I originally wrote this series of articles on another site ten years ago and wanted to update this for my own site. In addition to being a photographer, I have served in various marketing roles at advertising agencies, media and adventure travel companies since graduating from college. Since most photographers do not have a background in marketing I wanted to start sharing some of thoughts on the subject and hopefully help some people along the way.
In the first part of this segment, I discussed analyzing your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. By utilizing the SWOT Analysis, you should have a better idea for who your target market consists of. In many cases there is a main audience and a secondary audience. These are the people that the majority of your marketing efforts should be concentrated on. Try to see things from their perspective.
There is an Australian photographer, Peter Lik, who owns numerous photo galleries and is a good example of someone who has done a great job at positioning himself within his market. Many photographers have argued that Lik markets to the “lowest common denominator” and doesn’t have legit professional credentials contrary to what his PR would lead you to believe. So what exactly are professional credentials? It’s all in the eye of the beholder. His audience is the general public so it really doesn’t matter what his peers think of him; your opinion is not paying his bills. His galleries are located in the most heavily trafficked tourist locations in the world such as the Las Vegas Strip so the majority of people that have seen his images probably have never seen photos of Antelope Canyon or Mesa Arch from Canyonlands National Park. To seasoned photographers, those are considered iconic postcard locations, places that don’t require a lot of creativity to come away with pretty pictures. But to the general population these photos are eye-openers. Why should he push the envelope in his galleries when the pictures he sells are making him hundreds of millions of dollars? It’s like comparing Kenny G with Pat Metheny. Metheny has the respect of his peers but who do you think sleeps easier at night knowing that his family is taken care of?
Peter Lik is not in the business of becoming a photographer’s photographer so he doesn’t spend time marketing to them. He is in the business of selling his brand. That comes across in all his promotional work including his website. On his website, it says that he is the most awarded photographer in history. Based on the list of awards he says that he won, that claim is dubious at best, but his audience buys it so more power to him. I have also read elsewhere that he once had an ad in an airport that proclaimed himself as the world’s greatest photographer. Further evidence that he is doing something that other photographers aren’t, in the past I’ve seen search queries from my web analytics that show people searching for things like, “Does Peter Lik have a girlfriend?” I’m not sure why those people ended up clicking on my website since I don’t even know the guy but it is interesting to know that from a business perspective.
You might wonder what the heck does having groupies have to do with running a photography business? Well, I have never once seen another search query like that for any other photographer on my website analytics. When people think of landscape photographers, the first impression is usually of middle-aged men that aren’t exactly redefining what it means to be cool. Mr. Lik obviously isn’t looked upon the same way though technically he is in the same demographic. The difference is that he has positioned himself in the realm of celebrities. He’s all about selling a particular lifestyle; a lifestyle that is the dream of most people. He doesn’t just sell art prints, he sells desire.
So what is your target audience? While going on assignment for National Geographic or having an exhibit in a renowned art gallery might be a closed market for most photographers, there are many more markets out there outside of those avenues. If you think about it, there are so many photographers out there that it is not even worth the time to spend significant resources marketing to the same audience that everyone else aspires to reach. Even if you were to get their attention, how much work would you expect to get from them considering that their contact list is probably a mile long?
If Nat Geo or the world’s most renowned art gallery wants to work with you then they will find you. Just make sure that you are doing what you can to be found by them if that is your ultimate goal. In the meantime, there is a much bigger market out there in this world to tap into. That is where the real work comes in. Defining your target market isn’t a process that happens overnight and might require a great deal of trial and error.
Who? Where? When? How?