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5 ‘M’s – Marketing for photographers

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Basic marketing principles for pro photographers – the 5 ‘M’s

Five fundamental marketing steps beginning with ‘M’

Keith looks at five basic principles of marketing that all start with the same letter. Hopefully this makes it a bit easier to remember, but given how poor most photographers are at marketing, you do wonder…

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Why are professional photographers so bad at marketing?

business meeting

How clear are your marketing messages?

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.

Your Message

Microphones at a conference.

What are you going to say?

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.

Your Media

corporate event

Is anyone there to hear your message?

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

Your Mindset

face to face marketing

Are you going to be comfortable with marketing?

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.

Your Measurements

blackjack table

Do you have a plan, or just wishful thinking?

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…

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  • Keith | Mar 1, 2011 at 9:27 am

    I’ve not tried FD lenses (since they need an adapter with a lens in order to get infinity focus) but I do use a different focus screen in my 1Ds3.

    No problem with focusing M645, Olympus OM and M42 lenses. Might be worth asking on the alternative lenses forum?

  • Hofmeyr Steyn | Mar 1, 2011 at 12:14 am

    Hi Keith

    I recently got my self a Canon 1D markIII. I’ve got a lot of old FL, FD and Pentax screw lenses (obviously with the adaptors) I think the FD-EF is a Coken, not sure though, it’s got no name on it. It just “says” “CANON(AF)/FD JAPAN” and on the other side it’s got the “LOCK ——-OPEN” for the diaphragm follower. When I mount my FD or FL lenses and get a crisp clear image in the viewfinder the photo is totally out of focus.

    I just want to know if you had the same experience and if so, how did you solve the problem.

    I’ve tried CANON FD 35mm 1:2, FD 85mm 1:1.8, FL 50mm 1:1.8, FL 135mm 1:3.5, FD 50mm 1:1.8, FD 600mm 1:5.6L and Pentax 50mm 1:1.4 and they all have the same result.

    If you have any answers I would really appreciate it.

    Kind regards


    PS they all work fine on my EOS5(film), 300v(film), 300D and 1000D

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