Sixth in a series.
Many photography businesses fall into the trap of trying to be everything to everyone. You are so hungry for business that you will work for anyone and attempt anything. That’s certainly understandable, particularly in this economy. But it’s not a good marketing formula for long-term success.
No one can be all things to all people. Even a corporate giant like Wal-Mart is, at its heart, just one thing: a discount retailer. Sure, it has expanded over time to offer groceries, automotive care, financial services and other products and services, but it is all built on the same foundation of convenience and low prices. And it is all targeted toward the same types of consumers, with the same purchasing motivations.
Jack of All Trades, Master of None
While all young businesses can succumb to mission creep, photographers seem especially prone to this universalism.
You set up shop as a wedding photographer, and before you know it you’ve added babies, commercial, architecture, and an editorial assignment or two when you can get them.
You throw it all in your online portfolio. Your prospective clients come to visit — and see that you can do a lot of things. But they’re not sure if you do anything particularly well.
Look, we live in a world of scarcity. You have a limited marketing budget. Your prospects have a limited amount of time to find, say, a high-end wedding photographer in Milwaukee.
So you need to market your business in a focused way — spending your marketing dollars to maximize the number of prospective high-end Milwaukee wedding couples who call you or visit your Web site. And making sure that when they do visit your site, the first thing they see will be other high-end Milwaukee wedding couples smiling from ear to ear — and at the very same venues your prospects are considering.
You can have more than one target market, but to do this successfully requires time and investment. In an earlier Black Star Rising post, Sean Cayton profiles a group of photographers that does this well .
Identifying Target Markets
Here are four ways to segment a target market for your photography business:
- Geographic. Focus your business on a specific geographic area, such as your town, zip code or region. Assuming the prospect base within the targeted area is large enough, this is an easy way to manage your marketing costs; you won’t be trying to advertise or travel all over the state or country. Showcasing the city you love in your marketing materials also establishes an immediate connection with prospects.
- Demographic. These are the most traditionally thought of segments: age, gender, income range, ethnic group and family type. Perhaps you are part of a particular ethnic group and have strong ties within that community; this could be a good foundation for building a photography business that caters to the group’s particular interests and needs. If I want to hire a photographer for my daughter’s quinceanera or my son’s bar mitzvah, for example, I would be naturally attracted to a photographer who showcases these rites of passage on his or her Web site.
- Psychographic. Though not always outwardly apparent, these definers — such as personality, lifestyle, and motives — can be valuable in defining a target market. For example, if you’re selling signed, high-end prints to individuals, you should know that many buyers purchase wall art for the snob appeal, rather than because they actually understand art or photography. That means you’ll do better if you travel in the right circles, appear in the right galleries, and get reviewed by the right critics.
- Product-related. This is where you build a segment around the distinct attributes of your product or service. For example, if you aim to offer the best customer service in town, you can market your business to all those who have been frustrated by the service they have received from photographers in the past.
After your target customers are defined, it’s time to start marketing to them. The best way to accomplish this is to think like them.
What do they enjoy doing? What is important to them? How do they spend their money? Where do they spend it? Why do they spend it the way they do?
This will be the roadmap that tells you where to advertise, what to say about your business, what to charge for your services, and so on. It all starts with knowing your audience.
Next: marketing mix – product