My husband is going to give me some crap about telling you this story, but it’s too good not to share.
A few days ago I mentioned that his hair was getting a bit … scruffy. He was definitely in need of a haircut. So the next day, while he was en route to a meet up where he wanted to look good, he started watching for a cheap place to get his hair cut.
He didn’t need somewhere fancy because he gets a simple buzz cut. In fact, it’s so easy he usually does it himself. But he was on the road and didn’t have his clippers with him, so a cheap salon would have to do.
What he didn’t know was that this was more than a cheap place to get your hair cut.
The first time you visit a Sport Clips (at least this one), they upgrade you to their “MVP Experience” for free. What does that mean? Not only do you get a haircut, you get a hot steamed towel wrap, a massaging shampoo, and a neck and shoulder massage.
Basically, it’s a mini spa experience for men without calling it a spa experience. Because what man is going to risk his “man card” by going to a spa?
He loved it. And he got to watch sports on TV while he got his hair cut.
Now here’s the best part: He bought product.
My husband, who has a whole quarter inch of hair on his head, bought a high-end shampoo because it tingled his scalp. (Insert schoolgirl giggles from me here).
Seriously, when he came home I made fun of the guy who usually could care less what he washed his hair with. In fact, I asked if he should be allowed to carry his man card after buying an expensive hair product in a salon because it was “nice and tingly.” He deserved the mockery I passed his way.
So how did Sport Clips do this? How did this store more than double its sales to my husband, who was seeking only the cheapest haircut he could find? The secret is smart marketing techniques.
You can use the same strategies in your photography business to get new clients and increase your sales. And I’m going to share them with you below.
Know your ideal client
Create a website that appeals to your ideal client
Get traffic to your website
Align yourself with businesses that have the same ideal clients as you
Rock Your Social Media
Create Effective Marketing Pieces and Promotions
5 Photography Business Mistakes
1. Know your ideal client
It’s utterly essential that you know exactly who your ideal client is and that you tailor every part of your business toward the things he or she likes.
Even though women are more likely to spend money on their hair, Sport Clips ignores them completely and only serves men. If you’re trying to make money, this seems like it would be a bad idea. However, by focusing on a specific part of the market, Sport Clips is able to reach more loyal clients who spend more because the experience is tailored exactly for them.
Where do you think guys would rather get a haircut? Great Clips or Sport Clips? Sport Clips, of course. Why? Because Sport Clips knows that many men enjoy sports and they incorporate that into the salon experience, even though sports have nothing to do with haircuts. This is the “hook” to get guys to go to Sport Clips instead of other places.
By knowing who your ideal client is and what they love — especially those things that don’t relate to photography at all — you can more easily appeal to them and draw in their business.
Think about the things that appeal to your ideal client. Which one of these things could you use to “hook” them and set you apart from the rest of your competition?
2. Create a website that appeals to your ideal client
Your website is often the first impression that people have of your business and can be thought of as your virtual storefront. You want to keep your “hook” in mind when designing your website and make sure that every element appeals to your ideal client.
Look at the Sport Clips website. One of the first things you’ll see is the moniker: “Guys watch sports. Guys get haircuts.” It’s a simple, captivating hook. Getting a haircut isn’t super exciting, but pair it with something men enjoy doing (watching sports) and they’re pulled in. Women know it’s not for them. But guys know it’s exactly the kind of place they will enjoy.
Not only that, the business also challenges men to be heroes by donating to the Operation Uplink program for military personnel. Sport Clips also sponsors a race car team. What do these things have to do with haircuts? Absolutely nothing. Yet by marketing the salon as more than a place to get a haircut, Sport Clips calls on its customers to be a better version of themselves. It’s even more reason for men to choose Sports Clips.
What interests your ideal client and encourages him or her to be a better version of themselves? Blog about these things. Incorporate them into your website.
Create a list of 5 blog post ideas that would appeal to your ideal client. Schedule time into your calendar now to write and publish these posts.
Read even more about creating a website that will appeal to your ideal client.
3. Get traffic to your website
A website isn’t going to do you much good if no one sees it. There are three main ways that people are going to find your site.
Although showing up in search engine rankings (called Search Engine Optimization, or SEO) can seem complicated, there’s a few simple things you can do to help improve your chances.
Blog regularly. Google likes websites that have fresh content on a regular basis. Blog the photographs you take, blog about things that appeal to your ideal client, and feature vendors that have similar ideal clients as you. Try to blog at least once a week.
Install a SEO plugin so that Google knows what your posts are about. This usually involves about 5 extra minutes of work after writing your posts, but it will help you rank much higher for your desired keywords.
Use “ALT tags” on your images. When uploading your images to your website, use the ALT tag fields to describe your images. Make sure to use the keywords you want to rank for in the photos (such as “Wisconsin Wedding Reception at a Rustic Barn Venue near Madison”)
Add new blog posts to Google+. Google is increasingly giving more weight to links posted on Google+ in search engine rankings, so you’ll rank higher if you use Google+ at least a little bit. Another benefit is that Google will see faster that your post exists when you put it on to Google+. You don’t have to wait for the search engine’s “spiders” to crawl your site on their own.
Write guest posts for blogs like this one and put a link back to your website in the author bio at the end. Use the words you want to rank for as the words that make up the link. This tells Google what your site is about.
Go back to your most popular blog posts and tweak them with the suggestions above to make them more SEO friendly. Then post a link to them on Google+ so that Google sees the changes right away.
Social Media & Client Recommendations
When you blog the images from your client’s photo session, take a moment to post them on Facebook, Twitter or any other social media outlets that your ideal clients use. They’ll share the images with their friends and you’ll get traffic as they point people your way.
I’ll talk more later on about using social media effectively, so keep reading.
Your email list
If you are a portrait photographer, your email list is your greatest asset. Yet most people completely disregard the value of this data.
By building an email list using a service like AWeber or MailChimp, you’re essentially creating a list of people that you KNOW are interested in your work and want to hear about your promotions. They’re the people who are more likely to buy from you in the future. If you’re writing about things on your blog that they’re interested in and you tell them via email, they’ll come check it out. In fact, they’ll see the email as a service to them because they won’t have to keep checking your website for updates.
Not only that, but if you decide to do mini sessions or a seasonal promotion you can simply send out an email and know that everyone on your list will see it, unlike on Facebook where only a small portion of your fans will actually see your post. By using a targeted email list, you are more likely to get people signed up quickly.
If you want more in-depth advice about getting traffic to your site (including more info on how to create and use an email list), read this Website Traffic post by Zach Prez now.
4. Align yourself with businesses that have the same ideal clients as you
Everyone hears that networking is important. However, not all networking relationships are equal. To get the most out of your networking relationships, it’s important that you identify people and businesses to network with that share the same ideal client as you.
That way, when those business owners recommend your photography to their clients, your business will be more likely to resonate with them since your businesses attract the same kind of clients.
It’d be pretty useless for the owner of a Sport Clips salon to network with a women’s boutique clothing store. Their ideal clients are completely different.
Not sure how to create a profitable networking relationship? Read the Ultimate Guide to Photography Networking now.
5. Rock Your Social Media
I have a love-hate relationship with social media. I love the free marketing it can provide, but it’s also a potential time-waster if I’m not careful.
So here are some tips to helping you rock your social media marketing without wasting all your time (and actually get results).
Be where your ideal client is and don’t worry about the rest.
Is your ideal client on Facebook? Twitter? Google+? Be there.
For most photographers, Facebook is the most likely place where an ideal client is spending time. Twitter and Google+ tend to attract more business owners. So if you mostly do photography for other businesses instead of for the general public, then those two might be a better place to focus your time.
Engage with your followers
Social media is meant to be more interactive than your website. The more you can strategically engage with your readers, then the better your results will be.
Constant engagement can be incredibly time-consuming, but it’s essential to engage at least to a point if you want your social media marketing to be effective.
Start with one social media outlet before moving to the others.
You’ll get a more loyal following and be more successful by focusing your efforts in one area before moving to the others. You will spend more of your time engaging and won’t spread yourself too thin.
Engagement is key. I can’t stress that enough. The more your audience is engaged, the more loyal they will be to your business — and the more likely it is they will buy repeatedly from you.
Post more about others than yourself
Let’s look at Sport Clips again. Its Facebook page is more about sports than about haircuts. There are a few posts that talk about hair, hairstyles or their services, but the majority of their posts are about things that interest their followers and will make them WANT to follow the business’s Facebook page.
This is the big secret to effective social media marketing — and where most photographers fail. Your social media accounts are not for your own promotion. Their #1 purpose is for engaging, entertaining and empowering your followers. So post things that your clients like and engage with. Then, when you do post your own work, they’ll be more likely to see it in their newsfeeds and get you the exposure you need.
If you’re posting things that your ideal client is interested in, it will be easy to regularly find things to post about.
Various social media experts suggest posting at least daily, if not two or more times per day.
I recommend that you post as often as you can find relevant content to post. Don’t just post for the sake of posting something, but post stuff your ideal clients will love. Posting items they don’t care about will only hurt you, especially if you post too often.
Make a list of topics besides photography and your business that you could post about on your social media accounts. Spend one day a week finding various things to post, and take the time to schedule them in advance to publish later so you don’t have to do this every day, all week long.
6. Create Effective Marketing Pieces and Promotions
When you create your marketing pieces and promotions, do everything you can so that your ideal clients will envision using your products and services.
The more easily they can imagine themselves working with you and owning the products you offer, the more likely they will want to hire you.
Let’s look at a few ways to help them do this.
Don’t forget the testimonials
People look to others and their experiences when making decisions, so the more you can showcase testimonials, the more effective your marketing pieces will be.
Use testimonials from past clients that talk about what they did with their products and how they enhance their life. This will help new clients envision your products in their home, too. For example, “Working with Fabulous Photography Business was one of the best decisions we made! Every time I walk past the canvas collection in my living room, I see my smiling family and can’t help but smile at the memories they captured.”
To get testimonials that are effective and not just an unoriginal phrase like “They were awesome,” send out a survey with leading questions in it.
So to get a client testimonial like the one in the first example, you might ask them what they did with their images and how they react when they see them.
Create a list of questions to ask your clients after they work with you in order to get the testimonials you need to infuse your marketing pieces with extra effectiveness.
Speak in terms of benefits and not features.
Let’s say you offer custom handbags, beautiful greeting cards and other products that you think your client should have.
I hate to break it to you, but your clients don’t hire you because they want a custom handbag or some greeting cards.
They hire you because they want the “oohs” and “ahs” they’ll get from their friends when they take their custom handbag out in public. They hire you because they want to please their family by sending them personalized greeting cards that feature their gorgeous children.
See the difference? Don’t talk about the specific things they get. Instead, talk about what they gain from having those things. How do they REALLY benefit from having your products?
Sport Clips does this, too. “Evoking the feel of the old-time barbershop, the Sport Clips’ MVP service is a refreshing pause from your busy day!” A refreshing pause sounds so much better than just telling guys that they get a haircut.
Make a list of each type of session and product you offer. Write down the benefit your client gets from choosing each one. Look back at this list every time you write a marketing piece.
Put your products in their hands as much as possible
People value a product more if it’s physically in front of them. While a photo is better than just text, actually letting them feel and touch something will increase its value in their eyes.
You can’t do this with all your marketing, but take advantage of this as much as you possibly can.
If you have a studio, put samples of your albums, cards, prints and other products in your prospective clients’ hands as much as you can.
If you don’t have a studio, bring samples to all your consultations and sessions so people can feel them before they place an order and start wanting these things.
Yes, I know some samples are expensive (such as albums), but you’ll easily make your money back with your first sale. Not only that, but you’ll make far greater than one sale by having a sample.
Sport Clips does this by upgrading its new clients to the high-end service for their first visit. Once they experience it, they’re more likely to choose it the next time they come into the salon. And if they like how tingly the shampoo is, they might also buy product like my husband did and spend about double what they would have otherwise at a competitor’s salon.
Write down all the ways you could get a physical copy of your products into your clients’ and prospective clients’ hands.
Custom Greeting Card Idea:
If you’re going to do a greeting card sale at the end of the year, use a printer such as moo.com that allows you to buy sets with single, individualized designs. Then create a card for each of your past customers that mimics what they could purchase from you and has their photos in it. Put the promo info on the back or inside of the card and send it to them.
First off, if they get something and they see a photo of themselves or their kids on it, they’re not likely to throw it away and it’ll get much more attention than if the greeting card featured someone they didn’t know.
Second, because they can actually see and touch the card, they’re more likely to order them because it’s right their in their hands and they don’t have to make a big mental jump to imagine them sending that card to all their friends.