It's Marketing Monday! Years ago my good buddy Dean Collins used to say, "All you need to be a photographer is a roll of duct tape and a yellow pages ad!"
Obviously he was joking, but sadly there are some of you who still act as if it's true, thinking all you need is a website and activity in social media. The truth is; you've got to find things to excite your target audience. Now and then that means you're going to have to offer something special and different.
You need to come up with creative promotions, at least one each quarter. The whole idea is to even out the peaks and valleys in the business cycle. While you can't stop a few of the valleys, you can create programs that limit the extremes, especially during periods you already know are typically slow.
Let's start with a few basics and then we'll move into some specific ideas.
If you're short on ideas for promotions, here are four good ones to get you started:
Date Night: This is one of my favorites. I first heard about it a few years ago from a photographer at Skip's Summer School, but since then a lot of people have put a little different spin on it. Start by finding a great little restaurant in the community and work with them on a discounted gift certificate for two for dinner. Next, your pitch is to Mom, and it couldn't be easier to understand: "When was the last time you and your husband got out to dinner without the kids?" Your promotional offer is a package deal that includes a half-hour portrait sitting, shot like an engagement session and then they're off to dinner, on you. The gift certificate for dinner is included in the evening along with the portrait session. It's up to you what you want to build into the package in terms of prints and the finished product.
Pet Promotions: Vicki Taufer set the standard years ago with her Dog Days of Summer program. That's her original post card and announcement of the program on the right. The promotion was for a free sitting and a 5x7 print in exchange for a food contribution to the local animal shelter.
It's up to you whether you do a small print for free or charge a minimal amount, but the idea is to get pet owners in for a portrait. Remember the hierarchy of why people hire a professional photographer: Brides, babies and pets, in that order.
Third Party Promotions: I did a podcast for Weekend Wisdom with Doug Box a short time back, and he shared some outstanding ideas. The summary is pretty simple. Offer a gift certificate to a third party to use for their clients. Doug talks about a photographer he worked with who came up with a special gift certificate for a portrait sitting for her insurance agent to give away to key clients. Because the gift was from the agent to his clients, the photographer was insulated from discounting her products. It drove traffic to her studio and in turn created new business.
Just click on the banner below to hear the podcast and learn more about third party promotions.
Own Your Zipcode: The first time I heard the expression was from my good buddy Scott Bourne. This idea is about making sure every retailer in your zip code knows who you are and your skill set. You've got to knock on doors and introduce yourself, and it doesn't matter what your specialty is! For example, some of you might introduce yourself with:
"I just wanted to introduce myself. While most of my work is wedding photography, there's nothing I can't photograph. I also have a pretty terrific network of photographers I work with. If you ever need help with anything photographic, just give me a call. I love being in this area, and I'm here to help."
I'll share more ideas in the weeks ahead, but you need to remember; creating excitement in your market is your responsibility. Check out your competitors and look at what they're doing...then, do something else!
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.