Marketing is something many photographers do not enjoy, but which they must learn to do (or hire) if they plan on making a living. Creative types often shy away from marketing, but they shouldn’t. They SHOULD be good at it. It is after all a creative endeavor in and of itself.
This post is a short primer in marketing. It's not a white paper or by any means intended to replace the serious study of marketing. It is intended to get you off to a good start. Let's begin at the beginning.
Marketing is not advertising. It's an entire toolbox full of stuff that you can use to represent your company's message. Advertising is one tool, public relations, networking, branding, etc., are all part off your marketing mix.
The most important thing to know about marketing is that it's NOT about you - it's about your prospective customer. Everyone listens to the same radio station… WIFM - What's In it For Me? If you can't tell the prospect what's in it for them, you're going to fail.
Start with understanding your customer's beliefs, feelings and desires. They may be different from your own. Get over that. If you try to substitute yours for theirs - again you will fail. Focus on their needs, not yours.
To begin building your marketing approach, you need to establish who is your target audience, what your branding should look like (from the perspective of that target audience) how you want to position yourself, and how you will execute a marketing plan once you have those things figured out.
There are many tools available to you. Networking, direct mail, advertising, public relations, direct selling, business development, e-mail newsletters, webinars, etc.
The online tools like blogging, podcasting, Twitter, Facebook, Linked In, You Tube, etc. are also very important. You can't afford to neglect any of them. Why? Because your competition isn't neglecting them.
To start building your plan, lay out your goals. Then perform a SWOT analysis (get free SWOT templates here - http://creately.com/blog/examples/swot-analysis-templates-creately/)
Know who your perfect customer is. What they think and what they want is all you should be thinking about. Who are they? Where are they? What do they believe in? Answer these questions well and you're going to succeed.
Know that marketing doesn't happen in a vacuum. You can ask for help from your vendors, employees, collaborators and even your competition. You can co-market with like-minded people. You can hire folks to consult on all these issues if you have the budget. You don't have to shoulder the entire burden here by yourself.
When you're making a marketing plan, be sure to analyze the economy, your competition, any policies or regulations that could impact your business, technology influences and anything else that can help you make decisions about who you want to reach and how you want to reach them.
You might have noticed that over and over in this post I've emphasized your target market. You are not important. They are. Describe them on a piece of paper. Think about how they can benefit from what you offer? How can you best service their needs without regard for your own? Now you're getting somewhere.
At this point you need to make some decisions and be willing to live with them. Outline how your marketing plan will establish, service and protect your brand and your customer's interests. Develop customer-friendly policies. Decide on the scope of your services and how to price and position them in your target market - which may not be the same market where you live.
I can't go to far into pricing other than to say most photographers suffer from under-pricing. Pricing should intersect with your target market. Are you trying to reach the Motel 6 customer or the Ritz-Carlton customer? Will you rely on discounts or will you sell exclusive service"? Only you can decide how you want to handle this.
Remember to do all of this with the client's needs ahead of your own. They are all that matters. Show them the benefits, not the features of your product and they will respond.
At all times be as honest and open with your customers as you can. Always disclose potential problems and conflicts. Treat each customer as if they were a member of your family and don't offer favors to one client over the other. It always comes back to haunt you.
At the end of the day, all of this works best if you can relax, have fun, be yourself, and make sure you're serving the market you want with the product you believe in. I've tried it both ways and I can testify that this works best when you take this final advice. To thine own self be true. Get out there and start marketing today. Don't put it off. I'm rooting for you.
Illustration Credit: © kbuntu - Fotolia.com