Branding and Marketing to Your Ideal Client with Michael Anthony
I love November because it’s branding month at Shutter Magazine. But November is also the time that many photography businesses start to go into their slow seasons, which means that it is the perfect time to take an objective look at your brand and see if it’s time to update that six-year-old logo.
But before we get into evaluating your current brand, it’s important to understand what a brand is. If you have heard me speak before, you know that I believe a brand is much more than a logo. Here are the five things that define your brand: logo, imagery, website, social media presence and totality of your past client experiences.
Let that sink in. These are all of the things you have to pay attention to when you are building your brand. Let’s dive into each of them and figure out exactly how important they are to your success.
Your logo doesn’t just say what the name of your company is. It is a communication tool that emphasizes the value you are conveying. Is your business about modernity and luxury? How about light and fun? What about dark and dramatic? Your logo is one of the first things your client sees when coming into contact with your brand.
That means the value your logo communicates sets expectations for the type of photography you deliver. Perception is reality. If you have amazing images bolstered by a logo that looks like your grandpa drew it on his Etch A Sketch when he was eight years old, your amazing images won’t seem so great anymore. Many photographers would rather save a few bucks when starting out and make a generic signature logo or mock something up in Photoshop.
Hire a graphic designer to create that communication value. When we were branding my wife Jennifer’s boudoir brand, we wanted a Great Gatsby theme tied in with the Michael Anthony Photography brand. We hired Justen Hong from Visual Lure to help create our brand. He named the brand in a way that communicated our vision, and designed a logo that looked perfect next to our style of imagery. Give your logo the attention it requires.
If your logo isn’t the first thing a potential client sees, the imagery is. Who is your ideal client? Where do they shop? What brands do they wear? Do they fit with the imagery you currently create?
Your art needs to be desirable to your ideal client. If I wanted to take photos of Eskimo weddings in the California desert, I would have a bit of a problem. Sometimes you have to modify your style of photography to match the look your target demographic desires.
Once you get the look you are going for, consistency is key. I have struggled with this because we love different styles of photography. Bright and airy? We do it. Film emulation? We do it. But people know our brand for our cinematic imagery, so on our website and social platforms, this is mostly what I show. When you look at our engagement on social platforms, bright and airy images, no matter how good they are, always perform half as well as images that are dark and dramatic. That’s not by accident. It’s because we have created a brand that is synonymous with that style of photography.
Your website is your digital storefront that conveys a first impression of your business.
You never get a second chance to make a first impression, and every website visitor is judging your brand when they make it to your homepage. You need to give yourself the best chance to win over new clients.
Your website needs to be easy to navigate. Make it easy for clients to get the information they are looking for. It usually goes in the order of Images > Pricing > About Us > Contact. Focus on those pages for the best results. Reduce the number of clicks it takes to get what clients want.
Allow clients to book appointments with you directly from your website. We use an app called Acuity Scheduling that plugs into our studio manager’s Google Calendar. Clients can schedule their ordering sessions and consultations directly without a time-consuming email exchange. Efficiency is underrated in our business.
Social Media Presence
I could write a whole book on this subject. Everyone’s on social media, so that’s where you need to be marketing. Go to Instagram right now and visit the page for your favorite bridal gown store in your area. See who has posted recently and DM them to congratulate them and give them something of value, like a blog article you wrote. Include a link to your portfolio. Do this a few times and see how easy it is to book a new wedding.
But if your Instagram account has just five followers—including your mom, your cousin Jimmy and the profile you made for your cat—then you are going to have a problem getting a response.
Social media is key. While traditional marketing is still more important, when you’re forming relationships with vendors, they will validate your business by your social media profiles. Social media is a high school popularity contest full of bullies, trolls and the cool popular kids. Be one of the cool people by interacting with your audience. Ask thoughtful questions. Respond when they ask questions. It’s a full-time job. If you don’t do that job, your business will be fighting an uphill battle.
Totality of Your Past Client Experiences
This is a big one that will have the biggest long-term effect on your brand. Collecting testimonials from past clients is one of the most effective things you can do to bring in more business. In a recent poll, 93% of millennials said a testimonial was just as good as a personal referral.
Reading reviews serves an even more important purpose. It allows you to look at your overall client experience to help ensure you are delivering an experience that exceeds your clients’ expectations.
On the other hand, if your clientele is bashing you to other people, even if they don’t take out their frustrations online, then you are going to notice a drop in your business that you never saw coming. Controlling the client experience is the most important factor for your brand. It is vital that your clients become your advocates to make future clients confident in their decision to hire you to document their memories.