When you need inspiration for new ideas to market your photography, who do you turn to?
Obviously, there are more than a few options:
- Go to Google and search for photography marketing strategies…
- Scour the many industry blogs, such as this one, to get the latest tips and ideas…
- Read the latest recommended business and marketing books…
- Ask questions in your favorite social media groups…
- Look at what your competitors are doing and try the same things…
Four of those five options are good, one is bad.
So bad, in fact, it could lead to the eventual failure of your photography business!
Last time we talked about avoiding the trap of marketing to yourself instead of the right people, and about discovering ways to identify your ideal photography clients.
Armed with the answers to the questions I gave you in the free download from that article, I trust you now have a much clearer idea of who it is you want to reach.
But, what should you do next?
Clearly, just knowing who your customers are won’t get them in front of your camera on its own, nor will it put money in the bank, will it?
Which is exactly why you need to market your photography directly to the group of people you identified, instead of everyone in the vain hope some of them will take the bait and bite.
Of course, it’s 99.9% likely you’re already doing at least some form of marketing.
But is it the right type of marketing?
Are the strategies and ideas you’re using designed to attract, connect with, and engage as many of your ideal photography clients as possible?
Or, are you seeing little or no results (like so many others out there), despite working your butt off 7 days a week, 18 hours a day?
If it’s the latter, you’ll get a lot from this, which is the first in a new 3-part series on how to entice your desired prospects into your marketing system and then guide them onto the path where they will eventually become an actual paying client.
5 Ways Popular Marketing Can Kill Your Photography Career
Where do you get photography marketing ideas when you're stuck? Copying popular marketing methods may be a bad idea, but here's what you can do instead...
Some Photography Marketing Ideas Are Best Avoided
Before we jump into what you should be doing, I believe it’s important to know what you ought to avoid doing when it comes to getting the word out about your photography studio.
So that’s what we’ll be talking about today – the 5 reasons why the most popular marketing ideas could end your photography career.
Sounds kind of dramatic and alarmist, I know, but the reality is you actually could be hurting your life as a professional photographer without even realizing it.
In no particular order of importance, here are the 5 major warning signs you should watch out for when looking at what other photographers are doing with their marketing, and then trying to apply those same ideas to your own business without proper consideration.
#1: Most Photographers Are Struggling
It’s a fact.
The vast majority of working photographers are having the hardest time achieving success (“success” being how they define it for themselves, of course).
Certainly, no one is making any kind of secret out of this.
Just visit any one of the hundreds of photography-focused Facebook groups, for example, and you’ll see the evidence laid out in front of you.
Almost every other post or discussion is a cry for help in one form or another.
Sometimes, the photographer is ripping their own hair out in frustration and simply doesn’t know what to try next, so they ask for what everyone else is doing, only to try it and have it blow up in their face.
Other times, we see the unpleasant results of marketing that actually worked, but in a way gone bad.
For example, a photographer managed to get clients, which I’m sure felt like a great thing until they ended up regretting it and wishing they’d never come along in the first place!
In many such cases, these undesirable clients cause so many problems and waste so much of the photographer’s time that the photographer is almost driven crazy by the sheer aggravation of dealing with it.
Worse still, resolving the situation often comes at the expense of properly servicing the rest of their clients.
Who wants to be in that nightmare situation?
Not you, I’m sure!
The message here is obviously to think twice before blindly copying those popular marketing methods without properly evaluating them first.
#2: You And Your Ideal Clients Are Unique
When you go through the process of asking highly-detailed questions about the people you most want to serve, the list of personality traits, preferences, and demographics you end up with are going to be different than those sought out by your competition.
Even your nearest competitors will be looking for a slightly different set of people to work with, making your pool of perfect clients unique to you.
Therefore, you need marketing copy, website content, blog posts, and landing pages designed to resonate with mainly the people YOU are looking to work with.
This will affect the images you show, the stories and testimonials you use in your blog posts and other pages, as well as your primary calls to action.
And it’s not just your clients who are unique, of course.
There’s also only one of you.
No one else in the world can provide the exact same photographs, style, and customer experience you can.
You are the only person in existence who embodies your unique combination of personality, philosophy, approach, and execution of your photographic ideas.
Copying someone else’s marketing style is therefore not the best way to communicate who you are, unless you first infuse it with your unique set of skills and qualities.
In other words, you have to invest time and effort to truly make any piece of marketing your own.
#3: People Hire Photographers They Know, Like, And Trust
I don’t care what kind of photography you specialize in, there exists an emotional component of some kind in every booking or sale you make.
Weddings are probably the most obvious example, where the photographer is being hired to capture an event of extreme emotional and sentimental significance.
Family portraits, kids photos, and pet pictures are also great examples of photographic assignments where the subjects are emotionally connected to the end result you supply.
Investing in commercial photography might seem like an exception and a perfectly logical decision on the surface, but the choice of photographer often comes down to personality or the nuances and subtleties of your interpersonal skills.
Fine art photographs are more often than not bought on the basis of a gut feeling, or because of something the client finds difficult to express in words. All they know is they love your artwork and they want to display it in their home or office because it evokes an emotional feeling of some kind.
How are we supposed to communicate all this emotion in the online world? After all, we can’t sit on the shoulder of every website visitor to explain all this to them, can we?
Most basic websites fail miserably at this.
Armed with photo galleries and a few pages common to every other website out there, a typical photographer’s website simply can’t develop a real sense of rapport and trust with visitors, resulting in the sorry situation we see with most template-based websites where people visit but don’t stick around or take the action you want them to.
This is where you need to start thinking seriously about creating website content that makes an impact, not just in photos, but in words and the overall messaging.
#4: Photography Doesn’t Sell Itself
Which brings me to one of the most common reasons why photographers everywhere are failing – their reliance on imagery as a primary sales tool, instead of words and stories.
Yes, I know we’re creative people working in a highly visual medium, and our brains are mostly wired to process visual information, such as what we find in the photographs we create for our clients.
But it’s not enough to sell what you do and why people should invest in it!
Now, I don’t know whether it’s out of a desperate sense of hope, or the inability to see through our clients’ eyes, but the end result is seen across thousands of photography websites where 99% of the focus is on the photographs.
The truth is, unless you’re already famous, photographs simply won’t sell themselves.
Instead of following the popular road of filling up a website with galleries and slideshows, you might be better off expending some extra effort in communicating the stories behind those images.
#5: Effective Marketing Is Part Of A Purposeful System
Another common question I see in online groups asks:
Which marketing method have you found works the best for you?
Unfortunately, and at the risk of being burned at the stake here, the question is meaningless for two main reasons:
- First, to be able to answer the question, we must also understand the ecosystem in which the photographer operates…
- Secondly, there is no single marketing method we can point to as being the best one…
This is because marketing isn’t the result of random strategies working in isolation from each other.
Marketing is actually the product of a well-organized system with a defined purpose, which is made up of individual components, strategies, and tactics.
We can’t point to Facebook, for example, and say it’s the best one because posting there with no goal or website to back it up simply won’t work.
Likewise, email marketing is an effective part of anyone’s marketing arsenal, but we need other marketing elements in place to get people onto the email list to begin with. Also, sending out emails where the content is all over the map, just for the sake of sending an email, is doomed to failure.
The popular way of looking at marketing, as distinct and separate methods, is a big mistake, but it’s one made by so many photographers out there who are struggling just to break even.
How To Make Your Marketing Different AND Effective
So now you know some of the big mistakes to watch out for and avoid, what can you do instead?
How can you make your marketing efforts sufficiently different to everyone else without going so far off the beaten path as to get even more lost or stuck on your own track to business failure?
Who Do You Want And What Do You Want Them To Do?
First, make sure you understand who it is you’re marketing to. You can’t expect any of your marketing to work if you don’t fully understand your clients.
Next, decide what the goals will be for your marketing, and then create a purposeful system with your website at the center – this is where your prospects will get to know, like, and trust you. This is what you’ll hear me refer to here as a lead-generation system.
Use Social Media Wisely
Social media will obviously be a part of your marketing but you don’t need to be fully active on every network! Instead, be most active on the channels where your ideal clients are also active, and remember you can automate a lot of your social media postings using a tool like HootSuite or Buffer to help save time.
The right way to use social media is to build and nurture relationships with your fans or followers, but it can also serve as a powerful advertising platform to attract the right attention and focus that attention on driving traffic to your website.
Words Have Great Power
You’re also going to need content for your marketing, your website, and your blog, so you might as well fall in love with words and their amazing ability to communicate emotion and tell stories to truly bring your photography to life.
SEO Is Not All It’s Cracked Up To Be
Speaking of words, don’t allow yourself to get bogged down (especially in the beginning) trying to do search engine optimization (SEO) on your website and blog.
The payoff in the form of visitors from the search engines, is just too small for the up-front effort. Instead, focus your efforts on paid advertising and save your SEO efforts for when you have a good amount of content to work with.
Use A Magnet To Catch More Leads
Since we’re talking about a lead-generation model of marketing, the end result of all this should be in the form of solid and valuable leads. These are members of your ideal target market who resonate with your message and want to know more about how you can serve them.
These are your warmest prospects, and you have every chance of turning them into clients.
But one of the most important keys to successful lead-generation is to use what we call a lead-magnet, free giveaway, or ethical bribe.
You can look at this like you would if you were trying to get the attention of people who are window-shopping. You want them to open the door and come inside to look around where they can get more involved with who you are and what you have to offer.
A lead-magnet is usually offered in exchange for an email address, and can take many forms, depending on who you want to attract and what you want them to do after they have it.
Because lead-magnets are such an important part of your lead-generation system, and a lot of photographers have expressed challenges in creating them, we’ll be taking an in-depth look at those over the course of the next two articles, so stay tuned for some great tips and ideas.
For now, I hope this has given you some good food for thought and the confidence to avoid blindly following what everyone else is doing and take a slightly different path to finding more of the right clients for you 🙂
Have Your Say
I would love to know your thoughts or questions on this topic.
Have you tried some of the “obvious” marketing ideas, but found they didn’t work well for you?
Join the discussion below to share your experiences, thoughts and comments: