Sales and marketing is always one the biggest challenges for small business owners, including those offering photography services. It can seem like a full-time job, and expensive, considering the cost of printing, advertising, etc. In addition, most small business owners would prefer to spend their time doing whatever inspired them to open a business. This is particularly true of photographers: They would much rather be behind the camera than selling and marketing their services, as important as that function is.
This job can be much easier, require less time and be relatively inexpensive once you learn how to use one of the most important sales and marketing tools available: your customer/prospects database. This is a list of the people who are qualified to become customers because they’ve shown interest in your services or they are past customers. A significant portion of any small business’ marketing program should be maximizing additional revenues from former/current customers. As the old marketing adage goes: It is much easier and less costly to convince past customers to buy again than attracting and closing new customers.
It may take a bit of time initially, but you’re goal is to create a customer database, add to it continually and develop a regular program of communications with everyone in your database. Small businesses don’t have the marketing dollars to communicate with a mass audience, through mass media, for example. A better option is to use your limited marketing dollars to develop and manage an active customer-contact program.
There are numerous sources from which to build a customer list. You start, of course, with all current and past customers. You should gather as much contact information as possible about each of your customers throughout the active time period of their project or assignment. The other major sub-category of your database is prospects. As described in a previous PhotographyTalk.com article, 9 Tips to Transform Your Photography Web Site Into a Dynamic Sales Tool, using the sales landing page strategy should attract qualified prospects regularly.
You don’t need complex, costly database management software (at least initially); you can create a manageable database with an Excel spreadsheet. Simply designate a column for each piece of data: first name, last name, street address, city, state, zip code, phone numbers, email address, etc. A database should gather more than just contact information, if possible. Use a column in the spreadsheet to note how the lead, or prospect, was obtained, who may have referred a name, what photography services the prospects is mostly like to buy, etc.
Your customer/prospect database is of no value unless you actively “work” it with a contact/communication program. Develop a schedule of regular communications with your contacts, preferably via email, and then follow your program faithfully.
An email contact program is an excellent option for small business owners because the cost is pennies per contact. Designing, printing and mailing brochures or quarterly letters is too costly and time-consuming. A component of your contact program could be the sending of a holiday card at the end of the year, thanking customers for their business and creating another point of contact with prospects, but that single communication is affordable and beneficial once a year.
Your customer/prospect contact program could be as simple as a quarterly email, maybe in the form of an electronic newsletter, instead of a typical text email. As you gain experience actively working your database, you might want to add a short text email once a month or every other week. The contents of your communications should focus on imparting information that will be beneficial and useful to those in your database. You don’t want to bombard them with constant sales messages or they will opt-out of your program. For example, if you are a wedding photographer, then most of your emails should consist of tips about how to make a wedding less stressful, or directing recipients to existing Web content with a live link in the email.
As you become a more sophisticated user of a customer/prospect database, you can divide your list into various sub-categories and create custom messages for each category.
Instead of directly selling your services through a contact program, offer incentives as a more effective method to generate interest in your services. For instance, once a year you could announce a contest that gives the winner a few hours of your time to photograph his or her next major family event (not a wedding). Customize your incentives to the various sub-categories in your database. For example, offer a discount for new business from a past customer if the new assignment exceeds a specific dollar amount. You can also create a point system like a credit card or airlines and offer that incentive to anyone who refers a new customer to you that buys.
Maybe the greatest benefit of an active contact program with your customer/prospect database is that once it is operating regularly, you can put it in the hands of an assistant or even an intern (with a bit of training), so you can return to what you like to do best.
- 2013 Photographer's Market: The Most Trusted Guide to Selling Your Photography
- Best Business Practices for Photographers
- The Fast Track Photographer Business Plan: Build a Successful Photography Venture from the Ground Up
- Group Portrait Photography Handbook
- The Best of Family Portrait Photography: Professional Techniques and Images
- 500 Poses for Photographing Group Portraits
- Selling Your Photography: How to Make Money in New and Traditional Markets
- Starting Your Career as a Freelance Photographer
- Photographer's Survival Manual: A Legal Guide for Artists in the Digital Age
- Legal Handbook for Photographers: The Rights and Liabilities of Making Images
- Taking Stock: Make money in microstock creating photos that sell
- Going Pro: How to Make the Leap from Aspiring to Professional Photographer
The last step in that strategy is to ask prospects to provide you with extensive contact information in exchange for a free gift. An active referral program (another important component of a small-business marketing program) is also a major source of prospects. The important tip to remember is to try to obtain contact information, especially an email address, from EVERYONE you meet in the course of operating your photography business. You are fortunate to be in a business that offers a service virtually everyone could eventually need, especially if you are a portrait, wedding or events photographer.
Your feedback is important to thousands of PhotographyTalk.com fans and us. If this article is helpful, then please click the Like and Re-Tweet buttons at the top left of this article.
Image credit: robbiverte / 123RF Stock Photo