Here are 11 of our best photography marketing ideas – in one monster blog post. They are exactly what you need to be doing if you want to grow a photography business.
CAUTION: You don’t need to do ALL 13 activities right now. But these are the foundation for what it takes to attract enough clients to sustain a successful photography business.
You’ve got this. Let’s go!
I made this video for you In case you prefer watching me explaining these marketing activities:
1. Build a Customer Database
Your customers are the greatest asset in your business. And a customer database is the best way to make them an effective tool for your growth. Categorize clients 20 different ways to ensure that the right amount of attention goes to the right client.
Here are a few categories:
- current clients
- past clients who haven’t been active lately
- mistakes (give them extra love)
- potential charitable partners
- potential co-marketing partners
- and so many more.
2. Write Notes of JoyThis sounds so simple! It really is. All you need to do is write and send notes to people you’ve photographed in the past and people you’d like to photograph in the future.
Scour the newspaper & social media for people doing cool things. Find people you’d like to photograph. Add them to your database and then write them a personal note. Tell them why you’d like to photograph them. Use note cards that feature your photography.
3. Find co-marketing partners
Look for professionals or businesses where your ideal client spends money that aren’t in competition with you.
Where does your perfect client eat dinner?
Where do their kids do gymnastics?
Where do they do yoga?
Where do they buy cars?
Co-market with businesses who share your target audience, but aren’t your competitor.
Real estate agents, boutique clothing store owners, veterinarians, orthodontists, pre-schools, ob/gyns, etc. There are so many!
Reach out to those businesses and float the idea of working together on a co-marketing co-campaign. There are many many ways to do it. Mail, complimentary gift cards to each others’ business given as a Christmas gift for top clients. Email mentions, shared events… Cross-pollination is a powerful thing.
4. Donate to Silent AuctionsSilent auctions are a tremendous opportunity for a wedding photographer. They happen all the time, all over the place. You just have to look. First, Google Silent Auction [your city] and see what you find.
Every private school has at least one a year, if not more. So do most charities. Reach out to the ones you have a connection with, or whose causes you really believe in. It’s great to donate your photography to a worthy cause!
They all need valuable services to auction off and will be so thrilled that you reached out to them.
The next step is to fine-tune your process.
You’re giving something of real value to be auction off, but you have more to offer—for purchase—when it’s time to photograph the winning bidder.
They’ll get something really good for their charitable investment, and with a little more investment, they could get something great!
5. Engage Your NetworkThis should already be a part of your overall business plan, but it’s easy to forget. Your family and friends were probably your first models, first fans and first clients.
They are your most faithful source of referrals, because they love you! The thing is, as your business grows, they can forget that you still need them!
They already think you’re the most amazing photographer they’ve ever met! They just forget to be actively marketing for you. You need to remind them, and then reward them.
Rewarding friends and family may fit into your overall referral program (more on that in a minute), or it can be an informal thing just between you. If a friend sends you a client, bake them a pie or a batch of your famous cookies. Send them flowers with a sweet thank you note. Make sure they know how meaningful and vital their referrals are to you.
If you ever feel disheartened or doubt your own ability, there is nothing like a referral to really boost your spirits! But your friends and family need you to remind them how important it is that they drop your name whenever it makes sense.
Getting your friends and family marketing for you is as simple as asking your mom for advice. Keep it natural and conversational – you’re not selling a pyramid scheme.
6. Share Your ExpertiseYou have a tremendous amount of knowledge that you’ve gathered over the years. Share it! Do you know how to pose a baby? Do you know to dress for a flattering head shot? Do you know a trick for shooting in harsh sunlight or in low-lighting conditions?
There are groups meeting all over your town. Their members all take photos and all want to take better photos. Reach out to them and offer your services as a guest speaker. Prepare a 15-20 minute presentation on photography basics and go try it out! Bring afew samples of your work to demonstrate the principles you’re teaching.
Here are a few places to start:
- High school art or yearbook class
- New moms group at the hospital
- Junior League
- Church group
- Community mom’s day out
- Chamber of Commerce
- Local service clubs (Lions, Kiwanis, Rotary, etc.)
- BNI or other business networking group
- Anywhere people in your target audience gather, you can speak!
7. Partner with charitiesYou’ve already dipped your toe into the non-profit pond with the silent auction donations.
These are your ideal clients! People with disposable income donate to charities. And people who donate to charities are the perfect photography client!
What do you really believe in? Who do you want to help? Who do you want to photograph?
Physically disabled children? Reach out to the Shriners.
The homeless? Call the nearest mission.
Single mothers? Mentally challenged adults? For every tender part of your heart, there is a charity out there wishing you would partner with them.
Call them up. Ask if they have any upcoming events you could photograph.
Do their board members need new amazing head-shots for their website? Invite them to stop by your studio—or come to them—for pro bono pro portraits.
You are both giving and creating many business opportunities. Who do you want to reach out to first? Tell us in the comments – maybe your idea will help somebody else!
8. Create a Referral ProgramIt’s good to bake your brother a pie every time he sends you business. It’s even better to create a thorough and professional referral program that helps your favorite vendors, friends, family and best clients send you new clients.
Perhaps you’re a wedding photographer. The venues you have photographed in should refer you clients. And we like to focus NOT on sending coffee or pies here, but really on providing something they want.
What kind of reward would you be willing to trade for a referral? What do they really need?
- Images for their website?
- Displays for their store?
- Photo note cards they can send to their clients?
- Product photography?
- Photos of their business?
- Photography session credit?
You need to position yourself as eager to work with their clients and friends, but not desperate. It’s a balance, but not that hard to strike. Sit down and think through what a new client is worth to you, and what your ideal clients would love to receive. This is a great opportunity to do some co-marketing with another local business owner.
9. Use value-added incentivesDon’t run a discount, instead offer a value-added incentive.
Clinique does a great job at the whole “free gift with purchase” thing. When I read “Get this free kit worth $49 with any $25 purchase,” I can’t resist. And neither will your clients.
Your value-added incentive can be used as a promotional one-and-done deal to get clients in the door without discounting your services. Or you can use a value-added incentive as an enticement to encourage clients to invest more.
Get creative. Give what you would love to get. Give something your clients value, but maybe can’t even buy from you. And whatever you do, don’t discount.
Plan of Action:It’s great to read about proven marketing moves. It can make you smarter. It can make you more confident! But if you only read, and do not do the things, the overall impact can actually be negative. So here are three goals you need to set for yourself:
1. Try 3 of these activities in the next twelve months.
2. Track the success of each marketing activity.
3. Determine the most successful marketing activities, repeat them and add another one or two activities next year.