Have you ever compared your studio to another business? Usually, we as photographers compare ourselves with other photographers. How can we be like the big guys? How can we be different from the studio down the street? But have you ever compared your studio to other businesses? How about your favorite department store? Or what about the local home builder? What about Disney?
Any business that is vying for your customer’s dollar should be considered as a competitor. If your customer puts off having their portrait taken so that they can vacation at Disney World, Disney just became your competitor. How many times have your wedding orders dwindled because the bills start rolling in, and your customers began looking at other products that need their attention: new homes, blinds for the home, furniture, etc. When you begin looking at business from this approach, you begin seeing your marketing campaign in a whole new light. You aren’t just trying to capture business from other local studios, you are trying to create a style and product that will make your customers want to purchase your product over any of the other hundreds of opportunities that come their way ever day.
The first thing we need to do is capture our customers attention, have them want and desire our products, and be willing to pay what we want and expect them to pay. The key is to provide your customers with something no one else can provide. They come to you for the experience. The little touches. People look for things that make them special. They want customer service. They want individuality. In order to capture your customers’ attention, you must find a creative way of appealing to their senses – touch them in a way no one else has. New clients may be impressed with how much thoughtfulness you put into your brochures. Established clients may be impressed with how well you know their family – what type of portraiture they desire, and offer specials geared especially for them. Possibly by knowing them and their family members by name. Sending them birthday or anniversary cards. Send a bouquet of flowers as a thank you. The key is to make your customer feel special.
Now that we have our customers’ attention, we need to plan, design and market our product in such a way that we will create desire. Simplicity is the number one service you can provide. Make your studio relaxing. People enjoy “getting away from it all”. They like travel. They love health spas. The last thing they want is more stress. Provide simplistic products for purchase. Instead of having pricing sheets in the form of a Chinese menu, simplify and offer products as a whole – do you really need to list prices for the photograph, retouching, canvas mount, and spraying. You decide on the top quality product you want leaving your studio, the product you want representing all you have to offer. Then provide an appropriate price. Every product should be at its best – you should not offer a way of upgrading the quality. Your customer shouldn’t have to ask for an improvement in the quality of the product you produce for them, or they will begin to question the quality of the product itself.
Marketing your services is the most difficult part of business. Setting yourself apart not only from other studios, but from other non-competing companies is quite a challenge. If a woman is purchasing a gift for Mother’s Day for her mother, you need to create a desire for her to select portraiture above all the other gifts she could choose. The easiest way is to play on emotions. Portraiture is an art form. It is a memory maker. Above all it is a form of expression. Sell this expression in your marketing techniques. Whatever makes your studio unique, create an expression that will communicate this feeling to your perspective customers. Then let your customers see and feel your style over and over again.
Keeping in touch with your customer is just as important as providing a quality product. Stay visible in your customer’s eye. If they hear about you in different ways, they will remember you when they are asked for a referral. Newsletters are a great way of staying in touch. They don’t have to be fancy. Newsletters can be fun and informative without having a lot of writing and offers. Again, simplicity and consistency are key. If you are sending a quarterly newsletter, make sure you get it into the mail at the same time every quarter. Create themes. Logos and slogans should always appear in the same position every newsletter. Try adding columns, and continue the column every quarter. Also, vary who you send your newsletter to. Newsletters should continually be mailed to your client database, but also consider mailing them to vendors you do business with. Try writing specialty columns that offer advice for different clients and vendors. This can be a great way of expanding your business into areas you never even considered!
Finally, we need to sum up all of our sales and marketing techniques, and create a pricing structure that we are comfortable with. If you’re not comfortable with it, you can’t use it effectively to sell to your customers. You have to believe in it. You have to feel it’s a fair value. You’re customers will see if you are not comfortable with what you are presenting. If your customer is buying on emotion, she won’t focus on price. After all, she’s investing in a memory, not a product.
Simplicity. Consistency. Your customer will be looking for you to provide them both when choosing you as their photographer. Show them what you offer, not only in what you present, but also how you present it. Make your environment stress free. If they believe in you, they will be back. And, they will bring their friends!
Lori Osterberg has been marketing online since 1995. Her popular online newsletter is read weekly by small business owners from around the world. To subscribe visit