In my program this past weekend at the Professional Photographers of Ohio conference, I talked about Riptide Marketing, an expression I coined many years ago.
Well, there's another aspect to riptide marketing and it comes from over-discounting in one promotional offer after another. For example, the ad concept to the right is from an email I got years ago from Levin's Furniture in Akron, where we used to live. Being back in Ohio this weekend, their ads repeatedly came up on the radio.
They've done so many promotions they can't get out of the cycle without risking a serious drop in business. They're stuck in a riptide. They have to come out with a new promotion every few weeks.
Many of you have the same challenge in your own marketing efforts, especially how you use your blog. You started posting client images from recent events or sittings and now it's a popularity contest. Just like Levin's, your clients expect they'll be featured on your blog and if you don't post their images you're afraid of dealing with hurt feelings and their disappointment.
Let's get you out of the riptide!
Two of the most important tips to get out of a riptide are to stay calm and then swim parallel to the shore until you're out of the current. I'm going to suggest the same in your marketing efforts. Let's work on changing client expectations of their images being showcased on your site.
Stay Calm... You know how to focus our camera, so let's apply the same discipline to staying focused on the challenge. This isn't something you can change overnight, but it starts with creating better content for your blog.
Many of you got into this mess because you couldn't think of anything to write about and showing client images was so easy. To make a change from what you've been doing, you need to start adding some good content. Build up a stash of 15-20 posts, 200-400 words each of picture-taking tips for your readers. This is all about being helpful. Once you've got enough content in the pipeline, start a new feature on your site and once a week share "Skip's Tips" - obviously use your own name!
If you don't like the idea of picture-taking tips, then find something else with longevity. It could be great locations to photograph in your community, profiles of members of the community, even a review of upcoming events of interest to your readers.
Run the new feature for a month, and you'll be ready to start reducing your client images. We're going to be changing the feel of your blog a little but it's no different than a restaurant adding new things to their menu.
Swim parallel to the shore... Just like getting out of a riptide, there are two ways you can start to make a change with your clients. Instead of showing a lot of images from a client shoot and I've seen a few of you who show ALL of them, just pick two images. The first image is your favorite and the second demonstrates a "how-to" point. It might be about fill-flash or wardrobe, back-lighting, time of day, location, etc. You're still going to feature an image of your client, but it's going to be featured in a way that supports a new role you're building for yourself - being a mentor to helping your readership with their photographic skills. Most important of all you're going to show fewer images and set the stage to not show every client in the future.
Another idea, which to me still perpetuates the problem is to build a "Client Showcase" into your blog and simply call it what it is. Personally, it's not my favorite solution, but if you've made your blog into a community feature that seems impossible to break, then moving client images into their own section could be a good solution.
Why change at all?
While your website is your storefront and about what you sell, your blog is about sharing what's in your heart. I'm convinced a well-done blog is your greatest tool for promoting your website. It's an opportunity to build trust with your clients and show your personality, but it can't happen if your heart is hidden under tons of images from past shoots. I'm not against sharing client images unless they become the only thing you show on your blog.
Your blog should be about who you are and why you're a photographer. Together your website and blog should compliment each other, but when your blog starts having as many images as your galleries, you're missing a fantastic opportunity to build a stronger brand.
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.