You started your portrait photography business, but how do you find your clients and how do your dream clients find you? Well, there is no magic trick or easy answer. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication. It also requires you to take a step back and focus on who you want as a client. Who will love your work and who will help you to grow? I ran a portrait studio business for years and want to share my experiences. Here are five tips to marketing your portrait photography business.
When you are trying to reach an audience, it is important to know who you are talking to. When I first started my portrait business, I made a list of the qualities of my “dream” client. I listed all the qualities that this client would possess. For me, most of my business was portraits of children and families, so my list would include things like: does this client have small children, where does the family live, what type of stores the mom would shop in, etc. Once I made a list of who my dream client was, it was easier for me to make decisions on the voice our company would have to attract those clients. I was able to take a look at other retail companies or stores where this client would shop, and take a look at the sort of messaging those companies were using to attract their clients and see what sort of trends were popular in the marketplace.
One of the goals of marketing a business is creating buzz….getting people talking about the product you provide and the customer experience clients can expect. I wanted everyone in my community to be buzzing about my business, so I set out to become not only a company with a great product and a stellar experience but also a company that gave back to the community. When all things are equal and there is an abundance of competition, people want to do business with people they like and who they believe are giving back and doing good things in their community. I started to get involved with our local chamber of commerce by photographing headshots of chamber members and any fundraising activities the chamber was running. I volunteered at schools to photograph the classes on special days such as Valentine’s Day or doing sports poster shoots for high school sports teams. I became involved with local charities, photographing fundraising events and donating auction items to raise money for causes close to our hearts. All of these efforts were a donation of my time and my photography, but beyond being fulfilling on a personal level, it was great networking and created goodwill and great buzz in my area.
Once your pre-qualified client is identified, it is time to build a list of people that fit those credentials as your base ‘sphere” that you will continue to market to over the lifespan of your business. Of course, in the beginning, that circle will be small, but you can increase it over time. I started with a list of just 25 people that I thought were the perfect clients for me. These people were friends and family, members of the local community, other business owners, etc. I made an offer to my original sphere to try out my photo experience in exchange for 25 names they felt may also like what I did. I photographed the original 25 clients, created a custom invitation to their list using the images from their sessions, and immediately expanded my sphere list to over 600 qualified customers. Over my 10 years as a portrait studio, this was one of my most effective campaigns and I would bring it back from time to time to widen my client sphere from time to time.
Nothing is more effective than word of mouth and a referral from someone who has actually used and loved your services. I connected with other businesses in my area that shared my “dream” client. Some of these businesses included: boutique shops, salons, wedding dress shops and wedding consultants, personal trainers, dentist offices, local magazines, and many others. I would often exchange my services to photograph the business for images for their websites, or perhaps family portraits for the owner of the store in exchange for them letting me do a display in their business or handing out cards to their clients as an incentive to come to me for family portraits. I would often hold events with these venders, both of us inviting our client lists so we could each have exposure to the other’s clientele. The key to making this work is making the process mutually beneficial for both parties and making it easy for them to refer you by providing them with cards or tools that they may need.
When you provide an exceptional product and a comfortable experience to your client, word will spread. One way to go above and beyond for your clients is to create custom products that your competition may not be providing. In my studio, custom greeting cards were not only for holidays but other big moments in my clients’ lives. It became something I was known for. Wedding save the dates, baby announcements, high school graduation cards, and thank you cards joined holiday cards to become one of my most sought after custom products. I also loved creating personalized books and albums for my sessions to really tell the whole story of the portrait session and the relationships within my weddings and family sessions. Printique’s products fit perfectly into my business module with their quality products.
I hope these tips will help you market your portrait photography business and help you find your ideal clients. Do you have any tips you’d like to share? Feel free to leave comments below!