As most of you know, marketing is of vital importance to the success of your photography business. And while you don’t want to get so bogged down in planning that you never start, an effective marketing strategy does require some preparation. These principles also apply if you are considering an overhaul of your existing marketing strategy
Before you start marketing your business, you must come up with a marketing plan. The specifics of this plan will be based on what kind of products you offer, where you want to be online and offline and what clients you are trying to attract. If you have done your research and have a clear picture, you have already completed a large part of marketing. Do not make the mistake of marketing into the darkness without having a clear plan.
Decide who your clients are, where you can find them, what platforms you want to use to reach them (such as social media, website, in-person, collaborations with local small business owners, etc.) Once you have answered these questions, you can move onto creating a strategy and setting up a marketing calendar
Many photographers love to follow their hearts and work on a whim, but this can result in aimless and unproductive work. Every business needs a strategy, and you must be organized to make this strategy work to your advantage. Decide on an end goal for each area of your business (ex. Book 4 clients/week, or make $___ /year) and then reverse engineer: work backwards and create steps to achieve those goals. A complete calendar and client workflow system are integral to organization. Your calendar will help you keep all of your dates and deadlines visible, and a client workflow will help you see where each client is in the process at any given time. You also need other organizational systems for paperwork, contacts, emails, editing and backing up files, equipment, social media, website, etc. Tackle each area individually and develop a recurring system that you can use over and over again.Soon you will have all the aspects of your business organized with recurring systems and many things will become habitual and almost effortless.
3. Identify Your Ideal Client
Before you can really connect with potential clients, you have to know who you’re looking for! Make a list of your client’s characteristics: where they live, where they work (or if they are a stay-at-home-mom), what places they frequent, their income and lifestyle, etc. Identifying your target client is one of THE MOST important steps in finding those clients. If you skip this step, you could be wasting tons of time, money, and energy marketing in the wrong way, to the wrong people, which will ultimately lead you into a black storm cloud of frustration. For example, if your target client is someone with a lot of disposable income, you should not be marketing to people in Facebook For Sale Groups. The people in these groups are searching for deals and bargains, not high-end photography. When you have a client who is an ideal fit for you, try to find out as much about them as you can. How did they find your services? Where do they get coffee? Where do their kids go to school? Use their information to create a profile of your ideal client. The key is to KNOW who you are looking for so you can find them more easily.
4. Create Marketing Materials
Marketing materials include anything that you might give to a potential client so they can become familiar with you and your business.Your marketing materials allow clients to find you later and contact you to book a session. These materials include business cards, postcards with images, pricing guides, welcome packets, etc. You can also look into other unique items such as a magazine or booklet of your work to give to potential clients. Templates for all of these materials can be found on Etsy, Design Aglow, The Shoppe Designs, The Photographer Cafe, and more. Professionally designed marketing materials will build credibility for your business and foster trust among your clients and network.
You don’t need to have a full arsenal of marketing materials before you start marketing your business, but it’s important to start with one or two things that are branded with the same look. I suggest a simple package of coordinated business cards, postcards, and pricing guides to start.It’s important that your marketing materials feature some of your images because potential clients will always want to see your work. This encourages them to take it a step further and visit your website or social media sites. The power of your images printed on professional business materials is very valuable.
5. Set Up a Website
Some photographers think it is not necessary to have a website these days, but I completely disagree. If you want your business to be recognized as professional and trustworthy, it is essential to have a website. Your website should be listed on all of your marketing materials and social media platforms as the next step someone can take to contact you and find out more. Blogging and posting consistently will drive traffic to your website and increase your likelihood of being found on a Google search, which is a very common search strategy for people seeking a photographer in their local area. You can find out more about why you should have a website HERE. I also wrote about the important elements of a photography website HERE. Ultimately, a good website will really help you stand out from the competition as a truly professional photographer.
6. Set Up Your Social Media Platforms
At times, social media can feel like an intimidating beast.All the information out there can be overwhelming and leave you feeling like you don’t know where to start with your social media strategy. I’m here to provide you with some clarity. There is such an abundance of social media platforms — Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Twitter — that no one will excel on every platform. Instead of trying to be everywhere, I suggest you try to complete thorough profiles for the platforms where you can best connect with your target client. I don’t think you should attempt to perfect or even consistently pursue every platform — it will only wear you out. Instead, think about your top two platforms and focus on having a consistent presence on those. What platforms are you drawn to? What platform is most used by your target clients? Do you like creating Instagram posts, Facebook updates, or tweets? Choose your most favorite platform and become an expert at it. Use the secondary platform to direct people back to your primary platform. Then, you can develop a social media strategy where you are posting at least once a day. You can also schedule your posts ahead of time so you don’t feel so attached to it through website such as Hootsuite or Buffer.
7. Build a Following on Your Chosen Platforms
Your posts will determine your following. Post content that directly addresses your followers and solicits engagement. Ask questions with multiple choice answers, share fun and personal stories, pay attention to the holidays or upcoming social events to keep things relevant. Post both personal and professional work. For example, some of my best work is of my kids because I spend so much time with them — this time gives me the opportunity to produce artistic, documentary images that have an impact. Personal photos not only demonstrate your skills but also endear you to your followers.
Be sure to like all comments and respond to anyone who engages with you — every. Single. Time. Respond to social media messages in a timely manner and never ignore anyone that takes an interest in you or your work. Also, follow others that might be in your target audience and engage on their pages. This will help you build authentic relationships with fellow photographers and surround yourself with a supportive community, both of which are important to your professional growth.
8. Prepare an Elevator Speech and/or Company Vision
Regardless of how long you’ve been in the photography business,an important part of relationship building and networking is having a clear way to share your company’s vision. This quick summation of your mission and specialty is often called an “elevator pitch.” When someone asks you what you do, or they contact you about your photography, you should have a prepared (and well-rehearsed) response. This is often called an “elevator pitch,” because you should be able to share your vision in the time it takes to travel a few floors in an elevator (because sometimes that’s all the time you have to capture someone!).This pitch should explain your specialty or niche so you don’t sound like a generalist. (Remember: a generalist cannot be an expert!) Develop a few sentences that really express about what you can do for your clients and how you make them feel. The environment you create during a session and the relationship you build with your client are far more important than “high-resolution images” or “CD included.” Explain how you capture love and laughter in a family interaction or thrill and anticipation in a senior portrait. Another really powerful strategy for building a great elevator pitch is to quote a former client and use the things they said to describe your work. This will directly impact your potential clients and spark interest in you and your business.
9. Create an about me page on your website
The “About Me” page on your website is going to be a more elaborate version of your elevator speech. This should include more detailed information about who you are and what you offer as a photographer. Open your About page by discussing how you will make clients feel and how you can solve the problem that they are experiencing. Follow this with something that gives you credibility, such as awards or testimonials from past clients. After that, discuss your photography background and why your work is important to you. Once you have established yourself as a professional, it is always fun to include personal details about your hobbies, interests, pets, kids, weekend activities, etc. Don’t you love it when you find out these things about someone else? It really speaks to our inner curiosity and brings us closer to the person we want to work with.
10. Design a Referral Incentive Program
A referral program can be a very powerful tool, because it provides happy clients with an opportunity and incentive to pass your services on to friends and family, which ultimately expands your business. It is important to identify what an easy process would be for your referrals so that people are willing to follow through. Come up with an easy referral incentive, such as free product, discount, or specialty gift for both the existing and new client. The incentive doesn’t have to be fancy, but it needs to be appealing enough to encourage past clients to make the referral. Your referral program will be very helpful in your early days of business, but it will become less important as you gain a reputation because people will refer you without needing an incentive! Use your existing clients’ images to reach out to their circle of friends and family. This shows the potential for anyone to become the subject of a beautiful image.
These steps will prepare you to market your photography business and attract your ideal clients. Keep in mind that the nature of this business is fluid and things will not always be perfectly checked off the list. Don’t let that stop you from getting started. Keep this blog post handy, and work through the tasks one at a time WHILE you are running your business. Over time, this will become easier and easier until your photography business becomes the standard for excellence in your area. You can do it!