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Opinions expressed are based on the Author’s own experience.
This good news is that it’s never been easier to start a successful photography business.
The bad news is 20% of photography businesses that start this year won’t make it to next year.
Half of all photography businesses will close shop by their fifth year and only 30% of photographers make it to their tenth year in business.
The single highest predictor of success in the photography business is a focus on smart marketing.
Here are five ways you can not only keep your business from becoming a statistic but thrive in 2018.
Take Image SEO Seriously
The thing that I keep hearing from most photographers is “I know I need to do SEO, but I just don’t have time.”
With Google acquiring startups like Moodstocks and Eyefluence (who were built to recognize elements in images and videos), we may see a vast improvement in the way Google looks at images. This could prove to be huge for photographers who have put in the time to build up text and visual content on their website.
Even if you aren’t looking to rank for important keywords that will drive business for you, remember that every potential client is going to google you before they commit to working together. Will you be proud of what they find?
Investing in SEO (how you show up in search engines) is going to put you way ahead in the future.
Get Comfortable with Video
Video has gone from something that photographers should consider adding to their repertoire to something photographers have no excuse for not using. It’s too easy to create and distribution is easier than ever. Plus, you’re holding a device that doubles as a video camera in your hand all day.
Although anecdotal, I’d argue that the majority of your potential clients want to work with a photographer that they can see work via video. Not only that, but you can leverage the video you have into YouTube content, Instagram content, and Facebook content (effectively covering all of your bases).
While you don’t need to become an expert wedding videographer, video will cover you as a sort of personal branding. Without ever meeting you, potential clients can see your personality and already think “wow, I’d love to work with her/him.”
Relationship marketing matters more than ever and using video builds relationships more quickly than any other medium. Just turn the camera on yourself, talk one-on-one with your potential client and give them an idea of what it’s like to work with you. For example, here’s one from Michael Williams:
Dominate SEO with Better (Not More) Content
Let’s swing back around to SEO for a second here. Maybe you read the first section and mentally checked off the “SEO box” because you’ve been doing it.
But this year isn’t the year to take your foot off the gas pedal. It’s the year to put it down even further: content marketing is still trending upward.
Rather than come up with new blog posts and new strategies, refine the ones you already have. Go to ahrefs.com and see your top articles and build them out even more: adding more relevant text, more images, better header tags, etc.
It’s not about more content anymore, but better content. Instead of writing five separate blog posts about the many times he’s photographed at the same location, photographer Vincent Van den Berg of Pixan Photography pulled all of his knowledge about one of his favorite venues into an ultimate guide for getting married at Azul Fives in Playa del Carmen, Mexico.
You’ll see more traffic, more conversions, and more sales when you properly execute this strategy.
Personalize Your Website’s Experience
For quite a while, websites have delivered custom experiences depending on who visits the site. But previously, this was only available to extremely large companies (often e-commerce, travel, and financial services).
Recently, lower cost options like RightMessage have entered the market and who, although not cheap, are allowing for photographers to personalize their website depending on who is visiting the site.
Whenever I’m advising a photographer on how to implement website personalization, I walk them through three specific “tiers”:
Think of optimization like split testing (also known as “A/B” testing) where we see which of two elements performs better and continue running the test to optimize the website for conversions and leads.
For this, I like to use tools like Sumo (see screenshot below), Google Optimize, and Optimizely.
For example, here’s how I’m running split-tests on my own website with Sumo:
Segmentation is often confused with personalization because it does offer a more custom experience than just with split-testing. Segmentation means using the demographic data of the user to customize the experience on your website.
For example, if the person visiting your wedding photography website is male, it will show different photos, lead magnets, calls to action, etc.
Another example would be to segment based on geographic area (I’ve had a few clients having a lot of success with this lately) where we deliver specific calls to action based on their location. Imagine living in London and considering getting married at Azul Fives in Mexico. You see a call to action that says “Thinking about bringing your entire bridal party from England all the way to Mexico? Get our guide before you book tickets.”
They’d think you were reading their mind and conversion rates would be through the roof.
Personalization takes this to an entirely new level where the experience on a website is completely unique to each visitor. Some elements may be the same from user to user, but because true personalization scales using artificial intelligence (AI) and machine-learning, there are no limits to what it can do.
Go Bigger with Facebook Groups
Having a personalized website is great for getting in leads that come to your site, but what about bringing in all of those people who do most of their searching on Facebook?
I remember getting an email from a wedding photographer once that said:
“Brendan, why would I want to make a community around my business? People just want to book me once and then never hear from me again.”
That guy’s business is going to fail. I guarantee it.
Unless he changes his mindset about what a photographer really represents to a bride or family: you’re so much more than just the photos you take.
Henry Ford was a big believer in service. Not “customer service” as we think about it now, but service as in serving others: helping them get what they wanted out of life.
Right now, one of the best ways photographers can serve their potential clients in by creating a community that helps them get what they want.
Right now, groups are one of the best parts of Facebook (in terms of reach, but also now with group analytics) and it makes the most sense to build a community there.
For example, if you’re a wedding photographer in Pittsburgh, create a group around brides planning weddings in Pittsburgh. In the group, you can chat about the best venues, answer questions, provide tips on weather and recommend other local vendors you know and trust.
Sure, some of them might book you, but that’s not the point. It’s about being of service to them and believing in the process that if you serve them enough, the bookings will follow.
So which one of these strategies is going to be a game-changer for you this year? Which one are you going to implement right away and avoid becoming part of that 70% failure rate?