In marketing your photography business, you’d ideally like to reach as many of the right people as possible, right? There’s no sense in spending money or time spreading the right message to the wrong people, nor is there any sense in wasting your efforts with the wrong message to the right people.
[highlightcenter]The shotgun approach doesn’t work with marketing; you can’t just spray-and-pray. Marketing (like everything you do) in your business must be intentional.[/highlightcenter]
Many photographers don’t put enough effort into marketing and feel that word-of-mouth is enough. Don’t get me wrong, word-of-mouth is amazing, and it could be enough, if you have a long-proven reputation, a highly-refined customer experience and are actively seeking referrals. But I'd guess that very few photographers are actually in that situation.
Does marketing overwhelm you?
Perhaps the term “marketing” overwhelms you. Don’t let it. I believe that marketing shouldn’t stress you out. Marketing is actually very simple, and it often gets over-complicated for no reason. At it’s simplest form, I believe marketing can be defined as such:
[highlightcenter]Marketing is the process of communicating to a specific group of people and making them aware of you and what you do.[/highlightcenter]
This article isn’t about marketing tactics, I’ve covered that in great-depth before in this article, this article and this article. Instead, this article is about the strategy behind your marketing tactics. It’s about the work you put into your marketing plan before you actually start marketing.
Have you ever seen or heard of the following famous quote by Abraham Lincoln?
[highlightcenter]Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.
– Abraham Lincoln[/highlightcenter]
What this means for your marketing plan is simple – if you want to effectively market yourself and reach as many of the right people as possible, then you must take time to intentionally plan your marketing strategy ahead-of-time.
The elements of strategic marketing
There are three pieces to your marketing: your message, the medium you’re communicating the message through, and the market you’re talking to. You must become clear on your message, medium and market first before ever placing an ad, designing a flyer or running a promotion.
I recommend walking through the following 4 steps to define the path of your marketing plan:
- Define your message. Who are you and what do you do? Why do you do it? What, specifically, do you want to be communicating to the world with regards to you and your photography? How can you best communicate that? What are the words you can use to describe it? What are your beliefs and how can you put them to words in a way that will attract like-minded customers?
- Determine your market. Who do you want to be working with? Who is your ideal client? What are their beliefs, and what do they like? Where do they shop? Where do they eat? What kind of careers do they have? What are their family dynamics like? Where do they live? Where on the totem pole of priorities do they place photography in their life?
- Refine your message to specifically meet the needs of your market. Double-back to your message and tweak it to make sure that it is directly applicable and relatable to the market you’re trying to reach.
- Choose a medium. Now that you know what to say, how to say it, you can choose where to say it. You know where your client spends their time (online and off), so choose a medium that is most effective for your client.
Most photographers aren’t this strategic about their marketing, and as such, they end up getting one or all of these pieces wrong. You can see now that if you communicated the right message to the wrong market, your marketing would fail and you’d get customers that are just price-shopping or ones that you end up pulling your hair out for. If you communicated through the wrong medium for the right market, your marketing would fail and you’d end up missing your market altogether. So on and so forth.
You must get message, medium and market all correct, in the order above, to be most effective with your marketing.
Marketing Theory … Applied!
This is all theory thus far. Perhaps a specific example would help illustrate this strategy.
Years ago, we started a side-brand of Bryan Caporicci Photography, called Petits Amis Portraits. Let’s walk through the above process as we did with Petits Amis Portraits, when we were just starting and trying to market ourselves to a completely new audience.
Step #1: The Message
Petits Amis Portraits were all about creating fun, colourful, bright and exciting portraits showcasing a dog’s unique personality. We had a lot of fun during the session, it was fast-paced, quick and full of laughter.
Step #2: The Market
We knew that the price-point for our Petits Amis Portraits were relatively high for dog portraits. Our ideal customer was Mary, a made-up character that we created to help us gain clarity in defining who we were talking to. Here’s more about Mary.
Mary is a family doctor who owns her own practice. She’s married with two children, aged 9 and 14. They live in a modest upper-scale home in the country close to town, with lots of property. Mary is proud, accomplished and confident. She is often very busy and consumed with work, but loves to spend down-time at home around their pool, relaxing in her professionally landscaped backyard and enjoying long walks with her family and playing fetch with their dog, Mickey, at the beach nearby.
Mary’s kids adore Mickey, but they don’t take on much of the “parenting” responsibilities because they’re very busy with sports, school and their social lives. When the kids are at home with Mickey, they want to do nothing but play and have fun.
Mary often brings Mickey to a local higher-end groomer for pampering, and although it’s Mickey who gets the royal treatment, it gives Mary a great sense of personal satisfaction knowing her dog is having a luxurious experience. Splurging on her dog is like splurging on herself. She shops for Mickey the local boutique pet store, where she buys organic dog food that costs twice as much, but she knows her dog is worth it.
Step #3: Refining the Message
Obviously Mary loves Mickey; he’s like another child to her. The whole family has fun with Mickey, and they like to pamper him. For Petits Amis Portraits, if we wanted to target Mary, we had to ensure that we refined our message to communicate that Petits Amis Portraits was about celebrating your dog as a member of the family, and that it was just as much a luxurious experience as taking the dog to the doggie-spa.
Step #4: The Medium
Mary is a busy working professional. She doesn’t browse Facebook all that often, she doesn’t read the newspaper too much and while she may flip through the local pet magazine from time-to-time, she never really has time to sit down long enough to read through it and enjoy it thoroughly. Those platforms wouldn’t be an effective marketing medium for us to reach Mary on.
However, she does bring Mickey to her groomer, Jay, once every 2 weeks, and she has been going to him for years. She’s very loyal and has a great established relationship with him. She trusts him.
For us, building a relationship with Jay would be a great way for us to reach Mary. We started the relationship with Jay by visiting in-person to meet him and show him some of our Petits Amis Portraits in a beautiful fine-art coffee table book. Jay loves them and comments that he says he’s never seen anything like it before. In the conversation with Jay, we find out that he has 2 dogs himself, and he jokes about how he can never seem to get a good picture of them, because they’re always running around and being silly.
Do you see an opportunity here? Hint … you should!
We offer Jay a complementary Petits Amis Portrait session for his 2 dogs. He brings them in, gets to see the experience first-hand, and we end up delivering Jay a beautiful storyboard for each of his dogs. He loves them, and says “this is the first time I’ve ever seen their colourful personality captured in a photograph”.
Jay is now an advocate for us and Petits Amis Portraits.
When we ask him how he’d feel about us hanging some Petits Amis Portraits in his shop to brighten it up a bit, he agrees. So now we have an advocate in Jay, who is in the unique position of being able to personally recommend and rave about us and we have samples decorating his store that his customers will see every time they go in.
Next time Mary comes in, she says “Wow, you’ve got some new photos. These are so fun!”, and Jay goes on to say “Oh my gosh, you have to do this with Mickey. I had my 2 dogs go in with Bryan to do this session and … (insert amazing testimonial here)”.
Mary loves it. She calls, books her session … and the rest is history.
Rinse and repeat.
Your intentional marketing strategy
You can see how by being intentional and strategic about our marketing, we were able to score a home-run. You can do this too, it’s very simple. Follow the steps outlined above and refine your message, medium and market and I promise that you’ll see results from your marketing that you’ve never seen before!