One of the toughest challenges we face as business owners is growing our business within our local market. Many of us operate in areas that feel overly saturated with photographers and it can feel like a daunting task to carve out our own niche.
It can be tempting to stay behind the comforts of social media marketing, and while that is an important part of any business owner’s marketing strategy, you must move beyond that. Social media is easy and low-risk, but it also doesn’t always yield the returns we need – especially because we are up against algorithms we cannot control AND we all operate in saturated markets. So attracting the right clients and expanding your local reach means moving beyond social media.
Building up a successful client base is all about working hard to attract the RIGHT clients, and then taking those clients and turning them into forever clients through effective marketing, planning, communication and execution. With that, I believe that expanding your local reach answer lies in 1) defining your target client, 2) finding out where they are, and then 3) finding a way to involve yourself in that space.
Start by fully defining WHO your target client is:
• What are their interests?
• What is their income level?
• What are they looking for in their session?
Then ask yourself, WHAT do these people want to purchase:
• Does your business model support the artistic interests and buying power of your target client?
From there, you will want to determine HOW to target them:
• Where are they located?
• What is the best platform to reach them?
So Get out there!
Go where your target client spends their time. For example, if you want to do newborn photography, is there a local maternal wellness center you can get involved with? If you want to photograph school-aged children, how can you get involved in the schools? Some other ideas include:
- Supporting local charities
- Partnering with a local mother’s group
- Partnering with a maternal wellness center
- Partnering with local small businesses, such a children’s boutique
Have a formal monthly marketing plan.
Once you have defined your target client, and you have determined how to reach them, it is critical that you develop a formal marketing plan. I usually recommend planning at least 6 months out. Of course you will do plenty of spontaneous and un-planned posting around your marketing plan, but it is nice to have this set thread to weave through your promotional efforts – marketing efforts that are specifically designed to speak to your brand and reach your target clients.
Create a strong referral program
Consider creating a solid referral program. Word of mouth goes a long way in your local photography market. It can be a good idea to reward both the new client and their referring client. For example, a $50 print credit towards a future to the referring client and a free 8×10 to the new client that came in via the referral. Consider including referral cards in your packaging for clients to pass on to their friends.
Show clients what they get.
Always SHOW your target clients what to expect when they hire you. Make sure your website and your social media pages display the art that sings to your creative soul. Use you FAQ page and your introduction email to fully describe what you do and how you do it, so clients immediately understand the art you aspire to create for them. Growing your business isn’t just about volume. It’s about finding the people the are a great creative fit for your business.
Use your newsletter
It is important to grow and utilize your newsletter. You can’t control social media algorithms, but you can control who gets your newsletter. Your newsletter is a very effective way to get the messages you want to communicate directly to your target clients. Services like MailChimp are free (up to a certain volume) and can help you create really beautiful newsletters. Encourage your clients to sign up for your newsletter by announcing deals and specials via your newsletter first.