Special thanks to the very talented Jen Basford for writing this great post.
Jen Basford owns 3 girls photography in Edmond, Oklahoma. She is best known for fashion-inspired high school senior portraits and the annual must-see fashion show she puts on for upcoming seniors each spring. Jen is one of the top senior portrait photographers in the Midwest largely due to her out-of-the-box approach to marketing and client relationships.
Jen also owns Seniors Ignite an organization dedicated to providing next-level senior portrait photography education to photographers to help them grow their business.
For more great Jen tips follow her twitter here. Don't forget to get your FREE marketing guide. http://www.seniorsignite.com/12-low-cost-marketing-ideas
So many photographers I know get panicked when their books aren't full. They see openings on their calendar and suddenly realize they need to figure out how to get more clients in the door - fast! So they immediately throw something together and start advertising to their fan base online through discounts, specials, and anything else they can think of to get the phone to ring.
But this type of knee-jerk reaction can have a detrimental impact on your long-term business. It can hurt your brand, as well as your bottom line, and can add a lot of un-needed stress to your life.
By creating a marketing plan you can avoid this type of situation from happening in the first place. But where should you start?
1) Define your business goals.
Have you sat down and looked at your numbers recently? How much did you bring in last year in your photography business? How many sessions did you photograph, and what was the average for each type of session? Did you make a profit?
Once you have these numbers in front of you, begin to make a plan for this year (no matter where you are in the year). Start by figuring out what you want to make this year. Then figure out how many sessions you will have to photograph in order to get to that number. As you work through setting your goals and breaking them down, you will begin to feel more in control of where you want your business to be, and you can start determining the best way to get there.
2) Profile your target client.
Contrary to popular belief, the profile 'anyone with money!' is not a target client. In order to effectively create a marketing plan you must put together a complete and detailed profile of your target client. Get as specific as possible. A broad demographic such as 'high school senior girls who love to be photographed' will not work. The more specific you can be about defining your target client, the more successful your marketing will be at attracting the right client for your business.
Is your target client male or female? What activities are they involved in? Do they have a variety of friends or do they have just a few close friends? What are their family dynamics - are they an only child or do they have siblings? Are their parents married or divorced? Where do they shop? What brand of clothing do they wear? As you drill down to a detailed profile of your target client, you can begin to create marketing that appeals to them. The more distinctive and targeted your marketing is, the more it will separate you from the competition.
3) Establish - or refine - your brand.
I have something big to tell you. Something that took awhile for me to wrap my head around when I was first starting out.
Your brand is not simply your logo and some pretty colors.
(Cue wide-eyed emoticon look). I made this mistake in my business in the very beginning. I had a graphic designer create a beautiful logo with trendy-at-the-time colors, and I used it in all of my marketing. Viola! Instant brand! But in reality I was all over the place with my marketing. I used different fonts in my marketing pieces, my logo and colors didn't have the right feel for my work, and my website didn't match anything else I was doing. My marketing was completely disjointed.
So it came as no surprise that my target market was confused. There was no cohesiveness, and no single feeling that came to mind when they saw my logo. Nothing about my business stood out from the competition. No one could really explain my brand. And that was because I didn't really HAVE a brand.
So set aside some time and do a little brand exploration for your photography business (ideally with a professional). Do you have a great logo? One that elicits the right type of emotion from your target client? What is the message that you want your brand to communicate to your client? How do you want your client to feel when they see your logo or your work? Is your marketing consistent? Is your place of business decorated to reflect your brand? Does it smell nice?
This is a critical component of a successful marketing plan, so set aside some time to do it right and enlist the help of an objective third party to give you input.
4) Determine your marketing budget.
I know, I know - I said the 'B' word. But you can't expect to reasonably attract the right clientele to your business without a budget to market with. Simply spreading the love online stating 'come to me!' is not going to grow your senior business. While you don't necessarily need a large marketing budget, you DO need to set aside dollars to spend on targeted marketing. Check out PPA's benchmark survey (www.ppa.com) to see where your marketing budget should be in comparison with the rest of your expenses, and commit to creating a plan and sticking to it.
So now that you're ready, how do you market to your target client? Seniors Ignite has created a free guide with '12 Low Cost Marketing Ideas To Grow Your Senior Business' to help you do just that. Click here to download the guide and get started right away. Because marketing isn't something you do after you realize you need clients. It's something you do year-round to build and grow a successful business.