The problem with marketing – a photographer’s guide

A simple view of how marketing came about begins with an event – a single person is searching for a specific product or service to purchase and is presented with more than one option. The person (let’s call them ‘the client’ now) has an opportunity to make a decision – enter marketing. The client explores many factors when making a purchasing decision, including some very broad and basic concepts like:

  • Familiarity (Reputation) – “She did photos for a friend’s family and they look great”
  • Values (Identity) – “We go to the same meeting group for green living”
  • Clarity (Understanding) “She takes fun, unposed pictures of kids and babies”
  • Relatability (Emotional Impact) “You can really see the love in these images”
  • Authority (Trust/Experience) “I saw your work on a wedding blog I follow”
  • Simplicity (Convenience) “Your online calendar helped me book quickly”

This seems simple enough – after all, check all the items of this list and you’re in business, right? It would be fantastic if that were the case, but the real problem with marketing is: you need to stay relevant, because your client is a moving target on a moving playing field. So how can we approach marketing in a way that is relevant, genuine, and efficient? I am glad you asked!

  1. Technology is not the enemy. Put down the Robocop DVD (Oh, see I’m already dating myself with a technology reference!) But seriously, as complicated as all of the new social media platforms and emerging apps can be, you can also leverage the new services and statistics from these to enhance, and even automate the parts of your marketing that rely heavily on technology. Whether you are just starting a business, or are a seasoned veteran with an established client base, digital marketing has allowed clients to find you more easily, quickly, and given you an opportunity to connect with a much larger group than was previously accessible. A few of my favorite digital tools are:
    – Tave  – Business Management for Creative Professionals – https://tave.com/
    – Pixellu Smart Albums – http://pixellu.com/smartalbums
    – Shootproof – Proofing and Commerce Integration https://www.shootproof.com/
    – Facebook Scheduled Posts – Never have time to post? Schedule all posts for a week   and then just focus on client interactions, not releasing posts!
  2. Leverage your popular content. Even basic web hosts have an analytics panel where you can measure which pages, posts, images or other collateral is being viewed, how frequently and for how long. Featuring the most popular on social media, creating a nice article about that topic, or simply making it a prominent feature on your website or blog can all boost perception of what was already working for you. Facebook now does this for you by notifying you when a post you made on your business page is getting more attention than the others.
  3.  Define your brand. Ok, come on, that’s generic. But really, have you defined your brand in a tangible way? When someone asks you what you do, do you have a solid elevator pitch that you’re comfortable telling someone off the cuff? Can you list 5-10 specific attributes of your brand? Can you describe your client experience using all five senses? Or, are you letting your clients define your brand for themselves? This goes back to my point about being genuine in your marketing approach. Clients can smell poorly disguised salesmanship through the screen. If you’re really all about hiking mountains and hanging off of cliffs to “get the shot”, can you back up your outdoorsy persona and deliver that experience to your clients? If you call yourself a photojournalist, are the images in your portfolio true documentary images, or did you produce them? Smart branding and marketing of that brand means that form follows function – in other words, what you see is what you get. Have a clear idea of who you are and what you do before taking that to market.
  4. Make your images into efficient content. Never has this been a greater concern for photographers than now, when 50-70 % of traffic to websites is on mobile devices over cellular networks. With images being your primary means of communication, making sure that your website is optimized for mobile devices has become extremely important – slow loading content is one of the major reasons potential clients leave a photographer’s website. Regularly update plugins and apps on your website for maximum performance and compatibility.
  5. Make lasting client connections. Your client’s experience doesn’t begin with an in-person meeting, or at the photo session; the experience begins with the first communication you offer – is it a personal email reply, a phone call, an automated reply from a client management system? Similarly, the experience doesn’t end when the client receives their product and/or service – you have no way of knowing how, when, and where the client will interact with your brand after you deliver…unless you ask. Start by thoughtfully planning out where and how your client uses their images – are they on the wall above the fireplace, in the bedrooms, on facebook and instagram? Connect with them – show them opportunities to use what you sell in ways only you as a professional know how to assist them in. Direct them to other services they might be interested in. This is the basis for customer service, not salesmanship.

These and many others are ways photographers are bringing a holistic marketing approach to their brands, using strategies that are already appealing to their clients, and maintaining relevance through using leveraging new technologies and approaches in communication. This is only an overview of the main aspects of marketing that photographers need to tackle, so stay tuned for more content on specific topics, tools and how to use them, and content strategy!

Reading Resources to help you get started with marketing:
For the designer: The Information Design Handbook – Jenn + Ken Visocky O’Grady
For the CEO: Designing Brand Identity: An Essential Guide for the Whole Branding Team, 4th Edition – Alina Wheeler
For the Philosopher: The Value of Nothing: How to Reshape Market Society and Redefine Democracy – Raj Patel

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