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Every freelance photographer faces the very same conundrum — when you’re busy with clients in the photography industry, you’re likely not spending time marketing your business. This typically produces a feast or famine lifestyle that nobody enjoys. Hunt for new projects, then work like crazy, then hunt for new projects, again and again. It doesn’t take an advanced MBA to recognize that this is not a sustainable way to run a business.
To help you out, PhotoShelter’s latest guide: How to Market Your Photography, teaches a variety of online marketing strategies and tips that can help produce a steady pipeline of new prospects and keep existing clients coming back for more.
So, it’s time to make a big commitment to breaking the cycle that comes from being “too busy for marketing.” Ready to get started?
The Importance of Marketing for Photographers
There are some talented and professional photographers in the world that you may have never even heard of. These people may not be in a photography genre that allows for much publicity, but another reason and more plausible is that they just aren’t sure of how to market themselves.
Without marketing, your images will go unseen. Marketing is easier than ever because of all the social media platforms we now have at our disposal. We can market ourselves effectively without even having to leave the house. However, to market yourself successfully on the internet, you need to have good copy. You also need a few creative words to get the attention of some potential clients.
Word of Mouth
Word of mouth and personal recommendations are always helpful. The word of mouth service from past clients can help get a photographer recommended, which leads to new clients. They are receiving feedback they can trust, which can lead to them purchasing your services as their friends or family members did in the past.
Networking and Local Business
Networking and getting in touch with local businesses in your area is also a great way to market for a photographer. This is important because it gets you some recognition. You should also find networking groups that only allow one person from each profession, so you don’t have to compete against other photographers in the area.
To gain the recognition and the clients you need and deserve, marketing in the above ways is vital to the continued success of your photography business.
3 Questions to Answer Before You Start Marketing
Who is your audience?
Defining and understanding your audience is crucial to shaping your business, your products (yes, your photography is a “product”), your brand, and your marketing efforts as a whole. Without clearly defining who you’re targeting, you can’t clearly define why you’re reaching out to certain folks over others. As a result, your marketing will lack focus (at best) and look sloppy and out of sync (at worst).
What is your unique selling point?
As you get a hold on your audience’s needs, this will help you identify your unique selling point—or what your business offers that help you stand out from the pack and to keep you top of mind. Differentiating your brand and your services from your competitors can be the ultimate key to effective marketing and getting new business through the door.
Is your website as great as you are?
When it comes to marketing your photography, your website is your headquarters. It’s your greatest tool, your virtual business card, a reflection of your professionalism, and (should be) a way to easily connect with you or transact with clients who want to license your work or buy your prints and products.
Even the word “marketing plan” can sound daunting, but don’t get tripped up on terminology. Still, if you expect to see an increase in clients/sales, you need to have a plan for specific marketing tactics that will drive this improvement. Our recommendation is to simply think about different marketing categories, and then list out activities that you could do in each.
Your marketing plan shouldn’t be designed to treat each potential customer as if they were in the same state of readiness to hire you or buy something from you. For example, some people who walk into the Gap are just passing the time; a smaller percentage want to try on a pair of jeans, and an even smaller percentage walk into the store ready to buy.
When you consider different activities in each category, think about how people in different parts of the “sales cycle” would react. You might do a low-cost postcard campaign to blanket as many photo buyers and editors. And you might do a more expensive photo book to send to your top 10 to make a larger impression.
You wouldn’t treat the customer who’s just looking for a place to sit down the same as the one who’s ready to buy a pair of jeans. Your marketing efforts should be nuanced.
Additionally, you need to remember one-time marketing efforts rarely pay off. You often need to experiment with multiple campaigns through multiple channels to get on people’s radars and convert them into customers.
Increasing your “brand awareness” amongst your potential customers is arguably as important as converting a small percentage of them into paying customers.
Here are a few channels to consider:
- Email Marketing: Newsletters, E-promos
- Direct Mail: Postcards, Books, Posters
- Social Media: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram
- Events: Trade Shows, Portfolio Reviews
- Inbound Tactics: SEO Optimization
- Lead Capture: Blog, Website
- Blogging: Opinion pieces, Gear reviews, behind-the-scenes
Whether you’re looking to sell more prints or book more photography sessions, email marketing is an efficient, low-cost way to build up your client base.
Practice permission-based marketing, which means only sending to people who have opted in to receive your emails, whether by using a signup form on your site, signing up at an event, or making a purchase. Only send to people you’ve interacted with recently (say, the past 18 months). You don’t send your business card to your high school teachers—it’s essentially the same thing.
Give something away
It’s just true: If you give people something for signing up, they feel better about handing over their email address. And you don’t JUST want their email address you want their business. Offering a coupon for a print or specialized content at signup is a great way to give your newsletter added perceived value.
Include at least one link in each email you send. It’s easy to turn any text or image into a clickable link. Before you send, preview your email as your recipients will see it. Links “above the fold” of the screen perform better than links readers must scroll down to see. What to link to? Think about linking out to your website, a specific photography portfolio, a recent blog post, or even one of your social networks if you’re trying to grow your following.
Always encourage visits to your website
Get folks out of the email and onto your site. That’s where they can have a richer viewing experience, learn more about your photography, and potentially make a purchase or email you to inquire about your services. The point of your email is to invite them to engage with you—hopefully on your site.
Learn more about email marketing with “Send Better emails from your Photography Studio.”
Over 1 billion people use Facebook. Twitter has over 600 million active registered users. Instagram has over 200 million active monthly users, and LinkedIn comes in at 300 million. Social media isn’t a fad—one could argue it is the glue that creates highly sticky user interaction on the web.
Though every platform is different, there are four key “rules” to consider to help you successfully showcase your brand on each.
Be a person
This is probably the most important rule of social media behavior in general. You want to operate as you would in the real world. This means you should refrain from constantly selling your services, use language that is approachable, and share content that is interesting.
If you’re not sure what constitutes interesting content, ask yourself if you’d be inclined to like, share, or comment on that post if you saw it on your own Feed. And remember that social media is not a one-way street. You are participating in a community, which means you need to respond and reach out to others (as you would do in an offline conversation).
Go behind the scenes
Give a behind-the-scenes look at your shoots: the setup, the gear, yourself shooting on location or even a sneak peek of a personal project you’re working on. This can give people an idea of how you work. Also, think about giving a shout-out to the people you worked with that day. This shows you’re a team player and also encourages those you tag to follow and share your work.
It’s important to have a consistent voice when you post. This means that the general tone, content, and visuals are recognizable and don’t feel random. Regularly posting in this way will also let your audience know to expect content from you, which will improve engagement.
Pick the right photo
Whether you’re sharing on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram, you should share a photo that strengthens your voice (which you’ve thought about and defined)—it adheres to your aesthetic by way of style or content, etc., and shows off work you love. We recommend sharing at least one photo per day.
If you’re having trouble choosing a photo, try to find one that evokes some type of emotion in yourself. Chances are it will also have an effect on others as well.
Search Engine Optimization
In short, SEO is the process of affecting where your website organically ranks on major search engines like Google, Bing, etc. Website speed is also an important aspect to consider when it comes to having an SEO perspective.
Speed affects SEO because it affects usability. If a potential client is having a hard time using your site because it is too slow and not loading properly, they will click off, and Google will start to consider your site to be of low quality.
Backlinks to your website
This is arguably the most important factor in increasing your SEO. Each link represents an “endorsement,” and the number of links partially influences how much of your website will be indexed by the search engines, and where you appear in search results. The process of “backlink” creation can seem like a very ambiguous task, but in fact, it’s quite simple. There are two ways to build links 1) do it yourself, or 2) get other people to link to your website.
This refers to the text that appears on your website. On many photographer websites, there is very limited text, which is a problem from an SEO perspective. As much as you might want your photography to “speak for itself,” you still need textual content to rank within search engines.
If you are a New York portrait photographer, then “New York portrait photographer” should appear on your website, and so should words and phrases that are similar in nature like “I specialize in corporate and editorial portraiture in the New York and Tri-state area.” Similarly, your images need captions and titles, and the more detail, the better.
For more on SEO visit “Search Engine Optimization for Photographers – SEO Basics” or the guide “Search Engine Cookbook for Photographers.”
For a photographer, your blog is not just a place to dump links and post photos. Your blog is a marketing tool and can be a very effective one at that. The captive online audience is vast, comprised of prospective clients, photographers looking to learn, gear enthusiasts, and many other consumers who are actively searching for services like yours.
To maximize the flavor potential of your blog, you need to reach people with similar tastes. Connecting with the right audience starts with a targeted content strategy.
Organize your ideas
An effective content strategy relies on careful planning. If your blogging strategy is to wait for ideas first, you will likely end up with an inconsistent blog and a constant feeling of pressure to come up with new topics. If you blog every thought that pops into your head, you risk burying the quality content with the extraneous stuff—and confusing your audience.
Create topic categories
Have an understanding of the areas that you want to cover on your blog. Think through questions like:
- Do you want to write at least one gear review a week?
- Do you want to feature an interview with an industry professional once a month?
- Do you want to have a video blog series?
Make a content calendar and stick to it
Is it realistic for you to blog every day? Probably not, and it might not be smart for you to do it either. Just make sure you have a plan for when you want to blog. It does not necessarily have to be a set number, either. The key is to be consistent, so your followers can expect and look forward to your posts.
If you’re a wedding photographer, your blogging strategy might involve doing a post after every wedding. Even if your blogging pattern follows gigs, having a set deadline for your content will help you stay consistent (i.e., never wait more than 72 hours to publish a post about a job), and meet audience expectations.
Use Google Analytics
You will also find that Google Analytics is an important digital marketing tool you can use as you build up your brand and website and begin marketing your photography business. Google Analytics allows you to measure the results of the marketing campaigns you are deploying in real time so you can see what is working and what may need improvement. It helps you set goals and find plausible ways to attain those goals.
Photographer marketing does not have to be your worst enemy, but it does require you to carve out time and map out a game plan to take advantage of the best marketing tactics to grow your business. Once you have a few strategies in place – whether that be a workflow that includes posting to social networks, blogging regularly, or sending out a monthly newsletter – you will be more able to grow a strong presence online and establish awareness about your brand.
And remember, before you start, know cold what you’re providing and exactly who and where your target audience is – both online and off. If you can confidently define your target market, then you will be in great shape to develop a strong marketing plan that can attract quality clients and grow your business better than ever before.
- Create a list of current and future marketing activities
- Create a rough estimate of time/money that you will expend on each
- Create a rough ROI (return on investment) that each initiative will bring
- Jettison high/low investment ROI projects. Plan campaigns around high ROI projects. Remember to take into account that some efforts may take longer to see a “return” so make sure you’re balancing short and long term gain (e.g., efforts that build awareness vs. those that might bring in customers immediately)
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This post was shared with permission from PhotoShelter’s latest guide How to Market Your Photography. Build a stronger photo business with a PhotoShelter website.
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Photo credit: Stephen Depolo