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Business Tips

The Business of Photography: Be Remarkable. Build Fans. Get Clients.

By David Valentine on April 2nd 2014

Remarkable marketing is the art of building things worth noticing, right into your product or service. Not slapping on marketing as a last-minute add-on, but understanding that if your offering itself isn’t remarkable, it’s invisible.“- Seth Godin

In the first article, we covered some basics in the business process and how it will affect your business. Let’s figure out some ways to build your brand and get more clients.

The Business Process

The business process consists of many smaller subcategories that make up a business in its entirety. We are going to break down each one through this series. The first one we are starting with is the sales process which will tie directly into marketing. As stated before, without a client we do not have a business, we have a hobby. Our goal is to get to do what we love full time and have more time actually doing that which we love. A majority of the photography business is running the backend and dealing with minutiae, leaving a very small percentage for actually shooting, and we want to skew it more in our favor. We want to cut the fat and streamline, so we may run the business less (through effective process) and spend more time in the field  doing what we love.

The Sales Process

In the photography sales/marketing process, there are parts that collaborate and depend on the other to ensure a smooth transaction. We need clients to have a sustained business and having a sustainable business starts with sales. Let’s break down what the sales/marketing process includes. Remember, each item in the process will be broken down even further. Soon we will all be experts at selling and running a photography business! Then, we will dig and get our hands dirty.

  • Find potential clients (prospecting/marketing)
  • Booking initial meeting or consult (appointments)
  • Presenting your available photography packages
  • Finalizing the sale
  • Repeat

Finding clients and finding potential clients can be an exhausting task. However, it is the most important task in the business. Finding clients boils down to our marketing and how we are getting our word about our business out there. Getting people to reach out to us and us reaching out to people to earn their business is the goal, and, of course, it must be earned.

[REWIND: HOW BODY LANGUAGE CAN HELP YOU ACHIEVE THE PERFECT SHOOT & OPTIMIZE YOUR BUSINESS]

 

How to Find Potential Clients

Be Remarkable

51fWdL3dYGL._SY344_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_BO1,204,203,200_The best way to establish a name and get noticed is to be remarkable. In Seth Godin’s “Purple Cow,” a book I highly recommend, he talks about a trip to England and how amazed his family were at all the cows in the country side.  However, after only a few minutes, the family was bored with them and the cows went unnoticed. He then thought to himself about how awesome it would be if there was a random purple cow in the mix. That would get his attention!

The best way to market and get noticed is to do something remarkable, something that people find worthy of noting and talking about. There are thousands and thousands of photographers in the industry. So many that everyone starts to look the same. Their their logos look the same, their websites look the same, even their photos look the same. What make YOU stand out from the rest?  Think of your favorite photographers, think about the well known, well established working photographers in the industry. Are they average? Do they just do the same as everyone else and have clients lined up at the door because they blended in? Or are they the purple cow? I have a feeling they do something remarkable, something that their clients want to share with other potential clients.

I was freshly introduced into the photography world a few years ago when I first attended WPPI working for a company on the tradeshow floor. I only knew a handful of people there. I would go to the parties and see certain people surrounded by adoring fans and I had no idea who they were. Their names held no significance to me, I’d never seen any of their images. However, I do remember one image and one photographer that made a lasting impression. He did remarkable work, at least, this one image I saw was remarkable. This image was a bride on fire. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing at first and how impressed I was with his creativity and originality. I was later told that his name was John Michael Cooper and he is credited for starting the “Trash the Dress” trend in wedding photography.  This was remarkable, this was something worth sharing and talking about.

Credit: Hanssie

Photo Credit: Hanssie 

Building Your Fan Club

There are millions of fan clubs, ones we consciously know we are in and some unconsciously. A perfect example of having raving fans is Lady Gaga. Whatever you think about her and her music, I think we can agree that her style is “remarkable.” It’s something people talk about because it’s different. Her fan club of “Little Monsters” have a dedicated website to sharing their culture and their passion of being different. The opening line includes, “This is for us. LittleMonsters.com is a place for all monsters to gather, to create, to share, and to inspire.”

Lady Gaga created these raving fans by carving out her niche market and appealing to them. She definitely doesn’t appeal to everyone in the world, and she is ok with that because she has her group of Little Monsters who rave about her and connect with one another. This is the type of fan club you are looking to create – a group that is dedicated to you and your work, who will rave about your business and connect with other members over their shared passion, YOU. It doesn’t grow overnight, just like the Little Monsters didn’t, however, it does grow organically and will eventually spread if cultivated correctly.

Lady-Gaga

Where are you currently finding clients? If you’re brand new to the industry and making the leap, where have you tried to find clients? In my history of sales, referrals are the strongest way to grow a business. Referrals come from existing clients or your existing fan base. If you’re ready to make the leap to full time photography and don’t have that long list of clients to get referrals from yet, start building your fan club.  Start local and grow. Photograph friends and family, coworkers, your neighbors.  They will be your first group of raving fans.  Since your work will be remarkable (right?), they will naturally spread the word for you.  In growing your business, it is all about momentum, and anything you can add to that momentum will build through time- just like your business!

Things To Think About

As mentioned previously, this series will start elementary and grow to a professional level. The goal is to help you grow your current business or help you make the leap from part time/hobby to full time doing what you love and doing more of it. Feel free to jump into a conversation in the comments and throw out some ideas and comments. Let’s grow this together.

  • What makes your business unique and remarkable?
  • What is one action you will implement this week to become more remarkable?
  • Where are or where can your raving fans come from?
  •  Look what you are doing currently for marketing. Think of one or two different ideas that may seem off the wall but could be considered remarkable, and implement immediately.

In the next article, we will finish off with finding more potential clients and we will dig into booking appointments with potential clients and tips on presenting a client.

Until then, be remarkable.

David

David is a business and sales expert who resides close to the beach in Southern California. With a knack for sales and marketing, he has consulted with many organizations ranging from car dealerships, door to door sales, and fitness gyms. When not selling or a running a business, he can be spotted on the beach with his dog, Goliath, any restaurant that will take him far from his trainer approved diet regiments, or Las Vegas.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Samantha Hayn

    This is a constant battle I fight! Finding clients seem’s to be nearly impossible. The problem is I don’t know a lot of people and the people I do know do not have extra money to purchase things or services they don’t “need” such as photo sessions. Why hire someone when you can take pictures just fine with your iphone right? The client’s I have had highly recommend me & do everything they can to try to help me in the word of mouth department but just no client’s are coming my way ( not yet anyways ) I recently just took a step back with my sessions rates, and started to just take lifestyle shots of my son & my daily life, since I’m transitioning into lifestyle photography that’s fine with me. I’m hopeful business will pick up in the future & I know it will, it’s just seems like such a long process! I will be successful one day though! Thanks for this advice!

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  2. Rafael Steffen

    Thanks for providing us with such great business material. What makes us a different photographer. That is great to focus on to make it remarkable.

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  3. Leujay Cruz

    Helpful info, David! Great stuff about referrals and word of mouth. Best advertising money can’t buy.

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  4. Ogedn

    I am pulled in different photography directions, Sports, wildlife and portraits. would it be wrong to have separate sites for each of these subjects and see which one takes off with clients? I am worried that if I have all 3 subjects on one site it might be confusing to possible clients who are looking for let’s say portraits but don’t want to be shot by someone who they see as a sports photography.

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    • Abel

      I would suggest making different sites for different styles.
      The reason behind this is precisely that people will get confused if you group them all into the same site.
      For example, a person who is interested in a portrait will come across your sports/wildlife work.
      Now obviously with portraits, you are more controlled with lighting and what not. In sports and wildlife, most of the time you have to make do with what you have available to you. (I say this because I am not specialized in these areas. Maybe other professionals have their ways. I can’t say)
      Anyhow, a client who sees your portrait work, might look at this shot of a soccer player doing an overhead kick and say, “Hmm this picture doesn’t look as pretty as the red head in that little black skirt. Maybe this guy has a hit-or-miss thing with his work?”
      He/She won’t even think of the effort you put to get that shot!

      Keep a separate site for each genre so that people only have other works to compare it to within that particular genre.

      That aside, if you feel like you’re not ready to choose yet, experiment and choose what you love. Don’t try to choose what you think will get you the most number of clients. Choose what makes you happy, what you enjoy doing.
      I used to get a huge number of clients for Event photography and a lot of people said I was really good at it. However, I was more interested into fine art, fashion and commercial photography. Although events gave me more clients, I found myself hating the job more each day cause that wasn’t where my heart was.
      Follow your heart, mate

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    • David Valentine

      Ogden that is a great question. Truthfully there will never be a “right” answer. I can definitely see both sides of the argument of having multiple sites and not having multiple sites. Many companies do what is called DBA “Do Business As” in another name. For instance a company might have started as a food and beverage company but branched into the catering business under a DBA because it’s a separate business than what they initially started. With photography I personally believe it is closely related and could easily be done under one site but making sure that wildlife, sports and portraits are separated enough on the actual site not to mislead or confuse a potential client. I will play devils advocate and say that running multiple website would build credibility because you are perceived by the potential client to be focused on specialized areas of photography.

      There is no right or wrong answer unfortunately because it’s not black and white. Here are some questions to ask yourself:

      Which of the three (wildlife, portraits, sports) am I most passionate about?
      Which of the three am I best at?
      Which of the three has the best opportunity for my business to thrive in and become remarkable?

      Feel free to email me if you have more questions, I would be happy to dig into this subject more with you.

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  5. Dexter

    I really enjoyed the article.Learnt a lot too.

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