Do you want more customers for your photography business?
Before you answer, let me throw this stat out: according to the National Retail Federation, customer returns accounted for more than $260.5 billion in lost sales for U.S. retailers in 2015 alone. Obviously, the services we sell aren’t exactly retail merchandise, but it’s still worth paying attention to the numbers.
So let me clarify: you DON’T simply want more customers. You want more GOOD customers. How do you find them? Well, the easiest way is to have a lot of happy customers in the first place … and one of the best ways to get those is to avoid these common marketing mistakes photographers make:
1. Relying on discounts. Sometimes offering a coupon or discount makes sense (I’ve had great success with Groupon), but it shouldn’t be your first tactic, and you should never make it a way of life. The reason we want more customers is so we can build revenue streams; if you start pulling in a bunch of clients at a lower rate, you’ll end up doing a lot more work without making significantly more money.
Cut-rate pricing devalues your brand: if you were worth more, you’d charge more, right? That’s what people think. You’re not going to build a stable of loyal, long-term customers on a reputation of being “The Cheap One.”
2. Using cheap/generic marketing materials. Remember those old Hallmark commercials where people would flip over a greeting card to see is you “cared enough to send the very best”? Nowadays, people are checking the backs of business cards for the VistaPrint logo, to see if you’re the cheapskate who’d rather have someone else’s ad on your card than pay even the discounted price. So don’t be that guy (or gal).
The collateral you leave with potential customers speaks volumes about you and reflects on your work. A cheap–or, heaven help us, homemade–card or brochure indicates that you are less an artist and more of a pedestrian. Until you do work for them, that card is all that clients have to remember you: make sure you’re leaving them with a good impression.
3. Marketing in the wrong places. A supermarket bulletin board is NOT a viable marketing medium. Sorry. Have you ever hired a professional by tearing off a perforated number from a “community services” board? Yeah, didn’t think so.
When it comes to something as personal as family or wedding photography, potential customers impact … not the number of a random stranger hanging between ads for lawn care guys and lost kittens. Try offering a discount on family portraits to a local business (or 2) on the condition you can hang a framed pic from the session in their office or waiting room. Much more personal, much more effective. And while we’re on the subject of marketing mediums …
4. Forgoing a website. No, no, no. In this day and age, people are searching for services at all hours of the day or night. Maybe they’re on the office computer, or on their phones in traffic, or on a tablet while in their PJs. Whatever, skipping the online portfolio is simply NOT an option anymore.
And don’t try to get away with a few posts on social media, either; there’s not that much of a link between having thousands of followers and gaining new customers. Think about it: posting on Instagram is fast, easy, and free. So you can bet every single one of your competitors are already doing it. Use social media for keeping in touch with current customers … not as a way to gain new ones.
Making any of these mistakes isn’t the kiss of doom, of course, but they are methods that will make reaching your goal much harder. Invest in professional materials and mediums to gain more and better customers … and eventually, those customers will bring others to your doorstep.