The Top 5 Marketing Mistakes You Need to Stop Making Now with Jonathan Tilley
Remember holding your first professional camera in your hands for the first time? Feeling the weight of it as you ran your fingers over the body? Being extra careful not to smudge the lens? Hearing the clicking noises for the first time? Ah, the amazing imagery you would make with this fine piece of technology. The ridiculous amounts of money you would earn from a single click of the shutter release. The accolades you would receive from your artistic genius. The world was yours.
Jump cut to last week when your stress levels were higher than those of a Wall Street stockbroker on the verge of a meltdown. The rent is due, there are more mothballs than dollars in your bank account and you’re bouncing between artistic integrity and getting a cubicle job. You’re a photographer. You know you can do this. But how did you get to this place?
You’re a photographer, not a salesperson. Cut yourself a break. Pour out the chai/coffee/wine/absinth (no judgment) and listen up. You don’t need a master’s in business to become a successful photographer. But if you don’t immediately cut out a few things, you will turn into the cliché of the starving artist that your right-wing Uncle Barnie loves to mock, asking you at family gatherings, “So when are you going to get a real job?”
To that I say, “Sit your fat ass down, Uncle Barnie. I’ve got this.”
Stop pulling your hair out trying to employ these five marketing strategies everyone tells you to do but that bring in zero ROI.
Marketing Mistake #1
“If I write a weekly blog about how much I love photography, which camera to use and when, and how I retouch my images using these shortcuts in Photoshop, then my dream clients will find me on the Internet, read my blog, consider me an expert in my field and book me!”
Do you really think your potential clients have the time to dillydally around the Internet looking for content on how to retouch an image, and that they’ll somehow stumble onto your little blog post in a vast ocean of nearly identical blog posts? If your dream client is an art director at an ad agency, he doesn’t give a flying Fig Newton about how you retouch an image. He wants you to come into your interview with an impressive portfolio and work so hard that you save him time and make his life easier.
You are important, but you aren’t so important that your dream client will hunt you down and buy you a dozen roses because you wrote a brilliant blog post about retouching an image. So if you have a blog, stop writing it. You’re wasting your time—unless you are also a coach/educator who teaches other photographers.
Marketing Mistake #2
“If I do a webinar or a Facebook Live where I teach others how to be a pro photographer, then I’ll show my expertise to my dream clients and they’ll book me.”
This is true…if you are a coach/educator and your dream clients are your photography students. Then, by all means, blog and Facebook Live yourself away. But if you are not a coach/educator, if you are not Sal Cincotta, Chase Jarvis or Sue Bryce, and you do not have any coaching products to sell at the end of a blog post or Facebook Live, then why are you giving away your secret for free? Ever heard of a successful photographer who got over 1,000 likes on his Instagram from his followers who are not other photographers? Neither have I.
Social media is there to help you show your work, maintain brand consistency and interact with others—but it’s not designed to help you seal the deal. Social media is the small talk at the bar. Social media is the glance across the room. Social media is not the signing of the contract. So stop doing webinars and Facebook Lives, and posting 10 times a day in hopes of getting work. Post once a day. In that post, share your talent with the world without expecting anything in return. Then use the one ridiculously simple marketing strategy that I tell you about at the end of the article.
Marketing Mistake #3
“If I upload all of my imagery to royalty-free stock photo websites, then my dream clients can download my images for free, use them however they please, credit me for my work—and then when they want more, they’ll find me on the Internet and book me.”
Ever sell anything on eBay? It’s where clinically diagnosed bargain hunters go to buy stuff. Now, if those clinically diagnosed bargain hunters reproduced mutant babies with six fingers, four toes and an even more miserly brain, those mutant babies would go to royalty-free stock photo sites to hoard your work for pennies. These mutant babies are interested in one thing: not spending any money on your work. These same mutant babies are the ones who complain about the stamp prices going up 2 cents at the beginning of the year.
Why would you even consider these mutant babies as potential clients? Why are you catering to them when all they want is more for less? They will never treat you or your photography the way you and your photography should be treated. You’re so much better than that.
Marketing Mistake #4
“If I throw together a website that doesn’t work on mobile devices, at least that’s better than giving away my work on royalty-free stock photo sites—and I’ll call it something catchy like yourphotographyextravaganzabybonanza.com so dream clients will notice me and book me.”
Did you know Ryan Gosling owns a restaurant in Beverly Hills? Pretty cool! Do you know what it’s called? “Tangine.” Or, as most of Southern Cali’s upper crust call it, “Ryan Gosling’s Restaurant.”
You see, your name holds so much weight. You’re original. There’s no one like you on this planet. You’re a star! So why are you branding yourself with something catchy and cliché like “Your Photography Extravaganza by Bonanza” when your name is Greg? It just makes you sound cheap and inexperienced.
Instead, try this whopper of an idea: “Your First Name and Your Last Name dot com.” Or if you want to get fancy: “Your First Name and Your Last Name and the word Photography dot com.” Simple. To the point. Gets the job done. And Google’s search engine recognizes that and puts you at the top of the list. Yay!
And please, for the love of the Internet, where over 70 percent of all traffic is viewed on a mobile device, make sure your website is responsive. (Responsive means that your site looks perfect on a desktop, laptop, tablet and smartphone. Some people call it mobile-friendly.)
If you are beginning to have a panic attack about your website’s responsiveness, here’s a tip: Build your website in half the time with Squarespace. It has great templates just for photographers, and they’re all responsive. I switched over to Squarespace in 2014 and haven’t looked back. It’s a game changer.
Marketing Mistake #5
“If I give discounts, go on Fiverr or do free work for the exposure, I’ll get my foot in the door, make an amazing impression—and then, when things really get rolling, I’ll raise my prices so that dream clients will continue to book me.”
Didn’t I cover this in No. 3? Didn’t I talk about the miserly mutant babies? Didn’t I say that these people are not your dream clients?
The same goes for these types of people. Your dream clients understand that the value you give is impeccable photographic work. They understand that when you raise your rates, you are growing and chasing greatness. Your dream clients don’t bat an eye when you raise rates. Instead, they think you finally know your worth.
Well done. You’ve made it this far. Congrats. You’ll never make those five marketing mistakes ever again. But we’re not done yet.
One Ridiculously Simple Marketing Strategy
Now that you’ve freed yourself from all those marketing strategies that just wasted your time, here is the one ridiculously simple strategy that books the big gigs with the bigwigs.
Talk to people. That’s it.
Building professional relationships is how you get jobs. It is all about whom you know. But it’s also about who knows you.
I can feel you cringing just thinking about going up to a stranger and asking for a job. But that’s not what I’m asking you to do. I want you to talk to people in your area, people like your hairdresser, grocery store manager, school principal, event manager, church pastor. All of these people have established networks of people you can leverage.
Let’s take your hairdresser. Next time you get your hair cut, go in, be pleasant, ask your hairdresser how she is doing. Keep the conversation light. After you’ve paid but before you put on your coat to leave, say this: “I’m a photographer and I’d love to be a resource for you. I’d love to shoot some of the latest hair trends you are creating. Here’s my card. My website is on there where you can check out my portfolio. I think what you do is awesome, and I want to make you look just as awesome online.”
Then go grocery shopping. After you’ve checked out, roll your trolly over to the manager’s area and ask to speak with the manager on call. Then say this: “I’m a happy customer of yours and I’m also a photographer. I’d love to be a resource for you. I see that your employee-of-the-month pictures are a bit outdated. I imagine there are newer employees who don’t even have a picture to hang. I could help you freshen them up and in turn boost team morale. Here’s my card.”
Now you’re on a roll. Go to a school’s principal, say the same things as above and offer to do senior pictures. Visit an event planner and offer to do their next event. Drop by a church and offer to do wedding shoots.
By offering your services to these different people and making it all about them and not about you, you become a resource. You become the one they go to when the new hair trends roll out, etc.
By simply talking with people in your community, you are communicating who you are, what you do and how willing you are to help. Remember the last time someone genuinely wanted to help you? Neither do I! In the greedy, self-consuming world we live in, few of us genuinely offer to help others. When you do it, you leverage the one thing we are hardwired to do: make a human connection. By talking to people and making a human connection, you can become a local legend.