Business is Slow, Give Your Work Away!

In business, any kind of business, (but especially in the photography business), it seems when you need to advertise the most (when things are slow) you can afford it the least.  Between increase competition and reduced spending, some photography businesses simply can not afford the types of advertising they used to use, pay for and think nothing of.  Maybe this is a good thing.  Maybe a higher power is out there is trying to save us from ourselves.

Advertising out of desperation produces some of the biggest business blunders I have ever seen.  In our industry right now there are photographers spending vital resources they really don’t have on advertising to a completely new market for their studio, in the hopes they will recapture some of the business they have lost.  They are using old rules in a new game!  Advertising doesn’t work the way it once did.  Although it is more expensive, people have quit paying attention to it.  Many look at it as noise, a daily distraction they must get through as they live their life.  Everything from radio to television, displays to direct mail all have increased cost with reduced return.  On top of the that you have fewer people who can afford your services and more service providers, not a good time to be spending your rent money on a newspaper ad or your house payment on a mall display!  (A positive note, social media marketing, targeted PPC, like that on Facebook and well crafted blogs all can provide lower cost advertising with excellent returns!)

So what do I mean, “give your work away”?  When you don’t have the money for advertising  it forces you to get creative and look for more “grass-roots” forms of getting business.  The best way I have ever found to boost sales is to strategically give my work away.  Call it sample sessions or testing but photographing people who in a position to promote your business then giving them images of themselves to spread the word is an excellent way to get your business over a slow time.

Think simple, not grand and that is a problem for most photographers.  In the senior market we have photographed upcoming juniors for our advertising, displays and studio samples for the upcoming class.  Years ago we used to give each girl (guys would seldom participate) a stack a wallets with our large logo on the front and a label on the back.  They would of course go out and give them to everyone they know and we would see a boost in our bookings.  Then photographers (myself included) took a simple, workable idea and complicated it.  We (and everyone else) started using Ambassadors or Senior Models, the whole thing turned into a process of pizza parties with DJ’s, laptop giveaways and huge rewards for being “Our Model”.  All this stuff did nothing to bring us more business, when all was said and done, it is still the huge stack of wallets that gets seniors talking and the phone ringing.  This year each senior model received an 8×10 for mom, a video of their session (which we made to post on Facebook) and a huge stack of wallets and it has never worked better!

Shooting test session makes you a better photographer and gets the images you create out into the public where they have a chance of generating you business.  We sell portraits packages to most of the people we do sample/test sessions of, another source of revenue.  The key to making this work is selecting the right people to invite in.  You don’t want the person that is dressed in black and only has a few friends because they don’t have any friends either.  You also don’t want the most beautiful, most popular person in their social circles.  They expect people want to  photograph them and have little appreciation for what you do.  In whatever market you want to advertise in, you want the social butterfly, the person that everyone likes, that is neither too pretty nor a fashion misfit.  These are the people who will become a walking talking poster child for your business. To find these people, look them up on Facebook.  Give them images that are age appropriate.  Don’t give wallets to a family or Christmas Cards to a senior, give them a portraits or a portrait that will have the greatest impact on the people they know.

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~ by jeffsmithbooks on June 9, 2010.

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