Getting photography clients is never easy and there are a host of videos and articles out there claiming certain strategies to be king. I thought it might be useful to learn from my mistakes instead. Here are 5 marketing mistakes I’ve Made.
When I started out in photography Facebook was king. Everyone was on it and it seemed like the ultimate way to promote a small business. This lasted up until the point where my photography was good enough to attract clients. I then tried a host of different marketing strategies before residing to my current form of marketing.
Paying For Social Media Campaigns
When Facebook started to die I decided to pay to advertise some offers I had on. As did every other photographer out there. I thought that if my price was right and enough people saw my work that I would get wedding bookings. The problem is, no one is really going to spend $1500 on a wedding photographer based on a Facebook advert. Not many photographers get cold bookings. There is usually some tenuous link out there as to how the person knew you were a good egg and that you wouldn’t ruin there big day with cheap looking photographs.
Fast forward to 2019, most of us are really fed up with being advertised to in such a relentless way. I don’t remember the last time I purchased something from a social media app. And I certainly don’t think that photography or any premium service would be best sold through one.I probably wasted around $2000 before I realized that I would never see a return on the investment.
Paying for Local Magazine Adverts
In the UK most cities have some sort of local business magazine. It acts as a centerpiece to networking. The companies pay for adverts or paid editorial adverts in exchange for introductions and what not. The problem is, the magazines are just not selling. There isn’t any good content in there to make people want to read them. You will find them in abundance at local supermarkets and cafes. I have done several trades of images in exchange for adverts as well as paying for some. I haven’t ever had a single booking from them. I just lost time and money in the hope that a company may book me based on an advert in a magazine that they are advertising in. In hindsight, it seems like a very flawed marketing model.
Paying for Business Cards or Flyers
One of the first things that I did when I set up as a photographer was to get some very flash business cards made. I used some sort of cheap online company and I was pretty pleased with the results. I eventually managed to palm all 1000 of them off to various people who never contacted me about work. In the last 3 years I haven’t had nor used a business card. If I need to contact someone or if someone genuinely needs my services, I can find their details and vice versa. I get given business cards all of the time, but when I need someones services I Google their details.
I also had a load of flyers printed out with a selection of work on them. I seem to remember them being rather pricey at the time. I set about placing them in key venues and locations. I assume they were either binned by the owners or used as coasters for drinks. They certainly were not used by anyone who wanted nor needed my services.
Paying to Be on a Directory
Heading back to my wedding photography days, back in the early 2010s (is that a thing?) there were a lot of trendy wedding websites who offered photographers the chance to have paid editorial articles about their work and to be added to their directories. I went in for both options. I gained a load of followers on social media and my website traffic increased a lot. Unfortunately, all of the social media people were either photographers or other websites looking to sell me their services.
There wasn’t a single phone call from the directories either. Although I knew that I would never purchase a service from a directory, I still fell into the trap of paying for their services in a moment of desperation to get some wedding clients.
I am very open about how much I hate networking events. Yet, this hasn’t stopped me from sinking days of my life and thousands of dollars into attending them. Out of all of the bad marketing I have managed to pull off, this is probably the one that will be of use to some of you. If you shoot products or headshots, this might be a good way in. By the time I hit the networking scene I was firmly in for genre of commercial food photography and I was shooting for some pretty big house hold names and pulling out a few world wide campaigns each year. I thought it wise to try for more and to begin networking.
However, I am based in a small city where there are very few good ad agencies, and the good ones don’t go to networking events as they are good at what they do and people seek them out. So I ended up sat at a lot of very early morning breakfasts with people who had no interest in my services whilst they tried to sell me services that I had no interest in myself.
What Has Worked?
So far this has all been pretty doom and gloom, but marketing doesn’t have to be that way. I slowly managed to work out that the best thing I could do was to consistently produce work and to put it out into the world. I chose Instagram as my platform of choice. Lots of my peers, clients, and potential clients use it both professionally and socially. Alongside this I make sure that I help others out, I point people in the direction of the photographer or service that they need when I am not the right person and generally try to be a decent human being. It has been far less work and far more successful than any of my previous attempts at marketing.