Marketing your photography business can be difficult and overwhelming when you feel like you’re slamming money and time into actions that aren’t working. I grew my photography business from a corner of my bedroom into multiple studios and an all referral business. I did this by bootstrapping as I didn’t have a lot of money to invest. Bootstrapping is to get yourself out of a situation with existing resources. If you are starting our, or have hit a rough financial patch, financial resources may be extremely limited.
To this day, even with a larger marketing budget, I still stick to the basics of the bootstrapping and cost-effective principles. I use what I call my 3:1 Ratio to determine which actions will be used. Before I take any actions, I ensure that I’m going to have three benefits to every single drawback.
Have you ever noticed when you’re out in public that crowds tend to gather? Traffic backs up for no reason in certain spots? This is because humans are creatures who naturally want companionship. If you look around the world you’ll see natural pairings and companionships in various places. Even most animals approach life together in schools and flocks.
This is because everything is safer and easier in numbers. Going at business alone can be dangerous. You run the risk of burning out, being overwhelmed, and/or going slower than you would with a companion.
I know I know, many of us are business owners and entrepreneurs because we desire to run our own business – but let us be honest: even working in an industry where we work with people, it can still be lonely. We want that companionship. We fear failure, and crave a safe feeling of companionship. Sitting behind a computer (or camera) for hours on end and working through paperwork can feel very isolating. You start to wonder if you are the only one going at it. You wonder if you are the only one struggling with feeling overwhelmed.
Companionships are just the tip of why affiliations with local businesses are critical to the mental and physical health of your business (and you). Business affiliations are good for the mind and soul – but even more than that, they open up a world of new paths to clients. In marketing, your goal is to get in the target client’s path. They are running along – and you want to be right there with them to tell them about your products and services. But you have to find where they are. This, in and of itself, is overwhelming – so why try to manage it alone?
I attribute business affiliations as one of the key cornerstones to business success. (You thought I was gonna say being legal huh? Well that is part of it, but that’s not the be-all end-all.)Without business affiliations to open up new fields of potential clients with whom you can develop relationships and learn new market penetration strategies, you’ll be left behind. Alone.
You may be thinking that it’s scary to reach out to other businesses.
There’s a fear of rejection.
A fear of letting them down.
A fear of failure with someone else watching.
Let me tell you, fellow business colleagues will not think less of you. In fact, they will see and speak more highly of you for putting yourself out there and trying. If you try then fail – then you do.
Quit relying on social media – wait…we can’t rely on it. Why? Because social media platforms have their own agenda. They have their own reasons for delivering specific content over others. What if yours doesn’t fall in the category that is being delivered up to potential clients?
This is the reality that many of you are facing.
The best part is – you do have a platform at your fingertips that can help you with this. You can avoid the social media dart game and hope to catch a client.
You can get in their inbox.
Being in an individuals’ email inbox you’re more likely to have the marketing delivered (hey, sometimes spam filters may act up!) and creates a more direct and personalized connection to the individual you’re seeking to acquire as a client.
You should be regularly emailing to potential clients and clients.
Trust me, you want to get an email marketing strategy down. This is probably the one (next to business partnerships) that I credit my growing business success to.
Asking your clients for referrals
This is is relatively simple. Ask your clients to refer you. You can do this witha formalized program, or informally for more organic referrals.
However, for the prompts of referrals to work for you – you must work with the client psychology of your avatar. Who is it that you’ve attracted to your business?
Are your current clients truly the avatar you want to continue with? If yes, great – push forward for their similar avatar friends. If not, what can you adjust?
Do you really want a referral from a pool of individuals that may not be your avatar?
What if you don’t want to lose that pool, how can you do better to filter out the non-avatars?
All of this comes together to create an request for referrals. It’s a bit more than you thought, huh?
Cross-marketing your current clients
This one is kind of a cheat one. It’s a way to make more money without truly having to market!
Look at your past clients and see if you can cross them over to another niche. example – I have lots of commercial clients throughout year – I am able to cross them over to family sessions in fall- that is the ONLY time I take families.
I don’t typically photograph them as my main course of business as I find a better return and enjoyment elsewhere- but I already have spent the marketing dollars and time building the buyer confidence on these people – it’s EASY to get them in the door for family work.
Another example would be if you’re a senior or newborn photographer – move them into family pics.
Use the marketing dollars and energy you’ve already spent on them – maximize it. Avoid seeking for new clients this close to end of year – marketing takes a good two to four months to work on clients – use this time to get those who already know you to come back to you. It’s especially easy if you’ve been email marketing them at least quarterly.
Real Life Example:
Client comes into the studio for commercial work (headshots and marketing images) in April. Killer custom commercial quote – make my money – we are all happy. I did my follow-up and quality control check on her 2-3 weeks after delivery of product All was good.
November rolls around, and it is time to “cash in” on the work I’ve already done. Call client. Get her booked with a pre-sold collection. Have session. Process and deliver. Follow-up. Boom!
Bottom line: $5500 order for less than 2 hours of work
Reviewing client file: 5 minutes
Quick phone call follow-up to client to pitch a family session: 15 minutes
Presold : $3000 collection (paid for before session – buyer confidence baby!)
Driving to session: 10 minutes
Shooting: 30 minutes
Driving home from session: 10 minutes
Processing and uploading to gallery: 20 minutes
48-hour phone call follow up: 20 minutes
Follow-up sale with album + 2 canvases: $2500 a la carte items
Total client value: $6500 commercial session + $5500 portrait session = $12,000 client value
The Client Value is actually going to increase because she has 2 pending referrals to me for commercial work with local business owners + 1 referred client that was photographed in July.
As you can see, marketing doesn’t have to be crazy complicated or expensive. We’d love to hear some of your bootstrapping marketing techniques in the comments!