The Value of Marketing

Night Heron on peirI have touched on some of this before, but lets get a little deeper, shall we? When I started my photography business I thought it would be like “Field of Dreams”, If i built it and had great imagery, people would hire me.However, life never seems to be like the movies. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that great imagery is not important. It is. It is the cost of admission. The bare minimum that you need to start considering a business in photography.This is one of the things that really caused me problems early on. I am not a graphic designer, I am not an accountant.  I am not a marketing guru. I am a simple photographer. The only thing that really interests me is making images ( and sometimes talking gear, i am a little bit of a nerd).
I stated my business with no real *business* experience to speak of. I thought marketing was having a website, and putting some ads in the phone book and newspaper. Build it and they will come. HA. I started off doing a little commercial work here and there for people that I knew. After a few years, I ended up booking my first wedding. I found out early on, that paid advertisements were worthless for me. I spent more than a thousand dollars one year to be featured on the Knot, and while I did get web traffic to my website, I could not point to one single person who booked me by finding me there. I could have spent that money on some new L glass from canon!
Advertising and Marketing. They are the same thing, right? No. Advertising is something you buy. Marketing is something you do. Let me say that again:  Advertising is something you buy. Marketing is something you do. Brand building is marketing, but not in the sense like you might think. Visual branding is important and it must “fit” you, but that is just one aspect (and hiring a designer to make your logo and website is advertising.) Think about branding differently. It is more about *who* you are and *what* you can do. You must separate yourself from the sea of photographers. What can you do that everyone else can’t?  The answer is: nothing. There is nothing that you can learn and do that someone else can’t learn to do.  I think that is another one that I should repete: There is nothing that you can do, that  with proper motivation another person won’t be able to figure out. There is no magical lighting arrangement, or some mystical pose that you can use that other people will not be able to figure out. So. Where does that leave us? Excellent Customer service is one important aspect of branding and marketing. Mostly because your competition either refuses to offer it or because they don’t understand the importance. Perceived Value is a big one. If you can find a way to add value to a product or service or to your marketing you will have a huge step up. Networking was a huge slice of my marketing. I would meet with other vendors (florist, caterers, venue owners, even other photographers) and try to build relationships with them. I ended up being pretty good friends with a few in the area, we’d hang out, have mixers, talk shop. And most importantly, trade referrals. I would often give a venue owner or planner a wedding album that we designed, and in it would contain images of their venue or work. But, I would always go a step further and talk to them, find out what images get them going, what images they wanted to see, what they wanted to share about their product to potential clients, Then I would customize a book that fits their wants. Often times, they would end up being the biggest crusaders for my studio, because I added value to them. Same with clients. If you wanted a potential bride to keep your marketing  piece (advertisement) you need to add value to it. I had wedding planning guide that i made in my studio and passed out to prospective brides. It was full of pertinent information to soon-to-be-brides. It had picture lists, time frames  for planning activities to be completed by, budget brake downs for photography and other services, lists of other excellent vendors in the area, sunrise/sunset data, etc. etc. As well as  great imagery and a beautiful presentation (imho). I was trying to create something that would add value to a potential bride.
You can add perceived value to your brand by having really nice looking price lists ( we called them a menu). I have seen so many photographers using black and white xerox copies for a price list. Having a full color menu with descriptions, and images of your products add value. It shows that you are proud of the work you do. That you will put the same effort into your finished work. Anyway, I am kinda rambling now… these are just some of my thoughts on the value of marketing. The point of this post is not to tell you how to do it. There is no *magic* marketing strategy that will work for you. You have to find your own road. Hopefully this post will make you think about your marketing. Let me know in the comments 🙂

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