Marketing 101 – Tips For Professional Photography Studios

What inspired you to become a photographer? The answer is simple – you love capturing unique images. But you’re a photographer in a changing, interesting time. We’re quickly transitioning to an all-digital marketplace, plus the Internet has completely altered our lives and business. Marketing has also been forced to adapt to the changes that cyberspace has instilled. In an age that has created e-shoppers and e-commerce, marketing must become e-marketing.

When you first started in photography, either in school or through a hobby, the focus was on creating a better photo. Training didn’t emphasize how to sell. Now you must face the daunting issue of selling your pro studio’s image, coupled with marketing your products and services. Even more, consumers are more tech savvy than ever, and electronic devices and processes are easily accessible and affordable to the average Joe. It’s no wonder more consumers are turning to the Internet.

The good news is that many affordable options also exist for you. These options can help you market your photo studio in the local community (and beyond). If you tackle a few of these items a month, you’ll find yourself moving up the ladder of marketing success.

• E-mail marketing is one of the most cost-effective methods for marketing a small business, such as many photo studios. It costs you the time you put into it. Develop a customer list with e-mail addresses and send out monthly e-newsletters, e-reports or e-specials. By developing a mailing list, you can also personalize each e-mail with a recipient’s name or other form of variable data. Be sure to include product spotlights and specials with links embedded into images and/or text; these should redirect to your website. If you don’t have capabilities to do this, search for local agencies that will help you at a reasonable cost.

• Direct mail is an effective complement to e-mail marketing. Try to send out a direct-mail piece the same time as the e-mail. This provides cross-channel marketing and hits your audience from multiple angles. If you don’t have a mailing list, purchase one from a list vendor (be sure to ask about multiple uses versus one-time usage, and inquire about renting a list as opposed to purchasing). Many recipients will throw away “junk” mail, but an attractive offer or incentive may cause one potential customer to retain your information for future use; before you know it, you’re marketing dollars have paid off with a greater return on investment (ROI).

• If you don’t have a website, look into starting one soon. If you already have one, be sure to inquire about how to better optimize it through keywords and internal/external link building (simply Google more info on these topics). Update your site periodically to keep your page ranking high. And be sure to create a web form for visitors to enter their contact information; this Web form is a great way to gather contact information to use in your e-mail and direct-mail marketing.

• Non-static (they aren’t part of your website long term) landing pages can round out your e-mail and direct-mail marketing strategies. Simply direct your readers to landing pages, which can be personalized through variable data. For example, e-mails can include a link directly to the landing page, while direct mail can say, “Visit [http://www.XXX.com/JohnDoe] for more information.” Once there, visitors will see additional information that expands what they’ve already learned, while also giving them an opportunity to fill out a form and receive a special offer or incentive.

• Continue to offer promotions at your studio. Think of busy times – wedding season, senior portraits, etc. – and be sure to develop appealing packages to lure in more customers. Then, promote, promote, promote!

• Distribute monthly press releases to your local newspapers and trade publications. Never underestimate the power of a good press release.

• Consider taking out an advertisement in a photography publication. Start local or regional, then expand to a national publisher. Also, banner ads on local websites are great ways to increase click-through traffic to your website.

• Attend trade shows, either as a vendor or a paying visitor. Network with area labs and photographers. Simple as that!

• Consult professional photo labs for services to impact your marketing. Some labs offer templates for marketing collateral – business cards, letterhead, brochures, fliers, etc. – and you simply drag in your studio logo and name. Other labs have capabilities for press-printed materials, so you don’t have to shop around for your materials at different locations. Make it easy on yourself and shop with a one-stop printer.

• Some photo labs also feature online photo portfolio services. This allows pro photographers to buy a domain name that can stand alone as their website or can be used in connection with an existing site. Then, you can upload and display your portfolio online. You can also direct your clients to the site, where they can order proofs and specialty photo products. The Internet is the way to go!

• Consider joining an online community for professional photographers. Then, upload and share your photos with other specialists in the field. Comment and post on blogs and articles to get your name out there!

• Publish a photo book. Many printers offer specialty photo items, and this is an ideal complement for your online portfolio. It’s also something to take along to your trade show.

• Keep in touch with your current customers. It’s easier to retain those you have than make new contacts. I’m not saying give up on attracting new business, but you current customers will likely be loyal to you and continue doing business. It may seem like a lot to take in, so tackle these tips one at a time. Focus on one and do it effectively. Good luck and happy marketing!