In my area I’ve seen at least three professional wedding photographers (my competition) shut their doors since December. They were all competent photographers. They serviced their clients to their best of their abilities. And at one time they commanded a good share of the wedding business here. But they’ve closed their businesses, at least temporarily, for lack of bookings.
I count myself lucky that in this economy I’m not only surviving, but growing. We’ve added staff and seen our bookings go through the roof. And in general, we are enjoying the fruits of our labors.
Sitting where I am now, I’ve wondered a lot about what photographers do right and wrong when it comes to promoting their businesses. I don’t profess to know how exactly how we’ve managed to keep our head above water — swimmingly, in fact. But I do think there are things I’ve learned about the marketing of photography that are helping us to grow even in an economic downturn.
What We’ve Done Right
Here’s a quick list of some of the things we’ve done that have positively impacted our bottom line:
1. We started a blog.
2. We followed other photographers in our niche who have successful blogs and — I’m not ashamed to say it — copied them.
3. We eliminated virtually all of our marketing and poured our energies into (where else?) our blog.
4. We choreographed the publication of our clients’ wedding portfolios online with the publication of their portfolios on our blog.
You get the picture. Through our blog, we’ve established a track record of dependability and trustworthiness. We’ve built a dedicated following.
Stop Wasting Money — and Start Blogging
The best part is, we’ve used what amounts to a free marketing medium — the Internet — to promote ourselves. Guess what? It works!
It doesn’t matter what kind of photography you do. Whether it’s commercial, editorial or wedding/portraits, whatever it may be, there is no better platform for promoting your business and your work than online, especially through a blog.
I’ll go one step further. Whatever else you’re doing, stop doing it now. Don’t spend another dime. If it’s promos, call the printer and cancel your order. If it’s sending a traditional book with prints, call the last editor who asked for it, ask her to return it and throw it in the trash. If it’s an ad in a bridal magazine, refuse to renew the contract.
Then, start a blog.
The next step in this sequence of events seems obvious, but it’s not. It’s also really hard.
You have to fill your blog with good content. That means you have to establish that you work a lot, that you make a lot of wonderful photographs and that you have a personality to boot.
Your blog will actually help you here. You will find a voice. You will be more focused on what it is you do. And the result is you will get better jobs for more money.
And what about the step after that? Promote the heck out of your blog in the market niche you’re working. Make sure everyone you’ve ever worked with knows about it. Make sure that you syndicate at least some of it through an RSS feed. Make sure your blog has an offline promotional vehicle. Put it on your business card and advertise it any way you can.
The blog is the thing. In the future, we may not call it a blog. But whatever it ends up being called, it WILL be the primary vehicle to promote your work.
It’s time to say goodbye to the old ways of doing things and embrace news ones that actually work.
How about it? Leave a link to your blog in the comments here. Personally, I would love to see what other photographers are doing to successfully promote their businesses and to avoid the pitfalls of an economic downturn.
[tags]photography business, wedding photography[/tags]