1. Marketing

The Top Eleven Marketing Mistakes Made by Photographers – Part Two

Intro by Skip Cohen

It’s time for the second half of Sarah Petty’s list of top mistakes photographers make when it comes to building their business.

My favorite in this post is about your database. Everyone is always talking about the need to find new clients, but so many of you are sitting on a goldmine you’re ignoring – all of your past clients.

Unless you were a complete hockey-puck and they hated working with you, your past clients are your greatest resource to grow your business. They’re cornerstones in relationship building, a key to expanding your business. But they don’t stay in tune with what you’re doing by accident.

Loyal customers, they don’t just come back, they don’t simply recommend you,

they insist their friends do business with you.

Chip Bell

Relationship building is your greatest marketing tool, and it starts with your past clients. Keep in touch with them. Share new products and services you’re offering. Let them know they’re appreciated!

I hope you’ll take the time and read through Sarah’s list of mistakes, remembering that you can change anything that isn’t working.

By Sarah Petty

  1. Neglect to schedule marketing time

Yes, you’re busy. And you’d rather be taking photos, scrubbing the toilet or even painting your toenails than marketing.

But I’ve seen too many photographers fail due to failure to schedule time on their weekly calendar for marketing.

Eighteen years in the photography industry and I still schedule time each week for marketing. As I said, it’s only an hour or two. And it’s usually spent on these three very specific activities.

I treat marketing time like a client appointment.

It’s protected. Never rescheduled. And fulfilled every time.

Because without it, I don’t have clients. And without clients, I don’t have a photography business. I just have really expensive photography equipment that I’m not using.

  1. Make your own marketing materials

Just because your clients have a nice camera doesn’t mean they’re suddenly great photographers. And just because you have Photoshop doesn’t mean you’re suddenly a master designer.

Don’t DIY when it comes to creating your logo and other marketing materials. Trade with a professional graphic designer. Or use professionally designed templates from Design Aglow or other pros that create designs for the photography industry.

Note from Skip: Marathon Press has a team already in place to help you design great marketing materials, as well as build a timeline for implementation!

Good design elevates your brand and signals you’re worth every penny.

It shows you’re willing to invest in yourself. And it’s at least one way to prompt clients to do the same.

  1. Waste too much time on social media

Yes, it’s fun to connect and build relationships online. But no, that’s not marketing.

If a social platform is free and easy to use, you can bet every one of your competitors is on it, too. That’s why I focus my marketing on doing things my competitors wouldn’t dare.

My boutique business model at Sarah Petty Photography involves high-touch everything, including my marketing.

Amassing thousands of social media followers doesn’t translate to more paying clients. No one sees me on Facebook and thinks, “Oh, I want to hire her.” So I don’t use social media to prospect.

But I do use it to check in on current clients, and then connect with things going on in their lives. My clients are making a huge investment with me. My aim is to gain their trust through high-touch interactions from the start.

Maybe they receive one of my interactive, dog-whistle pieces in the mail. Or a note of joy when they accomplish something remarkable. Perhaps they see me volunteering at a charity they support.

Maybe a small business they frequent introduces me to them, or they see my displays on the walls.

Whatever it is, it’s not happening on Facebook or Twitter. Personalized, high-touch interactions are how to find photography clients, not a bunch of random tweets.

  1. Seek out a magic mailing list

Just like a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, a magic mailing list awaits. It’s packed with names that wondrously morph into clients once your postcard hits their mailbox. And if you believe that one, I have a proverbial bridge to sell you in Brooklyn.

So stop looking for a magic list, or a magic anything, that will deliver a truckload of clients in one fell swoop.

Instead, focus on building relationships, one at a time and in person.

Get out in your community.

We do business with people we like and trust. 

Earn that trust one new client at a time.

Slow and steady is how to find photography clients who trust you and what you do.

  1. Gamble on mass advertising

Selling ads was my career fresh out of college. Then in my ad agency days, I was the client buying ads from all the radio, TV stations and newspapers for my clients. So I’ve seen how mass advertising can effectively build businesses – for the right business model.

Most photographers don’t want (or need) 500 clients a year. If you do, then mass advertising like Facebook and Instagram ads, local magazines and television may be a great thing to include in your plan for how to find photography clients.

But photographers aiming for $100,000 a year only need 50 clients spending an average of $2,000 each. 

You’re looking for a needle in a haystack if you’re trying to find them with mass advertising.

  1. Forget to keep a client database

When business is slow, the first thing I do is go to my client database. Up to 75% of my portrait business each year comes from gushing, thrilled clients who are coming back for another session.

Do my clients just pick up the phone and call me out of the blue?


But it’s more likely I’m specifically marketing to them to come to schedule a session. I do it through notes of joy, my dog-whistle marketing pieces and art I donate to charities they support. These are among the 13 other marketing activities I use.

Even if you’ve made one, two – or even all 11 – of these mistakes, you’re not doomed. You can quickly and easily change course.

And if you’re looking for more marketing advice, you can grab a FREE copy of the New York Times Bestselling book for photography businesses, Worth Every Penny, here.