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.
While photographers are creative and are great at creating their art, they are generally terrible at marketing themselves. There are several reasons for this. One reason is that it is hard to sell something that you are so emotionally invested in. For this reason it might be better to find someone to do the marketing for you. Another reason is that most people do not have the professional background or education in marketing necessary to do an effective job at it. It is hard to enjoy selling your own work trust me.
No matter which form of marketing you choose to employ it requires a well-conceived plan in order to be effective. In my previous articles on photography branding, we discussed targeting and market analysis; these are the starting blocks for what should be your marketing campaign. At this point you should come up with a one page brief. This is probably the most important thing I’ll have to share with you in this whole series of blog posts. As an example, here are the questions that an ad agency creative brief usually has on there:
- Why are we marketing?
- What is the advertising trying to do?
- Who are we talking to?
- What do we know that will help us?
- What is the main thought to communicate that will differentiate us from the competition?
- Tone / Creative Guidelines
The main thought is the “concept” behind your entire campaign and the message that your audience will be receiving. It is extremely important to narrow this down to a single point to communicate. Many companies and business people do not understand this and therefore end up with a crappy ad campaign as a result. To their credit, it is hard to fork out money for something and not be tempted to cram as many thoughts as possible in a marketing execution but this is a mistake. The consumer doesn’t care about your advertising. Advertising is an annoyance. If they are going to take anything away from your messaging it has to be concise and interesting. If it isn’t, then you should just hold onto your money instead until you figure out how to do this.
Once you’ve developed a good creative brief then you can decide what type of media to employ. Some ideas are so adaptable that they can translate into many forms of media from print ads, postcards, email, sidewalk stencil drawings to things that no one has thought of before. What you should do is evaluate what the competition is currently doing and do something different than them. That is the only way to stand out in a crowded marketplace.
So now that you have a marketing plan and creative brief, where should you market? Each business and industry has certain marketing channels that work better than others. Some of this is a function of how well you can optimize these campaigns but perhaps more importantly, it depends on where your audience is and where they are in the decision process. For more on what modern-day consumers think about as they go about the decision process, I highly recommend this white paper that Google published in 2011 called, The Zero Moment of Truth.
I came up with a list of some common marketing channels that might be of relevance to your photography. Each probably warrants at least a post of its own so I’m not going to cover any of them in this blog post. I may cover some of these in greater depth in separate posts. I’ve had firsthand experience with most of these on behalf of Fortune 500 companies, privately-owned companies, startups and my own websites so there are a lot of ideas floating around in my head.
Marketing Channels For Photographers
- Social Media
- Search Engines
- Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
- Display Advertising
- Affiliate Marketing
- 3rd Party Review Sites
- Wedding Wire
- The Knot
- Magazine Articles
- Print Advertising
- Business Cards
- Event Marketing
- Art Fairs
- Juried Art Shows
- Photo Contests
- Public Speaking
- Professional Networking
- Industry Events
- Chamber of Commerce
A key piece of advice before beginning any sort of marketing campaign is establish what your key performance indicators (KPI’s) are. Generally if you are doing any sort of digital marketing you should have Google Analytics (GA) installed on every page of your website. Then set up some conversion goals in GA. An example of a conversion goal is to track the number of times people fill out the various forms on your website. This is crucial to understanding which marketing channels are driving your most-efficient leads and sales. Once you figure this out then you should have no qualms about putting out the money. No attribution model is perfect (1st click, last click, multi-touch, time-decay, etc…) but having any sort of visibility is better than not having any idea at all. Print attribution is a little bit more tricky but there are strategies for this too. Some common print attribution strategies are to use promo codes or to create a vanity URL that only people who have seen your print piece would know how to access. Call tracking software can help with call-based marketing attribution. Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager are big topics on their own so I may also consider sharing some insights on those in future posts.