Like I said in my last post on Marketing Tips and Principles :: part I, when you work for yourself you have to spend just about as much time working on your business, as you are spending shooting and processing. Even if you don't want to. Even if you are booked for months ahead of time.
You can't just forget to market yourself, because you are too busy. If you don't want any down time, you need to keep marketing when you are busy and keep things moving.
1. Remember that good marketing and interpersonal/selling skills are more powerful than great artistic skills.
How many times have you heard of amazing starving artists? Have you come across photographers that do great financially and never seem to go through down times, even though their work is not really that impressive?
Make a point out of working on interpersonal skills and learn to sell yourself and your work. Sometimes good work speaks for itself and sells itself, but that it is not always the case. If it's a good fit for you, team up with a colleague, or hire an 'office manager' that you know would be a great sales assistant for you.
2. Learn from your successes. But even more important, take the time to learn from your failures.
It is difficult in our culture to look at failures too closely. It seems that most of the time the only reason we look at and talk about failures is to decide where we should place the blame, rather than figuring out what the root of the problem is and what it takes to remove it so the results we've been getting change. It is important that we learn from every experience and beyond that, make changes that will bring a better outcome.
3. Become a part of your city's Chamber of Commerce. Get to know the other small business owners and build relationships.
Learn about what they do and educate them about what you do. Have business cards handy to pass around at any time. Don't be stingy ;) Always hand out a couple, never just one.
Be friendly, professional, be yourself and make a good impression. It doesn't go unnoticed. It might be months down the road that you get a phone call inquiring about your services, or it might be as little as a couple of weeks.
4. Work together with other small business owners to make a difference in your community and help market your businesses.
If you are considering working on a charity project as a way to market your business (see the info about the Charitable Marketing Calendar), getting to know the business owners in your city through the Chamber of Commerce (or a similar business venue) is the perfect opportunity and environment to let them get to know you and what you are about, and potentially get them interested in becoming involved with the project as sponsors.
(This will make more sense once you read about the Charitable Marketing Calendar project.)
5. Seek your ideal clients, don't wait for them to find you. Seek exposure.
Inquire and find out if any of the owners of the places where your potential clients might be found shopping/spending their time (like coffee shops, restaurants, boutique hotels children privately owned toy/clothing stores etc) are open to displaying your work. If you also do still life/art photography and they are more interested in displaying those prints over your portraiture, take them up on the offer. On your business cards you can send your potential clients to a splash page that gives them a chance to visit your portrait site.
6. Volunteer to help the local library with one of their events.
Or maybe offer to teach a class during the summer on "how to take better pictures of your children, with your point and shoot camera". Sharing basic tips, having prints or a canvas or more with your work hanging on the wall during class, and handing out a little book mark or maybe a magnet with the main points you taught (plus your logo and info) could go a long way.
7. Many towns - especially smaller ones - have 'art walk events' especially during the summer (and fall). Consider the investment vs the exposure.
Research and learn if your ideal clients would be some of the ones shopping there and decide if that's something you might want to do. Same thing with Saturday Market type events. The price of having a booth at the market for 10 weeks during the summer, might very well be worth it to you considering the traffic and exposure your business would be getting during that time.
8. If you have a studio (and the ability to do it) organize a story time group for children in the age bracket you are targeting and their moms (assuming you are a children photographer).
It is a great opportunity for mommies to socialize, a great activity for children, and a great way way for you to bring exposure to your business, in a subtle way. Consider creating little souvenirs/ take home items for the kids, that you can brand (a bookmark, a little booklet with age appropriate images - like colors, shapes, worms!? - get creative! ;)
Invite a few select mommies to the play/story group and let them invite/suggest friends. Keep it an insider group - a place people want to belong to. Don't make it a place where anyone can come off the street and be a part of.
Take the time to really think through a project like this, start small and pay attention to the details.
One more thing - don't make it about yourself, or a way to push your business through, but rather switch the focus to the kids and the moms. It will pay off eventually. Be subtle. Let the artwork on the walls speak for you and your skills, over and over again.
9. Having a blog is important for your business.
Potential clients can stay current with the happenings and offers from your studio. They can keep up with your most recent work and tell themselves every time they see new session sneak peeks: "I need to call and schedule our Christmas/Easter/summer/fall photo session" - until they actually stop putting that phone call off and do call and book a session with you.
Your clients can share the link to their sneak peak and brag about how good they look in the pictures you took (people do like to talk about themselves) and send your way new potential clients.
10. Create a 'buzz' around your business, and get your clients and potential clients involved.
The blog is the perfect place where you can hold fun giveaways with coveted/ popular items (lunch boxes seem to be quite popular and so is handmade jewelry - it really depends who you are trying to market your business to, and the target market you are wanting to attract).
Hold photo contests where contestants can invite friends and family to vote for their entries (you could have a few winners where the grand prize is a a high value gift card towards a session and a couple of smaller prizes). Don't hold too many contests like that though, so you don't devalue your product.
11. Email marketing can be a valuable way to keep in touch with (potential) clients.
Give your blog/website visitors the chance to subscribe to your occasional newsletter that might be announcing any contests, specials or giveaways.
Do it in style. There are quite a few services out there that will allow you to manage email campaigns and collect email addresses from subscribers for little or no money, depending on the size of the list and the number of emails you're looking at sending out monthly.
Keep a good track record of the data/emails you're sending your newsletters to. Don't sign up people for your newsletter unless they express their wish that you would do so (keep a copy of the emails that document that).
Always make available an unsubscribe link in your emails/newsletters, to respect the wish of those who might choose to unsubscribe. Keep in mind that abuse complaints against you (like having your emails marked as spam repeatedly) can lead to your company/email address getting blacklisted.
... Bottom line - don't send marketing emails to people, unless they signed up for it and want to be on your mailing list.
I will go ahead and make note of the service that I am personally using - MailChimp. With a free account you can store up to 500 subscribers and send up to 3000 emails a month. Lots of tutorials available to help you through the process and a very chic, easy to find your way around and simple to understand interface.
12. If you don't believe in your work others won't either!
Great work comes from within, not from external forces. You are the authority, the expert when it comes to what you do (that's why your clients seek you out and want you to take their picture). Embrace that.
If you don't feel like you are competent/confident, then you will need to work at it!
And remember - Keep learning. And utilize what you've learned. Don't just be an info junkie. Follow through and take action on what you've learned. It has no value otherwise. ;)