Principles of marketing: the problems are not your photos

My personal story as a professional photographer is like those of a thousand others. I’d focused my energy on becoming, well, a better photographer. I wanted my photographs to shine. I wanted people to look at them and think they were amazing. And I was sure that, one day, someone would have “discovered” me. Success would have been an explosion. My photos would receive immediate and powerful exposure. Alas, that never happened. I was not one of those rare exceptions of overnight success. Yet, my success as a photographer grew in time, and one morning I woke up and realised that I had made it. It was overnight I realised it… after countless sleepless nights spent working on it through the principles of marketing.

I have to admit that, nowadays, I am proud of my photographic style. The images I capture are close to what I see in my head. Yet, the “success” could have been here earlier had I done few things.

Today, I am going to go through the list the things I “should have” done to make my life easier. I would have saved myself a lot of time and worries… and I would have been a much happier photographer. The hope is that you will remove your “I am a photographer, I take photographs” hat and read this with an open mind. I say it because today I am going to talk about some principles of marketing. Yes, I have used the “M” word! Let me repeat it: Principles of Marketing! Here you go, I said it again.

All jokes aside, as a professional photographer you should be an entrepreneur. Understanding the principles of marketing and business should be a top priority. It should be more important than owning a new camera.

I should have learned the principles of marketing

TL;DR – There is no such thing as “overnight success”. But if you apply a few principles of marketing you will reach success sooner!

This is the obvious one. When I started my photography career, I knew nothing about marketing. Knowing the principles of marketing was something that made me feel uncomfortable. I was a geek, and I still am, and I was much more at ease in front of a computer or behind a camera. That was a huge mistake! Learning the principles or marketing is simple.
Marketing is like being in love: you do everything for the one you love. In my business, I am dedicated to giving confidence back to women. To do so I have to talk to them, to make them understand what we stand for. This is marketing. It is not rocket science.

You may find useful > Photography marketing: the first 5 steps you need to do to win clients

I should have known who my ideal clients were earlier (and why were they buying from me)

TL;DR – Learn everything you can about the “buyer persona” and make sure to put in place it today

This is a big one! For the first year of my professional career, I had no idea who my ideal clients were. I was shooting in the dark, and whoever came through the door was the perfect client, because she was paying. The first cracks in my thinking started to appear when I had clients who made my life hell. Then I accepted the fact that I needed to learn about the principles of marketing. (LINK: How Small Businesses Can Embrace Technology To Grow Their Company Using Digital Marketing.). This brought the wall down.
I became aware of what a buyer persona was. It felt amazing to think I could have targeted her and her alone. Yet, I should have worked harder in defining her. I should have defined her dreams and passions, her fears and insecurities. I could have helped her more, and in return, I could have had more clients through the door.

You may find useful > Buyer persona: meet your future customers for the first time
You may find useful > The template to write a memorable buyer persona

learn about your ideal clients and where they go

I should have known social media is good but it’s not the holy grail

TL;DR – Dopamine is cool. But if you are looking to promote your business, social media should not be the only outlet you use.

I’ve spent countless hours on social media. First, it was Twitter, then Facebook and Instagram. I thought that with a good social media presence, flocks of raving clients would have come. Alas, I was wrong, or at least I did not use social media in the right way. The return on investment for the long hours spent was very small.
Don’t get me wrong, social media is great, but it is not the holy grail. I know one photographer who was able to manage his entire business through Instagram. This was before he posted a few NSFW images though. His main platform and business income evaporated in a matter of minutes. The point is that you should use social media, but you should not think that it will solve all your problems. (LINK: Instagram and the Professional Photographer).

My issue with social media is that it is a pit where we waste a huge amount of time. This is why when we built phlow, we focussed on one simple logic: our users would not be following other users. By doing so, they can find you because they find your photos, not because they know you already!

You may find useful > More social media likes won’t empower you photography career

I should have been my ideal clients’ best friend on social media

TL;DR – On social media, you are a business. Stop hanging out with other photographers. Start being there for your ideal clients.

Another big issue I had on social media (remember I mentioned I was doing it wrong?) was that I was talking to the wrong people. I met amazing photographers, yet it rarely brought me any clients. Guess what? I was not talking to my clients when on social media. I was not acting as my business, but rather as myself.

When using social media for your business, use topics that appeal to your ideal client. It should not be about the camera, lighting or other technical things. It should be about them: about making them the centre of attention.

You may find useful > social media and marketing: what you need to do it right

You should be your ideal client's best friend on social media

I should have learned more about marketing

TL;DR – Marketing, like photography, is like cooking. There are a few rules you have to learn. The rest is about having fun and experimenting with what works best!

I have always been good at skimming through the surface of photographers’ marketing. Yet, for many years I lacked some fundamentals. I lacked the deep understanding of how to build my strategy. (LINK: Why Small Businesses Need to Embrace Digital Marketing in 2018)
The principles of marketing are a great place to start, and you can find a lot of resources linked to this post. Yet, you need to dig deeper than the principles of marketing alone. Funnels and campaigns, are both going to help you interact with your customers in the best way. You should really get to know them.

You may find useful > The fundamentals guide on how to make a marketing strategy for your photos

I should have written my content to create a funnel, not to drive visitors to my website

TL;DR – Don’t focus on how many visitors you receive on your website. Make sure you understand how to drive them from being visitors to becoming customers.

I mentioned before that I have always considered myself a geek. I have been a software developer for many years and I manage my own websites. Yet, I had always lacked the knowledge of what a funnel was and how I could have implemented it. A “funnel” seemed so far away from the principles of marketing that I didn’t do it right.

Alas, funnels are such simple things, and doing them right is a question of knowing a few key elements. I prepared a video you can watch to “demystify” marketing funnels. Watch it, it is going to help you build your own unique funnel.

You may find useful > Marketing Funnels Demystified: what you need to know to do it right

Let me finish this post with a “call-to-action”. Your photographs, whatever your quality level might be, are not your key problem. They will get better than they are today in time, and with practice. Avoid the “paralysis by analysis” and start understanding the principles of marketing. Go and learn about it, your future self will thank you for that!

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carlo
carlo
Creator, photographer, idealist and traveller, in any order you like. Married to the most incredible woman on earth and dad to an amazing boy. The definition of luck!
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    social media marketing done rightmore social media likes won't drive your marketing forward