Most people think it’s a dream come true to be a professional photographer.
And it is, but it’s also costly.
From all the equipment we have to buy to all that software we work with, it’s a tough business. Oh, and let’s not forget the props that need to be purchased and the locations we have to rent.
But we didn’t even get to the marketing part.
Who would want to invest that much in a business only to realize, afterward, that they lack exposure?
Having a marketing budget in place to promote your photography services is a must.
Nevertheless, it doesn’t have to bring you to bankruptcy.
So how about you take advantage of this digital world we live in?
Embrace the internet as the perfect environment for sending out your messages.
The variety of low-cost strategies that increase your visibility and work for you in the long run, starting from this virtual world, is absolutely mind-bending.
And that’s what this blog post is about: a marketing-for-smaller-budgets roundup that you can turn into a cost-effective, long-term photography marketing online strategy. Not all these strategies happen exclusively online, but you can always promote them on this channel!
1. Commit to your own blog
Your photos will stand for your passion, creativity, and talent. But your words will move customers from a moment of sincere admiration to actually imagining themselves enjoying your services. That’s what blogs are for, to help you:
- Make yourself useful;
- Educate your public;
- Unveil your true personality through your artworks and the way you talk about it;
- Show how your services fit the needs of your ideal customers.
You could set up a blogging strategy on your own or choose to work with a professional blogger. Either way, you do not stand aside throughout the creation process. You know your business, your services and your customers like no one else. Pair this valuable knowledge with some decent writing skills and feed your community with useful advice.
Regular fresh content
When done right, blogging is a source of regular fresh content that Google loves. And when Google loves you and feels you are a regularly updated source of information, more of your ideal clients will find your website when searching for a photographer in their area. Moreover, it sets up an environment where people can ask questions, comment and give you constructive feedback to improve your services.
Marketing your business is all about convincing ideal clients that you really are their best option. So don’t be afraid to use your personality as a marketing tactic. Your blog is the best way to express your uniqueness and authenticity, which is exactly what people are looking for in a photographer!
Be as human as you can be on your blog. Make yourself the main character of this beautiful story that you’re writing. Write from the heart and people will see your true colors.
How can you tell you are doing it right?
Well, as Kate Ahl superbly said it a couple weeks ago on the Simple Pin Podcast, “when your authenticity is spot on, your readers should be able to know what to buy you for your birthday”.
Could anyone make it any clear?
It won’t necessarily be easy, but it will surely be rewarding.
2. Guest post your way to other communities
Guest posting is all about publishing useful content on other people’s blogs. And yes, finding influential bloggers and convincing them to let you write for their audience is challenging. But if you pull this one right, the benefits will be tremendous!
Just make sure that the blogs you approach have some common grounds to your business, catering the same kind of audience and the needs of people who could use your photography services. Popular mommy blogs that real women read with curiosity and excitement or down-to-earth wedding blogs where enthusiast writers offer practical planning advice to all kind of couples are two great niches to start your research from.
These guest posts usually end with a short bio of the writer, so craft a description of yourself and your business. Speak to the language of that new audience and people will want to check your bio and click on the link to your website. That’s one way to skyrocket website traffic that is highly relevant and will probably convert into client bookings.
Before you get there, here’s what you have to:
- Familiarize yourself with that publication’s particularities – get to know its community, its writing style, the blogs that perform best and the profile of other guest bloggers (just to see if you fit the pattern or not).
- Spend some time and actively contribute to that community before you actually send in a pitch.
- Work hard on creating your proposal and bringing convincing arguments as to why you think your post will benefit their readers.
Just like with your own posts, you really have to make it about your audience. Identify one of their biggest needs and provide useful information. This is not an advertisement, but a way to make yourself useful!
3. Get out there and connect with people
I’m not talking about your customers, but about any professional that could recommend your business or send you customers. Ideally, you should have a networking plan where you actually:
- Set goals as to what kind of meetings to attend;
- Decide what kind of groups to enter;
- Commit to getting in touch with a certain number of persons every month;
- And always follow up after your first interaction with these people.
Show your value and be happy to help them with whatever you can, before you expect to get help back. Whether you share some knowledge or some contacts, eventually, you will build meaningful relationships that will help your business grow as well.
As long as you go out relaxed and eager to meet new people, without any selling thoughts, you are doing the right thing.
4. Stay social in the virtual world
Whether you like it or not, your real-life customers are spending time in a virtual world and you too have to be a part of that world. Since brands adjusted easily and went to using social media to stay in touch with their clients, why wouldn’t you do the same? Especially because you are not looking for some speed-up, paid advertising, growing your social media accounts the natural way worth all the effort.
With less than an hour a day, within a few months, you could build a steady community of people who:
- Know your work;
- Are willing to share it with other people who might need it;
- And are happy to share their thoughts with you.
Direct, honest feedback from your customers, free advertising from your most avid fans – now who wouldn’t want that?
Set up some basic social media marketing goals that are important to you, start working on them slowly but steadily, and results will soon start to show.
5. Be consistent and clear with your “CTAs”
Part of having a photography marketing strategy implies knowing the purpose of every single piece of content that you publish. With that purpose in mind, whenever you share something, make a habit of guiding people on what to do next. Use a specific call-to-action, a short punchy phrase that entices them to an action you desire:
- Use WiseStamp, a free email app that allows you to personalize your signature with social media links. People who receive your emails will easily access your social media channels as well.
- Encourage your followers to get a quote or book a session with you through the posts you share on social networks.
- Plan and write blog posts for different types of customers, on different stages of their buying cycle, making personalized CTAs:
- For readers in the awareness stage, who are just beginning to realize that they need your services, encourage them to read more about your offerings;
- For readers in the consideration stage, who are looking for photography services but are not sure that you are the best option, encourage them to read your customer testimonials;
- For readers in the purchase stage, who are on the verge of contracting your services, encourage them to ask a quote or book a free consultation session.
6. Offer incentives for your clients’ referrals
Arrr… You just need to ask, receive, reward, repeat.
Finding new customers is desirable. But your happy returning customers and their referrals will offer you a steady work stream through time. So the most effective way to enjoy referrals from them is to simply ask. Add a small incentive to your kind requests and people might prove surprisingly responsive.
You shouldn’t feel weird about these client appreciation gifts:
- Just focus on providing your customers the best services, as always;
- Clearly present your referral program and the gifts that come with it on a visible section of your website;
- And make sure you repeatedly communicate them how much you appreciate their referrals and how much you need it to help your business grow.
When a new project is successfully delivered, throw in a customized gift, ask for a referral and nothing will come out as a surprise. For more inspiration on how to make this work, discover the enticing power of mini-sessions!
7. Publically contribute to the community
As a photographer, you have the chance to get involved with numerous non-profit organizations. If there are any causes you strongly believe in and that could use your talent, get into action. Supporting their activities will give you the chance to give back to the community and have your work advertised on their websites at the same time.
This is the equivalent of blog posting, only that this time, someone else will write on their website about your contribution, so even less work for you. And the best part? By showing up in so many places at their local events, you will make yourself better known in the area, perhaps even the go-to person for photography bookings. Either way, it’s a win-win.
Again, there is no reason to feel like you are taking advantage of this voluntary work. On the contrary, you should let your community know about all these causes you fight for and encourage people to do the same. It is a form of self-advertising but, after all, you are advertising those values that make you who you are – an amazingly focused and dedicated professional photographer.