Why are professional photographers so bad at marketing?
In the years that I’ve been a pro photographer, I’ve rarely seen other photographers taking the consistent and well thought out approach that is needed for marketing their photography business.
Hopefully you’re not already making one of the big Mistakes beloved of many photographers, and assuming that just because you take good photos, people must want to use your work? (More Photographers’ Business Mistakes)
I’m sure there are others, but here are 3 important aspects of Marketing that you really should consider.
- Your target Market
- Your Message
- Your Media
and two more that might not seem so obvious
- Your Mindset
- Your Measurements
First up, what I’d call the three obvious aspects of marketing – the ones you’ll find in many books and in great detail
Your target Market
- Who are the clients that could use your skills and work?
- Where are they?
- Where do they go? If I want to promote the construction photography side of my business, is a wedding fair really the place to focus my efforts?
- Will they use you? Do they use businesses like yours?
- How many of them are there? Different approaches work for different size audiences.
- What value are they to you? (i.e. directly advertising my services to people who can’t afford my rates is a little pointless, but they might be people who are in a position to pass on my details – is this worth the effort?)
Remember that you may decide to market towards several different potential groups, but you need to ask these questions for each.
Now you know who you want to talk to, what should you say?
- What is it that you do that makes you of interest to your chosen market? (Hint: ‘Takes really good photos’ is probably not enough here)
- Why you? As opposed to all the other competent photographers out there.
- Is your message appropriate and relevant? (Do you ignore ‘Dear Sir’ emails when a little research by the sender would have given your name?)
- Are you trying to send too many messages in one go? Simplicity and clarity helps – so, I might just be promoting my work as an architectural photographer in a campaign, even though I photograph corporate event too.
Remember that your message needs to address client needs and the ‘What’s in it for me’ question.
It’s what you use to get your message over: Web site, blog, email, social networking, mail shot, on-line advertising, press coverage and many more…
OK, you know what you want to say and to whom. How do you get it to them?
Is the media you choose relevant? If I was a portrait photographer I might decide that a lot of my clients use Facebook, so I might direct a campaign there. If I’m promoting my work as an industrial photographer, I’m going to assume that not many people post pictures of new machinery in their factory on their wall.
Remember that the greatest architectural photography portfolio is of little use if you only advertise it at local craft fairs.
Now to what I find the the more difficult bits…
So, do you actually want to get more work?
No really, it’s going to take some effort. You are going to have to face rejection and negative reactions to what you do.
If marketing your services was easy, then lots of photographers would be doing it a lot more than we see.
The first three of the ‘M’s are in some ways the easy bit. You can research your target market, decide what best to say to them, and decide how to present this to them, without ever having to actually meet any new potential customers.
You are trying to convince people to spend money on getting you to do something for them. People are resistant to this and often sceptical.
I have a dislike of obvious ‘sales techniques’ when it comes to talking with clients – any talk of ‘closing’ or other stuff out of the salesman manual just gives me a slightly tacky feeling. Insincere smiles and cheap suits just spring to mind…
You need to find ways of promoting your business that you feel comfortable with – perhaps explaining your real value to the potential client will help.
Perhaps you can outsource some of your marketing – there are lots of people happy to advise and run marketing campaigns (but make sure they understand what it is you do and why you are using them) Of course – getting someone to help will cost money, but if you really are not very comfortable here, then consider it, since unless you are committed to your marketing campaign, it’s unlikely to do well.
Is your promotional campaign doing well? how do you know?
Any campaign without targets is bound to fail – how can you prove otherwise? (or vice versa)
Such perceived failure is a great source of bad feedback – if you don’t feel things are working, you are less inclined to try, and so on.
Just as you need to keep a tight overview of where the money goes in your business, you need to set measurable targets and outcomes for any marketing campaign, particularly if outsourced. Keep things realistic. A few relatively easy targets accomplished at the start can make it easier to deal with the downs as well as the ups.
Targets can be things like visitor numbers to a web page or levels of new business – but they need to be measurable.
I’d add Meaningful as well, but perhaps that’s enough ‘M’s for the time being…