Spreading the word...how do people find your business?

Discussion in 'General Shop Talk' started by Alison, Mar 26, 2006.

  1. Alison

    Alison Swiss Army Friend Supporting Member

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    I thought Bethany had a good idea to have some more discussion on the business side of photography. So, I'm going to start a sticky of the week, or maybe leave it up for two weeks depending on responses. Perhaps we can incorporate the information into an FAQ section for this area of the site. Anyone who has a topic can feel free to send me a PM and I'll put them up every few weeks.

    So, starting from the beginning......how do people hear about your business? Do you have an Ad in the yellow pages, a webite with metatags, flyers, referrals, bridal fairs, etc, etc, etc?

    When I first started the business I got some trifold glossy brochure paper and designed a simple brochure with some samples of my work and the prices for various packages. I tacked them up at bulletin boards all over our town and distributed them to our neighborhood (there was a spot for ads to go next to the regular mailboxes). I also put them at at work (I worked for a large company) and I told everyone I knew that I was starting a photography business.

    When I moved to New Hampshire it was more of a challenge because it's very rural here and I decided to place an ad in our local newspaper. It went in the engagement and birth announcement section on Sundays. The cost ran about $35-45 a month and I did get several weddings booked from it. I offered a 20% discount for people who mentioned the ad. I also run an ad in our local yellow pages which runs $75/month. I have gotten the majority of our business from that ad. For whatever reason people in NH tend to use the phone book to search out businesses instead of the internet.

    I do also run a website www.stalleyphotography.com . It costs me $120/year and I also have an online ordering system that costs $45/month. Overall the website has been a fantastic tool. We hear from a number of our clients that they love being able to see their photos displayed online, it's increased our sales from out of town relatives that buy photos and it's a great starting point for cleint inquiries. Anytime someone calls for a wedding I ask if they have visited our website. It doesn't take the place of a personal client meeting, but it does help to ensure that our style is what they are looking for and we also encourage them to browse through the completed weddings we have done so they can see just how many pictures we take and so they can see a full wedding from start to finish.

    Referrals have also been a good source of business for us. Last year I booked a wedding for January, her cousins booked us for May and the sister of the groom from the January wedding has booked us for next year. I always make sure to have card to hand out at the wedding if anyone asks.

    We have also done some donations to local charities. That is one area that really didn't work well for us. We were just starting out and while the response was great we underestimated how much it would cost us in the end and ended up in some debt that I am now working to pay off. I wouldn't say it's a bad idea all around, but next time I'm going to offer smaller scale items, like a gift certificate instead of a whole wedding! :blushing:

    I would love to hear how everyone else has handled marketing. One thing we haven't done is do a bridal fairs and I'm interested if anyone has done them and if they recommend them.
     
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  2. elsaspet

    elsaspet TPF Noob!

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    Great topic Allison!
    I started with two stages. In the first stage, I designed my website. In stage two, I put an ad in Respond.com. (Respond is area driven). You can sign up for free, but the leads cost $3 per lead. You can set your own lead fiters, and the minimum monthy lead fee is $50. Sounds expensive, but one wedding booked can equal several thousands of dollars, so 50 bucks a month isn't so much.
    When people called from respond.com, I would direct them to the website and set up a meeting....then it was all up the presentation. (Which I have described somewhere in these threads.....somehwere LOL).
    Once the weddings started to roll in, I branched out a bit with a small ad on the knot.com ($80 a month), and joined collages.net for an additional $80 a month just to help sell reprints (which can be substantial when they are presented in the way that collages does it with audio slideshows and soforth.)
    Being a member of WPJA has been by far the best marketing tool I have, because it targets a specific population to the specific way I shoot weddings (candid).
    That's pretty much all I have done, and I'm happy to say, my first year in business is going much better than I had ever anticipated.
    I have never participated in Bridal shows, mag/newpaper ads/ or direct marketing, but I understand those things can work very well also.
     
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  3. Arch

    Arch Damn You! Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Hi alison, coming from a slightly different angle here... but this information may be useful to you or someone else. I'm on the other side of the business, my job is to help promote people like you, to produce advertising, design and to investigate possible options for promoting clients.

    One thing i'm in the process of doing now is a new business venture, one which is focused on the wedding industry and geared to not only promote photographers but all wedding services. Obviously at this stage i can't fully discribe my business plan to everyone as its still in production, (its only a local thing anyway), but what i can do is share my research into wedding advertising that i'v conducted over the last year or so. Also alot of my existing clients are wedding photogs, florists, hotel owners etc.

    As for bridal shows, I have been to, and recomended several to my clients. They are great for bringing in new business, however there are a few things to look for. If the show is held at a public venue, like a city hall... ask the organizers how many photogs are already attending and its also useful to know who. Alot of our local shows have a cue of photogs wanting to reperesent the photography side, and of course they can't let everyone do it... the most i'v seen here at a show is about 6... so if you really want to do a show....find out when it is and book early. Its also handy to know who your competitors are... you'll no doubt be familliar with the 'biggest names' in your area, just so you know who your up against. Another important part is to spend a little on a good eye catching exhibition stand. I'd recomend a 'pop up' banner system which can be placed behind you and will help draw people in to your stand. They are cheep and effective.... also some large prints of some of your work behind you also adds to the effect. These shows are about getting the most out of it and the most attention, so dont be one of the ones with a dull stand that everyone walks past!
    There are other types of shows, here were i am. These are bridal shows held by local hotels.... these are alot smaller and cheeper to exhibit, but can also give you good publicity.
    The main reason i think shows are a good idea, is the rapport you can build with people who are otherwise just browsing and arn't sure who to book. Most of my clients will achieve at least 3-4 confirmed bookings (often alot more) from doing a show, just because they are very approachable, not too pushy and have a good service to offer. If you achieve this amount, you have not only paid for the show space... but you've also got 3-4 more families, who in future will recomend you to friends etc... thats the best way to build your business up as you would know.
    So without going on (i think i have too much already!)... a show here can cost between 250 - over a thousand pounds... around 250 would get you a hotel venue.... the last 'big' one i attended was about 800.... so the equivelent in dollers may be a realistic figure. I highly recomend them, if you need anymore info or help on this or any other topic, let me know. :D
     
  4. Sharkbait

    Sharkbait TPF Noob!

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    Website and word of mouth. We decided we'd rather build slower and keep our costs down.

    I built and maintain the website myself, costs us $4 a month and $8 a year for the registration.

    We have 22 weddings booked for 06, and this is our 2nd full season, so we're doing okay with it! ;) Plus, by working primarily off of referrals, it's kind of neat that nearly everyone we photograph, we've photographed their friends and family...it makes our business much more family-oriented and personal.

    I also have a huge multimedia marketing CD that I designed, that's given to clients after we meet with them.
     
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  5. AprilRamone

    AprilRamone TPF Noob!

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    So far, I've done a number of different things to advertise myself. Some have worked great, others not at all. I put out some ads in November in different neighborhood newspapers advertising a special rate for getting holiday portraits done. Didn't work. I regularly advertise in Craigslist.org (although I try not to do it more than once a week so as to not appear to spam or desperate or just plain annoying. Especially since there are so many photographers advertising on Craigslist already). This is by far the best advertising I've done and it's free. But, it really works better if you have a website to direct them to. I've also gone to a daycare and taken pictures of the kids for the daycare to hang on their walls. I made a big collage of the images and left my business cards there. It has worked out ok. A couple of people just wanted to buy the image that I had taken and another lady wanted to set up a whole family photo shoot. I have also advertised in the back of a couple of local Kids magazines although I recently cancelled both of those because they really weren't bringing enough customers to justify the ad. (I think I only got one session in the 5 months I advertised with them). Word of mouth has been good too. I have been a babysitter/nanny for a long time so I have done a lot of my babysitting clients and then they tell all of their friends who then want to set up a session with me also. I have about 9 sessions scheduled in the next couple of months and although I am working on getting more, it is definitely the most that I have had so far since starting the business.

    I haven't delved into the event photography side of things as much since that's not where I am very experienced, but I have hooked up with a Wedding planner and told her that I'd be willing to do some inexpensive wedding/event photography for people who have a smaller budget so I could build up that side of my portfolio and gain some experience.
    I know a lot of you have said to try to apprentice with another photographer, but I haven't had much luck getting one to let me help out. It's understandable though since I really wouldn't want to stay under them for a long time and would possibly be competition later on.
     
  6. Christie Photo

    Christie Photo No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I find the same to be true here. I believe that when folks are shopping locally for a service, it only makes sense to start there. Once I get the call, however, that's usually one of the first questions... "Do you have a web site?"

    Public displays is another important tool. I have not done this for some time now (and have recently been wondering why in the world it stopped), but it does bring immediate and measurable results.

    The idea is to find a business that needs wall decor.... say, a bank or a restaraunt. You arange with them to display framed prints on their walls. It's easier than you might suspect. It works two ways for them: 1) They get free art. 2) Your customer's friends and family will visit the business to see the portrait on display, increasing traffic for them.

    As for you, you now have a remote display being seen first-hand by a large number of folks. Not a brochure... or web site... but 20x24 framed prints in all their glory! You can tell when it's working because the call always start with, "I saw your work at Steak 'n' Shake."

    I've decided to approach a local day-care to display my work. Well... 90% decided. I'm not certain I want to start working with a steady flow of toddlers.

    A variation on this theme is to rent the window of an empty store at a local mall. You get mall exposure without mall rent. Sometimes, especially in small towns, you can get the library to allow a limited time display... like a gallery show.

    There're so many ways this can work. You can actually "pre-qualify" your potential callers by displaying in a "high end" type of establishment... say... bridal portraits in a jewelery store.

    I just convinced myself to put together a new display!

    Pete
     
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  7. Alison

    Alison Swiss Army Friend Supporting Member

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    Wow, some great ideas in this thread!

    Pete, I think I'm going to approach the daycare where our children go. We both love working with kids so getting more business there would be cool. I'll have to check out our library as well and see if they have a need for anything on the walls.

    Thanks to everyone for sharing there ideas!
     
  8. Terence

    Terence TPF Noob!

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    When I started my business I thought back to the time when I was getting married, and being dragged around to every pillar and post by "she who must be obeyed”:hugs: I used that as my 'format' for marketing. Church, Jewellery Store, Hotel - in that order. I had my literature printed with 'packages' and initially with Portrait samples included. After a few weddings, I had them reprinted to include 'wedding shots'. Eventually, word of mouth did a lot of the work, but if you're going to use the Church, Jewellery Store and Hotel, I would strongly suggest that a % of your 'package price' be donated to the Church, and agree/offer a % to the commercial establishments. As a rule of thumb, I always make sure the church gets a donation. It establishes 'good will' for future weddings, and quite frequently you will find that the Church has recommended you to the 'happy couple'. What really matters at the end of the day is quality of work, and service; business will follow.
     
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  9. danalec99

    danalec99 TPF Noob!

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    Great idea! Couple of questions:

    1. Is the frame included in your 'free' offer?
    2. Do you print/write/label your contact details on the mat board?
     
  10. Christie Photo

    Christie Photo No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Yeah... I do it all. But remember... the stuff remains my property. I merely LOAN it to them.

    I just sign my prints, much like any other piece of art. I've been at it for some time (23 years), and I presume folks will know who I am. I'm gonna rethink that now. In the past, I've left a stack of my cards with the display.
    Thanks for the question. Maybe I'VE been around for a good while, but the viewer may be new to the area. Hmmmmm.

    Pete
     
  11. danalec99

    danalec99 TPF Noob!

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    Do you get in to a contract (written) with the business owner?
     
  12. Christie Photo

    Christie Photo No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    No... I haven't yet. I didn't see a need for one. The one long-time display I had was in a bank. After 8 or 10 years, they remoldled and had me come collect my stuff.

    Pete
     

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