This past weekend I sent out an email to my newsletter subscribers asking for feedback on what topics they would like me to share more on. Hands down, marketing and finding your ideal client made the top of the list. So I thought it would be a great idea, to not only write a blog post with tips for photographers on how to market their business and get their work in front of their ideal clients, but to at the same time let the families out there know ways that we ARE marketing so you CAN more easily find us.
Word of Mouth. From a photographer perspective, my job is to give each client I work with such an incredible experience, that they can’t help but refer me to all their friends. Let’s take a non-photography example, for instance. My Mom drove down to visit me on my birthday weekend last month. There is a farm to table restaurant here in Yarmouth Maine called Gather that I have been wanting to try since I moved here but hadn’t yet had the chance. So we decided that was the perfect place for a celebration dinner, and my mind was blown at how amazing the food was. I quite literally had the best salmon of my entire life, and don’t even get me started on the chocolate torte with salted caramel pretzel topping I had for desert!
Three days later, on my actual birthday, my friends wanted to take me out for dinner to celebrate as well. I am lucky to live just minutes from Portland Maine and let me just tell you that we have some of the best restaurants available. It’s definitely a foodie city, and we usually have a really hard time choosing where to go. And you know where we went? Gather! Because I couldn’t stop talking about how delicious everything was and how much I enjoyed it. I raved to the point that my friends needed to go experience it too! That’s what word of mouth does.
That’s how I want my clients to feel- that they felt cared for in the details, that the planning was easy and not overwhelming, that the session was smooth and I didn’t make them feel stressed about any part of it, and that most of all, the images were delivered in a timely manner, and quality that was even better than they had hoped for. I want the hand-crafted album to come out when friends are over, and for my clients to share that they would be crazy to book anyone else but me, and that the experience, and the results, were worth every penny. For many, I think word of mouth is a very natural method of finding trusted brands and businesses to work with.
Last fall, I had recently photographed a client’s newborn session in their beautiful home, and they were elated with the images. Their friend was expecting and also looking for a photographer. Their friend asked another photographer, who didn’t specialize in maternity and newborn as I do, and that photographer actually referred me as a better fit. That couple explained that they had wanted to work with me, but felt like it would be copying their friend who I had just worked with. I wanted to clear the air and shout, “But that’s what we want!” I work hard to only attract a certain type of client that I want to photograph. I offer a very unique portrait experience and am not the photographer for everyone, and only book those families who I feel are a good fit for what I offer. Part of how I continue to book more of those ideal clients, is by their referrals to their friends! It’s like already being one step ahead of the game, as I know a lot of values will be shared.
SO. Photographers- offer an experience for your clients that they can’t help but tell their friends about. Go the extra mile. Be extra attentive to their needs. Create beautiful work. And families- who are your trusted friends using as a photographer? Ask them about their experience. Do you like their photographer’s style? Were they happy with the investment? Clients, we want to work with your friends!
Google & Seo. Recently I added to my contact form on my website the question, “How did you hear about me?”. I did this for a couple different reasons. First, if a past client sent that inquiry my way as I explained above, I definitely want to be sure and thank them. That’s such a blessing when my favorite clients send me their friends and I don’t want it to feel unnoticed. Second, I wanted to know how clients were finding me so I could pinpoint what things were working and what wasn’t. I want to know this information, because if a lot of clients are finding me a certain way, and it’s working, then I want to be even better at it and make sure I am being intentional on that platform or with that method. Likewise, if something isn’t working, especially if I am putting a lot of time and effort into it, then maybe it’s time to consider putting my attention elsewhere.
In my photography business, my top referral source is currently word of mouth, which I love. Nothing makes me smile bigger than when I get an email from a mother who watched all her friends have babies while waiting her turn, and that she knew she wanted to book me but was never able to inquire until now. That is just completely the best. BUT. At the same time, word of mouth has been an enemy of mine! You see, I spent the first couple years of being a photographer and building my business while I was also a full time nanny in New Haven, Connecticut- so the majority of my clients of course were local to Southern Connecticut. In fall of 2014 I went full time with my business and moved to Yarmouth, Maine. I was moving into a completely different area, with no word of mouth referrals (outside of the friends I begged to share on social media that I was amazing and everyone should book a session with me, HA!) and all my word of mouth referrals I did still have coming in were now coming from an entirely different state!
Here’s where Google and knowing how to properly use SEO (search engine optimization) came in. Something perhaps unique to my situation was that I knew I was moving to Maine a year before I did- I just wasn’t sure where yet. So over the course of the year I began to include Maine search words on my blog posts and website settings. Instead of only including “New Haven Maternity Photographer”, I began to add “Maine Maternity Photographer”. (I recently blogged another post specific to SEO which you can find HERE.)When I had more details on what specific area I was moving to, I narrowed my SEO to be a bit more focused, and began to change my entire site to “Portland Maine Newborn Photographer”, etc. Even then, due to Google cracking down on their SEO rules and looking for more valuable, fitting content on your site, my local Maine inquiries were not at the number I wanted that first year. Thankfully, being single with no children, making a number of trips to Connecticut to book those referrals that were coming in worked for me. It wasn’t ideal to have the majority of my clients in the state I previously lived in, but it was business and I stayed consistent with posting, blogging, and continually marketing for Coastal Maine Families. Over the past few months, my inquiry ratio has changed as I have begun to book more local Maine portrait sessions, with fewer trips to Connecticut. As I begin to work with more and more local clients, my hope is to give each family an incredible experience where they share with their friends, and their friends share with their friends- until my word of mouth referrals are even greater here.
SO. Photographers- stay consistent with your SEO. Blogging regularly can really boost your google search rank! Even when it feels like nothing is happening, stick with it! Every time an inquiry comes in from a local family, I have to pause and give thanks that all that hard work of getting blog posts up, naming images, posting on Google plus, keeping my website settings updated- that it was all worth it! And families- know that when you type phrases like “Kennebunkport Maine Family Photography” before taking that summer vacation, that us photographers have worked hard to come up at the top of that list to grab your attention. A great time saver is also to instead of filtering by website, click on the Image Search option at the top of the page! You will immediately see pictures from photographers in that area which is often a quicker way to connect with a style you like!
Social Media. We live in such a visual, always connected world! My third source of referrals comes from…Instagram!! Who would have ever thought? I still remember my friend trying to convince me to create an Instagram account when it first came out. Never in a million years did I think it would be such a platform for community in the way that it is, let alone make the top three sources for how my maternity and newborn portrait clients find me! As my business began to grow, I started to realize that I needed to take advantage of Instagram far beyond poorly lit snapshots of my morning pancakes and coffee. I began to curate my feed and get intentional- creating an account that my ideal clients would want to follow and could easily see my work. I started paying attention to posting times, local hashtags, and cultivating thoughtful content that fit my brand. It’s always something I am trying to be better with, but when inquiries, especially LOCAL inquiries, began mentioning that they found my work on Instagram, it’s when I knew I had to begin treating it as more than a way to share pictures with friends.
So. Photographers- consider the content in your social media feed. If you share a lot of snapshots of your own kids, consider starting a personal account and separating the two. Start paying attention to local hashtags that businesses are using- or if you’re looking to book more destination and travel- brainstorm ways to use those hashtags! And families- we aren’t posting just to share with our friends- we want you to find us! Try searching hashtags with your state or city, followed by what you are looking for. For example, #MaineNewbornPhotographer or #MaineNewbornPhotography. You may just find a photographer, or a photography style, that you didn’t even know was out there!
Photographers I hope these marketing tips were helpful, and I hope that families out there have an easier time finding the perfect fit for them! Feel free to ask any questions about this content in the comments below.