Years ago, my good buddy, Dean Collins used to say, “It takes more than a yellow pages ad and a roll of duct tape to be a photographer!” At least half of you are now saying, “What are the yellow pages?” *sigh*
I've said this in just about every marketing program I've done for the last five years,
"It's no longer about who you know, but who knows you!"
Today finding clients is more appropriately described as making sure clients can find you! What good is creating the finest images of your life if nobody knows who you are?
· Social Media: It probably should be first on your list, since it represents such a huge vehicle to help you expand your reach. A short time ago my buddy Scott Bourne picked up a huge commercial job, just because he chose to follow somebody interesting. That “follow” led to a new client seeing his images and hiring him for a specific project. We'll hit hard on specific ways to utilize social media in tomorrow's post. (When you're done reading this post, jump over to the sister post on getting the most out of social media by Scott Bourne. With almost 140,000 followers, he must be doing something right!)
· SEO and SEM: I can’t proclaim to be an expert, but I can proclaim to respect the people who are! Make sure you’re working with somebody who knows how to develop your website with the appropriate tags to bring you to the top of the search engines.
· Advertising: It’s still important, even in the age of social media! You don’t need to spend a fortune, just be consistent. You need to be in the same spot of the local paper, magazine, whatever the vehicle is in your own community. If you plan on running a couple times in a week and then stopping to see the results, you’re wasting your money! You need consistency for a few weeks and advertising alone isn’t enough, but needs to go hand in hand with other vehicles.
· Direct Mail: It's another form of getting the word out about who you are and what you're doing. Direct mail is back with a vengeance, having been upstaged by email for a little while. Today, a great postcard mailer working together with a couple of other partners can be incredibly effective and needs to be a key component of your advertising campaign. Design a postcard and then mail it once a quarter. And again, you don’t have to do this by yourself. Partner with a children’s clothing store, a bridal salon, florist, limo service etc. Share your message space and share your cost.
· Be active in the community! We’re a word of mouth industry. The best way to get people to know you’re out there is through personal contact! Get involved in a charity or two, the local school system, your church, community centers etc.
· Develop a promotional schedule. This one has already has it's own post more than once. Check out the queen of promotions, Vicki Taufer, who has created more ideas for Mom to get the kids photographed than Hallmark Cards could ever think of! Develop your own calendar of events and then keep your community up to date with each promotion.
· Have a blog! Develop a blog with posts about topics of interest to your target audience. If it’s brides then start to develop content of interest to them. If your target is Mom and the kids, then start writing about tips to get the kids to relax in front of the camera or better yet, talk about what makes a day-in-the-life shoot so special. Give clothing suggestions, times of day etc. Be helpful without being too hard sell.
· Know your target! Here it is again: 98% of the purchase decisions to hire a professional photographer, in the portrait social specialties are made by women! So, if you’re advertising in Hot Rod Magazine it’s a mistake! If you know your target then you can design a look and feel to your site that appeals to that audience. Fill it with content equally appealing.
· Publicity doesn’t happen by accident! You need to publish publicity releases that get your name out there. Sometimes it’s as simple as just publishing an image of you working as a volunteer on a project with the local chamber of commerce. Maybe it’s a program you did for career day at the local elementary school on being a photographer. The point is that you have to take the initiative to talk about you! Becoming your own publicity machine is a big part of my March 8-9 SCU program in Las Vegas!
· Network, network, network! You’ve got to talk to other vendors in the community and work together to hit your target.
· Buy a list and keep your own data base up to date. There are hundreds of companies selling lists all sorted by lifestyle topics and then zip codes! And, keep your own data base up to date. Every wedding you photograph has the potential to provide children and family clients down the road. Keep in touch with your past clients!
· Own Your Own Zipcode! Before you start working on world domination, you've got to walk before you can run. That means you need to get out in the community and literally pound the pavement! You need to make sure everybody knows who you are.
The customers are out there, but you’ve got to make sure they know where you are and how to find you! Survival these days isn’t about being the fittest, it’s about being the most creative!