Whether you already have clientele or are looking to build a client list, marketing is a never-ending task for photographers. You’ve already focused in on a target market (or two), but where to start? Are you unsure of how to get things started with a shoestring budget? Here are 10 low-cost marketing strategies for your photography business:
1. Get out of the house
This biggest thing you can do to spread your name is to be out there. Finding events and activities where your target market may be is key. Meetup.com has a huge selection of groups that host events, many for no cost. While it can be overwhelming, and may take some trial and error, there are loads of opportunities on that site. Your local Chamber of Commerce also has events that are open to the public and offer networking time. They are ideal if you’re looking to connect with local small businesses that may need your services. If your target market is within a certain profession, you can look into professional organizations in your area. Most professions have local and national chapters that meet regularly, and most of these groups welcome guest speakers. Offer to speak to their members about what you do, and how it relates to their work. It’s a perfect opportunity to put yourself in front of potential clients at no cost but your preparation time.
2. Get charitable
Is there a cause that is close to your heart? How can your photo skills help them out? Maybe a local animal shelter could use professional photos of the animals to help them get adopted quickly. Maybe there is an organization that helps the homeless find work, and those folks could use headshots. Make it something that resonates with your cause, or with your target clientele.
3. Tell your friends and family
Often just telling people what you’re enthusiastic about will also get them excited and make them want to help you. By just letting people you know what you’re working on, and what you have planned, they will often make suggestions or give you leads. There’s no need to do a sales pitch to them; just tell them about your life and what you have going on.
4. Put a photo on your business cards and hand them out to EVERYONE
We all have some sort of business card, so why not put a photo on there that will make people notice? It will give them something to “ooh and aah” over when they first get your card, and it will be a memorable card that they’ll recall easily.
5. Seek out opportunities and ask for a chance
If you want to shoot large events, check local calendars or your convention center for what’s going on in your area. Contact these organizations and see if they have photography coverage booked. Sometimes all it takes is asking. Have you participated in a great event and want to be involved as a photographer? Ask them! Having someone help that has already been involved in the event will be a big bonus for them.
6. Become a source
Write articles. Start a blog. Use Meetup.com to start a group and lead photo walks or workshops. Use social media to follow folks you admire, and connect with them. Interaction is key. If they post something of interest to you, thank them for it or ask a follow-up question. If you have a link (not necessarily your own) that relates to something they are speaking about, be a resource for them and share the link. By doing so, you build credibility and create a professional relationship, and will therefore be someone that comes to mind for future needs.
7. Make sure you love the work that you’re sharing
Passion is contagious and palpable. If you’re excited, others will get excited and will be more willing to help out in any way they can. It’s that simple.
8. Offer a free session to a strategic friend or family
The key word here is strategic. If you give away services that you would normally charge for, be sure that there is a reason for giving it away. For example, if you are looking to do more family portraits, offer a session to a well-connected friend with kids. Be sure that it’s someone who is active on social media so that they will share your work if they like it. Also, be sure to ask for a testimonial for your website.
Strategic partnerships are much better when you create something cool together that you can show off. Maybe you organize a styled wedding shoot with other wedding vendors (and then you can submit images for features in local wedding publications). For kids, maybe you put together an elaborate cake smash session with folks that do cakes, kids clothing, party decor. Not only do you have something beautiful to show from your collaboration, but these fellow vendors will be a great source for referrals as well.
You may have heard of giving incentives for referrals or to new clients, but how about giving incentives to your existing client base? If you do family sessions, you can send an email offering a small discount for booking their following year’s portrait session early. If you have wedding clients, touch base with them on their first anniversary, and then again at milestones to offer a discount for booking with you for updated portraits. If you’ve worked with a local business before, contact them periodically and offer a small discount to book for new product shots, new headshots, or photos of their new location. Be sure to put an expiration date on these discounts to encourage folks to book early.
One thing to keep in mind with any marketing tactic is that it will most likely not provide instant results, so you need to be patient and consistent. Only you can determine when it’s time to give up, and move on to something that will be a better fit for your business, but patience and consistency will help yield results.
What marketing strategies have you made that had great results? Do you have other ideas for free or low-cost marketing? Please share in the comments below.