by Skip Cohen
I'm often asked what makes Skip's Summer School or this year's Summer Session of SCU different from other programs? Why do I need to be there?
Well here's one thing that makes any SCU program different - the people involved and the network you're going to build. In fact, check out Skip's Summer School, a page on Facebook, started not by me, but Brent Watkins, a professional photographer from Ohio, who set up the page last year. Today, it's supported by almost 300 photographers who all focus on helping each other.
Another thing that makes SCU programs different - being a part of these live events puts several of us on your marketing team. For example, last year I reviewed approximately 150 websites, spending sixty to ninety minutes with each photographer on the phone and making suggestions to make their site stronger. I even wrote a number of new "About" sections for attendees.
This is "Marketing Monday" at SCU and it starts with a terrific post, Marketing Basics for Photographers by my buddy Scott Bourne. Your website is one of the tools in that marketing toolbox Scott refers to, but sadly, so many of you have websites that are far from doing what you originally intended.
Here are the six most common mistakes I've found in my website reviews to date:
Galleries: Just too many images and often not enough with the "wow" factor. Your work has to be outstanding and you need to ask yourself with every image, "If this was the only image I could show, is it good enough that I'd hire me?" If the answer is "yes" then it's a keeper, but if not, don't put it on your site.
About Sections: People hire you because of your passion and the why you're a photographer NOT because of what you do, your awards or your gear. Over and over again I read bios that simply weren't relevant. Nobody cares how you got started in photography. They don't care what gear you shoot with and they care even less about awards from associations they don't even know about. What they do care about is looking into your heart. They want to know they can trust you to understand the importance of your family and friends. They want to know you love people, capturing memories and being part of the human experience.
Lack of Continuity: If you're target audience is bridal then show wedding images. If you're a children and family photographer then show images of children and family sittings. What I saw over and over again were too many photographers trying to be all things to all people. There's nothing wrong with your passion for landscape photography for example, but it doesn't belong in your galleries if your target is brides.
Know Your Demographics: Women make 98% of the purchase decisions to hire a photographer in the portrait/social category. So, think about your target audience. So often I reviewed sites that were too masculine for the target audience. Or, they just lacked a little sex appeal. Pay attention to the graphic elements on your site.
Functionality: Over and over again I reviewed sites that were difficult to navigate. I couldn't find some of the most important information about the photographer. I was buried in add-on clicks leading me to multiple steps when all I wanted was to look at images. You've got to focus on simplicity and make it easy for your target audience to find those things most important.
Oops - What happened to the design of the site? If you were building the house or studio of your dreams, you'd pay attention to every detail. From colors, to window placement and even which wall light switches were going to be on, but so many photographers have thrown together their websites with a total disregard to design. They knew they needed a website so they got one and that's about it! Well, today your website is the equivalent of your storefront. It's your business - your place on Main St. USA with the potential to have thousands of people walking by every day, but instead of something inviting that draws people in, they're going elsewhere. Scott put it best - are you trying to attract the Motel 6 target or Ritz Carlton?
This year, instead of reviewing attendee websites, I'm going to be doing a business review. I want to help as many attendees focus on what they need to be doing to build a stronger business model prior to even getting to Chicago. Then, when in Chicago, we'll find time to follow-up and look for ways to help each attend "Thrive - not just survive!"
See you in August!
Illustration Credit: © XtravaganT - Fotolia.com