by Skip Cohen
It's Marketing Monday and the seasonality of the fourth quarter is just down the road. Are you ready? While parts of today's post are out of the SCU archives, it doesn't make the topic any less relevant.
Challenges in technology and consumer trends are touching everybody. I'm not minimizing the degree of difficulty in growing your business today, but I'm frustrated with hearing photographers cry the blues when they haven't made an effort to evaluate and restructure their current business model.
Those photographers whose businesses have been solid this year are doing new things to reach their audience. Nobody is working any less, just smarter. Every photographer who has told me they're doing okay always follows with, "But I've NEVER worked so hard in my life!"
There is no secret to surviving as a professional photographer today—survival is all about marketing, promotion, hard work, and utilizing every aspect of new technology. But there are some aspects of running a photography business that everyone needs to spend more time thinking about.
Diversification: Are you hitting the same old target or developing new markets? For example, if you're a wedding photographer, how many of your brides in the last few years now have children? If they loved working with you, how about photographing their young family? If you don't want to stray from your core business, then at least develop a relationship with a children and family photographer and then cross-promote with each other.
Years ago—sorry I don't remember where—statistics were suggesting that 95% of brides under 30 have a baby within three years of their wedding date. Every bride you've ever photographed is a potential customer for family portraiture.
The demand for professional portraiture and why people hire a photographer in the portrait/social categories still runs in this order: brides, babies, and pets. And, my speculation is children, family, seniors, and boudoir follow in that order. So if business is down, take a look at your client database and find opportunities to create new clients or new applications.
Market and Promote: What are you doing to promote yourself? Are you involved in the community? Are you advertising in local papers and online? Do people recognize your presence? Do you own your zip code? Are you maximizing your effectiveness with texting technology like PhotoTexting.com is offering? Are you working too build your reputation as the photography expert in your community?
Well-known professional photographer and good buddy David Ziser, in a program many years ago, talked about tracking anniversary dates of his clients and did a first anniversary sitting at no charge. Think about it...the younger the bride, the more friends she has who will soon be getting married—it's a publicity manager's dream!
And Dean Collins, at holiday time would do a free family sitting of the president or CEO of companies who's annual reports, advertising, etc. he'd worked on during the year. He wasn't just a photographer but a relationship builder!
The Internet and Social Media: You can't be in business without a website, but how about the message you're presenting? Look at blogs, for example. Everybody wants to have a blog, but only a handful of photographers are doing it the right way.
Your website is about what you sell, but your blog is about what's in your heart. The two work together to help build your brand. And, to be successful with your blog you need to be helpful, relevant and consistent.
Attitude: When was the last time you did an attitude check on yourself? I am reminded of the unspoken oath we all took when we fell in love with photography as professionals! That oath, we all share, is about quality, service, and responsibility. It's everything I've been writing about since my first blog post almost ten years ago. Your clients trust you to be their eyes and heart at a wedding. At a portrait sitting they're trusting you to see them the way they see themselves. They're trusting you to deliver a product far better than Uncle Harry could ever dream!
Think about how much you love the craft and all the excitement in our industry today. We're living in a version of Who Moved My Cheese? It's a business parable that was on The New York Times Best Seller List in the late 1990s and well worth a two-hour investment of time to read. If you've read it, you'll understand the only thing that's changed in our industry is that the "cheese been moved," and we simply have to work harder to find it!
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Check out "Why?" one of the most popular features on the SCU Blog. It's a very simple concept - one image, one artist and one short sound bite. Each artist shares what makes the image one of their most favorite. We're over 100 artists featured since the project started. Click on the link above and you can scroll through all of the episodes to date.