do with her life. When she married JD, it was her wedding photographer David Jay that opened up her mind to photography. When Jasmine was considering wedding photography as a profession, JD encouraged and supported her by saying, “I would rather you fail at something you love, than succeed at something you don’t.” Forgive me Jasmine if I butchered the quote, but it is a quote that I really love.
One Canon Rebel, a basic kit lens, and just a few weddings later, we have Jasmine Star. Ok, so maybe it wasn’t that easy or quick, but you get the idea. The whole point of this story, and of GFM is to say that with a bit of hard work, it is possible to make something wonderful of nothing.
That, in a nutshell is Ghetto Fabulous Marketing. Taking what you got, whatever little it may be, and turning it into something you can look back and be proud of. Jasmine’s story resonates with so many of us in this industry because we all had to start somewhere, and usually somewhere pretty humble. So, it is inspiring to us to see someone who may have started with even less, create something so wonderful.
Note that utilizing GFM does not require significant financial investments that traditional forms of advertising would call for. Jasmine discourages against traditional advertising because its results are so unpredictable, a $9,000 magazine ad may or may not bring in revenue. I can definitely say from our own experience that GFM techniques are far more effective than traditional advertising. All of our traditional advertising techniques which we have spent over $5,000 on, while they have brought us some traffic, have never brought us a wedding.
So, as Jasmine would say “how do ya get’yo GFM on?” (it’s a bit embarrassing, but I actually would say that too) Well, Jasmine states that there are four components to GFM. Each one is detailed below and they are listed from least to most important. We have also included a little bit of our commentary for your reading pleasure, or perhaps misery… but, hopefully pleasure.
Blogging: Prior to the now popular days of Twitter and Facebook, Jasmine started out her online social networking presence by blogging. But, what makes Jasmine’s blog so unique (which is something most of you already know) is that she writes stories with each and every post. This allowed visitors to get involved in Jasmine’s shoots and personal life on a far more intimate level. Soon, visitors were returning to read the stories and not necessarily the imagery itself. The key here is to be unique and personal to allow people to get involved and invested in you as a person.
Web Slideshows: Creating a web slideshow of each and every client allowed Jasmine to turn those clients, as well as their family and friends into Jasmine cheerleaders as they would share their slideshows with everyone they knew.
Online forums and communities: Getting involved in OSP (The Open Source Photo Forum) allowed Jasmine to connect with her peers as well as learn and share techniques and thoughts with others in the industry. Today, another useful social network for photographers is Becker’s [B]School.
Build a network: As Jasmine met other peers, she created a network of close friends and allies. Most likely, those that were as driven and likely to succeed as she was. She built a relationship with these photographers and started a referral network with a select few through Google Calendar. Together, the four (including Jasmine) shared a single Google Calendar and promised to send all referrals to each other.
Vendor Promotion: Create vendor promotion and marketing collateral that promotes the vendors, not you! If you are stamping everything with your logo and studio name, then you are giving the vendor something they most likely can’t use. If vendors don’t use your collateral, then there is no opportunity to spread your name. Instead, create marketing collateral that they would be proud to show.
For example, Jasmine would create 5×7 collage prints featuring just the florist, the planner, or the venues work with their logo, and then print 50 (which only costs like $8 at Costco), box them up in nice packaging with a hand written note, and give them to each of the vendors. When starting out, most of us photographers don’t have much money, but we do have time.
Netmaking: What comes around goes around, and helping others succeed will only bring success back to you. This is a statement that our studio swears by. We provide each and every vendor we work with whatever they need to succeed. Our motto is that we are successful as those around us are successful, and it is a motto that has proved true to us over and over.
Web Technology: Ensure that your website leverages technology that can enable your clients to become organic marketers to easily spread the word. A website that is unique, and one that you can be proud of.
Differentiate and Personalize: Template websites are inexpensive and quick to get up and running which is why the vast majority of us photographers almost always start out with one. However, spend time in making sure that your site is unique. Try to find a template that is unique and personalized to you. If you can’t, then find a customizable template site to personalize it yourself. We believe in this so strongly, that we have provided a free starter blog template (with many more to come) as well as other tools and resources to our SLRLounge community which you can use to showcase your personality.
Unify: Unify your image. Make sure that your logo and branding throughout all your websites and marketing materials is consistent. For a long while, Jasmine had a blog that was much more polished than her main site. If this is the case, resolve it across the board, and once you have created a strong brand image, raise your prices. At least, that is what Jasmine did ;). After perfecting her web presence and brand image, Jasmine raised prices $1,500 across the board.
So, while her product hadn’t changed, her services and studio came with a much more professional look and feel. Thus, the perceived value of her product had increased and customers were happy to pay the higher prices. The best analogy I can think of, would be if you were to imagine putting a beautiful picture into a fantastically crappy frame. Regardless of how good the picture is, the frame will lower the perceived value of its content. Websites, marketing material, packaging, etc is no different.
Be Unique: In today’s age, with the technology becoming more and more affordable, virtually everyone is a photographer. So, again to reiterate, be unique and make sure that you are showcasing what makes you different from the person next to you.
Be Personal: Are you putting yourself out there for people to connect to you on a more personal and emotional level? Be more transparent and deliberate in sharing your life and your story. Allow people to connect to you instead of just your photography.
We hope you all were able to get some ideas and insights from these notes and commentary. Jasmine, we wish to thank you for your wonderful example, humble personality, and warm spirit. You are truly an inspiration to us all (even us boys). KOKIR!! (Keep On Keepin It Real… just in case you didn’t know… Ok, I feel a little weird again).
If you have any additional notes or commentary, please add them to the comments below!
Article by Pye Jirsa of Partner of Lin and Jirsa Los Angeles Wedding Photography
Images by Max Young of Film Foto Fusion