Mistake #1 – Your Website
Your website is your storefront, whether you have a retail location or not. What is the first thing you do when you are checking out a new business? Right, you go to their website.
First impressions are CRITICAL! Even if a prospective client is going to your website because someone recommended you, if you don’t knock their socks off they won’t take that all-important next step of contacting you.
The other elephant in the room is how much pricing to share on your website? I prefer the 3 Little Bears method. Not too much…not too little….but just the right amount.
Great. Thanks Nicole, but what exactly IS the right amount!!
A starting amount, but NOT your highest levels of spending. At one point I had “collections range from $995-2995” on my website…..crickets. As soon as I changed it to “collections start at…” inquires started flowing again.
You want to give your clients a reference, but not so much pricing information that they talk themselves out of it before they even contact you. I like to list my minimum acceptable sale on my website, which is the minimum amount that I must make to not lose money on a shoot, which is $500. I simply say “Clients should expect to spend a minimum of $500 on their photography experience…”
This weeds out the cheapies but leaves the door open to anyone that even remotely values what I do.
Since your website is your storefront, your gallery is your portfolio. Repeat after me….”my gallery is only as strong as my WEAKEST image.” And now…”I only need 8-10 amazing images in my portfolio.”
This happens to me ALL. OF. THE. TIME. I am on a website and the first few images in the photographer’s gallery are great! Gorgeous and engaging. However, as I click through something happens….all of a sudden the images are filler images. Images that are ok, but they don’t reach out and grab you. That becomes my final impression of the photographer, and if I was a client I am firmly in the “meh” category…which is not compelling me to click that book a session button.
The 3 rules of portfolio worthiness….
1. Does this image smack you in the face with awesomeness? It should be engaging to the viewer and make them want to see more.
2. Is this image technically correct? Are the important parts in focus? Having the image in-focish is not acceptable! (Thank you to my friend Kaylee Greer for introducing me to the term in-focish!) Is the white balance correct? Are there blown highlights or locked up blacks in the image?
3. Is the image unique? If you have a smaller gallery, which you should, I highly recommend only having one image from each subject in it. If there is another image that you love from that session, use it in your marketing pieces or on other pages in your website.
Now, take a few minutes and conduct an audit on your website….
- Is your site clean and easy to navigate?
- Does it compliment your brand identity?
- Is it mobile responsive?
- Do you have your location on EVERY page?
- Is there a clear call to action on every page, including a way to contact you?
- Do you have the “right amount” of pricing on your website?
- Is every image on your website engaging and the best of the best?
Mistake #2 – Marketing up the wrong tree
I hear the same challenges from so many photographers, one of the biggest is being overwhelmed at the prospect of marketing. I promise that you have it in you to make it happen. It just requires dedication and consistency. That’s it. It is incredibly simple!!
Social media is an incredible tool and it is certainly something that we should embrace. However, if you still have openings in your calendar and the only marketing you are doing is on social media it’s time to try other things!
One of the biggest challenges of social media is that you do not own those connections. Facebook or Instagram does. That means that they can shut you down tomorrow if they change their terms of service.
The best way to take care of your business for the long game is to build and maintain an email database. This is how you can stay in touch with past clients or prospective clients that are interested in potentially working with you.
As pet photographers, we have a fairly difficult genre in terms of getting people to bite the bullet and book. Weddings, high school seniors, families, and newborns all have an event or timeline associated with it. It gives clients a nudge to book their photography session. With pet photography, unless the dog is old and sick, there is no timeline encouraging people to book now. It’s SO easy for them to say that they will call next week, next month, next year.
Guess what happens then….life. They forget, things get busy.
Staying in front of your clients with email marketing keeps you in front of their mind and will eventually turn their want into a need!
The other mistake that I see pet photographers making with their marketing is putting too much faith in tables at events. Generally, events do not have my target market in attendance. I find the crowds are people often just looking for freebies.
It can be helpful for brand awareness, but again, I’m not sure how much of your target market is actually there. IF you do an event, make sure to raffle off a short session at a location that is convenient to you in exchange for people’s emails so that you can grow your email list.
Photographing dog events, like agility trials, is also not always the best marketing if you are running a custom boutique photography business. I find that most of the attendees at these events are looking for one fairly inexpensive image of their dog in action, but not willing to invest in a full session.
And then there is the rescue work. My hat’s off to each and every one of you that takes your time to go into the shelter to photograph adoptable animals. It makes a HUGE impact in the life of each animal that gets in front of your lens. Thank you for doing that and please continue if you can.
However, please don’t make the mistake of thinking that this is the ONLY marketing that you need to do for your business. It does produce goodwill towards your brand and brand awareness, but it needs to be done in conjunction with other marketing plans!
Mistake #3 – Poor customer service.
We are busy, so are our clients. When we make it even slightly challenging to book a session with us, they will abandon ship. It is important to create systems for responding to inquiries and helping clients throughout the process.
Do you know what I hate more than raspberry on my chocolate lava cake? The phone.
Do you know what I do with EVERY inquiry? I call them. I’m not going to lie, sometimes I’m still thinking…”don’t pick up…don’t pick up….” but guess what? When I talk to a client on the phone my booking rate more than doubles. DOUBLES!
People want to do business with people we know and like. When you actually talk to someone on the phone you make a connection, even if it’s just a message introducing yourself.
The other easy change that will make a big difference in your booking rates is to get details in the hands of your client ASAP. We live in a culture of instant answers, and we want information now.
I have my Inquiry PDF emailed directly to my client automatically when they fill out a session inquiry form on my website. That is followed up by a phone call when I have a chance later in the day. For tips on how to create an inquiry PDF, check out this archived article.
One other way that we are leaving sessions on the table is by not following up with inquiries. Again, we are all over-scheduled…and things slip through the cracks.
Sign up for a followupthen.com account. When a new inquiry comes in, forward that email to firstname.lastname@example.org and then it will pop back into your inbox in 4 days, reminding you to follow up with your client! How’s that for easy peasy customer service?
- Create an automatic reply to inquiries.
- Start calling your inquiries, make a script if needed.
- Follow up to inquiries, use followupthen.com.
- Send simple and straightforward pricing.
- Share the value in choosing you.