In early June, I saw a sponsored post on Facebook about a local photographer doing a contest to give away free portraits to one lucky winner. While I rarely enter things on Facebook (I find the whole “like/comment/share” thing a bit annoying), I did enter this one because we could use some new family photos with our newest addition, Luca, who will be three months old in July.

A few weeks after entering, I received a big envelope in the mail with a brochure from this company, and a letter tucked inside saying I had won a free portrait session. There was no obligation to buy anything, and they’d give us a “free” 14”x14” (yes, inches) as part of the prize. Here’s the kicker. Our “winning” envelope was stuck to another envelope from the same company – exact same size and weight. Pretty easy to assume at that point that this other envelope contained a “winner” as well.

This is just like entering a contest to win a free roof, but in reality you won a free estimate or quote, and one square foot of shingles for the roof, the rest is on you. Or how corporate photographers do school pictures for “free”, but then send home the forms for you to purchase prints that are equal to your life savings, and let’s face it – your child is so cute, you know you’re buying those photos.

The photographer’s creative marketing idea for generating leads in a somewhat sneaky way through this Facebook campaign is not a great idea. They weren’t really giving anything away, although I do understand their time for the portrait session is worth something – but the real profits come from prints they sell. It all certainly left a bad taste in my mouth – especially after the company called me a few days later and asked when I’d like to come in for the portrait session and the woman on the other end was stumbling all over when I told her we received another envelope by accident and knew we weren’t actually “winners.”

So what’s the point here? Please be sincere with your marketing. There is a recent episode of the Violand Vault on our website that talks about the importance of true, emotional connections with your marketing and services.

Wishing you a successful and busy summer!