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10 Marketing Techniques for Photographers

27 October

Note: This article was originally published on William Bay Photography in 2009 for my own wedding photography business. Since Flaunt Your Site is about getting your photography businesses noticed, I felt it was appropriate to move it here. And I believe the information still holds true today.

I’ve been doing a lot of meditating, brainstorming and reading about effective marketing and promotion for my wedding photography business. What I’ve concluded is that it all boils down to relationships. This is a bit of a revelation for me, as I have spent the majority of my 20′s burning bridges, and stubbornly thinking I could do everything on my own, while hiding behind my computer.

I agree with Seth Godin‘s marketing mantra of “You can’t buy attention.” And since all print advertising is doing is shouting “Look at me, look at me,” you have as much a chance of becoming a big name photographer as a five year old. So first, here is what I personally will not participate in*:

  • Print ads in local, or national wedding magazines. (You will fall through the cracks, while making the magazine richer, as you are drained of your hard earned resources).
  • Paid ads in online places such as The Knot, again, unless you are in an untapped region, you will be a drop in the bucket with a plethora of other photographers all competing for the same brides as you, save your money.
  • Mailings? Even worse. If you are lucky, you get 1/2% response rate from everyone you mail to. Assuming a run of 500, theoretically you would end up with 2.5 inquires. I have done this before and have not received one.

*Perhaps when I feel I’m ready to launch nationally, I may begin advertising, (but probably not).

OK, Let’s look at the things you could do that would be more efficient:

  1. Make lots of new friends and be generous:
    Like I said before, I spent most of my 20′s burning bridges. Now, I find that I am repairing the old, and building brand new ones. The people that I meet now, I make it a point to find out what interests them, what their passions are, what resources do I have that could benefit them.
    I rarely turn down a conversation anymore, you never know who is a person of influence, or where your relationship will go.
  2. Begin relationships with Wedding Coordinators and Venues:
    While Coordinators and Venues will more than likely already have some photographers they have worked with before, if you want to make a splash in your town and want to have your name/studio name permeate and be well known, you are going to have to hit the pavement and do the “dog and pony” show with your work. Show them you are interested in their work or facility. They are more than happy to meet with other industry people.
    It’s important to note while you are meeting these people, that you aren’t selling your photography, you are selling you and your personality. So turn on the charm.
  3. Bridal shows:
    I am slowly changing my mind on this one. I have bought into the stories of low-budget brides just shopping for prices. But the more I think about it and discuss the notion with my confidant, the more it makes sense to do the more larger shows.
    I’ve been reassured that there are brides that range all kinds of budgets. And the key factor is that there are brides there, my target market! As someone that is swearing off advertising, it’s imperitive to be actively engaging with them, and obtaining information from those potential brides for consultations rather than just being a human brochure and spouting off prices and packages.
    –I’ll keep you with results from my first one, (which may be in June).
  4. Join PPA or other photographic networking group:
    “I don’t care to belong to any club that will have me as a member” – Groucho Marx
    Here is the ultimate sign that hell has frozen over – I’m joining a club… Yeah, It hurts a little bit.
    Trying to maintain an outcast image has hurt me in the business world. Now, I see that I can attempt to stand out in a targeted niche group.
    I was brought to a PPA meeting by a good friend of mine as a guest and met David Willis of Leather Craftsmen, and Ross Benton, a very well known wedding photographer from San Antonio. These relationships are just the beginning of what could be a significant boost to launch my career. I’m sure there will be more special speakers, but, I think the real juice lies in the potential referrals that could come by knowing your fellow members in the PPA (or whatever networking groups you decide to join).
  5. Teach:
    The more you are in the public eye the better. And teaching other photographers makes you generous, an expert, and your students can end up as your most loyal evangelists. Plus, if you have a deep knowledge base of one particular subject, imagine how powerfully you can affect the photographic community you belong to, which makes you an influential figure.
    I am working on putting together a Customer Service workshop. It may not be the most sexiest of workshops, but I believe it’s the most vital to growing a business.
  6. Cause a controversy:
    I was kicked out of the Tribeza Bridal Show. It may not be a big deal in the local news or anything, (I did rather wish some police or security was involved for greater exposure), but it did raise a few eyebrows with photographers and vendors. As long as the name William Bay is on the lips of people in the wedding industry, I’m happy. And if the buzz is edgy and controversial, that’s even better. I want crazy rumors floating around about me. “Did you hear that a Bridesmaid at a wedding slipped William Bay a rufi?”
    It’s alleged that Ozzy Osbourne bit off the head of a bat! Crazy, huh? It never happened, but look at the buzz that he has around him.
    What can you personally stir up in your photographic community. Is it as extreme as me?
    No? OK how about challenging the most well known photographer in your area. If he says one thing, say the complete opposite (as long as you believe it). Say you could outshoot them blindfolded, then back it up. Make sure there are lots of witnesses.
  7. Blockparty:
    Remember the postcard mailers I discussed earlier, in the what not to do section. The postcards would have run you about $80 for 500 at Overnight Prints. The postage would have been about $150. That totals $230 to have people quickly glance at your well designed card before they toss it in their recycle bin.
    Instead, take that $230 (this may run you some more actually), and go to Costco, pick up enough food to feed 50 people and hold yourself a blockparty. Run flyers 3 weeks out and make sure people RSVP. People love free food and good music.
    Spend your time meeting your neighbors, getting to know them, letting them know that you are a photographer, and take pictures of everybody. Post them on your website for everyone to download. (Yes, I said download).
  8. Find an office:
    Since I have moved in to my tiny little office in the back of my friends floral shop, I have met a ton of people. So the networking possibilities are endless. At $300/month, the expense is not bad, and having a legitimate place to meet clients, an area that I can work semi-uninterrupted, access to potential clientele, and the loyalty of the shop owner by providing free photos of her floral arrangments is truly priceless.
  9. Get published:
    I’m working on this one right now. I swung for the fence, by trying to get into Grace Ormonde – Wedding Style. If I get in, I will be truly stoked, if not I will keep trying. I already have my next shoots lined up and the ideas are just bursting at the seams ready to jump out and into the camera.
    The important thing is to get into real publications, not the ones where you have to advertise to get some editorial work.
  10. Top Secret:
    Yeah, I know… I tricked you. Hey, I’ve got to keep some trade secrets.

I do hope you got some value out of this. And remember the general rule of thumb in marketing is that all your efforts will provide you with about 5% returns.
You must be prepared to put forth a great deal of energy and effort to obtain each and every customer. Keep it in perspective too, this should not be about getting clients quick, it should be about building your future.

Be relentless, be positive, and always be thinking about the future, not the next booking.

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