When it comes to running a successful business, a great marketing strategy is naturally a must and this is no less the case when you’re a photographer. However, it’s not enough to know which strategies are good bets. You also need to know which approaches could do your business more harm than good.
That said, maybe you’ve just opened the doors on a new studio and are eager to build a client base or perhaps you’re looking to expand and want to interest a new demographic in your services. Whatever the case may be, make sure you avoid the following common mistakes when seeking new clients.
- Do exactly the same things your competition is doing.
It’s common for people in any industry to assume what’s working for their competitors will work just as well for them, so they take careful notes as far as what the guy down the street is doing. Then they do exactly the same things the same way. At the very least, this shows a lack of creativity – not really something you want when you work in a creative field.
That said, it’s fine to glean inspiration from what competitors or colleagues are doing, but before you throw your hat in the ring yourself, make sure you have a firm understanding of what it will (and won’t) do for your own very unique business.
- Leave business cards or flyers everywhere.
People might decide to hit a specific car wash because they happened to see a flyer pinned to a bulletin board at the grocery store. They don’t choose a service as personal as photography that way. Keep in mind that your clients count on you to capture weddings, births, and meaningful milestones. They don’t want to hire a random stranger for that.
Instead, approach local business owners about putting up decorating displays featuring your work. People need to see what you can do and experience the emotion behind it firsthand. When possible, include work you’ve done for the business owner’s family so that they really talk you up when their customers ask about your pictures.
- Glue yourself to your computer screen.
Yes, a large part of a successful marketing campaign is about computer work, connecting with existing clients on social media, and making sure your website is search engine optimized. However, your efforts can’t start and stop there if you’re really serious about attracting new clients.
Make sure you’re getting out and connecting with people in your community as well. Be friendly and chat people up when you’re out shopping or running errands. Volunteer to help with community projects that move you. Remember, people like doing business with people they know and like. If someone never actually meets you or interacts with you, they can’t get to know and trust you either.
- Go overboard offering discounts.
Yes, everyone loves a deal. However, savvy businesses need to understand that dedicated bargain hunters care more about getting the lowest price on a given service than anything else. They’re not as concerned with the actual quality of what they’re purchasing, nor are they as loyal. In other words, you won’t be able to build the type of photography business you want if you pander to that demographic.
Sales and special rates only make sense in specific contexts. Think bundled packages, samples, prepays, or partner discounts. Avoid falling back on discounts as a marketing norm or turning to them out of panic due to falling profits, as you run the risk of devaluing your brand. You also risk teaching even your best clients to wait for sales the way they would when purchasing a pair of jeans or new shoes. Ultimately, discounts cause customers to see even great products as worth less.
- Fail to actually schedule marketing time.
If business is booming, then you’re obviously busy and that’s a good thing. However, the busier you become, the tougher it’s going to be to make enough time for marketing if you treat it like a “catch as catch can” endeavor. You risk falling behind on your efforts and hurting the growth of your business in the long run.
If you’re not already doing so, add pockets of time to your schedule that are to be spent solely on marketing. How much time you set aside and how often are up to you, but a good place to start would be an hour or two each week. Treat that time with the same reverence you would a client appointment. Don’t reschedule it and never skip it. Remember that without it, you don’t have a business.
- Make all of your own marketing materials.
Many, many photographers make the mistake of thinking that because they know their way around Photoshop, they also have what it takes to design all their own marketing materials. Unless you also happen to be a trained and very experienced graphic designer, it’s best not to go the DIY route.
Keep in mind that business cards, ads, and logos all benefit drastically from solid design and that calls for a professional’s touch. Well-designed marketing materials show potential clients that you’re willing to invest in yourself and it inspires them to invest in you too. If you’re short on cash, consider a service trade with a graphic designer or invest in some professional templates to use in the meantime.
- Spend too much time on mass marketing.
If you’re like most professional photographers, you probably don’t need to attract hundreds of new clients per year. That said, mass marketing via channels like Facebook, Instagram, local television, or magazines probably isn’t where you want to focus most of your marketing efforts.
Instead, shoot for attracting about 50 really good clients that are loyal and see the value in what you do. Make sure you maintain detailed client databases as well. This will allow you forge a personal connection with each one, making it possible to market directly to them in the future when business is slow. Try it and see for yourself!