“How can we help photographers?” – This is a question we at ShootDotEdit ask ourselves. Yes, we want to elevate tech and innovation, but we also hope to bring you resources that enhance the work and personal lives of photographers. We commit to being a customer-first organization that genuinely empowers those we serve to do what they love doing. And we are not alone. Like us, Nate Grahek, founder and CEO of Sticky, leverages education and technology to help photographers unlock their true potential. In our latest Vendor Spotlight, we dive into Sticky Marketing Tools and learn how photographers can make more money with their Folios, Email Marketing Funnels, and the sharing app called StickyAlbums. Read on to find out more about how these tools can help you, as a portrait and wedding photographer, and automate your marketing without having to do more work than you should.
Why Photographers Need Sticky Marketing Tools
“Online marketing is so hard. It’s always changing. It’s evolving,” said Nate, adding, “It’s my passion, and I’m good at it. But I want photographers to know that you don’t have to become an expert in online marketing. Especially if you don’t like it and especially if it doesn’t bring you joy.” That’s where Sticky comes in. “Through Sticky Marketing Tools, we are offering a service. It’s a premium setup service where we will build a powerful marketing funnel for you,” he shared while talking about StickyEmail, a Sticky Marketing Tool that helps photographers up their online automated marketing without having to do the drudge work to get there.
The Sticky Tools
StickyAlbums is a way to share the best of the best images with your clients in a personalized app you create and send to them for download. The client downloads the app directly to their phone, customized with their name and favorite images, and then they can easily show and share that with family and friends. In a world where few people leave home without their mobile devices, it’s like having your clients carry your business cards with you at all times, boosting word-of-mouth referrals, and getting more people talking about you and coming to your website.
StickyFolios are fully customizable landing pages based on a library of templates intended to work alongside your website. You can create multiple landing pages specific to any topic you want your clients to know about, but without having to make them available to just anyone visiting your website. You control who sees what and when. For example, you can create a price list from the StickyFolios template, host it online, but only deliver the link to your client at the right time in a clean and focused way.
StickyEmail is an automated email marketing platform with a library of pre-written email templates that allow you to communicate with your clients in a quick and easy way. You can customize the templates to make them your own. Essentially, you invest time in setting the email system up and then forget about it while it does all the work for you.
Read on to find out more about the power of this online marketing software.
ShootDotEdit: Tell us about Sticky Marketing Tools and your journey from StickyAlbums to where you are now.
Nate: I founded StickyAlbums back in 2012. I had been a portrait, family, and high school senior photographer for a few years. When I was first getting started, it was purely to justify my obsession with gear. I was just making money so that I could buy the next camera. That’s all I cared about. I had a day job. I got my master’s degree in education, which has really helped me out in the last 10 years. But I was just on the side and learning marketing, and I learned a tactic to create custom business cards for each of my past clients. And that was kind of working. It was hit or miss. I still think it’s a good tactic for people to use. If you can get that paper card or that little accordion mini-book in the right hands, it can be powerful.
I printed some of the cards out for my cousin, whose senior pictures I did. And I gave her the “family/free discount” in hopes that she’d at least refer some business to me. But she looks at me and goes, “Nate, I’ll try, but I don’t think my friends want paper. I don’t think they want to carry this around.” And this was when skinny jeans were first coming about, and I was like, that makes sense. So I start thinking about the one thing they never leave home without – their mobile.
In my day job, I had been working on putting training content on mobile devices for salespeople. And I was like, “Oh, hey, wait a second. What if I put a gallery of your best pictures on your mobile phone for you? My contact information is in there, I could put your face as your own app icon, and it’ll save to your home screen on your phone. Then, you can share that app with your friends if you want. And she replied, “Well, yeah, duh. That’d be perfect.”
I started doing that manually because I knew a little bit of HTML myself. And it was so effective that I had to stop doing it because my schedule was filling up with shoots and raising a family. So then I slowed down but knew pretty quickly that I wanted to bring this tactic to all photographers. And luckily, my neighbor was a developer, and he inspired me. So first, I was just going to teach people HTML, but we ended up turning it into a full-service app like Animoto. We automated creating these custom mobile apps for each customer. So that was almost 10 years ago. A lot of companies let you do a similar tactic, but we still do it the best.
ShootDotEdit: And what’s that one thing that makes you different from what other companies do with regards to this process?
Nate: I think where a lot of people mess up this strategy, or this “sharing images” tactic, is that they try to use it for proofing or for sharing ALL the images with their clients. StickyAlbums are not a proofing tool. A lot of proofing tools do proofing beautifully. And Sticky will never do proofing because of that. But if you start loading your custom app with more than 20, 30, 40, 100 images, it stops being a good marketing tool. All of our data shows that a custom app – regardless of what platform you’re using – gets shared more when it’s just the best images – your client’s favorite images. And, when they share it, it is the best word-of-mouth referral traffic you’ll ever get.
ShootDotEdit: So StickyAlbums is your original marketing tool, but you’ve launched a few others since then. On your website, you have StickEmail and StickyFolios. Could you expand on those services?
Nate: StickyFolios is our newest landing page builder. So what’s cool about StickyFolios is it allows you to have very specific marketing messages on specific and customized web pages. Let’s say you want to do a mini session. We have a mini session landing page template. Or, if you want to make a simpler preview of your pricing instead of your pricing PDF that overwhelms people, we have a pricing landing page. Landing pages are better than PDFs because as soon as you send a PDF that’s outdated, somebody is going to dig it up in two years and go, “Why did you raise your prices?” So putting your pricing online allows you to easily share that info when the time is right and change it when you need to update it.
Our StickyFolios library has 10 templates with all of the pre-filled content and copy. So it’s really easy to color by number, see where you need to put your images and your copy to make it your own. And there’s training that helps you implement each one.
ShootDotEdit: So does StickyFolios work with people’s existing websites, or would it be separate?
Nate: It’s meant to be alongside. So more and more photographers are learning the idea of a funnel. Your website’s number one job, in my opinion, is to get the lead. Then you nurture that lead with emails. And then, behind the scenes, whether it’s leading up to the booking or after the booking, you can send these very specific landing pages that are not visible on your website until the lead becomes a client.
ShootDotEdit: Can you explain how StickyAlbums, StickyFolios, and StickyEmail work together?
Nate: Yes. So StickyAlbums is the custom client app that boosts word-of-mouth referrals, which includes getting more people talking and coming to your website. Even if it only generates 5 visitors to your website, you have to understand that that kind of visit is way different than one generated from a random Google search. When a past customer has told their friend to check you out, that’s a pretty valuable visitor to your website.
This tactic is working so well for so many photographers. We grew to thousands of photographers all around the world. But then I started to hear this growing kind of voice of “I’m still struggling. I’m getting traffic to my site, but I’m not booking more customers.” And even though it was still working for many photographers, this was keeping me up at night.
Then I came to the realization that even if I get you more referrals and more visits to your page with StickyAlbums, that’s not a booking. So there was still this huge gap between a visitor and an actual booked customer. Think about it this way. StickyAlbums helps you get more traffic. And then the rest of Sticky Marketing Tools help you better turn that traffic into leads and leads into paying customers. So with StickyEmail, you can put up a custom pop-up or a custom slide-out form on your website that will allow those visitors who maybe aren’t ready to book yet to sign up for your email newsletter. When they sign up, they are opting into this cool 10 email sequence that’s pre-written for you via StickyEmail. And you nurture them using our library of different nurturing sequences. And then that nurture sequence turns those leads into an inquiry and a booking.
Once a lead becomes a customer or at least someone who is seriously inquiring about your services, you can share more detailed information with them via StickyFolios web templates. One of my favorites is the online pricing guide. The only time anybody should ever see your detailed price guide is once you’re with them live. And so, the online pricing guide template is designed to be a teaser to your pricing information. So when somebody says, “Hey, I love your work. I’d love to learn more. How much do you cost? What are your prices?” Then you can send them this simple teaser and answer the question immediately. Then photographers can encourage them to get on the phone and explain everything.
ShootDotEdit: We like the idea of these tools that essentially help photographers automate their marketing workflow. So, it’s basically like you take 2 hours to set something up, and then it does what it needs to do while you focus on your craft. And that’s a great promise to photographers who are already overwhelmed by the amount of technology they have to handle.
Nate: I’ll use my favorite analogy here. I like science and tech, and I love starting things. It gives me energy as a creative person. We’re like, “Ooh, shiny object. That’s fun. Let’s try that. Let’s do this.” So, when a space shuttle is launching, it uses 80% of its fuel just to get off the ground because that’s where gravity and inertia are at their highest. In that first minute or two, it uses so much of its energy. But then, once it’s in space, it’s a satellite, and it may be there for years. It just uses its orbit to keep running.
Similarly, the beauty of software and automation is it lets you create ‘satellites’ for your business. Once you put in the work, you can set it and forget it. And when you feel the need, you could also update these satellites you create for yourself. You could write or polish your emails if you wanted to, but you don’t have to. The beauty is, it just keeps working.
But the flip side is when we start (but don’t finish) too many different courses and strategies and tactics, it sucks all of our energy. And you’re not getting any ROI because everything is in various stages of incompletion in your business. So be diligent with your time. Think to yourself, “What’s one thing I can get completely done today that’s going to just keep on running without me?” It’s a really powerful mindset to work around.
Also, think like a CEO. As the CEO of your company, it’s helpful to also be thinking about those tools (aka ‘satellites’) and know how to measure their performance. If they’re not working for you, find ones that will.
ShootDotEdit: That’s a really great model – to prioritize things that need to be done and focus on finishing them instead of starting 10 different things and then not getting anything completed.
Nate: There’s this visual that I saw, and it just hit me like a ton of bricks! It’s called the emotional cycle of change. It’s about how we start when we find something new. There’s this uninformed optimism that “oh my God, this is it. This is the answer. Facebook ads or this, this, these, this is the thing I need. And then my business is going to be fixed.” Then we learn a little bit about it. We buy it. We log into the system and go, “Oh, it turns out there’s work here.”
In the visual, there’s this point called the valley of despair at the very bottom where you go, “Oh my gosh, this is tough. I’m dumb. I’m never going to figure this out. I’m a failure.” And in this moment, something significant happens. And it’s what differentiates successful entrepreneurs from unsuccessful entrepreneurs. It’s the fact that when we’re stuck here in our self-doubt, the successful ones will keep pushing through that. Keep learning more. They’ll keep following people that have done it before them and choose proven tactics, knowing that even though they don’t see the differences at that moment, they are confident that it is the right path.
And eventually, you get up to success, but too many of us go the next direction. When we’re at this low point, we go, “Oh, there’s a new thing! Let’s try that.” And then start the whole cycle again. And we don’t accomplish anything. I’m not saying that it’s easy to stick with it, but that’s the new skill that all of us need to get really good at. If it were easy, everybody would already have it done. Real success comes from hard work, and you’ve got to be very diligent, knowing you can’t do all of it. You can only do a little bit. And so, let’s make sure you get it all the way done.
ShootDotEdit: So insightful! So let’s get photographers the info they need to get started – and finish – setting up Sticky! Is there any other insight you’d like to share with us?
Nate: Alright, so when somebody finally says, “Hey, I like your work. What are your prices?” and they finally make an inquiry, that’s the moment that I call the most meaningful moment in your business and in your journey. How you respond to someone asking what your prices are can decide whether or not you’re going to turn that person into a booking or they’re going to ghost you. If we don’t respond with confidence, clarity, and immediacy, they instantly file you away.
So it’s essential to respond to an inquiry with professionalism, clarity, polish, and personality. And a good place to start would be with this new thing I’ve created called the Sell More Toolkit. It’s a $27 toolkit that starts with creating wall art with our Wall Art Mock-Up Builder. Photographers can use our Photoshop templates to create gorgeous examples of their work in minutes. Then, using our Online Pricing Primer, photographers can present their pricing in a way that inspires instead of overwhelms potential customers. We believe that it’s not their prices that are scaring people away, but how they share their prices. So introducing pricing and print options with clarity and confidence is important. And this Toolkit has everything a photographer would need to get started if they wanted more clients and more profits.
The Toolkit includes almost 30 different rooms and product mock-ups. So a photographer can quickly just start showing more wall art, more albums, either in person or on their website or in their marketing materials.
ShootDotEdit: Wow! That does sound like a great package! So, besides your own, are there any other products or services that can save a photographer’s time and help them get more efficient?
Nate: Loom. It's just a screen recording and voice recording tool. If you've ever found yourself writing an email where you're taking a screenshot and drawing arrows so you can explain something to someone, you know that kind of thing is going to take you a half-hour. And it's still going to leave the recipient confused. But with Loom, within five minutes, you can communicate so much more.
Photographers can also use Loom to create videos for different sections of their website, simply explaining what each section is about to the viewer, whether it's a one-off for just one client or it's a generic video you use for everybody. Start by making a video to a question that you get all the time. And instead of having to sit down and write an email every time, you just grab that Loom video link and send that to the recipient and give 10 minutes back to yourself!
ShootDotEdit: Usually, this is our first question. But in the flow of our conversation, it feels right to end with your ‘why.’ So Nate, tell us the why behind Sticky Marketing Tools.
Nate: My why is based around helping photographers unlock their full potential with education and technology. Learning ways that they can use this growing and complicated world of tech to actually work less or take a vacation and steer clear of that emotional drain that is caused by the need to interrupt life and answer emails or any other alerts immediately.
I know from experience that when you do all that work manually and then get ghosted by a client, that hurts. That emotional roller coaster is not sustainable, and it will eventually burn you out before any of the financial stuff will. So, we want to help photographers to be able to use technology to insulate their finite, emotional energy, to handle and filter all of the customers that will and should never book with you. So, your marketing’s job is to attract all the people who will spend and invest and value you and filter out all those people who will just suck all the energy out. So that’s another way to think of marketing is yes, of course, attracting the right client, but in doing so repelling the wrong clients too.
A lot of photographers don’t make it if they don’t get new clients beyond friends and family, but I think the other real reason that photographers finally throw in the towel is when they haven’t built systems and automation to protect their emotional energy. It’s hard to keep going up as an artist that’s also trying to be a business owner. So we have got to protect that emotional energy.
Put Your Marketing on AutoPilot
Converting potential clients into leads is one of the many factors that matter when setting up a sustainable business model. And marketing is a part of what can help you convert those clients. Whether it’s the emails you send your potential clients or the page they see when they visit your website, Sticky Marketing Tools ensure that you don’t have to do it all by yourself. It essentially helps you leave the online marketing part of your wedding photography business on autopilot (or satellite mode). You are a wedding photographer, so taking several courses or training to become an expert at tasks that are not your main priority may not give you the ROI you were looking for. And as Nate said, you don’t have to be an expert at everything, especially if you don’t enjoy it. So, use your time doing tasks that you enjoy, and although we understand why it’s tough initially, consider outsourcing tasks that feel overwhelming or might impact your energy.
Thank you so much, Nate, for showing us what you do and how that can impact a photographer’s life. We have spoken to some incredibly inspiring entrepreneurs in our quest to meet like-minded business owners, and you fit that bill perfectly. Your commitment and passion for making a photographer’s life easier and their businesses more profitable has shown us another can’t-live-without tool to outsource to. You can find Sticky on their Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and website.
At ShootDotEdit, we love bringing you inspiring stories from our customers and vendor partners to show you how even though the wedding photography industry is competitive, there’s still a community here that supports each other – a community that strives to make the overall experience of being a photographer and small business owner more enjoyable. As a wedding photographer, we help you focus more on your craft by taking editing off your plate. We offer professional photo editing services that match your style and to learn more about how we can help your wedding photography business, check out our pricing plans.