Focus on E-Mail, Web Site Sharpens Group's Online Sales

The National Press Photographers Association realized a fourfold increase in sales at its online store over the past two years, thanks to its revamped Web site and e-mail marketing practices.

Executives with this professional group of 10,000 print and television photojournalists in Durham, NC, determined four years ago that they needed to bring their Web site and communications in line with the digital economy. Most of the organization's members use digital technology, and the products in its “NPPA Photo Club” online store did not reflect their needs. In fact, the club focused more on selling NPPA T-shirts and hats.

These technology-savvy members also communicate primarily by e-mail, but NPPA still mainly used direct mail to reach them.

“E-mail will only grow [as a marketing strategy] as our membership gets younger,” NPPA executive director Greg Garneau said.

So the organization brought in e-mail marketing firm Bronto Software, also of Durham, to learn how to e-mail to members effectively. When it revamped its Web site in 2002 and decided to expand its store offerings, it sought out new providers of software, equipment and other products — instead of traditional film suppliers such as Kodak, for example.

It now sells a host of photography supplies and digital equipment, which make up 80 percent of the store's sales. In some cases, it resells the products or it offers the manufacturers a sponsorship deal that lets them market to members, particularly on co-branded promotions and events.

In addition, NPPA began sending monthly promotional e-mails about the Photo Club conveying that members really are part of an exclusive club and are being offered special deals. Special prices “for members only” and messages such as “You must be logged in as a member to see the lowest, discounted prices” have driven sales at the Photo Club and traffic to the site as a whole.

“What we're hoping is that services like this [low prices for members only] will also drive membership,” said Eric Waters, NPPA sales coordinator. “Membership dues are our greatest revenue source.”

As a result of the Web and e-mail efforts, Photo Club sales rose from $25,000 in 2003 to $120,000 in 2004. NPPA expects $150,000 in sales this year. Meanwhile, the organization has saved $20,000 a year in mailing and labor costs by switching from promoting its eight annual events by mail to e-mail.

The organization has boosted membership and visits to the site by holding a “Best of Photojournalism” contest for the past few years. Entries have grown 15 percent a year, and NPPA expects 50,000 entries next year. NPPA asks both members and non-members entering the contest to submit their e-mail addresses. The contest helped the group build its first e-mail list, and it obtains members' e-mail addresses when they join.

Christine Blank covers online marketing and advertising, including e-mail marketing and paid search, for DM News and To keep up with the latest developments in these areas, subscribe to our daily and weekly e-mail newsletters by visiting

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