Stop the Insanity: How to Take Your Photography Marketing from Bad to Great without Running Ragged

This week’s article comes to us from G.E. Masana is a NYC based wedding photographer and author of “Advertise and Sell Your Wedding Photography” published by Marathon Press. His roster of clients have spanned from the Beauty Editor of ELLE to actors, cinematographers, and even a NYC art gallery owner. He was previously was on “The List” of contributing photographers for Martha Stewart Weddings. NYC Wedding Photographer.

“I’m starting a wedding photography business. How do I get my name out there?” Should I be on WeddingThingy.com or is WhatKindOfWeddingWasThatAnyway.com better? Should I do bridal shows or not? What kind of business cards should I use? What should I say? Should I take out an ad or…?”

If you’re just starting to market your wedding photography, you may be staring into the big perplexing deep dark void and asking these questions. If you’re already marketing, you may be wondering why it is you’re paddling more furiously than ever but still seem to be in the same place after all your effort.

The good news is, it’s not your fault. The blame goes to the way you’ve been taught to think about marketing. You’ve been taught that marketing means doing all these “things” under the belief that marketing is all about engaging in a merry-go-round frenzy of tactics.

 

That belief is couched in statements such as “wedding marketing is different today.” What’s different are the tactics, for sure. But marketing hasn’t changed.

So let me save you some time and effort by having you think of your photography marketing in a different way. A more productive way.

Because this common misconception – and pitfall – is in believing all this chasing after every new thing and doing every wrinkle of it, is what marketing is all about.

And then there’s the trying to master these wrinkles. And the trying to stay on top of it. Like catching up with and doing every new trick coming out every other day about Twitter, Facebook, Google. LinkedIn, Pinterest, Google+… and whatever else becomes “the thing to do” between the time I’m writing this article and the time you’re reading it (but what I’m about to show you will never change)…

… because let’s face it, that’s all you ever see everybody blogging advice about and giving tutorials about and to find out how you too can have thirteen gazillion followers and it gets you feeling like you have to jump on the bandwagon and copycat what they’re all doing… to keep up… to hopefully succeed…

… just to have the results fall flat, or worse: after all your determined effort, time and work, and monies spent, Google changes its algorithms and knocks your site back sixteen pages or Facebook decides on a different user policy and now one fraction of an eighteenth the amount of people are seeing your latest post. Or one site loses favor (remember myspace?) and another attracts all the cool kids (hello Zuckerberg) while yet another stands in the corner wondering why no one’s playing with them (uh oh it’s Friendster. No, wait! It’s Foursquare!).

And boom – everything you worked on now no longer works. Or it’s outdated. Or now it costs you money where yesterday it was free. And all that forces you two steps behind immediately overnight. Go to bed and wake up having to start all over again from scratch. Or maybe there’s yet another brand new thing that’s all the rage to do. Sooner or later there will be. All of which leaves you slumped in one big exasperated heap.

But that’s not what marketing is, my friends.

Marketing is the constant, consistent presentation of the right messages which point to you as the answer for what your target market’s looking for.

It’s like a perpetual radar sweep constantly hunting down new prospects as they come into the market and enlightening them.

All you’ve been doing are rounds of unrelated tactics, one after another, piled on top of each other, tricks, tips and whatever seems to be the popular thingy de jour.

But marketing starts with having a strategy in place first. Not tactics first.

And I don’t mean a strategy like, “well, I plan on sending out tweets every day and tagging on Facebook…” Because, again, those are tactics.

You need an overall strategic plan first which details [a] who you want as a client; [b] what it is you offer them that they want (and which they will buy) [c] how you’ll reach them (and now this is where certain tactics may come into use) and [d] a systematic and proven way to convert them to bookings.

It’s a basic formula for making money.

Which reminds me, have you heard of the “Pareto Principle“?

About a century ago, an Italian economist observed what most of us already figured out in kindergarten, namely, life isn’t fair (except he did it with math, so for Pareto it was evidently some kind of an advanced form of kindergarten).

Specifically, he observed that eighty percent of the wealth was owned by twenty percent of the people. Sometime later it was found this 80 / 20 “rule” could be applied to most anything. That is, in any slice of life, there’s a vital few… and a trivial many.

Such as 20% of the workers produce 80% of the production. 20% of the customers create 80% of the revenue. 20% are the biggest P.I.T.A. And so on.

Of course, it’s not a hard and fast rule. It could be 75/25 or 40/60, or just about anything but it’s always a small percent of some category yields the biggest percent of some category (and it’s reverse, that typically a large percent of some category yields the smallest percent of some category) and for our purposes what it does mean is…

80% of what you’re doing right now in your marketing is bringing in 20% of your business. Only 20% of what you’re doing is bringing in 80% of your profits. Statistically speaking.

But all the same, woah! That means…you need to refocus your energies and concentrate on the 20% of marketing that will bring in 80% of your business.

That would be nice, wouldn’t it? So let’s apply the Pareto Principle.

Here’s how. I’d like you to shift your perception. Instead of getting caught up in any particular medium, be it Twitter, Facebook, etc., in an insane whirlwind of tactical activities, think more about your message and your market.

What would happen if you turned your effort to what you’re saying and who you’re saying it to over the tricks, tips and tactics?

Because what matters far more than posting on Facebook, or tweeting; what will help you clearly see if you should do a bridal show, and if so, more easily determine which one; what will become plainly evident to you as to which sites, if any, should you be on, in short, define, focus and boost your marketing power, is the message you communicate and to whom you’re communicating it to.

And this holds true across all media.

So your primary focus should really be, not Facebook or Twitter or Pinterest, or Google, Google Plus or Yahoo or Bing, or this site or that site, but on your communicating to the target you want to reach.

Because it’s the message that speaks to the desired client. Not the media.

Media is simply a distribution channel. It’s the vehicle that your message is transmitted on. Which means you need to choose the media your target client can be found on. And if you really know your target market (and you should), then you can determine which media are the most viable to efficiently reach them. And how you go about using those channels to accomplish that task, that’s finally where the tactics come into use.

Because then you can wisely choose the tactics to deploy which line up with and fit in your overall strategy and are viable for the media you use. Instead of trying to do everything.

Then what you’ll experience is this: you won’t be spinning your wheels wondering if you should take that special deal to be in that bridal show or grab an ad the latest web site is pitching you with their (usually worthless) claim of having one gazillion hits a month.

You won’t be spending hours of your life away engaged in creating low results.

Because instead of trying to do anything, everything, the latest trick and all the “trivial many” things you can choose from every day, not knowing which to do, you’ll identify the “vital few” to put your time and effort toward, selectively, intelligently, placing blinders on everything else.

Because you’ll know if fits in with your marketing strategy – or not. Which will make your marketing focused. Solid. Results oriented. Save you some money. Make your time more efficient.

Here’s the basic formula, all summed up pretty like just for you:

The right message + the right media + to the right people

Sure there’s more to it, obviously. But there’s where you start the path that leads to successful marketing.


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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Juan Jose Marquez November 25, 2012 at 12:36 pm

I´m new here and like it the way of doing things here. Mr. Masana hit the nail, as a profesionals, we are worried running behind all the new fancy tricks we could find to stay ahead of the crowd, instead of concentrating to find the right marketplace and the right client for our business. Thanks a lot.

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Cynthia Wheeler November 25, 2012 at 8:36 am

I think this article makes alot of sense for newbies and vetereans alike. “Stratgey first, then tactics” makes sense. It’s not theory at all. Now I see where I’ve been going wrong. I was running ads and not getting anywhere with them and the reason I ran those ads was because I knew I needed to advertise. So I bought ads and they helped me make the ads and the ads they made so totally got who I am. They were fun and cute. BUT THEY DIDN’T GET ME ANY BUSINESS. And now I see why. There wasn’t any strategy in place to MAKE THEM WORK. Thank you! I get it now. Looking forward to more of Masana’s business teachings.

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G.E. Masana October 24, 2012 at 11:46 am

I’m not a “wannabee,” having been a wedding photographer since ’81. All my website images are from paid weddings, not models, not workshops. And though in my bio I mention the marketing book I authored, it recently went out of print so it isn’t for sale any longer. Fact is, I have nothing to sell here at all. Just saying, to clear up any wild imaginations.

The “practical information,” the “direction” the article gives, is in directing attention to crafting one’s marketing message over believing the answer to profits exists in learning ever more tactics. Here’s why:

Consider a package delivery service using several tactics to drum up business. Maybe they have a booth at a retailer’s convention. Maybe they post on Facebook at 10 AM Tuesday mornings because they read a tip somewhere stating that’s a good time to post (I don’t know if it is, I’m simply putting forth a premise). Maybe they network with and get referrals from packaging suppliers. Their marketing message is, “Big or small, we handle it all.”

Across town, another package delivery service uses the same tactics. And they draw business from the same marketplace. But their marketing message is different: “When it absolutely positively has to be there overnight.”

Suddenly, every employee who’s under the boss’s gun to make sure the package gets delivered tomorrow breathes a sigh of relief, giving their business to FedEx, propelling FedEx way ahead of their rivals.

That’s because it’s the *message* that elicits a powerful response from the marketplace. That same principle – not “theory” – applies to our businesses.

But people get caught up in what’s called “shiny object syndrome” always looking for that next technique they hope will bring in profits, putting in a lot their valuable time doing so, engaging in those tactics. Yet until they focus first on what they’re saying to the marketplace, they’re only amplifying what may be an ineffective proposition. That’s like turning up the volume when you’re only getting static, hoping to hear the audio.

Which is why when I sat down to write this article I realized I couldn’t simply just list some techniques. That I had to touch first on the core of marketing itself. Otherwise it would’ve been like having skin but without the muscles or bones needed to give it structure, or heart and blood required to give it life.

And I felt that would’ve been a disservice.

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Matt Ethan October 26, 2012 at 1:01 am

Brilliant article! Really got me thinking and refocused on my message! Thanks from the UK. M

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Eric October 23, 2012 at 10:16 am

Yes finally someone smart like David and Christopher. Most of these people on here never even been to a wedding let alone photograph one. They try to make money off beginners and wanna be’s and don’t have a clue about the inner workings of a true studio. I have always been willing to share what has worked for our studio for 20 years for FREE

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David Medina October 23, 2012 at 9:00 pm

100% are from real, paid weddings and engagement sessions. I have done over 200 weddings anin any more engagement sessions in 7 years of business.

The problem is that many want formulas of how to succeed. They want to reduce marketing to step 1, 2, 3. What you mean as practical many see as “telling me what to do”. That is useless if you do not do first some of the things the article says. A good article does not give formulas but principles. And that is what this article does.

Those principles, briefly touched in the article, are some of the ones that I have applied to my business and have help me succeed.

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Matt Ethan October 26, 2012 at 12:59 am

Yeah, completely agree with David here, if you spend in time in any area of sales/marketing/leadership… You’ll see these principles in place. Yes, there is no specific ‘you should do this’ in GE’s (brilliant) article, but I think the adage give a man a fish… Applies here….

As an example, I could waste my time focussing on Facebook page interactions, which seems to work REALLY well for my friend, locally, and he gets lots of clients. But it just doesn’t work for me. What does work is making great friends with local, small wedding venues. My PERFECT clientele get married there…. How do i know they are my perfect client? i did what this article says to do 🙂

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David Medina October 23, 2012 at 7:43 am

Great article.

I find hilarious when I hear some say that the article “is worthless because is not practical”. Apparently we read differently or what they are really saying don’t tell me why and how to do it right but tell me what tactics to use”. They want shortcuts, a silver bullet, they want to be told what wedding thingy.

Talking about a fast food generation that want everything digested and done for them!

Thanks for the article. It reassured me that I am in the right track. I have been working on my business plan and marketing strategy to start 2013 right, focusing in my message and investing wisely only on those things that can deliver my message to my target audience.

On e again, thanks!

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Eric October 23, 2012 at 11:57 am

So David tell us how many of the images on your site are from REAL paid for weddings? Versus how many are just staged images? To many wannabe photographers who never shoot a wedding but want to charge money to tell the photographers who are really trying to make a living at this what to do? Can you tell me where in the article there is any practical information that educates on what is the best way to market wedding services to a bride?

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