Flying into the marketplace with a “seat-of-the-pants” approach will only result in a crash. Every size business requires and deserves a marketing plan, budget and schedule. Fortunately, yours don’t have to be as complex as a Fortune 500 corporation’s. If you’re a wedding photographer, then there is a traditional peak season during which you want to maximize your number of bookings. Learn as much as you can about the wedding photography buying habits of engaged couples: How far in advance do couples reserve a photographer? What kind of package do most prefer?
Don’t reinvent the wheel. Thousands of photographers, and in your niche, have already proven what are the best methods to market to potential customers successfully. Study what the most successful do to connect with and close their clientele, and simply apply their steps to your geographic market.
Don’t try to be all things to all people. Find your specific niche, so you can concentrate on marketing a short menu of services to a very targeted audience or audiences. If possible, then narrow your specialty to a single type of photographer, or just two or three. A wedding photographer could also shoot fashion and models’ portfolios. A high-school senior portraits photographer could also offer general portrait services. It’s less likely that a combination of wedding and wildlife photography will be successful. Without some overlap of multiple services, you must spend excessive amounts of marketing dollars to generate sales from both non-related niches.
A common marketing mistake of many small-business owners, not just photographers, is a complicated business name and/or logo. Choose as short a business name as possible, considering it will probably have to include the long word, “photography.” Remember, the name must fit on signs, printed materials, Web site, etc. The smaller the name, the bigger it can be on a sign, for example. Shorter business names tend to be remembered better than long names.
Don’t go it alone. Of course, you want to use as much of your limited budget to communicate with your target audience, but don’t try to be a copywriter, graphic designer and/or Web marketer/designer, if you don’t have their skills. Nothing wastes more money and time and generates poorer results than small-business owners thinking they can save some money by writing and designing their marketing elements. The money you invest in professionals to do this work will be returned to you multiple times.
Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Just as you can’t be all things to all people, don’t try to market your commercial photography services to a large geographic area. It’s better to start with a smaller area in the immediate neighborhood of your location. Use low-cost marketing methods, such as a door hanger distributed to a few thousand homes, to start the ball rolling.
Don’t continue to use the same marketing message and method unless it is working. When you see a major national advertiser communicate the same message and with the same method again and again you know it is working. If Flo weren’t selling enough Progressive Insurance policy on TV, then the actress portraying her would be looking for a new gig.
Don’t be sold by every media sales representative that knocks on your door. If you open a new photography business, then reps from the local newspaper, radio stations, TV stations and every neighbor-based advertising mailer/circular will be calling. Only a very few of these media outlets are appropriate for a photography business, so don’t be sold by their statistics and sales pitch if the match isn’t right. For example, how many professional photographers do you see on your local TV stations or hear on local radio stations? Why buy an ad in the major daily paper if you can’t find any other photographers’ ads in the paper?
Don’t rely on just new customers to grow your business. The old adage still stands: 80 percent of your business will come from 20 percent of your customers. It’s important that you apportion a significant amount of your marketing budget to generate repeat business and referrals. This is where the long-term success of your business lies, not just with new customers. You’ll spend much fewer marketing dollars per sale to generate business from past customers than new customers. Some of the most successful small businesses are able to grow and prosper totally on repeat business and referrals, without any need for external marketing.
As an establish commercial photographer or freshly-minted professional ready to open your first photography business or studio, it’s easy to make marketing mistakes that will not only cost you money, but also make it very difficult to succeed. After all, you are a small-business owner, which means you are working with a very limited marketing budget. Plus, your primary focus should be doing an excellent job fulfilling client projects.
By avoiding these 9 marketing mistakes, you are more likely to start generating business (or more business) quicker and at a lower marketing cost per lead or job sold.
Regardless of what kind of professional photography services you offer, your plan and budget should focus on the prime periods for the type of customers you are targeting.
Logos should be as straightforward as possible, without elaborate fonts and highly stylish design elements. A good graphic designer can impart a feeling of style with a standard, easy-to-read font and minimal logo components.
Now, this doesn’t mean you have to contract with a marketing or advertising firm with large fees. You can find many accomplished, freelance copywriters and graphic designers that will be able to write and design a basic flyer or other printed material for only a few hours of their time.
In terms of your Web site, another good investment is the help of a Web marketing expert. With all due respect to Web designers and programmers, they are typically not Web marketers. They do excellent jobs at designing the site’s look and pages and programming and loading content. It takes an experienced Web marketing expert, however, to transform your Web site from a pretty digital billboard into a high-volume selling machine.
Conversely, you should be testing your marketing messages continuously, so you can find your “Flo.” For example, if you plan to distribute a door hanger to a few thousand homes, then create two or three different hangers with different headlines and offers and distribute them to different groups of homes to determine which works best. When you find the one that generates the most leads, distribute it to the other groups of homes.
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