Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Crafting a Marketing Strategy

By Ira M. Gostin, MBA, © 2008

Photographers traditionally search for ways to let the world know they are creative folks, and then market themselves using the same old methods. It’s time to change the way you think. Now is the time to develop a new, creative and effective marketing strategy for your photography business.

Your marketing has to be innovative, informative, creative and above all, interesting. It’s about presenting yourself in an honest, simple to understand, positive manner that the client can relate to and be comfortable with. And most importantly, it means presenting spectacular images. After all, that’s what your prospective clients are seeking - amazing photography.

Who are you?

Understand who you are as a business first. Then determine who buys what you want to do. Your marketing strategy will follow. Once you identify who you are, make it your marketing message, slogan or tagline. This should be a brief description about what you do: We Photograph People; Digital Food for Menus; Auto Racing the World Over. Whatever you decide upon, it should be a straightforward reflection of you. Your tagline should be concise and consistent with what you are selling.

Who do you sell to?

Now that you have identified who you are, you need to determine who you are selling to. This is best done on paper — a successful marketing strategy should only be a single page. This list of potential clients, whether self-generated or purchased, is your target market. Do some research; find out all you can about the prospective clients and formulate a database. Don’t overwhelm yourself; keep the lists small and manageable. A list of about 25 prospects per list is a good number to begin with.


Establish your Unique Selling Proposition. Simply put, what is unique about your business? Use this uniqueness to position your business in the market. It is the foundation of your brand. The USP is a time-tested and effective strategy that all businesses use. Look at other industries; what do their tag lines suggest? Look at ads in magazines; see how businesses present themselves. Use these ideas as the building blocks upon which you will sell your own unique qualities and talents.

Your portfolio

When you are choosing images, find unique images that will separate you from the rest of the crowd. It is difficult look at your own work objectively, so ask for help from friends, a portfolio coach or anyone that might be able to assist you. And be sure to show your prospective clients images that talk about you, not what you think they want to see. Accept your uniqueness, embrace it and be as creative as you can be.

Contact materials

Look at your contact materials. They should be professionally designed and reflect the quality product you are delivering. You are marketing to designers and art directors, which means your contact materials need to be professional and creative.

Your marketing calendar

After you have pieced this all together, develop a calendar for the implementation of your marketing strategy. Will you market every quarter? Every month? Who knows what time is best? That is up to you to decide. One photographer did a mailing to 50 art directors every Friday for two months — she was the talk of the town. Decide what you are trying to say, and say it as effectively as possible.

Be committed to the image/brand you are presenting. Be committed to your marketing message. And be committed to your strategy.

Here’s a brief check list:

  1. Who am I? (Marketing message)
  2. How am I unique?
  3. Who do I want to do work for?
  4. How will I show them my work?
  5. Can my contact materials be better?
  6. Are these the most creative images I can show?
  7. Who can I get some unbiased help from?
  8. How often am I going to send out?
  9. How can I integrate multiple components for a common message?
  10. Develop your marketing calendar.
  11. Think positively and be relaxed.
  12. Double check everything.
  13. Look up the word serendipity in the dictionary.
  14. Stop planning already and do it!

You can’t stop marketing. It must be a part of your weekly routine. All of this work can be accomplished in just a few days per month. It isn’t overly complicated; it just requires your commitment to change. “That’s the way we have always done it,” is a dangerous strategy. Don’t be afraid to change.

Ira Gostin is a marketing strategist with Rand & Associates in Reno, Nevada. A photojournalist turned commercial photographer (and former ASMP member), Ira went through an extensive career change with graduate school, management training at Starbucks and an internship at an advertising agency. Ira now works with small to medium companies connecting their marketing to increased profits. Find Ira on LinkedIn or at

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