Traditional advertising, such as an ad in a magazine or newspaper, is mostly worthless. Don’t waste your money. I’ve tried it. They don’t work.
Instead, imagine having people love your business so much that they send all their friends your way. Think about what it would be like to show up #1 in Google for your desired keyword, and to have enough people finding you to meet your profit goals without stress and without spending thousands of dollars on advertising.
It can happen.
It may take some time, but here are 10 free photography marketing ideas that work like crazy.
1. Google Places
When you search on Google and include a location in your keyword, such as “Madison Wedding Photographer,” Google is now putting their Google Places listings BEFORE the organic listings in their rankings. These listings are free, so go and get one now!
Go to Google Places and fill out as much as you can on the page. Make sure to upload some photos as well, as they sometimes show up there in the search results. It’s a great way to improve your chances of being found on Google when people are searching for a photographer.
2. Use Facebook to promote your images
Uploading images to Facebook and tagging your clients in them is a really fantastic way to get the word out about your business as all their “friends” may see the photos tagged of them. I highly suggest creating a “Page” instead of using your profile, as that’s how Facebook prefers you promote your business, and change your settings (in Edit Page -> Apps -> Photos -> Go to App) to allow fans to tag themselves in your photos. I find this is a great way to get exposure from wedding guests and their friends as well.
I also post links to my blog on my page and send out behind-the-scenes announcements to the people who have liked my page from time to time.
Do be aware that Facebook has strict terms of service about not using it to promote contests. You can require people to like your page to enter a contest, but you can’t require them to comment, like, or post anything else to their profile in order to enter or win. Definitely read their terms of service before promoting a contest on Facebook.
There’s lots of different ways to promote your business using Facebook – share a comment below on your favorite way to promote your business on Facebook. I’d love to hear some more ways you are using it.
3. Blog as often as you can
Having fresh content on your site is one of the best ways to let Google know that your is site active (which gives you better rankings) and shows your customers that you are busy. When I visit a site that hasn’t been updated in a few months, I often wonder if they are still in business. If you don’t have many shoots, spread out your posts (do a few images one at a time instead of all in one big post) or show some personal work.
It’s also extremely valuable to blog about things that your clients want to know. For example, wedding photographers may want to put out a series on their blog with tips for brides for having better wedding photography (such as hiring a professional lighting company or not getting ready in a church kitchen) whereas portrait photographers may post about what to wear to a session. Providing information to your clients helps them to value you and see you as an authority about the subject.
You’ll also want to make sure that your blog is optimized for search engines so that you can attract search engine traffic.
4. Start building an email list right away
The more I learn about email marketing, the more I realize that I should have started an email list right away from the very beginning. I’m not talking about buying some random list that people are trying to sell you. I’m talking about people who are interested in your work and opt-in to receive emails from you.
The beauty of the email list is that these clients already like your work enough to give you their email address. They want to hear about your business and about the products you are offering. They may even love your work enough that they want to receive an email every time you update your blog with new photos. These people are priceless.
Want to do a day of mini-sessions? Tell your email list and give them the opportunity to sign up a day before you open it to the public. Have a new product you are offering? Tell your list about it and entice them to buy it.
The opportunities that are out there with an email list are so vast that I’m planning on talking about this more in-depth in the coming weeks. Stay tuned.
5. Offer referral bonuses
Word of mouth advertising is one of the most powerful things you can have for propelling your business forward. One way to help encourage that is to reward people for telling their friends about your business and how awesome you are. I like to offer either a free print or a certain amount of print credit to my clients for each friend they refer to us that books a session or wedding. This isn’t free to deliver, but I am putting it in my “free” list because you can pay for it out of the profits from their friend who may not have booked with you otherwise. It’s free to get started and promote.
6. Network with other professionals
Get involved with other professionals in your local area. It’s amazing how loyal business owners can be towards each other when you really hit if off. Make sure you’re promoting their businesses to your clients, and they’ll be sure to reciprocate.
If you shoot weddings, it’s especially powerful to network with other wedding professionals since you share clients but don’t have to compete for them.
7. Run a contest or a promotion
I debated putting this one on here at all because some photographers give away their work for free for too long, but a contest or giveaway here and there can really help boost visibility to your business.
My friend Andy and I have been giving away free wedding photography to one couple each year for the last 3 years as a way to give back to people, and while it has been an incredibly rewarding thing to do on a personal level, it isn’t something that brings in a lot of extra business. Yes, you get some, but generally it’s more about spreading the word about giving back. This is because we’re not offering it to our target market. Our target market can afford higher-end photography, whereas people who enter a contest for something free often do so because they can’t afford the luxury item. It was shocking to me how many people still met with us and booked us while the contest was still open, but our target market would rather book us than wait for the results of a contest but possibly lose their date.
To do this to get more clients, you have to make sure that you’re reaching your target market.
8. Have clients recruit their friends
Offering a free gift or a small discount to people who find two or three friends to all schedule photo sessions on the same day can be a huge motivator for people to find others to hire you as well. Again, we’re harnessing the power of word of mouth advertising, but it’s so powerful that it can’t be ignored.
9. Get featured on photo blogs
There’s a ton of wedding blogs out there that feature photography, and there are portrait blogs such as Inspire Me Baby that feature portrait photographers as well. Get featured if you can, then promote it where your clients can see it. There’s nothing wrong with reminding them how awesome you are. It’s simply good business.
10. Give back to the community
This not only gets your name out there, but it helps you build relationships with other professionals who may want your services or refer you to people they know. There are very few organizations who would turn down free photography coverage for their event. Consider donating a session to a cause that is important to you. The possibilities here are endless.
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