If your calendar is not completely booked up yet, you are not done with marketing. Maybe you haven't gotten started yet. That's OK. We can fix that. Here are 11 great ways to get some marketing mileage when you've got zero budget for marketing.
Some of these ideas are quick and easy and others are more of a long term strategy that you should start now and will build up steam over time. Let's get to the good stuff, shall we?
1. Networking with Vendors and Photographers
Networking is a great use of your time when it comes to marketing. In order to get results with this strategy, you need to take it seriously. Put together a solid plan of what you would like to accomplish (who you want to talk to, what aspect of your business you want to promote) and then after the networking event, follow up with whoever you met. If instead, you simply go without a plan, talk to no one except those you recognize, and then never call anyone to set up a follow up meeting, then networking will not be very effective for you. However, when done right, you would be amazed at how effective it can be. I'm sure you've heard the saying “people do business with people.”
TIP: Two great books to help you become a networking ninja if you are on the shy side:
How To Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
2. Partner with Vendors
There are a lot of vendors out there who could give you client referrals if you approached them with the right offer. Cross marketing means partnering up with another business and helping each other out with marketing. Perhaps you could approach a children's clothing store about offering a photo shoot with their latest clothing collections, perhaps even featuring the kids of their best customers? In exchange for the session and the wall prints at cost, you can offer clients a mini session at the store each season? Or maybe the owner needs images for a direct mail campaign?
Think outside the box and figure out where your clients are at, and then go to them. This concept can be applied to any type of photography. Boudoir photographers can team up with makeup artist and lingerie boutiques. Pet photographers can find creative ways to partner with grooming services, pet stores and so forth. It's all about being creative. Not everyone you approach will be receptive, but others will be, so you keep trying until you find a good match.
TIP: This has been our single best marketing strategy by far. If you want to make this the focus of your wedding photography marketing efforts, check out my photography ebook, Get Connected.
3. Pinterest Can Drive Traffic to Your Website
Pinterest is the new kid on the block when it comes to social media, and it's already becoming a major player. It's basically a way for users to collect and share images of things they like or convey a certain theme or concept they want to express. It's another great way to connect with your clients and prospective clients about creative ideas for their sessions or to express your own creative vision. Wedding professionals are having a lot of fun with Pinterest as a way to connect with brides over wedding planning ideas, but it’s a diverse platform that works for photographers in all fields and is a tremendous source of inspiration. Here's a very informative post from the Modern Tog: Ultimate Pinterest Guide for Photographers.
TIP: add Pinterest pins to your blog so your watermarked images can spread on Pinterest.
4. Wisestamp Turns Your Emails into Marketing Assistants
Wisestamp is a cool free email app that lets you add an automatic email signature to every email you send out. What this does is effective turns every email into a mini marketing campaign for you. The app allows you to insert Facebook, Twitter and blog links into your email signature. What's special about it is that you can actually bring the feed of your choice in-your latest blog post or latest Twitter or Facebook post.
TIP: Don't list every possible link but but pick and choose the best ones to share with your audience, or whatever your (social media) strengths are.
5. Get Your Studio Listed in Online Local Listings in Google Places, Yelp etc.
Local listings are very quick to do and will greatly improve your customer's abilities to find you. All you have to do is check that your business information is properly listed in online directories like Google Places, Bing, etc. This directory Get Listed is a free one stop shopping service (for US only), and will check listings for you and let you know what sites need to be updated with your business information. This process can easily be completed in about fifteen minutes or less (more if you add photos etc.), so it is well worth the time and simple to do. Not only will it help customers trying to find you online, it also gives your blog or website more authority according to Google, meaning it will have a positive impact on your SEO rankings, which is always good.
TIP: This is the one to do right this minute because it's so fast and gives your website a nice burst of SEO immediately.
6. Referral Gifts for Clients and Vendors
Past clients are a great source of referrals, and what better way to thank them and encourage referrals than by offering an incentive? You'll want to offer clients something of value, something such as a service or product you can offer them that doesn’t cost you too much but has a high perceived value. If you are going to build a solid referral stream of business, you need to let your clients know through repeated messages how important it is to you that they refer you, and how much you appreciate being referred. When business owners say things like “my business is based on referrals from happy clients” and “the greatest compliment you can give me is a referral” you are letting your clients know what you would like them to do that for you. As with any marketing, it takes time to build up a good base of referrals.
TIP: Referral gifts are appreciated by vendors that have given you business as well. Offer a headshot session or family portrait to keep it on the free side.
7. Facebook to Build Interest from Fans
Facebook is no longer a new social media, but an accepted and effective strategy for marketing and reaching your audience. Many photographers are successfully building their business with Facebook marketing. Facebook marketing only requires about 10-20 minutes per day, and you will start to see your reputation grow. You do not need hundreds or thousands of fans, so don’t fret about that. What you want to focus on if you choose Facebook as a major marketing strategy is to get your work shared by clients and friends, so that your studio is getting exposure within a new group of potential clients. More free ideas can be found here: Facebook marketing for photographers.
TIP: Post lots of watermarked photos and encourage sharing if you want to make your Facebook page a major part of your photo marketing.
8. Start a Blog to Showcase Your Work and Personality
A blog is a great way to start communicating with your audience what you are all about and what you can offer them. Blogs do require a serious time commitment, but the great thing is, your blog is basically a blank canvas for you to express your creative ideas, share bits about your personality if you choose, educate clients and share with them the types of images and products you can create for them. A website is like a brochure, a blog is like a conversation. We've booked a good number of clients through our blog each year as well as began working with a wedding planner-right after we sent out an email blast announcing our new blog; she contacted us with the first of many referrals. Well worth the time, believe you me.
9. SEO Your Blog and Website to Be Found Online
If you have a blog, that's a great place to get started with search engine optimization. In a nutshell, SEO is simply giving search engines clues as to your location and the types of products and services you offer. SEO is not nearly as complicated as it is made out to be, and anyone with a blog can start implementing SEO tactics into their routine. You want prospective clients to find you when they are in the midst of online wedding planning. You can focus on terms like “Wake Forest Children's Photographer” or other similar terms that you think prospective clients might use to find you. You would place these terms in the body of your blog, with tags or image naming. You can create a blog post about each location or venue in your area. If you want to focus on your SEO, I recommend reading Zach Prez's blog, Photography Web Marketing.
TIP: SEO is something you work on over time and build up a stronger online presence. It's not something that you can do today to get clients next week, but again, it's an important part of a long term strategy.
10. Contests and Giveaways to Build Buzz Online
If you want to build some buzz on your blog or Facebook page, contests are a great way to get participation up. You'll want to strategize where to hold the contest, what to offer and how to make the best use of the buzz generated. In terms of prizes, it is generally better to offer a prize that is going to be of interest to your potential clients and not just to people who like to enter contests in general. Something related to your products or services that will create sharing and excitement among your fans and followers. Ideally, you want followers to share your message with their friends in order to gain as much exposure as possible. When doing contests on Facebook, it is very important to follow their rules and terms of service, otherwise you could get your account shut down. Here's a great intro video to using contests to market your photography business from the Modern Tog.
TIP: Keep your contest timeframe short (1-2 weeks) to build some buzz while keeping readers interested.
11. Getting Published in Wedding Magazines and Blogs
If you want to focus on building press and prestige for your work, getting published is a great way to go. You can submit images and story ideas to trade publications in your field as well as local media. Once you've been published, you can use that publicity as a tool to promote yourself and your work. I've written an entire guide on getting published that you can download: the free photography marketing ebook if you haven't already.
TIP: Getting your photos published only works as a marketing strategy if you actively promote the feature to potential clients and vendors.
There you have it. My best tips for free marketing. Now it's your turn-what marketing tips can you add to the conversation?