marketing techniques – how to get client for the professional photographer

How to get clients Marketing tips for the beginner in professional photography This is probably the most important questions for any emerging photographer wishing to have a photography business. Let’s […]

How to get clients

Marketing tips for the beginner in professional photography

This is probably the most important questions for any emerging photographer wishing to have a photography business. Let’s assume you master your camera settings and you wish to make an income with it? here are few tips on how to start having clients in an organised serious business way, other than the accidental friend asking you to take photos at his or her wedding, or the friend asking you to take photos of their baby in a park. Getting a paid job as a photographer is not as easy as you hear some people showing off how good they are and how people jumped on them and begged them to offer their incredible talent after seeing their only one wedding or taking a photo of one baby. I can assure you there is no such thing and I believed it once until I tried it for myself.

It took a good 1-2 years and tens of free sessions until I charged a fee for my photography by sending an invoice for someone looking for a professional photography service. I have spent thousands of hours researching, testing, many marketing ideas and failed many times. I will share few marketing ideas, with their pros and cons to enable you to think, and try to apply some of them in real life to see where that takes you. Some of them work more than others and some of them have been complete failures. But that is OK as the path of success is only a number of failures until you get the ones that work for you.

What is marketing? you need to get your name to as many people as possible in the shortest time possible. The more people know about you, the more chances you have to close a deal. Quality and price are coming second. I know many photographers who are offering half price and low quality, but they have business that work, and I know talented photographers who take amazing photos who do not have any clients. at the end the mindset beats the quality, and the marketing skills will promote a business to success.

In this article we will outline the most common marketing tips and we will go through detail for each individual one in separate sections where we will discuss the relevant aspect in details

Marketing techniques

1. Brochure distribution – direct mail marketing

The concept is very simple: you need to design a brochure with your business details and an offer, print it in many copies and distribute it in peoples mailboxes. The more you have the better chances to get a phone call from someone needing a photographer. You can distribute them yourself, and get someone else to do it. There are companies charging one flat fee to distribute 10 thousands copies and save you your own time

Pros:

-large number of brochures distributed in a very short of time

Cons:

-cost or time of both for the distribution

-low return rate. That also depends on the demographics of the area covered. I have distributes 10 thousands copies where I live, but hardly received any phone calls back as I was offering wedding services in a residential area where most of people are established families already married. I did not do my homework and I paid for it. For me it was a failure at that time, but I have friends who are making a killing with other businesses. So be careful if you want to do this as it can be a waste of money and time of you are targeting the wrong people

2. the ballot box – newsletter and email marketing

The idea is to place a ballot box in a public space with an offer and people will subscribe to receive a free print, session or whatever you can offer. You will need to leave the box for few weeks and you will see there are people filling up your forms to win your competition. you will get their details and contact them and offer them the chance to take advantage of your offer. This method works, and it depends also where you place this box, what you offer and how you deal with the whole scenario

I have bought 3 boxes, asked many local business to allow me to put one in their stores in exchange to the shared list of contact details, also offering a free session to one of their clients. Probably one in ten business reacted positive to this idea, and I have managed to find 3 shops willing to do this. Like in any other business, you need to be able to take rejection as people will say no to your face when you try this one, but be ready as there will be one who will accept it. I have left each box for about a month before christmas and easter and I have collected between 30 to 50 email addresses. from each box in 4-6 weeks. I have contacted all of them and I was surprised that only 10% actually made it to my studio, despite the fact they responded to my ad.

Pros:

– easy to collect email adresses form people already interested in your service

– good rate of return

– guaranteed you are going to do some sessions

Cons:

takes time to get accepted or to find a spot

limited campaigns, – you do not need to abuse this technique as if it becomes the norm, people will ignore it be seeing your ballot boxes to often

3. the market stall

Depending on your type of photography, you can book a stall to a bridal fair, baby fair or any one off event with a lot of visitors. You can have sample ready of your work, a ballot box for a competition, book for people to express their interest, and plenty of marketing material to take with them

Pros:

– many visitors in a short period of time

– pre-qualified visitors if you take part in a specialised event like a bridal fair

– good rate of success – again if you choose the right event for your business and waste of time if your choice is poor

Cons:

– high cost of booking a stall

4. magazine campaign

Very easy concept, you pay for an add in a magazine, such a bridal magazine, baby or family magazine. I would suggest to select something very specific as advertising in the magazine with no relevance is a waste of time and money

Pros:

– good coverage

– being in a magazine will give your business reputation and weight. you can always can refer to it and have them laying around when you see clients and they will be impressed

Cons:

False sense of distribution.I bough ad space in few magazines and I was disappointed to find out after, that in fact each of the store will sell only – 3-4 copies in a month, despite the claims of the magazine people showing off with tens of thousands of copies distributed across you area. It is a lie and it does not give you the exposure you think you will get.

low return – in today social media context, bridal magazines are loosing ground. They are only money collectors as form 4 magazines I have placed my add in, i have got 2 phone calls in 2 years.

Before I move on, I would not dismiss this aspect completely as being in a magazine brings non measurable value to your business

5. social media

As a modern way of communication, your business presence in media facebook, twitter, google plus and youtube and the other is a must as people pend a great deal of time and it is a good way to get your business known

Pros:

– free marketing tool. you can post messages, befriends people, organise events, make offers and it might pay off

As an example, I have managed to organise a 2 day fashion photo shoot with aspiring models by simply asking for interest in facebook. It worked well, I have got at least 50% of people interested, and 10 % turned up to an event organised by me and I have got many sessions in one day in a rented venue, a huge portfolio of fashion images, recovered my cost and made a profit.

Cons:

– lack of control in a changing environment that other people are controlling what you can and can’t do

– can become costly if you take on the offers

– take stime if you want to use it as a free tool

6.internet marketing – Search engine optimisation

This is basically optimising your website to turn up on the first page in google in the organic search section. It takes a great deal of time and effort, and probably you need someone to do it for you. It takes months and years to get on the first page, but if you do get there, your business will explode as in todays day and age, people are searching google more than anything.

pros:

if you get there, it will be a great deal. Your enquiries will go through the roof and your business will take off. it is the ultimate dream for any business

cons:

takes time and high costs and it is an ongoing issue

uncertainty of the search engines. google changes the search engines every few months, so whatever works has been done for your site,. might become completely redundant over night. it does happen, I have seen it many times.

7. internet marketing – Adwords campaign

Safest way to promote a business is google adwords where you pay google to have your business advertised. It is the safest and fastest tool to get in front, but also very expensive. it requires understanding of the internet, keywords research knowledge.

8.internet marketing – lead generation websites

One very good tool is to enrol with a lead generation website where you pay for every lead for your business. Either you pay $5-10 for each potential client looking for a quote for your business or a flat fee to cover unlimited quotes. It does work well and you will get work if you place quotes. The more quotes you send , the better chances to close a deal.

Pros:

– good return

-you deal only with qualified leads – only with people looking for what you have to offer and that will increase the chances for you to close a deal by 500%

– constant flow of leads

– you choose what to quote on

Cons:

– cost of the service

– high competition. You are not the only one fish in the pond and you compete with others ready to take down your fee

– deal with a low value mindset where people getting many quotes are willing to negotiate you down

9. charity and volunteering

This is an activity which can bring also clients and public exposure. Volunteering for various events organised wither by local council, school or an charity organisation might seem like a waste of time at the beginning but it does bring value, either by getting paying customers from people taking part at the event, or public recognition, acknowledgement which has a huge marketing weight in the eyes of the community. As a photographer I never refused a chance to be in public wearing my brand in front of hundreds of people.

10.direct marketing

Few direct marketing tips that can improve your business long term and create the context of repeated business. Few tips which will be self explanatory:

– newsletter marketing – is sending a message by email o a large number of people on a regular basis. very powerful and a must have for any business. There are many services, softwares, plug-ins and various methods to make this happen but we will discuss this separately. Every time I issue one of my newsletters something comes up. One word of advice, do not abuse it as people get upset if they receive spammy emails to often

– gift vouchers – every time a client leaves your place , you should give the a discount gift voucher to give it to a friends. This will bring one in 10 people back or encourages word of mouth

– thank you letters – every time you send the product to your clients by post, make sure you include a thank you letter for their trust. might not sound much but it makes wonders

Рcompetitions Рyou offer a limited chance to take part in a photo session for half price and people will react. You place the announcements  on the website, newsletter , social media.

 

Conclusion:

There are many other marketing techniques which are specify to each niche such as photo parties for babies, baby calendars, fashion portfolio calendars and others but this will be mentioned in specific articles. All the tools form above have been tested and they do work, if used in a combination. My recommendation is to use more tools at once, as each individual idea is not enough to ensure the business success. A good business needs a marketing strategy and a constant message being send out there to create a constant flow of customers. At the end of the day, operating a business is about numbers and statistics. Hoe many people you contact and make an offer to, there is a specific percentage of return. If the marketing tools are used properly, they will ensure the necessary return to sustain business and growth

 

About Christian Tudor

professional photographer, main editor at Academy of Photography and