The internet has done great things to help us market ourselves as photographers, and social media in specific has made it possible for us to reach a large audience even easier. It is a double-edged sword though. While it's true that you can reach more people now, the same is true for everyone else. The social media space has become very crowded and the perceived barriers to entry in becoming a “photographer” have gone down significantly because of this.
How do you stand out marketing yourself as a photographer online, then? Well, that is a whole other discussion, but I would suggest that a good place to start is to go “back to the basics” and adapt an offline component to your marketing strategy. Let's quickly recall a few of the online marketing strategies that we use today, along with a few buzzwords that have become commonplace:
- Social media
- Social networking
- Engagement on Facebook
- Content marketing on our blogs
- RT's and @ mentions of other businesses on Twitter
What would it look like if we stripped away the “online” component to these terms and strategies?
- Content marketing
on our blogs RT's and @mentions of other businesses on Twitter
We're left with media, networking, engagement, content marketing and relationship building. It's no surprise that these are the foundations of “traditional” business marketing, and we've just adapted them to social media and the internet. A lot of the time, though, we've forgotten about the roots of where they came from. Let's explore.
- Media is defined as the main means of mass communication (television, radio, newspapers).
- Networking means to interact with other people to exchange information and develop contacts, especially to further one's career.
- Engagement is a marketing strategy that directly engages consumers and invites and encourages them to participate in the evolution of a brand.
- Content marketing is defined as providing consistent, high-quality content that solves people's problems.
- Relationship building is a marketing strategy that recognizes the long-term value of relationships and extends communication beyond intrusive advertising and sales promotional messages.
The Foundations of Marketing
Using these marketing foundations as a starting point, I would suggest the following 5 ways that you can use the basics of business marketing to increase your local awareness offline and ultimately get more business: speaking, networking, press, co-marketing and direct-mail.
I am a big believer in the idea of being specific, giving examples and taking action on what we learn. All articles that I write for my educational website Sprouting Photographer ends with an “action item” that gives a specific point of follow-up. For this article, I'd like to give 18 examples of how you can put into play each of these 5 marketing basics right away.
- Give a presentation to a local business clubs re: business portraits.
- Give a presentation to the local Rotary Club about what you do as a photographer.
- Present to a Mom group re: family and child portraits.
- Put on a workshop to teach the basics of photography at the library.
- Seek out local business associations such as the Chamber of Commerce or a local BIA and become a regular attendee to the networking meetings. Focus on building relationships and not just handing out business cards.
- Personally reach out to local business owners and connect one-on-one. See how you can help each other.
- Attend local niche trade shows and network with the organizers, sponsors and businesses. If you specialize in family portraits for example, a “home show” would likely have many businesses that serve a similar market as you do. This would be a great networking opportunity.
- Donate to a cause and attach your name to a newsworthy event/charity.
- Volunteer your time locally.
- Offer help to the local media – maybe they need photographs, or perhaps they'd like your opinion on a photograph-related topic.
- Send press releases once you've built an established relationship with the local paper.
- Offer to write a column in the paper.
- Offer to decorate local businesses with wall portraits and wall art. Display your business card with it.
- Run a promotion with a local business that has a similar audience as yours. You can share each in each other's customer base.
- Exchange a stack of business cards with local like-minded business owners and offer to help market each other.
- Offer a local business a few gift certificates to give their top-tier clients as a gift from them.
Direct-Mail Postcard Mailings
- Come up with a specific, time-sensitive offer and mail it to 10,000 homes in the area via a post-card drop.
- Repetition is key – plan to do one per month for at least 6 months.
Creating a well-rounded marketing plan is crucial for long-term success as a photographer. We need to include online and offline marketing strategies to ensure that we are in front of as many prospective clients as possible. The ultimate testimony to a consistent offline local marketing initiative is when your clients start telling you that they “see you everywhere” – that is a well-executed branding and awareness campaign!