First in a series.
There is no shortage of marketing guidance for photographers on the Web today. “How to Use Social Media.” “How to Use SEO.” “How to Use Trade Shows.” “How to Use Business Cards.” “How to Write ‘How to’ Posts.” The list is endless.
But all this information isn’t worth much if you don’t have a plan. And by that I don’t mean some vague goal of becoming the next Nachtwey or Leibovitz. I mean a formal marketing plan.
Marketing Plan Components
It is often said that failing to plan is planning to fail — or, for the alliterative among us, proper prior planning prevents pitifully poor performance. A marketing plan is a dynamic document that acts as a guideline for all of your marketing efforts. As such, it’s a valuable tool for avoiding “pitifully poor performance.”
The elements of a standard marketing plan include:
- Executive summary
- Mission statement
- SWOT analysis
- Target markets
- Marketing mix – product
- Marketing mix – place
- Marketing mix – promotion
- Marketing mix – price
Approaching the Market
Before setting out to create a marketing plan, you must first decide how you wish to approach the marketplace. There are four basic approaches to choose from:
- Product orientation. This means you will focus on marketing your unique capabilities, rather than adapting to the needs or desires of the marketplace. This is a “Field of Dreams” approach: if you build it, they will come. As a photographer, you are going to offer something special — and because it is special, people will want it.
- Sales orientation. Here the focus is on the sales technique; people will buy your product if you sell it in the right way. As a photographer, you are going to rely on your personality or sales abilities to convince your client that they need you. Billy Mays  illustrated this approach perfectly.
- Market orientation. Your focus is on the consumer. What do potential buyers of your product want or need? As a photographer, you are stepping back and looking at your target customers. Is there an opportunity for a high-end wedding photographer in your geographic area — or do you need to be sensitive to price?
- Social marketing orientation. Here you highlight your efforts to serve the community, with the expectation that consumers will appreciate this — and reward you with their business. If you donate time to Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep , or convince people you are Earth-friendly, clients will like what you are doing and use your services. Prime examples of this are Method  soaps and cleaners and Toyota Prius.
Upon selecting one of these orientations, a photographer can begin to plan a marketing strategy.
The Product Life Cycle
Another overarching point to keep in mind is the product life cycle. Every product or service goes through its rise and fall, from introduction, through growth and maturity, and into decline. The goal of the business is to ride the wave of maturity for as long as possible.
Knowing where your photography business stands in its life cycle can help with your marketing decision-making. For example, if you are just starting out, you must first define and establish yourself. You can’t get by with the “because you’ve always known me approach” that a mature photographer can.
A mature photography business, on the other hand, can forestall decline by introducing a new service to play the “revolutionary” card and jump-start sales.
Your marketing plan doesn’t have to be a thick, gray document. If you aren’t a fan of sentences and paragraphs, you can do it in simple bullet points. Or you can do it on a big whiteboard and allow it to be dynamic within your organization.
The important thing is that you do it. Take the time to give serious thought to what you are really about — and how to sell that to a client. Then you can start worrying about social media, SEO, trade shows and the rest.
Next: the executive summary