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Have you ever done a Google search on the number of professional photographers in your local area?
I have. There are nearly a dozen professional photographers within just a three-mile radius of me. And that doesn’t even include the photographers that don’t show up in Google’s results.
Needless to say, we’re multiplying like rabbits. With the barriers to entry lower than ever for new folks to step into the photography game, you will have to put forth a conscious effort to distinguish yourself from the rest of the crowd.
Fortunately, there are some very practical strategies you can use to help your business both stand out and attract the clients that are a perfect fit for you. We’ll cover those best practices in this post.
1. Let your personality shine in your online presence
If you remember nothing else, remember this: people are buying into you as much as your photography skills, so make it a point to let your personality shine in your online presence. Nowadays, people want to be able to identify with your character, your quirks, and your values. They want to be inspired by you. This is especially true if you are a portrait or wedding photographer, where buying is as much an emotional decision as it is a practical one.
So how do you do this?
Add fun details to your website. Particularly, your About Page is an area that must absolutely reflect who you are. Include some details about yourself that make you unique, even if it is not directly related to photography. For example, mention some of your personal values that drive you, along with some quirky hobbies you do for fun. Even feel free to briefly mention the type of beverage you like to consume in the morning. This will go a long way towards folks resonating with you as a real person. In their minds, you become more than just a “service provider” or “vendor.”
Also, offer behind-the-scenes peeks into your business. Social media is particularly useful for this. Post photos and short video outtakes, as well as in-process content that shows off the making of your photos. During a photo session, have your assistant take some Facebook Live footage to engage your audience (with your client’s permission, of course). You are essentially entertaining and educating your audience, as opposed to constantly trying to make a hard sell.
2. Hone in on your photographic specialty
When you are first starting out, it is understandable to take any and every type of client that comes your way. We have bills to pay, after all. I’ve seen single photographers take everything from wedding photography, to family portraits, to pet portraits, to product photography, to architectural photography, along with a bit of wildlife photography thrown in for good measure. It’s not uncommon to see the equivalent of the words “I’ll do anything you can think of” as a banner on a photographer’s website.
However, this can be harmful to your business in the long run. In most cases, the more general a photographer is, the more they are seen as a replaceable commodity. On the flip side, more specialized a photographer is, the more they are respected and paid for their expertise.
So while you may have to initially take everything in the beginning in order to survive, my suggestion is this: after about a year of being in business, step back and analyze your portfolio and client list. Ask yourself the following questions:
- What type of work did you enjoy creating the most?
- Which types of clients did you most enjoy working with?
- Which clients had similar values to your own?
- Which clients were able (and happy to) pay you what you are worth?
The purpose of this exercise is to help you identify which type(s) of photography and clients you should focus on. You are beginning to identify your area of expertise.
I fully acknowledge how terrifying it can be to move away from the “jack-of-all-trades” model to one that focuses on only a core handful of specialties. However, knowing who your ideal clients are will help you refine your marketing message because you will be able to speak directly to them on your website and social media. Additionally, you can identify where they are in person and go to networking events or shows where you can interact with them.
Once you have done this exercise for yourself, take it a step further: add a link to your website menu called “specialties”, and publish a handful of quality case studies from your past favorite clients, along with testimonials from them. Also, publish these case studies on social media, with a link back to your website. It will help you attract future clients who are a great fit for you.
Keep in mind that this can be a gradual transition process. While you will most likely still get requests for various types of photography, you will be able to identify the specific gigs that will move your business forward. Focusing on the right type of clients can catapult your photography business to the next level.
3. Use video to show off your talent
Video can be a powerful tool to help your audience get to know you. It’s also convenient because, being a photographer, you most likely already have suitable equipment for it. I firmly believe every photographer should be using video to market themselves.
46% of users take some sort of action after viewing a video ad, according to Online publishers association
Short, interesting videos are a great way to engage your audience. In many cases, viewers no longer require every video you publish to be overly-polished. Especially with the arrival of Facebook Live, viewers tend to equate non-polished video with raw authenticity. As I briefly mentioned earlier, it seriously helps to have an assistant record the video footage during your actual photo sessions. I’ve even handed my assistant my own cell phone and had her go Live on Facebook for me while I work with clients. Read more about using Facebook Live in your photography business.
Once you have these digital assets, you can post them on your website, on your Facebook business page, Instagram, and wherever else you can think of. They will work for you over and over again with every view they receive.
Of course, if your footage is blurry, overly shaky, or just generally crappy to the point of distraction, it can discourage the viewer from watching, so keep that in mind.
4. Treat your clients like the rock stars they are
It’s a hard truth: if you simply meet the expectations of your clients, you will quickly become forgettable. Replaceable even. Being “good enough” is simply not enough these days. You have to go above and beyond. This applies to every aspect of your customer service practices.
Give your clients a great experience during the photo session using these suggestions: Offer them coffee, and make sure they are comfortable. After the session, keep in touch with them with updates about when they will have their photo products. Take pride in your packaging and photo delivery.
Give your clients a great experience during the photo session using these suggestions:
Offer them coffee, and make sure they are comfortable. After the session, keep in touch with them with updates about when they will have their photo products. Take pride in your packaging and photo delivery.
After you have delivered their photos, let them know you haven’t forgotten about them. Send them a thank you card or small token of your appreciation as a thank you for being so awesome. A simple gift can go a long way. Clients will remember their entire experience with you, from the very first conversation on the phone to that thank you card afterward.
5. A long-term strategy: keep in touch with your past clients with an entertaining, personable newsletter
The very first time I sent out an email newsletter blast to my past business clients, my fingers were literally shaking as I hit the send button. Needless to say, it was a nerve-wracking experience. However, imagine my surprise when I immediately received a reply thanking me for sending out the entertaining updates. They had thoroughly enjoyed reading about the happenings within their local business community. Within that same day, I later received another email from another newsletter recipient enquiring about a future photo session. Slowly, the dots began to connect for me. People liked this stuff when it was done well.
Keeping in touch with your past clients is crucial, and newsletters are an easy way to do that. They have spent money on you, after all, and studies have shown that people who have spent money on you in the past are more likely to spend money on you again, as opposed to trying to recruit a cold lead. These past clients can also send you referrals, which any photographer will tell you makes up a huge part of their business.
By the way, your email list doesn’t have to be huge, and your newsletter doesn’t have to be long. Just make it relevant to your community, and make it fun. Tell inspiring stories. Highlight happy clients and local places. Write short educational pieces. And for the love of all that is tasteful and decent, do not try to make a hard sell in every newsletter. There’s no faster way to turn people off then trying to sell them something every time they hear from you.
As far as email newsletter services, there are a number of them out there to get you started. PhotographySpark recommends MailerLite which is free to for less than 1000 subscribers. It has drag and drop tools to make it easy to put together a tasteful newsletter. Mailchimp, Constant Contact, and Aweber are other popular choices.
As crowded as the photography industry seems to be today, there are still sensible, simple ways you can use to help your business stand out from the crowd.
Tips to help your business stand out:
- Let your unique personality attract the right clients
- Focus on your area of photography expertise
- Use video to promote your business
- Treat your clients like rockstars
- Build a mailing list and publish a newsletter
By following these tips you will be well on your way to building a solid, strong business that will last for years to come.
And as an added bonus, you will have fun doing it!
For a bonus marketing tip, check out our blog post on hosting a portrait party as a way to grow your business attract potential clients