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Thinking about starting a photography business? Want to grow your current photography studio? A strategic photographer marketing plan is critical to your success. The photography industry generates $10 billion in annual revenues, and it’s growing at a rate of 1.7 percent. Improving economic conditions and increasing disposable incomes are expected to propel industry growth over the next five years.
That is to say: now is an excellent time to start or grow your photography business.
Of course, photographers face heavy competition, so you need to effectively promote your company if you want to maximize profits. This photography business marketing plan will help you attract more customers and boost profits.
If you’re in the startup phase of your photography business, you need to decide whether you’ll be a jack of all trades or specialize in a specific niche. Specialization makes it easier to focus your marketing efforts, and can lead to follow-up assignments outside of your niche.
The investment to start a photography business can vary significantly depending on what style or genre of photography you’ll offer, whether you’ll have a physical studio or take photos on location, and what equipment you need (camera, lenses, lighting, backdrops, processing software, etc.).
Business News Daily states that it costs around $10,000 to start your own photography business, while 18th Avenue Mom says you can start a photography business at home for under $1,000 – offering a range between $685 and $10,000.
If you’ll rent or purchase studio space and/or hire employees, your startup costs investment will be more. Profitable Venture estimates it costs $10,000 to $28,000 to start a small studio, $50,000 for a mid-size studio, and more than $100,000 for a large photography studio.
A good business plan will help you estimate startup costs with accuracy, define the direction of your business, and project expenses and profits.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the average annual salary for photographers as $42,640. Payscale states that a photographer with less than five years experience can expect to make around $34,000, mid-career photographers make an average annual wage of $46,000, and a photographer with more than 20 years experiences can expect $50,000. Salary.com states that the median annual photographer earnings is $61,305, with a range of $48,817 to $69,411.
Many variables affect the salary for business owners, including region, type of services offered, number of employees, etc. A solo photographer who charges $5,000 per wedding and shoots 30 weddings per year will gross $150,000, for example, while large scale studios with multiple employees could earn even more. Of course, some photography businesses make very little and fail.
$34,000 to $42,640 Less than 5 years experience
$50,000+ 20+ years
If you want to cash in on photography, you’ll need a strong marketing campaign to best the competition and influence prospects to become clients – and that begins with branding your photography business.
Branding your photography business is like taking the perfect photo - you need to put strategic effort into developing your image for maximum visual impact. The following details what you need to do to brand your photography business for success.
Importance of a branded image
Your brand image visually represents what you do, how you do it better, who you do it for, and your company’s mission and values. Cultivating a powerful brand goes beyond creating a logo; it’s practicing what you preach to establish your expertise and demonstrate to customers why you’re the best photographer for the job.
Do you take sports photos for news publication? Celebrity photos at the
Oscars? Wedding photos? Family portraits? Define exactly what you do
so you can identify your target audience.
What is unique about your photography business, and how does that benefit your customers?
Your unique selling proposition should tell customers what’s in it for them.
List your top customers and identify shared traits to create an ideal customer profile. What are their desires? Fears? Dreams? Problems? Your brand should cater to these.
Where does your business stand today? Where do you want it to be in five years or ten years? Your mission should include who you are and where you're going.
Identify common themes in your answers to develop a tagline that succinctly defines your photography business. A tagline can be clever and memorable, so long as it also suggests the unique benefits you offer.
Once you’ve identified your brand, you can bring it to life through design. Your logo, colors, font choices, and style guide work to visually represent your photography business. When prospects see your logo and other visual assets and instantly recognize what company they represent, you’ve developed a strong brand.
Land your first customers or grow your established photography business with proven marketing tools for photographers.
Print business cards to hand to potential customers, place in direct-mailers, and leave with partners such as bridal shops and wedding planners. Showcase your photography on your business cards, and consider ultra business card printing – featuring an attractive and attention-getting stripe of edge color – for the ultimate visual impact.
Print custom flyers to place in locations your customers frequent, as well as partner locations and on public bulletin boards.
Distributing free calendars to potential customers is the perfect way to showcase your photography skills. Feature your best shots each month in a themed calendar your audience is likely to appreciate. What better way to put your talents on display 365 days per year?
If you want to take photos for advertising, business, and other corporate accounts, you should print a corporate identity kit that includes a personalized letter on company letterhead, your business cards, your brochure, a flyer, and prints of your work, all in a well-branded pocket folder.
Send postcards to a targeted mailing list. Include a coupon or coupon code to influence response; for example, a portrait photographer might offer a time-limited discount on family photos. Consider the timing of your direct-mail postcards. Wedding photographers, for example, might fare well during wedding season. Command attention at the mail box with colored-edge ultra postcard printing.
Banners are cost-effective marketing tools that put your business in front of hundreds or even thousands of potential customers daily. Print banners to promote specials at your photography studio or to draw attention to your home studio.
Print booklets that showcase your best work, and hand your portfolio to potential customers to make it easy for them to decide to hire you.
Print car door magnets to market your photography business on the go, wherever you go. Print refrigerator magnets featuring shots that will resonate with your audience to brand your studio every time they get a glass of milk.
List the benefits of your photography service in a brochure that showcases your best work. Print brochures to hand to prospects, send via direct-mail, leave in racks at partner locations, and to leave behind anywhere your audience is likely to find them.
Print bumper stickers or stickers to place in the window of your car. Create sheet stickers or roll stickers to brand your photography studio anywhere. If you’re located in a busy area, you can print custom window clings to promote your exclusive offers. Or, print large-format wall graphics to demonstrate your skillful artwork to the masses.
Place your photography portfolio on your website, post images on your Facebook and Pinterest pages, email exclusive offers to past customers, and upload your best shots to photography portfolio repositories.
A picture can be worth a thousand words, but you'll need more than beautiful photography to attract customers. Professional copywriting is essential to the success of any marketing campaign. Copywriting complements your photography because it tells customers how to feel and motivates them to take the next step in the purchasing process.
Your headline should be captivating and bold. Introduce an exclusive offer and address customer fears or desires.
Your body copy should reveal the key benefits that set you apart from your competition and make you attractive to potential customers. Do you shoot the best wedding photos? Do you offer printed booklets? Are you the fastest and most affordable family portrait photographer? Do you guarantee customer satisfaction?
The quality of your offer is integral to your photography marketing success, so make sure it is good enough to have value for your clients. Make your offer time-limited to influence quick response.
Never leave your customers hanging - always tell them exactly what they must do next to take advantage of your special offer.
Your marketing materials won't do any good if you don’t distribute them. The following details potential distribution strategies for your photographer marketing campaigns.
Direct mail is proven to be one of the best ways to put your promotions in front of an audience that’s likely to respond. Before you begin, understand the 40/40/20 rule of direct marketing.
Repetition is key to direct-mail; it not only increases your brand recognition, it increases the likelihood your promotions will reach the right people at the perfect time.
Banners, posters, and flyers can be placed in outdoor areas as well as outdoor and indoor public spaces: bulletin boards, high-traffic intersections, strip mall entrances, and shopping center walls. You can partner with non-competing businesses that share your customer base and hand out one another’s marketing tools. Car door magnets, stickers, wall graphics, and window clings make big statements your audience can’t ignore.
You can take out ads in targeted publications, local newspapers, on social media, and on local or targeted blogs and websites.
Incorporate tracking mechanisms into your marketing tools whenever possible. Coupons, coupon codes, special numbers, unique URLs, and other devices make it easy to measure success.
Testing variations of your marketing on small segments of your audience
Tracking results so you can identify
what works best
Tweaking your campaigns so that only your best performers reach your audience
Try these creative photographer marketing ideas and resources to boost your sales this year:
If there is a bridal show, an athletic contest, or other event where your target audience gathers, get a booth and hand out your marketing tools. You might even offer free photos or some other demonstration to showcase your work.
You can find great deals on advertising by getting in good with local media. Take action shots from athletic events and political snapshots to give away to the paper. Offer to submit engagement and wedding photos to local media in return for couples allowing you to place your logo on them. Get to know editors - and account reps - on a first-name basis and give the paper a bit of charity work. Doing so could open opportunities for getting a free flyer or print ad in the newspaper, and will certainly make editors more agreeable to running stories you bring to them (such as when you need a spotlight in the business section).
Take period-clothing shots at state fairs and local festivals, or offer to be the official event photographer in return for some free advertising.
Non-competing, complementary businesses can increase your opportunities and profits. Photography supplies stores, wedding planners, pet shops, and other businesses might prove to be perfect co-marketing partners for photographers. You can also create a special package in which everyone wins. For example, a wedding package that includes photography, videography, and invitation printing – all at a discount.
Enter photography contests to put your work in front of admirers. If you win, you can showcase your awards on your marketing tools and even get some PR in local and industry publications.
Here are a few links to photography marketing resources you can use to bolster business.
Full-service printing, direct mailing, and mailing list generation.
PMA is a photographer marketing association amongst photographer marketing associations. That is, it is a community comprised of many other photography associations with a wealth of resources.
Service Corps of Retired Executives offers free business counseling and other resources from retired, successful execs.
The Small Business Administration provides tools and support for U.S. small businesses, including photographers.