Why courtship matters in marketing

by Outlaw Photographer James Michael Taylor on June 2, 2014

in PartTimePhoto.com News,This is Business

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As usual, let’s start with the end in mind.

(As opposed to starting with the how, then trying to make it fit the why!)

On any marketing campaign, you want to have an ultimate goal – whatever tactics you employ, you need a goal action you’re moving potential clients to take.

“I want them to give me their money, of course!”

Courtship first, Romeo.

Many startup business owners want their marketing to explode with a Direct Response – someone sees your ad / post / card / postcard / portfolio / fan page / contest, and immediately calls or e-mails to book a shoot and throw bennys at you.

This is also why most newly-minted professionals can’t get a critical mass of clients on board and stay booked solid.

And the simplest, most common Direct Response campaign is… A BIG SALE! Immediately devaluing the product or service, and catering to the least profitable, least loyal, most demanding and problematic clientele.

No wonder so many good artists burn out so fast when they try to go pro.

If we want to avoid chasing the quick sale, we have to court the relationship.

Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook – you want to give, give, give value and great reasons to know, like, and trust you before making the ask.

Even then, make it a soft ask – we’re talking a peck on the cheek on the fourth date, friends.

Then back to the center of the ring: Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook.

So what’s a knock out for you? What action do you want your client to take as a result of your ‘right hooks’?

Every campaign will look different, but here’s how a good strategy might play out:

> Momma sees you shooting her daughter’s varsity softball game

> Sees your byline in the local paper or on the school web site beneath the photos you took

> Meets you at the next home game

> Gets your business card

> Visits your portfolio online

> Signs up for your e-mail newsletter because she likes your work, and really likes your contest to win prizes like movie tickets, gift cards, and a full photo shoot

> Reads about your Facebook contest in the newsletter and likes your Fan Page for a monthly entry

> Shares your great photo from her daughter’s softball game

> Sees your Senior Photography work on Facebook and in the newsletter, starts thinking about graduation invitations

> A month before graduation, sees your reminder for last-chance senior photo shoot bookings, and panics

> Has seen your work a dozen times over the school year, loves your art and visiting with you at the games, appreciates the senior fundraiser you helped with for Project Graduation, has read the customer testimonials in your newsletter, appreciates the great photographs you’ve submitted of her daughter’s team to the local newspaper, and…

> Nine months after learning who you are and what you do, e-mails you asking, “What do you charge for a senior photo shoot?”

Can you see how far removed this story is from, “Never heard of you, but since you handed me your business card, let me book with you right now!”

Not to say the latter doesn’t happen, but the first story – one that plays out multiple times every single year in my own business – is a great example of a marketing strategy, built from multiple consistent messages in multiple venues, which leads your target market to Know, Like, and Trust you.

When you do it well enough, “What do you charge?” is not even the question they ask. Instead, it’s “How soon can we get started?

There are a lot of moving parts in this one strategy:

  • Learning, practicing, and growing as a sports photographer as a vital part of your senior photography business (How can I give value to my niche target market?)
  • Getting your photos published regularly in the local newspaper (How can I get my target market to know and remember my name?)
  • Chatting up parents at games (How can I connect with my next client?)
  • Handing out business cards (How can I make a potential client think of me again later?)
  • Having a great online portfolio which funnels visitors to your e-mail newsletter sign-up (How can I earn the trust of my client and get permission to market directly to them?)
  • Sending out a great weekly or monthly e-mail newsletter which gives three parts value for every one Ask (How can I continue to make my client like me and trust me?)
  • Hosting a Facebook contest with an offer so good that it earns Likes (How can I get stay in front of my potential client in multiple venues?)
  • Planting the seed idea of “getting ahead so you don’t fall behind” for senior photos and invitations (How can I begin to build want and need for my paid services?)
  • Getting your name in front of potential clients in multiple good venues: in-person, in the newspaper, via business card, on your web site, in your e-mail newsletter, on Facebook (How can I become an obvious choice for my potential client’s needs?)
  • Being a big part of a school fundraiser (How can I show my potential client I’m a positive, supportive part of their world?)
  • Collecting and sharing testimonials from thrilled clients (How can I use ‘social proof’ to build credibility with potential clients?)
  • Asking for the business (Like that cute girl at the big dance, is my client ready to commit, but waiting for me to ‘ask’?)

And all this is what went into just getting that golden “Are we a good fit for each other?” e-mail or phone call.

But, can you imagine the confidence you’ll feel when, from the first handshake with a potential client, you’ll know all the next steps to turn that handshake into a thrilled and paying client?

Marketing is a story you write hoping the clues you pen will guide the characters to a happy ending.

Every story is different.

What’s yours?

Marketing Is…

The post you’re reading is the kickoff to my Marketing Is… Series, where I’ll tackle the challenges of how to do the right things, in the right places, to reach the right people, at the right times, to spur action.

I know these can be daunting topics, but that’s why we’re here together right now.

The point of this series is really to save you time and money – it’s deceptively easy to buy an ad or build a web site, never having a grasp of how all the moving parts of your marketing strategy work together…or worse, not having a marketing strategy at all.

Don’t worry, you’re neither the first nor the last, but you’re getting wiser by the day – and you don’t have to learn everything the hard way.

Even though I’ve been blessed with success as a part time professional photographer (at least my vision of it), I’ve made countless marketing mistakes along the way.

Buying over $750 in radio advertising (for a visual medium!) because the ad rep asked me to.

Losing $8,000 in six months on a retail studio which generated zero new customers during that period.

Being cheap where I could have gotten a great return on my investment, such as frugal local newspaper advertising.

Running special offers and discounts according to my bank account, instead of a marketing calendar.

Pitching on price instead of value because I was scared nobody would call if I asked what I was worth.

Being too shy, elitist, or perfectionist to reach out and work with other business owners on co-op campaigns and projects.

Buying expensive business card ads in yearbooks and football programs, year after year, with no purpose whatsoever – no goal, no strategy, no offer, no message, no coordinated campaign in other media.

Trust, the list goes on.

I can’t tell you what will work – anybody who makes those guarantees, especially with a price tag on them, is a whale of a fibber – but I’ll share with you what I’ve seen work, and seen fall flat, over the last 15 years.

The best way to stay savvy is by slipping your e-mail address into the newsletter sign-up box at the top of this page. You’ll make your momma proud.

Next Steps

  • What’s your niche? How tightly have you narrowed your target market? When you ‘speak’ to your market (through your marketing), does your target market undeniably know you’re talking directly to them? Can you tell me where they shop, where they bank, where their kids go to school, who their family doctor is, what kind of house they live in, what they most enjoyed studying in college, how ‘busy’ they would rate their lives, whether they host Thanksgiving dinner or go to Grandma’s, if they have sit-down dinners or outdoor barbecues with friends, what their biggest joy is in buying professional photography for their family? If not, keep niching down until you have no more than a few avatars which descriptively fit your ideal client – then make your focus to find and engage your people (#protip: your people are out there, and they’re waiting to be blessed by your work!).
  • Brainstorm Session: Knowing your ideal client, what’s the first touch a potential client might have with you on the path to hiring you as their photographer? Like the sports photography example above leading to a senior portrait client, how can you Own Your Zip Code – how can you be where your clients are, and contribute value to their world?
  • Pick up a copy of John Jantsch’s new book, Duct Tape Selling: Think Like a Marketer-Sell Like a Superstar – John has a wonderful ability to break down the confusion and fear of sales, and what it takes to make them (le hint: marketing!). He is the master of Know, Like, and Trust.
  • Would you be interested in a rich list of fully-written, value-giving content examples for your e-mail newsletter? E-mail me and let me know.
  • My writing at PartTimePhoto.com exists to serve your needs as an amateur photographer making the transition to paid professional. I appreciate and welcome your readership, and invite you to subscribe to my e-mail newsletter at the top of any page of this site.
  • If anything in this post has spoken to and inspired you, please comment below, drop me an e-mail, or call or text me at 830-688-1564 and let me know. I’d love to hear how you use these ideas to better your part time photography business!

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