Ah, marketing. That big black hole where we dump all our money and get nothing in return, right? That’s what it seems like sometimes. But, it doesn’t have to be like that! I’m convinced that in this world, there are lots of ways to market yourself that are not dropping thousands of dollars in a magazine ad or paying hundreds of dollars a month in Yellow Pages ads – and yet are more effective.
Of course, Word of Mouth is your gold. That’s where you have your most amazing marketing, and other people are doing it for you. I don’t think I need to tell you much more about word-of-mouth marketing because we know its value. I will say that you need to provide every single client with an opportunity to rave about you. Make sure your clients are happy. I firmly believe that you should do whatever you can, even if it means you’ll take a small loss in the present, to make your clients happy. (This does not mean you allow them to run over you and change your contracts, but it does mean treating them like a nugget of gold and doing everything in your power to help them out.) A great read on this is The Referral Engine  by John Jantuch.
What If You’re Starting From Scratch?
But what if you don’t have that word of mouth yet? What else can you do? I actually faced this question when I moved to a new area two years ago. I had to start completely from scratch and I really and truly knew no one. Here are some things that I did, and, no, I’m not where I want to be yet. But I’m getting there, and I know I will get there because I have a plan. Here’s what I have found helpful.
- Bridal shows. We did two bridal shows, and booked weddings off them that were, on average, $1,000 higher than people said the market was. We did our research, had a plan going in and had a creative booth. If you’d like more information on what we did, feel free to email me!
- Networking with other photographers. I was fortunate enough to move to an area where the photography community is strong, giving and just wonderful to be a part of. I found that helping other photographers and finding a few that I could give referrals to also got me a few referrals in return. The only way this works is if you truly go into it with an attitude of giving instead of getting. I’ve been able to build relationships with photographers by second shooting, going to photographer meet-ups and through facebook groups. If you’re not open and willing to do anything to help someone else, they won’t help you.
- SEO. Yes, this is a big one. Before I even moved to the area, I started working on SEO and trying to get my site up on Google. I’m fortunate enough to work with my sister-in-law as my partner. We blog four times a week and have consistently for the past year and a half. I’m convinced this has helped keep our site up on the search engines and we get a lot of our leads through here.
- Venues. When you get weddings at a venue you like, put together an album and present it to the venue. We did this with one of the first weddings we shot, and they were kind enough to put us on their vendor list. Now we have three or four weddings for next year booked at that venue. Yes, the album cost us some money, but it looks amazing, the venue loves us and they are giving us a lot of promotion. It was completely worth it. If you can, get an album that is unique and different than the other albums that will be there. Stand out.
- Friends. If you’re trying to get into a certain type of photography market, find some of your friends and ask if they would model for you. Be clear about what you’re doing, but when you do it, post the session on your blog, post it to Facebook and tag your friends in the posts. This extends your reach by letting people who know you find out you do photography. This will help bring out that word of mouth advertising.
- Be nice. And last, but definitely not least, give EVERYONE an experience to talk about! Connect with every client you photograph. Be kind and helpful to the venues. Be nice to the other vendors. Being genuine with people whether they’re a client or a vendor helping at an event, is the best way to guarantee people will start talking. Don’t provide them with an okay experience, provide them with an experience that blows their mind.