One of the questions I’m constantly asked by photographers is HOW AND WHERE do I find clients?
There are several parts to the answer. Before you can figure out where to find clients, you have to determine what your brand is all about and WHO your clients are. Your clients aren’t everybody. Have you done the work to determine your ideal client? Because if you haven’t, all of your marketing efforts are likely not being heard by those who want to hire you. Let me repeat that in other words: If you haven’t completed the work to determine who your ideal clients are, you will not find your ideal clients. You have to know what you’re looking for in order to go searching for it.
PART 1: Who are your ideal clients?
Mercedes Benz and Louis Vuitton know who their perfect clients are. We can assume that although their brand hits people across demographics, specifically they target their branding and marketing to people who value luxury and have disposable income.
Who are your ideal clients? How old is he or she? Where do they work, play, learn, live?
Successful businesses know who their target audience is down to very specific details. In order to market your messaging to the exact person you want to photograph and work with, you will need to take time to formulate your dream client. You will no longer be guessing where your target market is or how to find them. You will have done the smart planning work because everything you do in your business will be informed by your ideal customer avatar. Without this knowledge, you are moving forward in your marketing efforts with blinders on, and this is in part why you have struggled to find and sustain a steady stream of clients.
If you’re ready to do this part of the work, download the free worksheet and map this out for yourself here.
PART 2: The Marketing Part
Once you have figured out who your ideal client is, you have to look at your list of where they hang out and what they do and GO FIND THEM. You can’t sit at your computer at home and hope they fall into your lap. You need to become a part of their circles and environments. True marketing is simply genuine service. To serve people you have to find them first. You have to become their friend. Think about it. We all use our connections to find lawyers, dentists, landscapers, contractors, etc. You are no different – you are another professional service that people will refer their friends to. But first, you need to make the connection.
A. Online Marketing
Most photographers start and end with online marketing. They post in Facebook groups and their own page and call it a day. This is considerably limiting their ability to reach their dream clients. However, there is definite merit in online marketing strategies if used appropriately, and they can create an important foundation to your efforts. Here are some pointers:
- FB Ads. Facebook will allow you to create specific ads based on location and demographics. You can choose if you want the audience viewing a certain ad to work in a specific field or have a certain level of income. Depending on your business strategy, I recommend you start with ads targeting your ideal clients in local regions around your physical area. And don’t just stop there. Use FB Pixels to retarget your ad viewers. Over time, you will become known in their newsfeed as the go-to photographer. Your ads need to build trust and authority, establishing a connection to your viewers.
- FB Pixels. Retarget specific audiences with FB Pixels. Did you see our post on this here? The Facebook Pixel is an effective way to identify pockets of audiences and create warm target markets for your photography business. Nurturing potential leads in this way can encourage them to hire you as they are further exposed to your content and your brand. The Pixel allows you to identify people who visit a specific site and then send them to that site again through targeted ads, or send them to other related photography products and services you offer. Such a smart way to do marketing!
- SEO. Is your website maximized for search engines? Will Google be able to find you quickly if someone types in “photographer + your city” or “wedding photographer + your neighborhood”? You want to look into this and ensure that you not only have high quality content that your clients want to read (including blog posts of sessions), but that your website is optimized for Google searches so that your ideal client can find you online.
- Email Lists. If you haven’t started an email list or have not kept track of your clients with emails, you have wasted some precious time but it’s not too late to start. It is so important to work towards building an email list, both current and potential clients. Think about how you can build your email list – people can either give you their email when they sign up for a session or inquire about your services, or they can give you their email when they download something related to your service that they are interested in. How can you begin to build your email list and put this at the top of your priorities? Your email list becomes a warm audience of people who have interacted with your brand and are interested in what you have to offer.
B. Offline Marketing
Businesses are built on relationships and that means, you need to get out of the house. Offline marketing is the fastest way to build and grow your business, which is why I work so closely with photographers in the areas of building confidence and overcoming fears. You need to get out of our own way and put yourself out there. If you struggle with building meaningful relationships or are afraid of putting your work out into the world and speaking to your ideal clients, then this is an area that you should focus some attention on.
With that said, here are some strategies when determining what the best marketing approach is for your ideal client:
- Partner with a local charity or organization you support. What kinds of organizations align with your brand and speak to your ideal client? This strategy is an incredible way to connect yourself with someone else’s network instantly. Can you find someone to introduce you to a member of the organization who can help you set up a series of mini-shoots, or perhaps you can donate a session or do a giveaway for their audience.
- Donate your art for display. Businesses love free art. Whether it’s a coffee shop where your ideal client hangs out or a hallway in a hospital close to where your ideal clients live, displaying your work puts your art in front of your ideal client. Think about options close to your area and approach businesses with the intention of installing a gallery wall for them free of charge. You can put a small watermark in the corner or your pieces, or my personal favorite alternative, you put up a small mounted print or plaque that displays your contact and business information close to your work.
- Give out your business cards. You want to reach as many people in your area as possible. There are many businesses that allow other businesses to display their cards near the checkout counters or on bulletin boards. Start practicing giving out your business card to people you meet. Start talking to the person in front or behind you at the coffee shop lineup. Your ideal clients are everywhere, and they need to know that you exist in order to hire you. Say hi!
- Collaborate with another artist. Think of a styled shoot with a stylist or work with a wedding planner to create something spectacular that you can photograph. This not only adds to your portfolio, but you are marketing yourself to other creatives who use photographers in their industry. You can also set up shoots for a number of models and offer those models an incentive or giveaway to use your services again.
- Referrals and word of mouth. Word of mouth is a powerful form of marketing. This is why you need to create a WOW experience for the clients that you already do have. Taking care of those already connected to your business allows you to naturally build your clientele with like-minded people. They will go out and spread the word for you, and you will have a flow of steady clients who sing your praises to those in their circles.
There are countless ways to market yourself as a photographer, but you do need to create a marketing strategy and then take INSPIRED COURAGEOUS ACTION in the face of your fears. Try a mix of online and offline marketing strategies with the intention of reviewing your efforts in a few months to determine what works and what doesn’t work for your ideal clients. Then refine your strategies so your actions have the highest return possible.