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Balancing Your Marketing – What's The Best Mix?

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Guest Post by Matt Hill

Are you baffled by the exhaustive ways you can market your photography website? You aren’t alone. I’ll be honest, there is no conclusive set of directions on the perfect way to market yourself, but there is certainly lots of informed (and sometimes not…) opinions out there. I’ve spent the last 13 years working for a company that specializes in marketing, learned under many fantastic mentors plus made it a practice to continually learn and grow. Today I offer you my take on balancing a virtually endless realm of possibility when marketing your photography business online, and a bit of old-fashioned offline marketing.

I want to start first with a high-level distinction between marketing and advertising from my point of view. Then I’ll move on to some specific suggestions.

To begin, it’s my firm belief that choosing just one method of marketing is dangerous and inadvisable. It’s certainly akin to the old adage of “putting all of one’s eggs in one basket,” and the advice exists because you’d better be right. Are there guarantees? No. So I say be smart and choose a balanced approach.

That being said, let’s begin with a phrase I believe that Hubspot coined – “Inbound Marketing.” My paraphrasing of their approach is making content that attracts people who desire to talk to you, and focusing your attention on serving them. It’s a beautiful idea, and worth reading more and watching their webinars. And it’s essentially SEO combined with laser-focus on not interrupting people.

Hmmmm. Not “interrupting” people. Advertising is, essentially, interrupting someone while they are doing a completely different task. Think magazines. You purchase it not for the ads, but for the content. And while you are flipping through it, your journey is interrupted by these gorgeous ads designed to make you pause, consider and act. Seems humane to choose a marketing path that tends to potential visitors when they wish to seek you.

On the other hand, we all seek to maximize our business. Awareness is essential. How do you raise your memory in someone’s mind? Expose your business. Essentially you pay more for less at this point, but your potential for new customers is increased. Perhaps someone didn’t even know that your kind of business existed, or so geographically close and they are not in the habit of asking peers for recommendations. This is a good argument for advertising.

Graphs, charts and seven steps after the jump!

Take a look on your analytics. Do you see a variety of wedges in Traffic Sources?

In the above example, it’s quite balanced. The sum of Search Engines, Referring Sites, Direct Traffic and Other equals 100%, but no single method dominates the others. Digging deeper, you can see below, that qualifying your traffic sources is important:

The Pages per Visit (P/V) is important. In the above example – this is organic traffic from Google. Low bounce, high Time on Site (TOS) and majority New Visits. The other 46% of visits were returning visitors… Wow. Cool. They came back! As you scan down your list of Traffic Sources, you can qualify which are getting you a better return. Here is how you get there in Google Analytics:

I mention this first because informing yourself with real data is the best way to decide where to put your chips.

Simple start for online advertising:

1. Google AdWords

Sign up for an account. Write a few text ads. Geotarget them to your area of business. If you are graphically inclined, make some image banner ads and also place those to appear via the Google AdSense network (via your same account) on other people’s sites. best advice I have ever received regarding writing AdWords ads is to google your search phrase and write your ads while looking at all of your competitors’ ads. Be unique, eye-catching and human. Perhaps I’ll write more on this in the future 🙂

2. Google Maps/Places.

Does your business show up when you search? If not, then claim your listing or add it. It’s free and these results show up BEFORE all organic results on Google . Get in the top 10 for your area. Google.com/Places

Google Places also allows you to offer coupons to map searchers. Incentives! How awesome is that?

3. Start/continue your Blog

It’s the easiest way to add fresh content to your site and puts across your true personality. The new content pushes you up on organic search results. And it’s fun for both you and your potential customers! It’s also cool if your customers like being in your blog and send the link to all of their friends!

4. SEO

It’s been beaten to death, but it is important to have an SEO-optimized website. If you can’t do it yourself, hire a local SEO agency to help. Best question to ask if you’re scared they might be sketchy is “Can you give me three telephone numbers of satisfied customers?” If they are proud of their work, the answer will be yes.

5. eBlasts/Opt-in

Marketing email is still one of the highest-acting forms of marketing. You’ve been collecting your customers emails for years, right? Well hire a local kid fresh out of college to make you some good-looking, well-written email templates and start sending out offers, updates and seasonal ideas to your client base.

Also essential is to prominently add an Opt-In form on your website that encourages potential customers to get on your email list. give them an incentive, like a free sitting or 10% off prints.

Never purchase lists. That’s a horrible interruption of someone’s day. Email inboxes are kinda like someone’s living room – don’t go there uninvited.

6. Your Peer Network

Make friends with other professionals in the area. Refer work you cannot do to them, and they will do the same for you. It’s rewarding and enriching to hang with other shooters and build a stronger community that not only knows everyone in the area, but can also confidently be generous with each other. And it’s good karma 🙂

7. Socialize it!

Use your Twitter and Facebook accounts to promote the cool stuff you do and your offers. Make a fan page on Facebook (not your personal account) for your customers so you can be yourself on your own time 🙂 Be generous! Retweet and repost interesting things. Most of all, be professional and courteous.

These are a solid start to building a lasting marketing plan. I didn’t mention direct mail, print ads, client presentation or other stuff like that because I am an internet geek 🙂 Doesn’t mean those other things aren’t important! But I can confidently say that the above marketing and advertising suggestions will build you a solid business base.

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This post sponsored by Pictage – Make More Money – Free Your Time To Go Win More Clients

Written by scottbourne

May 31, 2010 at 4:32 am

Posted in Marketing

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One More Twitter Search Tip For Professional Photographers

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By Scott Bourne

In my first post about this, I shared with you the secret of using Twitter’s search tool to find prospects. The examples I gave were pretty simple. If you’re so inclined, there are more powerful things you can do with this tool. Below, you’ll find a complete list of the acceptable Twitter search operators. Use these in your search to really drill down into the Tweets to find exactly what you’re looking for.

Search Operators

You can type these search operators directly into the search box. (Alternatively, you can use the advanced search form to automatically construct your query.)

You can also use Twitter’s Advanced Search if you’re more comfortable drilling down using a form.  One of my favorites is to perform the search and check “Asking a question.” This is more likely to yield me a chance to be helpful.

The goal of these posts is simple. I want you to succeed at your photography business. I’m certain that Twitter can help you on some level. I hope this information has enlightened you as to how powerful this tool can be.

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This post sponsored by WHCC – White House Custom Colour – Get Five Free 8×10 Prints From WHCC

Written by scottbourne

May 25, 2010 at 5:38 am

Posted in Marketing

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Build Evangelists For Your Photo Business – The Macintosh Way

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Guy Kawasaki has been a big influence on my career. I read his book The Macintosh Way, the week it came out, way back in 1989. Ever since, my approach to “sales” has changed.

You might be tempted to think this is a computer book. It isn’t. It is a marketing book. In fact, I think it’s the best marketing book I’ve ever read. It helped me understand the difference between sales and evangelism.

You might also be tempted to think that you can’t learn from a book written more than 20 years ago. Believe me, you can.

I know this book’s message is still powerful because it’s a core value in my own successful company. I have built the ideas taken from this book into my basic approach and seen results.

If you’re “going pro,” you need to learn these lessons now – before you start making mistakes that are too big to fix later.

Since you’re about to find out (if you don’t already know) that running a photo business is more about marketing than it is about photography, it would be helpful to know a thing or two about the right thing and doing it right way.

Reading this book is a good start. It’s out of print but the Amazon link above will lead you to some used book store sources for it.

As you read it, consider how the lessons Guy taught 20 plus years ago apply today, in a world where we have Facebook “fans” and Twitter “followers,” this is a great time to learn how to convert those folks into evangelists.

If you have truly satisfied customers/clients, figure out a way to turn them into your own private sales force. Their positive word of mouth will outpace the results you get from an advertisement in a local publication every time.

To figure that out, start by reading The Macintosh Way. Then, build yourself some good Karma and give the book to someone else who’s starting a business. That’s doing the right thing in the right way.

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This post sponsored by WHCC – White House Custom Colour – Get Five Free 8×10 Prints From WHCC

Written by scottbourne

May 19, 2010 at 7:06 am

Posted in Marketing, Sales

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More on Twitter as a Prospecting Tool For Professional Photographers

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By Scott Bourne

Prospecting is a lifetime job for professional photographers. You should always be on the lookout for new clients.

To extend the tip on using Twitter Search I gave last week is a short and sweet little add-on.

Perform the search and then notice: In the upper right corner of the search results page there is an option to create an RSS feed directly from the search results. You can add that feed to your favorite feedreader such as Bloglines or Newsgator and you end up with a constant stream of potential lead generation, all of it free, all of it automatic.

You also have the opportunity to search for Tweets in a specific language. Let’s say you specialize in weddings performed in the Hispanic community. Switch to “Tweets written in: Spanish.” Now, you’ll only see Spanish language Tweets.

Twitter’s search is amazing and powerful. I wish there were 10 other things this powerful that worked as well!

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This post sponsored by WHCC – White House Custom Colour – Get Five Free 8×10 Prints From WHCC

Written by scottbourne

May 17, 2010 at 6:26 am

Posted in Marketing

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How to Use Twitter as a Prospecting Tool

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You can use Twitter to get photography jobs. There – I said it. It’s that simple. You can. How do I know? I’ve done it. You can too. It’s just like panning for gold though. You might have to bend your knees and spend some time working at it. If you expect it to come easy, keep moving. There’s nothing for you to see here. But if you’re willing to do hard work, Twitter might just be a way that you can score lots of photography business. Here’s how.

Search

Yep, search is the big deal for photographers who want to get business from Twitter. Yes, you can direct sell via Tweets on Twitter. I’ve done that too. But a better long-term strategy is to prospect for serious business.

Let’s say you’re a wedding photographer in Tacoma, WA. Go to http://search.twitter.com/ – this is a website that lets you search Twitter. Now, type in:

Wedding near:98401 within:100km

NOTE: The operators that define the search must be typed in exactly as shown. The (:) follows the words near and within without a space as does the parameter (zip/postal code) and distance (km or mi in lower case letters.)

You must type in the sequence exactly as shown above. Also note the screen shot at the top of the post to see what this looks like.

If you do type in that search in real time, the results will obviously be different than when I did it, but right away you should see how this might yield a prospect. The first response comes from someone who has a question about wedding announcements. As a professional wedding photographer, you should know or be able to find the answer. Simply Tweet back a reply with the answer and you’re done. No need to say “Oh and by the way I’m a wedding photographer if you need one.” Instead, you’ll rely on the link in your profile or your properly chosen Twitter handle, i.e., TacomaWeddingShooter, etc., to get that message across. If your answer to their question is a good one, you will have earned a click on your profile, and if they still need a wedding photographer, you’ll get your portfolio looked at – i.e., you have a prospect.

See how simple that was?

You can apply this technique to many kinds of photography in any area of North America. Simply type in the subject that you find relevant to the type of photography you want to do and the postal or zip code along with a geographic limit – such as 100KM, depending on how far out you want to reach, and you’re done.

Here’s another example. If you want to photograph events such as little league soccer, find out the name of the league (or a local team if you really want to drill down,) and make that the subject of your search, narrow the geo area to 20KM and type…

soccer near:98401 within:20km

You’ll get all sorts of real-time results. Mine those results and see if there isn’t a way you can find out how to connect with some of the folks on Twitter who are talking about little league soccer in your area. These are your prospects. And you found them for free. If you can find a creative way to reach out to them; say in the case of the soccer team, you built a free newsletter or blog of interest to local soccer players, populated with your soccer photos of course – you should be able to generate some interest for your soccer photo business.

This post is intended to be both instructive and inspirational. Don’t get too caught up in the specifics. Think about the concept. Learn to use Twitter’s search feature well. Remember that the sky is the limit on what you can search for. Use your imagination. See what you can come up with. It very well may lead to new business. It did for me.

Written by scottbourne

May 13, 2010 at 7:29 am

Posted in Marketing

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Five Things Photographers Can Do Right Now With Twitter To Grow Their Business

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By Scott Bourne

This is a simple post. It’s intended to help you see that Twitter can be a powerful business tool for photographers. Below, please find five things you could do right now, today, on Twitter which could potentially grow your business. Give it a try.

1. Tweet a link to your portfolio and ask for feedback.
2. Tweet a link to a recent photo shoot or event or image that you were paid for.
3. Tweet a link to a contest offering a free print or session or sitting in your studio.
4. Use search.twitter.com to find prospects by searching for related topics such as weddings for wedding photographers.
5. Send a tweet answering someone’s photography questions.

This is a short quick list that should help you get started. But don’t stop here. Use these concepts to ask yourself what else you could do. Decide if there are other ways you could use Twitter or similar social networking sites. Then give it a try.

P.S. This week I’m also going to show you how to specifically prospect for clients on Twitter. I’ve never seen anyone else teach this so stay tuned. It works and you’ll see how in my next post.

Written by scottbourne

May 12, 2010 at 10:19 am

Posted in Marketing

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The Case Against #Togs & A Caution About Hashtags

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photo of paradise falls by Scott Bourne

Copyright Scott Bourne 1997 - All Rights Reserved

By Scott Bourne

This post is most likely to interest photographers who use Twitter. If you don’t use Twitter, don’t care about Twitter, never plan to try Twitter, you can probably pass on the rest of what I have to say.

But if you do use Twitter, then I want to talk about hashtags. In case you’re unfamiliar with hashtags, you can read up on them before moving on through this post – http://twitter.pbworks.com/Hashtags.

In their simplest form, hashtags are just another meta tagging system that’s designed to help people find interesting content on Twitter.

The hashtag #photo or #photography would be used to tag a Tweet that related to photography. Another popular photo-related hashtag is #photog.

Someone later decided to shorten this further to #tog or #togs. Here’s why I think this is a bad idea.

I’ve been talking with some engineers who work at two of the three largest search engines. They don’t want to be identified since they’re not supposed to discuss the internal workings of their products with the general public. But they’ve alerted me to the fact that the whole hashtag system, while making content easier to find on Twitter, may actually harm the ability of the major search engines to find and index that content. The hashtag throws off the search engine and is often the cause of the search engine deciding that the Tweet is spam or porn or something else.

To further complicate this, the tag #tog is nonsensical to the search engine. While in context, it’s easy to see where #tog fits nicely into #photography, the search engines aren’t as good as humans at context.

You can also lose searches on Twitter that are based around photography by using #tog. Try this. Go to http://search.twitter.com/ and type in the following:

#photography

Now, open another browser and go to http://search.twitter.com/ and on that browser and simply type in:

photography

(Minus the hashtag.) Chances are that you will see some overlapping content. Try it three times in the next 24 hours and you absolutely will find some overlapping content. What this means is that if you want to reach Twitter audiences that don’t use hashtags, you at least have a chance with the word photography, with or without the hashtag.

Now try the experiment using #tog or #togs.

I ran the test 40 times over the last week and never found one case of overlapping content. So someone searching the word “photography” (minus the hashtag) would never see your content on Twitter’s search page if you use #tog instead.

While the use of the shorter hashtags seems to make sense when you’re in a 140-character limited environment, it  doesn’t make sense if it cuts you out of broader searches on the big search engines or for that matter, broader searches using Twitter’s own search product.

I’m advising photographers who want to use Twitter to expand their photography universe to avoid using #tog and instead organically includes the word photo or photography in the Tweet. I am still testing the use of the hashtag #photography to see how it scores with the big search engines. So far, the results are not good, and I am leaning toward abandoning hashtags altogether, unless or until the big search tools know what to do with it. This could change and if it does, I’ll update this post.

The notable exception to all this would be the case where I am primarily interested in reaching only my Twitter audience. In that case, I don’t care what the search engines see and the folks who use Twitter and who know how to use hashtags will find my post more quickly. But I still will never use #togs. And well-meaning as the person who dreamed that up may be, it shows a lack of understanding of how Twitter works.

Written by scottbourne

May 10, 2010 at 7:15 am

Posted in Marketing

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