1. Marketing

A 5-Step Formula to Market Yourself as a Photographer – Part One

Intro by Skip Cohen

Bryan Caporicci is a never-ending source of great information to help photographers build a stronger business, especially in areas under the marketing “umbrella.” In this archived two-part post, Bryan shared some outstanding insight with suggestions on how to market yourself.

Think about it for just a second – what good is working so hard to create the finest images of your life if nobody knows who you are? Your door is open, but nobody is coming in!

Well, as Bryan points out there are no shortcuts, but if you have the right mindset, it’s not as difficult as you might think. The key is ironically to stay focused on your goals.

All of you understanding holding focus with a camera in your hands, but so often you lose sight of the “prize” when it comes to marketing your business. You lose your patience and start trying different ways to build your brand before you’ve given your initial plan enough time to be effective. Before you know it you’ve lost focus and your approach to marketing is scattered all over the place.

Developing a solid marketing plan is one of the biggest weaknesses of so many photographers. As 2017 comes to a close, take the time to define your goals for the new year. This is an ideal time to be thinking about your business and take full advantage of the “slow season” after the holidays.

by Bryan Capporicci

There are many ways to market your photography business and sometimes it’s hard to know where to focus. Whether you’re just getting started or have been in business for years, you still have the same need – to get the phone ringing. With so many different channels for marketing, you need to choose wisely.

There’s no shortcut to marketing your photography business, but some methods are more effective than others.

While there’s no shortcut to marketing your photography business, there are some methods that are more effective than others, and that’s where you should focus. Today I’m going to show you how to market your photography business from the ground-up, no matter where you are in the business today. The best part is that most of these grassroots marketing techniques are free, so not only are they effective, but they will also give you an exponential return on your investment.

What is marketing?

Let’s take a step back, first. You know that marketing is one of the foundations for a successful photography business, but what really is marketing? It can be a scary and overwhelming topic at times, and so let me break it down into its simplest form:

Marketing is the process of communicating with a specific group of people and making them aware of you and what you do.

Talking about marketing in this context makes it a bit easier to handle, doesn’t it? There are a few keywords that I use here, very intentionally, that I’d like to point out:

  • Communicating: Marketing is a dialog and so you must choose the right language.
  • A specific group of people: You must know who you are trying to communicate to.
  • Awareness: You should communicate it in a way that establishes familiarity.
  • You: You need to know who you are as a photographer, and how to best communicate that.
  • What you do: What about your work or your approach is unique, special or different? What’s your unique selling proposition?

You can see now that marketing can really only be effective once you’ve defined your target audience, understand effective communication, have strong self-awareness and know your brand.

Before you can even begin to market yourself, my suggestion would be to ask yourself the following:

  • Who am I as a photographer?
  • What makes me different?
  • Who is my target market?
  • What kind of message do they want to hear?
  • How can I best communicate with them?

This is where so many photographers get it wrong. They start off trying to market themselves without understanding these underlying foundations, and then they wonder why their marketing isn’t working. If you approach marketing with this much intention, I promise you that you’ll have your phone ringing off the hook!

The goal of marketing

I want to make a quick distinction here before we go too much deeper. There are two types of marketing approaches; two separate goals, essentially. While they aren’t necessarily mutually independent, it’s still important to define them first.

The two types of marketing objectives are:

  1. Brand awareness– When you market to establish familiarity with your market and stay top-of-mind.
  2. Lead generation– Marketing with a call-to-action so that you can quickly bring in new business.

Great marketing efforts will accomplish both goals – brand awareness and lead generation. However, in the earlier stages of your business or when you are making a transition, lead generation is more important because you need to start bringing clients to your door and book some business. Once you are established and booking clients steadily, you can shift over to the brand awareness style marketing campaigns to maintain a top-of-mind presence in your market.

Establishing the foundation

We need to have a quick conversation about the basics. You know that you wouldn’t try and build a house without a foundation and so similarly, you can’t start to market yourself as a photographer without the right foundation.

Before you market yourself as a photographer, you must acquire the right photographic skill set and practice your technique. Otherwise, you’ll be marketing a broken product.

I know how exciting it can be to get going; you’ve got the bug, you love photography and you just want to get people in your door. Slow down though, because rushing yourself to market is a guaranteed way to start off on the wrong foot.

Before anything, you must have a solid foundation in photography.

Here’s my suggested flow:

  1. Acquire the photographic skill set: Learn about lighting, posing, composition, creativity, and other photographic foundations.
  2. Practice as a photographer: Apply your learnings; practice, experiment and try new things. Learn the ropes by 2nd shooting.
  3. Market yourself: Start putting together your marketing plan.

The point here is that you should start to market yourself only once you’ve honed your skills as a photographer. If you recall our definition of marketing – making an audience aware of you – then if you do so without solid photography skills, your efforts will be lost because you’ll be marketing bad photography.

I have to say it quickly (you knew I would) – you must also spend some time honing your business skills as a photographer. Learn more about sales, pricing, marketing, branding, customer service, and so on.

Ok – no more context and foundations. We’ll get right into the “how-to” of marketing yourself in the next post!