What Photographers Don’t Get About Marketing

This post is Day 29 of 30 Ways In 30 Days To Redesign Your Life With Photography. This series seeks to provide you with practical steps to get you from wherever you are today, to exactly where you want to be – this year! If your goal has always been to take your photography to a whole new level, hang on and start enjoying a new lifestyle you’ve always dreamed of.

I love time travel movies. It’s so much fun thinking about the possibility of being able to leap into the future to see what its like. Wouldn’t it be interesting to see what the world is like in 50 years? What technology will we be using? What will our daily lives be like?

Unfortunately, we can’t make the leap today, and know instantly what we should be doing to make our future successful. And in today’s world, even a few short months can bring about drastic change.

Think about what we do today compared with what we were doing five years ago. Would you have ever predicted spending your time on Facebook? Statistics show that the average person spends over 10 hours per month on it.

I also read a statistic that a person starting a four year technical degree today is learning obsolete technology. In other words, technology is changing so fast, that what we are learning today will no longer apply a short four years from now.

So how do we look into the future and decide what we want to do when it may not exist?

And more importantly, how can you build a business today that is ready for the future?

The First Step

The first step towards the future is realizing that everything you learned in the past no longer applies.

  • Yellow Pages and phone books? Dead.
  • Newspapers and print advertising? Dead.
  • Television and radio commercials? Dead.

Okay, I know I’m going to get emails that say these tools are still being used effectively, and they are still generating business. And I agree. In some ways, they are still in use and people are gaining traction from them.

Yet I would also argue that whatever business these tools generated one year ago has dropped significantly today.

I recently looked at our local paper and saw a wedding photographer with a small traditional ad in the “living” section. Really? I wonder if he’s getting wedding clients from it. I have my doubts on whether a 20 or 30-something is actually reading a newspaper, much less contacting him.

The problem with business owners is we tend to look towards our mentors, towards successful people that have built businesses over the past 20 years, and ask them for advice.

And because their experience is in traditional media, they offer traditional advice. Then people take that advice and apply it today using today’s tools and technology. And the two simply don’t mix.

Heading Down The Wrong Path

Do you login to Facebook or Twitter regularly? How do you use these tools?

If you love Facebook and use it all the time, I’m willing to bet you thought things like:

  • I find out what my friends are doing
  • I look at photos my friends have posted
  • I share my ideas with friends
  • I have fun coming up with quotes to share with friends
  • I play games to relax on my downtime

If you are on Facebook because everyone tells you that’s the place to be, yet you just don’t “get it”, I’m willing to be you thought things like:

  • I join as many groups as I can find and put links back to my site
  • I ask people to join my Facebook page
  • I rarely post photos of my clients because I don’t trust it – what if they steal the images?

And right there is the problem with social media.

If you are using Facebook in the right way, the way the person who loves Facebook does, you may be chatting with friends, yet have no idea how to use it for business.

The second example is attempting to turn Facebook into a traditional marketing tool, and is convinced blasting his message all over will eventually bring in business.

Neither work because they are missing the most important point of social marketing. It’s not about selling what you have or what you do; it’s about sharing who you are and letting people find out more about you.

In Day 14, I touched on Why Every Small Business Owner Must Now Be a Content Provider. I shared why blogging is becoming so successful, and allows you to build up your marketing potential simply by sharing content on a regular basis. While blogging gives you the application to provide the content, tools like Facebook and Twitter allow you to share it.

Let me show you what can happen when one person falls in love with something you share, and begins distributing your content all over the web.

In this graph, you can see the stats from our blog. Our average traffic tends to hover in a general zone. Now look at the spike. In one day, we more than doubled traffic to our site. We have spikes like that consistently, and work to constantly improve the amount of traffic coming to our site.

We created the content. Someone else loved the content and decided to share it. People saw it, and decided to share it with their friends as well. And so on.

We didn’t shove a sales message into someone’s stream or news feed. We provided quality content that people can use. And as a reward they liked it, shared it, and brought us in traffic.

Of course it’s not all about traffic. If traffic isn’t bringing in business, there’s no reason for the traffic. The two have to work together in a “soft sell”.

What Is A Soft Sell?

A soft sell is providing enough content that entices people to take the next step.

  • They love what you do in Facebook, so they read your profile.
  • They love your profile, so they click over to your blog.
  • They read a blog post, and click to read another.
  • They love your blog, and sign up for your newsletter.
  • They receive several newsletters, and love the way you write.
  • They look at your products/services, and decide to make a purchase.

In each of those steps, you never saw “sell to them”. You never saw the words “give them a sales pitch”. It’s all about information. It’s all about sharing advice, and building up your expertise.

Today’s consumer is tech savvy and well educated. They know what they want and will search it out when they are ready. You can’t “sell” them. They love to buy when the time is right for them.

Your job is to be there when they are ready. As a photographer, if you “get” this one message and start using it to build towards the future, you will be miles ahead of your competition.

2 thoughts on “What Photographers Don’t Get About Marketing”

  1. None of what you mentioned above has anything to do with selling commercial photography to business clients. The whole world of photography is not about booking a wedding by leveraging your “friends” (most of whom you’ve never met) on Facebook. This is the kind of BS that keeps entry level photographers poor.

    • Kirk
      Ultimately it doesn’t matter who you are connecting with – business, weddings, portrait or commercial clients – it all has to do with building up relationships. True, you may find Facebook isn’t the place for you. Maybe its LinkedIn. But social networking is here to stay, and it will only get bigger over time. You can connect with anyone, anywhere, instead of relying on what you can do face to face. If your best contact happens to be 500 miles away, this is a way to get your foot in the door.


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