Diversifying Your Photography Business in 90 Days with Michael Anthony
There is no greater necessity than change. This year has brought about a lot of change for the photography industry. What was said to be a record year for many photography studios was completely upended by a worldwide pandemic that nobody could have ever predicted. If you read my article in last month’s Shutter Magazine, you will know how important it is to take action to mitigate disruption in your business.
In this month’s article, I’m going to show you exactly how to do that. Now, many of you guys know that I am an active photographer, and the stuff that I teach you is from real-world experience. I have known for a long time that my business, Michael Anthony Photography, has had a major need to diversify our offerings. Being 85% events related, you can imagine how hard our business has been impacted by the downturn. With a team of over 20 people, there are many that rely on my business to be able to support their families. As a business owner, if I am not doing everything that I can to ensure the success of our business during these tough times, then I fail every one of them.
But now things are different. We have more focus and more time to move the needle of our business in the correct direction. My goal is by the end of this year to increase our portrait business to 30% or more of the revenue coming into our studio. This is healthier for a variety of reasons, and I am going to highly recommend that all of you who are in a similar situation do the same thing.
But this article is not just for wedding photographers who want more portraits. This article is for anybody who wants to add a new line of business to their studio and does not know the roadmap to get there.
Create a Plan
Starting a new genre of photography is no different than growing your existing brand. The difference is going to come down to market awareness. If you are attempting to market a new genre of photography because your brand has no market authority, all your marketing efforts are going to take double or triple the time to kick off.
But that’s only if you don’t do the prep work beforehand. I found that the best way to launch into a new genre of photography is to get started quickly.
For instance, this year we are going to make a real attempt to create a desire for senior photography in the Los Angeles market.
But before I made that decision, I had to make sure that my efforts are not going to be wasted. I looked for case studies in my local market. I live about 40 minutes north of the city of Los Angeles. However, about another 30 minutes from me in the Antelope Valley there is a studio that is currently succeeding in photographing high school seniors. They operate their studio much like many of the studios in the Midwest. Over the course of 20 years, they have created a desire for their product and a loyal following of high school kids that want to get their photos done.
While their efforts took a lot of time, it proves that if a market does not exist, there is room to create one where I live too.
Therefore, if I follow a similar path to a studio that has seen success, my results should be similar as well.
Once your case study is complete, now you must start looking at the numbers.
There are plenty of articles on how to calculate your cost of doing business. Let’s say I want to make an additional $100,000 a year from senior photography. Now I must look and see how many kids, at what average sale, will get me to that goal.
Let’s just say I need to photograph 100 seniors a year.
Now I will look at the number of potential kids in my area. I can get an idea of these statistics from the Facebook Ads Manager. Within 10 miles of our studio, there are 5,000 potential kids between 16 and 18 in the area. If we could average $2,000 a sale, we would need to get approximately 70 kids to get to $140,000. That would cover our CODB expenses as well as marketing expenses for this new venture.
That means that we would have to photograph 1.5% of all the kids in the area.
That seems like a low number on paper, but I can assure you it will be a monumental task. Which brings me to marketing.
Create Your Brand and Marketing
Even if you have an established brand already, nobody in your target demographic knows about it because you are appealing to a completely new audience. So, your first sub-step here is to build your branding around your new market. We followed Sal’s advice here and built our new senior website on a subdomain. I am a huge fan of Squarespace websites because they are easy to build and beautiful. Plus, now they have marketing elements built into them.
We built out seniors.michaelanthonyphotography.com within three hours, and it was ready to go. Of course, our portfolio needs work, but we will get to that in a minute.
Once your branding is set to your demographic, now it’s time to start your marketing. Days 1–14 of marketing we run an awareness only campaign. I want to warm up my audience to my brand. We start with Facebook ads because they are cheap and easy to get to my target. We will also include a lead magnet, “5 tips for better selfies on Instagram.” What kid wants bad selfies? This will automatically put them into a drip campaign that will warm them up to my business.
The drip campaign will intro them to my website and portfolio and soft sell them at my full session fee.
This establishes not only my brand, but also our value. A discount is no good to people that see no value in your brand.
Days 14–21 we run a promo. This promo is encouraging kids to sign up for a free session. Kids who sign up will be contacted by our studio to schedule their session. We are legit giving away one free digital file and trying to sell them on the full session. This is optional, but for me it helps to build my portfolio and giving away the file will encourage a higher number of sign-ups.
Days 21–30 we are shooting, editing and selling.
Days 30 and on we go into normal marketing mode. Now we are looking at the posters at the mall, movie theaters, and contacting the schools to advertise in their books.
The biggest advice I will give you in this phase: Don’t be afraid to spend money. You will have to spend money to make money, and you may even spend more than you make in this phase while you are growing and establishing a presence in your market. Do not be stupid about the way you spend your money, but make sure that whatever investments you are making will pay off in the future.
Refine Your Branding
Now that you have a presence and the market is talking about you, it’s time to start refining your new brand.
This will mean updating your studio samples, building out more pages on your website (we started with a single page) and adding things like promotional videos.
Creating a testimonial video will go a long way, and I recommend having your testimonial done early during your free sessions to encourage kids to share. What we are currently doing is a quick video interview on our phone of each kid after their session to ask about their experience with us. Once we are finished with this phase, I will post the video on our senior site for you to view.
Video is one of the absolute best marketing tools available for your business. It can establish social proof and product value and engage your audience all at the same time. It’s no wonder every major brand in the world is using video to market their products. I highly suggest you jump into it.
Measure Your Results
When you get 60–90 days into your launch, it’s time to start looking at the numbers. Now, I do not have the ability to go in-depth into email marketing and measurable statistics, but the one piece of advice I can give you is to track all your results. We use special tracking links on all ad sources to measure where our returns are coming from. This allows me to look at a bird’s eye view of my results to see exactly where my dollars are going. I highly recommend using unique tracking links or coupon codes to measure and adjust your results.
I can tell you firsthand how impactful a small change can be in your marketing. Something as simple as changing the headline of your ad copy or the colors on your landing pages can have a profound impact on the results of an ad campaign. After spending over six figures in ad money with Facebook, I can tell you that a good majority of that money was wasted learning the process in the beginning, but now that it’s dialed in, here are three pieces of advice I can give you:
- Use Facebook’s Built-In Pixel
- Optimize for your results (conversions, traffic, purchases, etc.)
- Retarget to warm audiences
Those three things are some of the quickest ways you can make successful ad campaigns when using Facebook.
The last piece of advertising advice I can give you is not to rely on Facebook alone. There are many other advertising routes, and Facebook is the quickest and least expensive to get up and going, but you will really see better results when you encompass local marketing routes too. Direct mail, mall or shopping center ads, billboards by the schools if you can swing it… these methods are all going to help your Facebook ads succeed if you do them in conjunction.
There you have it, everyone. That is my quick-start guide for scaling a new brand in 90 days or less. If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to me on Facebook or Instagram, or in the Shutterfest Facebook Group. Also, check out the video attached to this article. Catch you next month.