If a photographer builds a website without a marketing plan, does he make a sale?
You take beautiful photos. You’ve perfected your elevator pitch, and got business cards to match. You've built a beautiful website just waiting to be discovered by potential customers. What's next?
You MUST promote your business.
It's one thing to have a website. It's another thing to drive traffic to it. It's kind of like hanging out a shingle on the end of your driveway and hoping for walk-ins. You wouldn’t build a brick and mortar studio without advertising your business, so don’t fall into the trap of thinking you'll make sales simply because you exist.
“Marketing is the process by which companies create customer interest in products or services. It generates the strategy that underlies sales techniques, business communication, and business development. It is an integrated process through which companies build strong customer relationships and create value for their customers and for themselves.” — Wikipedia
Plan Your Approach
Your marketing plan should have specific goals, which in turn will guide you towards the right tools for your business. For example:
Are you a wedding photographer? If so then you want to draw in brides and book engagement and wedding shoots.
Are you a landscape photographer? You want exposure for your fine art images and your stunning, wall-sized prints.
There are more marketing tools out there now than ever before, from traditional print ads to digital social media, and everything in-between. Many of them cost nothing more than your time; if you DIY be sure that you create relevant and meaningful content.
And don't shy away from hiring an expert: Think about the impression you'll make with a polished presentation to match the polished product you'll deliver to your customer.
Tip: Make sure your site gets found amongst the hundreds of thousands of sites that potential clients will find on internet searches.
So don't be afraid to make some noise, stand above the crowd and draw your customers in. After all, your best photos do no good if nobody knows they exist.
"For Yaqub, photography is ultimately about sharing—sharing images, sharing views, sharing knowledge. SmugMug’s one-click sharing to social media sites like Facebook and Twitter helps him fulfill that mission. 'For me, there is absolutely no reason to create a photograph and keep it in cold storage. What good it would do if it was not able to spread the message, inspire someone or help someone in their learning process?'” Awais Yaqub
Don't just sit there waiting! SmugMug gives you powerful tools to help you market your business and share your photos. Here's 6 of our favorite tactics:
1) Share Photos Directly. So, you've finished a shoot for a client, and uploaded the finished product into a gallery on your SmugMug site. How do you let the client(s) know you are ready for them to come buy your work? There are a multitude of sharing tools built right into your SmugMug galleries.
Good old-fashioned email, right from the Share button.
“I love that I can finish photos, send a gallery link with ordering instructions and my job is done. I get to sit back and watch the dollars roll in.” Meghan MacAskill
Send people straight to the shopping cart from your blog post by embedding Buy links.
2) Request referrals! We all know the saying ‘if you like the service, tell a friend. If not, tell me’. Referrals and word of mouth are powerful ways to build your business.
“My customers...are my biggest fans and cheerleaders and refer new clients to me every time. Once potential clients view my SmugMug website, they are impressed and trust me [to document] their children, family and memories.” Meghan MacAskill
Give clients post cards or business cards with a code that they can give a friend. When that friend books an appointment with you, and references the code, give the referring customer a discount Coupon, like print credit.
3) Use Social Media. Social Media is a powerful marketing tool for photographers.
Be Social: Posts your photos instantly to some of the most popular services: Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and WordPress.
Quick Sharing: reveals three buttons under each photo in your Journal and SmugMug-style galleries and in the header of any lightbox. Your friends, family and fans can click the familiar icons to share the pics they love.
Publish to Facebook: Export images from your SmugMug gallery right into albums on Facebook.
"Lehner has used SmugMug’s Facebook publishing tool extensively. “I am really involved in social networking, so I enjoy [it]. It’s easy to use, and I already know that it’s brought people back to buy.” Typically, after he shares a SmugMug-hosted gallery via Facebook, he checks for a spike in traffic using Insights metrics." Hoofclix
Pro tip: Create a Facebook business page and start posting meaningful and relevant content. Link your blog posts, announce any large events you are photographing, any special promotions you are offering, post portfolio-worthy photos. Your content needs to be beautiful and exciting, so your visitors will love sharing it with their friends.
4) Blog. Blogging is a win-win situation for your business. By blogging about your photography and including links back to your website, you create meaningful links that search engines love. By writing content that is valuable to readers, you are creating a reason for them to share that with others. Here's tips on how to do that on SmugMug.
5) Promote yourself. Nature, Landscape, Stock and Fine Art Photographers, don’t be afraid to solicit sales! Pitch your local news media, post samples of your work onto the Facebook pages of agencies, make sure your SEO is rock solid. It's imperative that all your images link back to your SmugMug website so they can see more.
Wedding pros: What bride wouldn't hire a famous photographer? Try Two Bright Lights to get your best images published in wedding and bridal magazines. Sign up for an account, upload some portfolio photos and let them do the heavy lifting.
6) Paid Advertising Once you've established the basics of your business, you may want to consider advanced options like:
Google Ad Words
Email Campaigns (e.g. Constant Contact)
BONUS: Six Social Media Musts
Our Minneapolis SMUG featured six very important tips every social marketer should know:
Secure a consistent user name.
Use bait, such as coupons, to get business.
Integrate your social media, such as what you put on Twitter, to link in Facebook and SmugMug.
Connect with other businesses that can benefit us and we can, in turn, benefit as well. Get strategic partners.
If you start anything on social media, you must follow through.
Separate your personal from your business media.