Your photo business is made up of distinct and unique parts. Sales is different from marketing. Marketing is different from business development. What's the difference, and how does this relate to your photography business?
For many small business owners, sales and marketing activities are often lumped together, and many owners have trouble distinguishing one from the other. Because we wear many hats in our business (photographer, salesperson, IT manager, customer service rep, graphic designer, accountant) it is easy to get confused and mentally merge the two areas together. Throw business development into the mix, and most people are thoroughly lost. To be most effective, it's important to understand what each area is so that you can build a plan for your business of how to integrate each of these key areas into your business plan.
Developing a marketing plan is critical to your success. Without this roadmap, you won't know where you are going or what you want to achieve. Another problem with not having a marketing plan is that you won't know how much time and effort to put into a particular strategy, and you'll have no way to evaluate it. If you can't evaluate it, you can't know if it is working.
Without a marketing plan, you are reacting to the day-to-day problems and concerns of running your business. You have a bridezilla on the phone threatening a bad review on Yelp, so you react to that. Clients want their albums yesterday, so you settle in for some late nights cuddling with Photoshop. You need business, badly. So how about throwing a couple thousand dollars at the next advertiser who rings you up and tells you exactly what you want to hear? Sound familiar?
We've all been there, but that's not the way to run a business. That's how you sink a business—by being in a constant state of reaction. It feels like you're always treading water.
When you have a marketing plan to follow, you have taken the time to select priorities for your business. When that next great new idea comes along, you don’t get distracted, because you already have a plan that you are following. Perhaps that great idea gets jotted down for your annual business retreat to plan next year's activities?
Within your marketing plan, you want to have both short-term and long-term goals that you work on each week or month. This will ensure that your business is always moving forward. A short-term goal might be to set up a Facebook page and begin using your page to communicate events, special offers, and other information to your clients. This is something that might take you a week to set up and brand and then a couple more weeks to get going and create a viable community.
A long-term strategy would be to build strong relationships with vendors that lead to more bookings for your photo business. This type of strategy takes much more planning and effort to implement and the results will take longer to measure and pay off. But typically the results will be much more worth-while.
If you don’t know where you're going, how will you know when you've gotten there? Take the time to put together your plan for the year now before summer hits and production goes into hyper mode.
Luckily for you, I've spent many months putting together the complete, step-by-step guide on how to build relationships with vendors in order to get referrals. I can't wait to release it (coming VERY SOON) but until then, the blog is going to have lots of great articles on the subject of building relationships that will lead to getting referred by lots of wedding professionals. Stay tuned for more.