Category Archives: Marketing

Real Life Real Lessons for Photographers: Your Website

One of this year’s benefits for Summer School attendees is a fairly thorough website review prior to the August event. What’s amazing to me is how few people have even realized they had the benefit, but so far, having done at least thirty of them, the experience has been pretty valuable.

First let’s talk about the process. It’s nothing more than a phone call and we literally go through the site page by page. Calls have ranged anywhere from 30-90 minutes. I’m doing these because I wanted everyone to be able to focus on a business changing experience before August! It’s that simple. In fact, Summer School may be the only program that evolves into something that runs all year long.

I start the process and the community takes over afterwards. For example, on Facebook there are 109 members of a Skip’s Summer School forum that help each other every day of the week. Throughout the Internet there are dozen’s of little clusters of past alumni who have stayed in contact and are helping each other.

Two big issues I’ve noticed on almost every website involve galleries and about sections. First, there are too many images in everybody’s galleries. The record so far is over 4000. No viewer to any site is going to go through those, especially when many of the images shouldn’t have been posted in the first place.

So many photographers think they have to show the potential client EVERYTHING they’re capable of shooting. The truth is, this is the Tiffany window scenario that Bambi Cantrell talks about all the time. Tiffany’s doesn’t show you everything in their inventory, just one or two items well lit and nicely displayed in each window.

LESS IS MORE…it’s worth remembering. You’re much better off to just show a few great images than a hundred that Uncle Harry could have shot! Show quality and make each image a wow print.

With every image you post ask one question, “If this was the only image I could show would I hire me?” If it’s strong enough that you’d even hire yourself than it’s a keeper – otherwise toss it!

The other area a lot of people need help with is their “About” section and it’s actually a topic this week on the podcast with me and Scott. People hire you because of why you’re a photographer, not because of what you provide or what you use. They’re not that interested in your life story…where you went to school…what gear you use…or how many awards you’ve won…

They interested in why you’re a photographer. They want to know they can trust you to see the world through their eyes. They want to know you understand who they are and why they want a professional photographer at their event or sitting.

In Justin and Mary Marantz’s abut video, http://www.justinmarantz.com, which we’ve talked about so many times, Mary finishes the video with the comment, “…we believe in love.” I’m taking it out of context, but I’ve suggested to EVERY Summer School attendee they watch the video, no matter what their photographic specialty might be. This is about establishing trust with your client.

I’ve even re-written a number of About sections for this year’s attendees. Why? Because so many of you are just too close to your own business. We all have the same challenges and building a stronger website should be a vital component of everybody’s marketing plan. Your About section and galleries are the two primary hooks to getting clients to hire you – everything else on your site is secondary.

I know a number of people have come into these reviews with the same apprehension as an IRS audit, but that’s not what this is about. Fortunately everybody has left smiling! And yes, you can tell when somebody is smiling on the phone – your voice changes. Remember that the next time you’re dealing with an upset client – a smile will go a long way, even if they can’t see you!

If you’re registered for Summer School and haven’t had your website review yet, don’t worry, more photographers are being scheduled ever day. If you haven’t registered for Summer School yet, what are you waiting for? It’s the only program in the industry that pretty much is there to help you all year long!

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This post sponsored by Bay Photo Lab


Real World Real Lessons: Photographers Giving Back

Years ago at a Hasselblad University workshop Clay Blackmore made a comment about giving back. This was relatively early in his career and I remember being blown away by the authority with which he made the comment,

“Whatever you give in this industry will always come back to you ten times over!”

Clay then went on to teach one of the best programs I’d ever listened to and the philosophy of helping other photographers continues to be his non-stop charter. In fact, when I think about all the photographers I’m closest to, everyone has the same philosophy to help each other.

In the “old days”, okay just go back twenty years ago, I’d hear stories about photographers not willing to share their secrets. I’d hear about comments in workshops where a photographer would say, “The answer to your question is on my second video tape which is for sale in the back of the room!” In general we’d hear more stories about photographers not being willing to share information.

Today, everything has changed and so much is thanks to social media. Every day I read questions on line from photographers having a problem and *poof* within minutes there are other photographers coming to their aid in a variety of different forums.

My GoingPro partner Scott Bourne said it best in a guest post on SkipsPhotoNetwork.com before we even became such good friends. He wrote a post about ten things you should do to become more effective in social media:

“Be generous. Be generous with your time, your knowledge and your gifts. Yes, prizes and giveaways are a form of generosity. It’s a form I use well and often. But you need to also be generous in human ways in order to gain real traction.”

A good business sense, goal setting and staying focused are obviously at the top of the list, but being generous is definitely right in the top ten ingredients of growing your business and being successful!


Photographers – Remember To Be Consistent With Your Blog

In reviewing websites lately I’m running across a lot of people who started a blog. Having a blog is a terrific marketing tool, especially if you’re providing content to help people.

Unfortunately, what I’m finding are people who started their blog and then lost interest. I’m finding blogs where the last post was 2-3 years ago. I’m finding posts that are incomplete, almost as if the power went out half way through a paragraph and the thoughts remained incomplete.

There’s a ton out there that’s been written on blogging, by people with an expertise far greater than mine. However, here are some basic ideas to consider:

Success in social media requires consistency. If you’re not going to post a new blog at the very least three times a week, then don’t bother.

A great post doesn’t have to be long, just to the point. Share something with your readers that’s helpful or interesting. You know your target audience, so stick with topics you know they want to hear about.
Never post anything that’s half-baked. I’ve actually read a few posts that just ended in thin air – never completing the thoughts that were behind them.

Proof-read everything you write and never publish anything you don’t want everybody to read. Last on the list is one of my favorites from Scott Bourne – be generous with your time. Look for things to talk about that are helpful to people.

A great blog has the potential to dramatically expand your reach, but a boring blog that’s updated every few months at best has the potential to actually hurt you more than it helps. It’s like that one house in the neighborhood with an owner who never cuts the lawn or takes care of his property. It hurts the entire community.

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Attn: Emerging Professional Photographers – Stop Fretting Over SEO

If you’re trying to sell yourself via the Internet (and who isn’t?) then you have probably heard people talking about SEO – or search engine optimization. There are whole companies that do this and lots of people spend lots of money trying to get the search engines to rank them higher.

I’m not going to make any friends in the SEO community with this post but I always say what I think, no matter how many toes I have to step on, especially when it comes to protecting emerging photographers from getting caught up in schemes that will cost them money they don’t have to spend.

I’ve been online since the early days. I registered the 104th domain ever registered at Internic. I’ve never spent a dime on SEO or hired an SEO consultant and I rank pretty darn well. I have millions of visits each year to Photofocus.com and have never worried about SEO.

I get lots of questions about this and while there are a few common sense things you can and should do like organically using keywords, putting captions in your photos and linking to authoritative sites, after a while none of it really matters.

Content matters. If you want to score really well with a search engine – have great content. That outpaces, outplays and outperforms SEO every time. Period.

Want proof? Here’s an article talking about Google’s intent to actually start penalizing companies that “over-optimize” their web sites.

In the end, the folks that run the search engines want to make sure you get the right content, and the best content when you do a search. It’s in everyone’s best interest. SEO tricks don’t guarantee that the end-user gets what they want so the search companies are no fans of SEO “experts” either. Those who try to trick their way to the top with fancy SEO methods should – in my opinion – just buy an ad. It’s more honest and effective.

If you don’t want to or can’t buy an ad, just generate lots of great content on a regular basis and you’ll eventually literally come out on top.

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This post sponsored by Album Epoca


Real Life Real Lessons For Photographers: Communication

It’s funny, but I pride myself on being a good communicator. At least that’s my self-perception when I’m writing, whether it’s an email, a post, a new project description etc. The challenge is in the verbal side and sometimes in both “sending” and “receiving”!

Here’s what kicked this topic into high-gear this morning. One of my very best friends on the planet called me yesterday bothered by something I had done. When I heard what it was, I was completely shocked. I had no idea that I’d even done anything that bothered him, but here’s what I love about what happened.

He felt comfortable enough to tell me what was on his mind. I was completely open to listening. Within two minutes we were back on track. The miscommunication between us was resolved, the friendship that much stronger and the issue was behind us.

So, I’m not sure if the topic this morning is really about communication or honesty, trust and clarification. While they all sort of go hand-in-hand, the honesty component is the most valuable. He felt comfortable enough with our friendship and chose to just tell me what was on his mind.

Trust is the next component. He trusted his instinct and everything he knows about me to feel I would be receptive to his comments. Last on the list is clarification.

When something is bothering you with a friend, family member or client, ask for clarification right up front. It’s pretty simple by just asking, “Here’s what I think you mean, did I hear you right?” However you ask the question doesn’t matter, because your goal is to clarify whatever you’re not clear about.

I know this seems so basic, but as my buddy put it yesterday, when the conversation was over, “Communication problems are the number one reason friendships fall apart!”

“Everyone hears what you say. Friends listen to what you say. Best friends listen to what you don’t say.” Author Unknown

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This post sponsored by Adorama – More than a camera store


12 Misconceptions About Marketing & Advertising (particularly as it relates to social media)

Photographers who want to eat – better be good marketers of have the money to hire them. When the bright-eyed youngsters come to me and say, “I want to be a professional photogorapher” I reply with – “No you want to be a professional marketer who takes pictures.”

The truth is marketing and advertising are perhaps the biggest parts of being a professional photographer. The artists out there will fight that statement but they are probably the “starving” artists.

You have to market if you want to sell.

Here are 12 common misconceptions that photographers (and almost everyone else) have about marketing.

1. My product sells itself.

No it doesn’t. Unless you think people have extra sensory perception *ESP* then YOU or your staff have to sell it.

2. Online marketing is less valuable than offline marketing.

Nope. Offline marketing has no more value than online marketing. And over time, it may have less. A contact on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+ is just as valuable as a contact made through the Yellow Pages, radio or print ad.

3 Mobile isn’t there yet.

Wrong. It’s not only there – it’s everywhere. Look at the Apple Store – while it’s still a retail environment, EVERY transaction – from an appointment at the Genius Bar to a retail sale is done with an iPhone! There are no cash registers. With the right apps on your smart phone you can market, advertise, sell, get paid and even deliver. Make sure your site is readable on a mobile device.

4. Thinking that new technology isn’t important.

It is. If you’re still using Flash for instance (and some of us have no choice but that will change) then you need to look at HTML 5. If you’re still on MySpace as your primary social site then you need to give yourself a break and study MODERN history. New tech is always worth investigating.

5. Content is king.

Well it used to be. Heck I used to say that all the time. But my pal Alex Lindsay has convinced me that community is king and content is queen. Building REAL community takes time. Most of what the people on the Internet are calling “community” isn’t. But REAL connections are and you need them to do your job.

6. Content trumps tricks.

While content may not be king, great content still trumps the best SEO/SEM tricks. I advise emerging professional photographers to save the time they are spending on SEO/SEM tricks and just develop great content. I’ve never paid a dime to an SEO/SEM expert and I’m doing just fine thanks. But I put out a BUNCH of valuable content. You should too

7. Social media is just for branding.

Not any more. Social media goes way beyond branding, reputation management and customer service. It is my primary marketing channel. It takes the place in some cases of advertising, paid search, email and more.

8. You have to have a presence on every single social media site.

No you do not! I primarily use Twitter. I am adding Google+ very slowly. I do almost nothing on any of the other sites. By focusing on one or two places, and really taking the time to build an audience and find ways to engage with them, you’re better off being somewhere you can have a big impact. I doubt I’d have nearly 120k Twitter followers if I’d spent time trying to be everywhere.

9. You should use online media to sell to people.

No you should use online media to get people talking about you. That’s it. It’s that simple. If people are talking about you – you will end up selling something. If you are just yelling at people – “Hey buy my stuff!” you will be lonely.

10. If I open an account on Twitter or Facebook or Google+ I’ll have lots of followers overnight.

Ummm not really. It takes time to build an audience. I consult with several companies and have done the social media stuff for almost five years now. During that time I’ve seen a pattern. It takes at least nine to 12 months to really get a foothold in the social media space – unless you are Justin whats his name.

11. Marketing and advertising online is too hard.

Yes it can be too hard if you don’t know how to start right. But I’ll help you with that. Here’s all you need to do. Listen. Just start by listening. In fact, if that is all you ever do, it will help your marketing and advertising efforts because it will help you to know what your prospects care about most!

12. Since I primarily use social media to market and advertise my services, I don’t need to measure.

Yes you do. You need to know if the time and money you are investing is pulling in a return. You always need to know that. Now I believe that many companies – in fact most companies OVER measure – they OVER analyze and they OVER think this side of the equation. But you do need to pay attention to the basics. Followers, shares, visits, impressions – etc. – they are all important to know. You don’t have to go crazy here but you do have to pay attention.

Marketing yourself as a professional photographer isn’t as fun as getting to make the pictures but it’s how you GET to make the pictures.

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This post sponsored by Adorama – More than a camera store


Photographers – Real Life Real Lessons: Your Business Card

Coming back from WPPI, I was pulling together all the business cards I was handed during the show and was disappointed with so many of them. Here are some tips on having an effective business card.

Give people as many ways as possible to contact you! Give them a phone number and an email address. If you work out of your home, not giving them your address is understandable, but you want them to contact you.

Let people know your specialty. With one of your images or a couple words on the card, let people know what you do for a living. And remember, women make 98% of the purchase decisions for portrait and wedding photography. For you guys out there, having a card that looks like you’re a gun salesman isn’t going to help you build business.

Stay away from too many photographs on a business card. I’ve got one card here with six images! They’re great, but I need a loop to see them! You can’t pack that many images into the dimensions on a business card.

Use a nice stock paper! You don’t have to spend a lot, just don’t use crappy paper. It really is that simple.

Use a legible font. I know you’re all artists, but stay away from fonts nobody but you can read. Your business card is meant to be a reference point to help people remember you, but if they can barely read the card it’ll serve no purpose.

This last point is just my personal taste. I hate overly coated stock on the back of a card, because so often I like to write a reminder about the photographer on the card itself. You can’t write on certain types of paper.

Remember your business card is just one ingredient of building your brand. Make sure you have continuity between your card, stationery and website. It’s all part of helping you build consumer recall and you need consistency.

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