The Top Eleven Marketing Mistakes Made by Photographers – Part One

The Top Eleven Marketing Mistakes Made by Photographers – Part One

Intro by Skip Cohen

I’ve repeatedly written about how much great information there is available to you on the Internet. It’s FREE, and it’s in the archives of so many great writers, educators, and business people we all respect.

Scrolling through Sarah Petty’s archives in her Joy of Marketing blog, I came across this gem. It’s too long for one post but perfect to break up into two.

What surprised me the most was how many artists I know hit each one of these mistakes! It’s especially true when you look at photographers copying their competitors marketing ideas and then discounting.

Terry Clark, a good buddy from Pittsburgh, did a guest post for me many years ago. His advice to photographers? “Find out what everybody else is doing and then do something different!”

Stay tuned for Part II of Sarah’s advice tomorrow, but for now, check and see how of these you’re doing in your business today. The best thing is – you can change anything!


By Sarah Petty

Once upon a time, before I became a photographer, marketing was my J-O-B.

First up was a marketing position at Coca-Cola Enterprises. And then as a marketing director gig at an advertising agency. So when I opened my first retail photography studio in 2001, I knew marketing and figuring out how to find photography clients would be something I needed to spend time on.

But doing the right thing when it comes to marketing is not enough. Avoiding the wrong thing is also a must. And as I watch and coach the photography industry, I’ve noticed the same 11 marketing mistakes pop up again and again. Even from the most experienced photographers!

Have you made any of these 11 marketing mistakes as you figure how to find photography clients?

If yes, don’t stress. They’re easy to correct, and I’ll even tell you how now.

  1. Mimic your competitors’ marketing moves

When all else fails copy the marketing of your competitor right? After all, it must be working if they’re doing it! Well, not necessarily.

When I was an ad agency marketing director, I remember a client insisting on doing billboards because his competitor was. After a bit of digging, I learned the competitor’s family member worked for the billboard company. That’s the only reason his business was on the big billboard!

Advertising companies actually rely on the copycat mentality to drum up more revenue for their magazine, station or newspaper. Before you jump in just because you’re competitors are there, determine what it will really do for your business.

  1. Dive into discounting  

Sales and discounting make sense in certain situations, like these. But they should never be a marketing way of life. They’re not how to find photography clients or at least clients you want.

Offering services on the cheap to attract new customers typically attracts cheap customers. They’re customers who care more about low prices than high quality…. like Groupon shoppers.

Sure, there are times all of us are looking for the lowest, rock-bottom rates. So we’ll use Groupon to score a half-price massage. But even if the massage is tops, it’s typically a one-time shot. We’re not heading out to get one every week at full price, or even ever again.

We don’t become loyal, longtime customers who help build a business. The same holds true when you use discounts to lure in new clients in the photography industry.

You’ll end up with distractions that force you to make crucial product and pricing decisions based on feedback from bargain hunters. Don’t go down that path. You may never come back.

Cheap pricing devalues your brand overall. What happens when you see a pair of designer jeans go on sale? Forever in your mind, those jeans are now worth less. You’ll never want to pay full price again.

And neither will your best clients. You’re teaching them to wait for sales. Why should they pay the full price today when they know you’ll eventually run a sale tomorrow or the next day? This tactic only illustrates how to find photography clients who are trained never to pay top dollar.

Besides, someone will always be willing to go cheaper than you are. You’ll never be able to sustain a business in the photography industry, or any industry, if this is your strategy.

  1. Scatter business cards at area shops

When was the last time you hired a professional from a business card on the counter of a local shop? Never is a good answer.

People don’t pick up a stranger’s business card for something as personal as photography of their family or their wedding. Instead, work with fellow business owners to create displays of your art for their walls. Include their families in those displays so they gush over you when someone asks about the photos.

  1. Think marketing is optional 

If your photography is good enough, clients will find you, right? And then those clients will run and tell all their friends how great you are so you don’t need to market a smidgeon. Wrong on both counts.

I didn’t become one of Professional Photographers of America most profitable photographers by believing either of those myths. I did it by working on marketing my business every single week. Usually an hour or two a week is all. But I have done it consistently for the past 18 years.

  1. Stick behind your computer all-day

I can’t stress this enough. Clients are not likely to suddenly appear in your home office or living room.

You need to get out of the house and into the community.

When you get out locally to shop, volunteer and connect with folks in your community, you’re building your personal brand.

And remember, we do business with people we like and know.

But if I never get a chance to meet you, I’ll never get a chance to like or know you.

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This article was written by
Sarah Petty

Sarah is a New York Times best-selling author, highly-acclaimed speaker, author, MBA and coach who started her own boutique photography studio after working for Coca Cola for 20 years and then meeting the marketing goals of a top regional advertising agency’s clients. She attributes the rapid growth of her boutique photography studio, which was named one of the most profitable in the country within just five years in business by PPA, to the creation of her own strong brand. Click on Sarah's photograph to visit her blog.

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