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- Going Pro: How to Make the Leap from Aspiring to Professional Photographer
1. The marketing of your photography business begins with a detailed, documented, 12-month plan. Marketing is so much easier if you know which methods and media you’ll use (Web site, blog, social media, emails, mailers, etc.), when you will implement and update them, special offers and discounts pre-determined for the year, a public-relations component and how much the entire program will cost. A well-developed marketing plan is also the best method to control those costs.
2. Other essential elements of your marketing plan are feedback, evaluation and re-direction. Ask all your clients for comments, even create a comment card or page on your Web site, and testimonials, so you can determine which marketing methods or media is attracting the most customers. With that information, you can make adjustments or continue to follow your plan because it is working.
3. Before you can implement some specific techniques to market a new photography business, you must first create an identity for your business. This is the first step toward building a brand, which even the smallest photography business can and should do. Branding is critical for companies like Coca-Cola or McDonalds because they must brand themselves to a universe of potential customers that encompasses most everyone on Earth. Your universe of potential customers is infinitesimal by comparison, but that’s okay, you’re in a different kind of business. Regardless of the size and location of your market, it’s still important to brand, or imprint, you and your business on the minds of potential customers.
4. A Web site is probably the primary marketing tool of most photography businesses. It’s where you feature your portfolio of the best examples of your work. Your Web site must also be a selling tool, meaning it can’t just tell the world what you do, but it must also answer the question, “Why would I want to hire this photographer?”
Although there are approximately one million photographers’ Web sites, making for an obviously challenging competitive playing field, the odds are not as bad as you might think. A significant number of pros’ Web sites are not as healthy as they should be. These Web sites suffer from a number of ailments that you don’t want infecting yours. Read the PhotographyTalk.com article, 7 Cures for an Ailing Photography Web Site, to keep yours in tip-top shape.
5. Most photographers are also compelled to make social media a primary marketing tactic, including Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Flickr and other interactive opportunities. You’ll also find a number of PhotographyTalk.com articles that explain how to use these social media sites in more detail.
6. One of the most low-cost and effective marketing tools is an active referral program. You should always ask customers for referrals as soon as you complete each assignment and they have provided you with a testimonial. You can create a simple referral card and/or create a page on your Web site.
7. Look for display opportunities. Photography is a form of art that people want to see, so show the public what you can do. Many will like what they see and ask you to do the same for them. Start by making a list of the types of local businesses that might display your photography as part of their décor. These could include fancy boutiques, medical offices of all kinds, maternity shops, florists and wedding, children’s and toys stores. Other possibilities are commercial office properties that provide totally furnished suites, home stagers for real estate sales and model homes for single-family, condominium and apartment developments.
8. Pool your resources and market with other small businesses. The concept is quite simple: You find other small businesses nearby that are trying to reach the same target audience as you: families, engaged couples or other business with photography projects, etc. Then, combine resources and expertise, prospect databases, what you’ve learned that works in the marketplace, etc. and implement joint marketing promotions.
What makes this work so well is that each of you are benefiting from the appeal of each others’ products and services. Let’s say one of your marketing partners is a hair/nail salon. Consumers most interested in these services or are already customers of the salon will infer that your photography business is also credible. They notice that you’ve marketed with a business (salon) with which they are already familiar, and trust.
9. Develop a strong and active public relations program. Such a program consists of your regular involvement in community activities that then become the basis for press releases. You can also write and distribute releases about whatever is new at your business.
The Internet makes it very easy to upload and distribute your press releases essentially to the entire world. Make sure that local media outlets always receive your releases.
10. Create and promote a free-photography charitable event. This is a great public relations opportunity. You can offer free senior portraits for high school students that live at group homes or shelters that couldn’t otherwise afford them. This is both a stupendous psychology boost for teens that want pictures just like all their other classmates and the basis for writing and distributing a press release to local media and via Web-based publicity techniques. Similar events are portraits of seniors in care facilities or free children’s photos when each child brings canned goods for the local food bank.
11. Volunteer to be a sponsoring business of a local contest or giveaway. The local media, especially radio stations, have contests and giveaways throughout the year, and the prizes are typically from local businesses, with their names being mentioned on the air and in all promotional messages about the contest. Your contribution could be a free portrait session and a single 8 x 10 print. Other local businesses use the giveaway method for promotional purposes, so contact them and proactively propose a contest or giveaway.
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