It’s Time for Some House Cleaning with Skip Cohen
It’s February, one of the most significant months of the year in professional photography. First, there’s a little seasonality in the month because of Valentine’s Day, especially when February 14 falls on a Friday or Saturday. (Relax—this year, it’s on a Thursday.) “’Tis the season for proposals, as nearly 40% of all engagements happen between Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day,” as weddingwire.com put it. That makes Valentine’s Day a great opportunity for starting relationships with new couples, along with boudoir and portraiture. There are some unique opportunities for winter promotions in photography.
Second, while February is right in the middle of what many of us refer to as the slow season, that doesn’t mean it should be a quiet stretch for you. Now is the time to do some serious house cleaning and stop procrastinating about the key elements on your website.
You know the areas that need attention, but you’ve been hoping to skate by month after month. Well, there’s no reason to let that dripping faucet continue. We’ve all been there, with an annoying faucet that just won’t shut off. If you’re into DIY projects, it’s usually an inexpensive washer that needs to be replaced, but you keep putting off that trip to Home Depot.
It’s been a long time since I wrote about building a more effective website. For the most part, it’s all DIY. But you have to take the time and be in a great frame of mind to do it right—no shortcuts and no attitude of “that’s good enough.”
It all starts with knowing your target audience. For most of you who are on the portrait/social side, your target audience is either Mom or brides. Based on a Kodak survey from many years ago, women make 98% of photography purchase decisions. That means you need to pay attention to the design and color elements of your website. I’ve seen both male and female artists insist on sites that feel too masculine and high-tech.
Make a visit to your website habit-forming and fun, just like a visit to your favorite stores. Don’t make it hard to find what’s most important to your audience. Test your site every day to make sure it’s loading the way you expect.
Above the fold
Pay attention to how things look on your monitor. Too many of you have poor designs with important information below the fold, forcing your audience to scroll through pages to find information they need. Too often they miss what’s most important.
Start with your galleries
Your very first tab should be your galleries, then your About page. Hook clients on your images first so they want to find out more about you.
How many images?
Keep your galleries relatively small. Be selective in what you show. I once did a website review for a photographer who had over 4,000 images on his site. You need only a dozen to make your point—as long as each image is a wow print. A wow photograph is so good that it’s the only one you’d have to show to get hired.
I love websites with completed albums. While you may think of albums as strictly for wedding clients, the key point is showing your skills as a storyteller. Showing an album is a great way to plant the seed of an idea for newborn, children and family photography. Think about a “day in the life” book telling the story of a new baby, a child’s environment or a family. Instead of just pitching a client on an updated family portrait, get them excited about a complete project documenting their family.
Everyone has other interests in photography besides their core specialty, but be careful how you share them in your galleries. A wedding photographer who has an interest in beauty and fashion is targeting two different audiences. An ad agency looking for a beauty and fashion client is going to walk away from a wedding photographer’s gallery. The same applies to a children and family photographer who also has an interest in fine art landscape work or wildlife.
Remember your target demographics. There’s nothing wrong with multiple specialties and interests, but you need either a second website or a landing page that gives each visitor a choice of which door to go through.
I’m hoping more of you will consider two different directions for your About page. How about a mixed-media video combining still images and a couple of short video clips (10 to 20 seconds) set to great music? You need a great marketing video to show your work and your love for the craft. If you hate being on camera, kick things off by talking about your passion for photography while showing some of 2018’s best images.
If your bio talks in the third person, is all about your awards, how you got started or what equipment you use, dump it. Unless you’ve won the Pulitzer Prize, nobody cares what awards you’ve won. They also don’t care that your grandfather got you started with your first camera or that you’re into the latest technology.
What your target audience does care about is why you should be trusted to capture the kinds of photographs they want. They want to know why you love photography, working with people and your career choice. It’s all about relationship building. Stop talking in the third person as if you’re being interviewed for a magazine article.
Make your About page an artist’s statement and stay in the first person. Add your signature at the end. Make it unique and personal. Relationship building is your most important marketing tool, and it all starts with that first visit to your website.
So many of you share information on your website that would scare away an IRS auditor. Stop posting policies about deposits and cancellations. This information belongs in the contract discussion, not on somebody’s first visit to your website. The information is important, but it doesn’t belong on your website. Let your site represent your passion for the craft and your enthusiasm and love for your clients.
Rather than share pricing, I show a starting price for packages. Remember: “People rarely buy what they need,” as Seth Godin wrote. “They buy what they want.”
Your goal is to make visitors to the website want your services, skill set and finished products. Don’t let pricing become the issue until you’ve got them to realize you’re the best. Pricing is important, but it doesn’t need to be on your website.
If you’ve attended any of my workshops, you already know this is a pet peeve: lack of contact information. There’s no such thing as too many ways for people to contact you. Photographers who work from home don’t want to show an address. That’s fine, but give people a phone number and an email address. If you use an email form, it’s only as good as the speed of your response.
Here are a few bonus tips for your blog, which I’ll explore in detail next month:
- Your website is about what you sell, and your blog is about what’s in your heart.
- Consistency is critical to a blog. If you’re blogging every other full moon, give it up—it’s hurting more than helping you.
- Post on your blog at least twice a week. Any less, and you’ll never build a readership.
- Content is king. Remember your audience and this great line from author and motivational speaker Ed Foreman, which you’ve read on my pages many times before: “If I can see the world through my client’s eyes, then I can sell my client what my client buys.”
You’ve got to understand what’s important to your audience, and just putting yourself in their shoes isn’t enough.