by Ron Pybus Published 01/11/2006
In the second of this series of articles on business management we dealt with finding out about your local community population and make-up and the identification of your particular niche in the photographic market. This article deals with some of the ways in which you can market yourself and your product.
How you market and where you market will depend on the decisions you have made with regard to your potential business and the marketplace in your community. If you are aiming for top-of-the-range portrait work you will be looking to publicise your service in the high-quality glossy magazines such as Vogue, Vanity Fair and the like - at high cost. If you are aiming at middle-of- the-road work then your target marketing will be totally different.
Many of the principles will apply to all types of marketplace, but some will be more specific. Let's start with a simple fact. You must continue to market yourself on a regular basis or the phone will stop ringing - or will not ring as frequently. Before you get too far down the line - in fact before you produce anything - you need to establish a corporate image. You may want a logo for yourcompany, you will want a standard colour and you will want a standard typeface so that your publicity becomes recognised. All your publicitymust conform to this format from headed paper to displays and businesscards.
Business cards are an essential tool for getting your name known and for keeping it in front of people. There is a standard size for business cards - the same size as credit cards - vary from this and, no matter how good the card looks, it will be less likely to be retained by the customer. Many photographers produce their own on the computer with just a name and address, etc and no illustration, others have them printed locally in batches of 500 a time. The most economical way is to go for full colour on both sides and have 10,000 printed at a time. This will cost around £200. [contact me if you cannot get them for this sort of price]. With 10,000 you can give each customer several to pass to other interested people. You can spread them across the floor in a line at Wedding Fairs (to make people stop and look), without worrying about the cost (2p each). Always carry cards with you and keep them in a special card case so that they are pristine when handed out. Use the card to show the type of work you undertake and use both sides.
Price lists need to be produced to give to the customer on leaving thestudio, to hand out at marketing functions (wedding or baby fairs, etc),following consultations and to satisfy postal or email enquiries. Price lists are best produced on the computer in small runs, as required. Big printed runs are of little value as you will want to change prices or services more frequently than printed versions run out. They should contain all the prices for the main services you offer, including reprints, framing, etc, not just theprice for the specific job. A mum who has had baby photos taken may be interested in a model portfolio and if the price is shown in the price list it will at least trigger her to ask questions about such a shoot.
Brochures are slightly different as they need to be high-quality prints. You can buy pre-printed brochures from various organisations at a fraction of the cost of having your own professionally printed, but they are not your photographs and are fairly general in their content. You cannot get over your USP (Unique Selling Point) as there is only scope for you to add yourname and address details. Brochures are less popular these days following the introduction and development of the web. Now a business card with details of your website provides a link to your 'brochure' which can be updated as often as you like and can contain all the personalised images and information required, at the touch of a button.
A web presence is now essential for photographers, as for many other businesses, but websites vary dramatically. The key point is that you have to publicise your site in the traditional way to get it known. You also need to link your site through major organisations such as SWPP. There is more chance of your name coming up on a search for local photographersthrough the SWPP link rather than your personal direct link to your website. The greater number of other sites linking to yours, the greater the hit rate will be. Display your web address wherever possible - on your car, on price lists and in any advertisements.
Websites vary greatly. I recently undertook an arts project with a local school and the eight-year-olds wanted to put the images on to Powerpoint. They spent far more time and effort with flashing multicoloured backgrounds, different varieties of text, and on the transition from one image to another than they did on the actual image - and the result was confusing. Mostbeginners make the same mistake with website design. They go forflashes, scrolls and multiple colours because they can, not because it enhances the site. They also forget that there are still potential customersout there who are not on broadband and that a simple website will load far more quickly than a complex one. If it takes more than 20 seconds to appear and 30 seconds to fully load, people will move on to another site.My recommendation is to have your website professionally produced. Before you choose a company you need to decide what you want from your website. Is it an on-line brochure or is it a selling tool? There are many companies out there offering to set up your website within one oftheir templates and to allow you to upload images for sale (from weddings, events and portrait sessions) which are password protected so that only wedding or event guests can gain access. There are others who will design a website specifically to meet your individual requirements. Whichway you go will depend on your operation and your market. It is a great advantage for customers and friends to be able to view images remotely, especially if they are not local to you. This facility is less valuable to portrait photographers than it is to wedding or event photographers whose target audience is usually more widespread.
Advertising can be one of the most costly parts of marketing yourself and your business. You need to decide where to advertise and what to advertise. Before you decide, do a little market research. Check other local photographers' adverts and see what they are saying. Can you make yours different? From Yellow Pages I had a lot of pets to photograph because I noticed that no local photographers mentioned pets in their adverts, so I did.
Talk to other photographers who advertise in publications and just see how valuable it has been to them before you commit to placing an advert. The main thing is to prepare your advert to cover what you want to say and then be ready when local directory companies phone. If you don't - it will always be the last day before closure and you will be pressurised into an advert that does not really meet your needs. Also always reject their price and barter. I have never yet paid full price for an advert. I even had one who agreed to charge me according to results with no up-front fee. If you are operating mainly locally, look for a more local directory than Yellow Pages which will have several pages of photographers from all over your region rather than just a few from your locality. Your original market research will tell you where the public look for suppliers and services.
Next time I will continue with marketing, covering giving talks, attendance at specialist fairs, donations and raffles, gift vouchers, free services, networking organisations, links with others in the same trade, displaying pictures, etc.
There's more to it than taking photographs Do you want to learn how to run a successful photographic business?Don't wait for all the articles to appear - take the fast track!
Ron Pybus runs 1, 2, or 3-day courses designed to meet your specific needs. These are usually one-to-one or at most one-to-four. They can cover all business aspects plus practical studio work, lighting, etc and are held in his studio and training centre in the heart of beautiful Wiltshire. For more information contact Ron on 01225 774440 or email firstname.lastname@example.org or see the website www.pybusstudios.com
Ron Pybus, MA, ASWPP, AMPA, ARPS, DipPP, Cert.MPP
The Pybus Partnership
25 Bratton Road
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