Digital marketing strategy for photographers
A masterplan for attracting qualified visitors to your website and converting them into customers.
"Good fortune is what happens when opportunity meets with planning."Thomas Edison
Whether you're just getting started with your photography business and looking to generate your first leads or you have an established photography business and you're looking to ramp up sales during the quiet months, laying the foundations of a solid digital marketing strategy that is relevant to your type of photography, your target demographic and your location will mean less time spent on sales and marketing in the long term and more time spent on your passion.
Focus on a Niche Market
Large organizations like Nike and Pepsi have the deep pockets to do mass marketing across multiple channels for extended periods of time without having to segment their audience. Their goal is to reach as many people as possible.
Niche marketing (also known as targeted marketing or micromarketing) is the smarter way for a small business like yours to get a measurable return on investment for your marketing efforts. This means means focusing all your marketing efforts on a tightly defined niche.
This can seem counterintuitive and you wouldn't be the first to think that offering as many different services as possible might lead to more customers. As it happens, the opposite is true.
Focusing on a niche market helps you gain a deep understanding of your customers and their needs and how to really engage with them. It also gives you the ability to use laser focus in your marketing efforts which will help to keep costs from running wild. Additionally, businesses that focus on a niche market can often charge more because of their specialist expertise and lower number of competitors.
Your niche market will ideally be your passion. If you're a wedding photographer, you might favor photo-journalistic wedding photography over traditional wedding photography. If you shoot portraits and love working with children more than formal business portraits, make that your niche.
Know Your Target Audience
Your niche market will determine who your target audience is. Knowing your target audience and the problems they're trying to solve will help you create a service and product they will seek out and hire you for.
Put yourself in their shoes and think about how they would use the web to seek out your services and what related problems they might be trying to solve along the way.
Let's take the example of children's portraits. Your customer here would be the children's parents. In addition to bringing home a memory they can treasure for years or gift to the grandparents, what other problems could parents have in mind?
- Clothing — how should I dress them?
- Distraction — how can I intercept the inevitable tantrum?
- Entertainment — how can I keep them from getting bored?
In addition to hypothesizing about the problems your customers are trying to solve, asking them directly can uncover problems you never considered. Ask your customers what was going on in their life when they sought you out. Ask how they found you and was there any other information or guidance they searched for or wish they knew before the session.
If you can shape your service so that your customers extended needs are met, not only will you create happy customers that will be loyal advocates but you'll have a lot to talk about in your marketing material that will help them find you and book you in the first place.
Understand the Buying Cycle
Once you know the right person to target, having an understanding of the buying cycle helps you to deliver the right content through the right channels at the right time. The right time is when your leads are ready to move from one stage of the buying cycle to the next. Most photographers and indeed most small businesses don't take advantage of the buying cycle and so putting this information to use will give you a huge advantage over your competitors.
"Instead of one-way interruption, web marketing is about delivering useful content at just the right moment that a buyer needs it."David Meerman Scott
Awareness, consideration, conversion, loyalty and advocacy are five stages of the buying cycle. Each stage leads to the next, with the final two stages helping to grow your audience by introducing new potential customers into the buying cycle.
The Buying Cycle
Stage 1: Awareness
The first stage of the buying cycle is awareness. Prospects are aware they have a need to fulfill and are starting to research potential solutions.
Your goal for this stage is attract the right prospects via search. Your prospect may not know exactly what they need at this stage. For example, they may be searching online for wedding locations in their area, but also have in mind that they need to find a wedding photographer soon. Or they may be looking for a gift for their parents anniversary and not have thought of a family portrait session. Your strategy here is to publish content and focus on keywords that describe their needs and show how you can meet those needs.
The most effective channels to deliver this content is through your website and blog, via social networks like Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest and using paid ad campaigns on Google Ads. The key here is to provide educational content and avoid the hard sell. For example, a blog post about how to make sure your wedding day goes smoothly speaks to the hopes and fears of a bride-to-be in need of a wedding photographer.
Stage 2: Consideration
Prospects in the consideration stage are aware of their need, have found your website and are researching all potential solutions, including your competitors. During this critical stage, social proof can make or break the deal. Social proof can include:
- Customer reviews
- Case studies
- Social media likes, shares and follows
Asking each of your customers to post a Google review will do wonders for your search engine ranking and is a great form of social proof. You can then republish those reviews on your website.
86%+ of consumers say reviews are an essential resource when making purchase decisions.Alex York
If you provide a photography service such as weddings or portraits, case studies including some shots from the session can be extremely reassuring. Craft a story about the experience and include a review at the end.
Some other types of content your prospects will be looking for at the consideration stage include details about your product or service, pricing, terms of service, guarantee, returns policy, availability, delivery details. The more information your can provide here the better.
Stage 3: Conversion
Your prospects are ready to buy. They have browsed through portfolios, read case studies, compared reviews, and are ready to make a purchase decision.
What qualifies as a conversion depends on the type of service you’re offering. Your conversion goal may be a purchase in the form of a voucher for a portrait session or payment of a deposit on a wedding photography package. Alternatively it may simply be the completion of an enquiry form, with the purchase taking place offline.
In all these cases it’s essential to ensure you optimize your website for conversion. This means employing tactics to reduce shopping cart abandonment, maximize the usability of web forms and create clear calls to action that guide the buyer through the process with the least amount of friction.
So what’s the best content strategy to use for prospects in the conversion stage?
Pricing information, reviews and case studies are still relevant at the conversion stage. Placing a few select excerpts from your customer reviews on your payment page or enquiry form can be a great confidence booster.
Offering a discount or highlighting a promotion at this stage can dramatically increase conversions. To create a sense of urgency, make it a time limited offer.
Invite prospects to your shop or studio or arrange to meet them in person to see physical prints.
Stage 4: Loyalty
Maintaining a relationship with your customers after their initial purchase takes further effort but not nearly as much effort as nurturing fresh prospects through the buying cycle. All the trust and goodwill you have earned during the previous three stages means existing customers are more likely to convert. You’ve helped them fulfill their needs before and they trust you.
The probability of selling to an existing customer is 60 – 70%. The probability of selling to a new prospect is 5 – 20%Marketing Metrics
At this stage you know enough about your customers to provide targeted, relevant content via email, SMS, social media and your blog. If you work with family portraits, email reminders around milestone events such as birthdays and anniversaries can provide great gift inspiration for your customers. Announce new products or services in your newsletter as you add them to your arsenal. The main thing is to stay in touch and keep offering stellar service.
Stage 5: Advocacy
When you’re looking for a service you haven’t bought before, if you’re like most people, you’ll reach out to friends and see if anyone has recommendations before doing your own research. Word of mouth is the most effective marketing technique and while advocacy is the last stage in the buying cycle, it helps bring more prospects into your buying cycle, which is why we call it a 'cycle'.
Some powerful strategies to use with customers who have become advocates:
- Email them and offer exclusive discounts for referring you to their friends.
- Share their posts about you on social media.
- Ask them for feedback about your services so you can improve.
Choose the Right Digital Marketing Channels
Choosing the right mix of marketing channels for your photography business is highly individual and will differ depending on your type of business, where your potential customers hang out, your budget and the amount of time you can put into it. Here we’ll take a look at the four main channel groups and some examples within each.
The digital marketing channel mix.
Owned Media refers to any media channel that is owned by you where the content is under your control. Examples of owned media include:
- Your Website and Landing pages
- Your Blog
- Your Email List
Social platforms like Instagram, Facebook and Medium have made publishing content almost effortless, however it is getting increasingly difficult to get seen organically on these platforms and you are at the whim of their algorithms and editorial guidelines.
We strongly recommend having your own website, blog and email list that you control and supplementing these with shared media.
For example, if you publish a blog, republish those blog posts on Medium. Maintain your own website portfolio and also post to Instagram. This diversification means you always own and control your content but also benefit from the network effects of shared media.
Shared Media refers to social media channels such as:
Sharing on social media platforms can be a time sink so it’s important to focus on where your target audience hang out and choose a few relevant platforms instead of trying to be everywhere at once. If you’re a commercial photographer, LinkedIn can be a useful resource for connecting with businesses. Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook can be fertile grounds for wedding and portrait photographers.
Earned media is the most trusted form of advertising. Think of it as word-of-mouth in digital form. It’s what other people say about you and it inspires confidence in shoppers more than any other type of media. Earned media includes:
- Ratings and review sites (e.g. Yelp, Google Reviews)
- Case Studies and Testimonials
- Mentions and reviews on 3rd party blogs
- Press Mentions
- Social Reposts and Mentions
When a customer compliments you on the work you did, ask if they would mind writing a review on Google Reviews or Yelp or ask if they’d answer some questions for a case study.
Paid media refers to the various advertising channels available to promote your content at a cost. These include:
- Display / Banner Ads
- Search Ads (e.g. Google Ads, Bing Ads)
- Social Ads (e.g. Instagram Ads, Facebook Ads)
Ads on Facebook and Instagram perform well for photography businesses. Both of these networks are getting increasingly more difficult to rank on organically so more and more businesses are paying for ads to promote their content.
Getting a return on your investment for paid media involves choosing the right channels, targeting the right audience, using a powerful image or video, and linking the ad to a landing page on your website.
Publish Valuable, Relevant, and Consistent Content
"Best way to sell something — don’t sell anything. Earn the awareness, respect & trust of those who might buy."Rand Fishkin
Traditional methods of pushing products and services at people have become less effective over time. The emergence of websites, portfolios, blogs, social media, ecommerce stores and ratings and review sites has put more power in the hands of the customer and turned shoppers into researchers, reviewers, and conversationalists, looking for recommendations, advice, and interaction on a global scale.
Content is the center of the digital marketing world. Creating valuable, relevant and consistent content that resonates with your niche market and doesn’t feel like a sales pitch is how to earn the awareness, respect and trust of your target audience.
The content you create to attract leads should be aligned with the interests of your niche market but doesn’t have to be directly about your business, products or services. People in need of a photographer have other related problems they are trying to solve simultaneously. This is a core concept in content marketing.
In our earlier example of a parent looking for a children’s photographer, we highlighted a few problems parents are trying to solve that are related to the photo session. One that is likely to get a lot of searches is around the topic of how to dress children for a photo shoot.
Writing an informative and helpful article on how to dress children for a portrait session, including example photos from your previous sessions would be a great way to attract leads via organic search.
This can work for all types of photography. A wedding photographer might choose to write about wedding venue options in the local area or how to make the big day go smoothly.
Consultative, advisory selling is the most cost-effective, the most enduring, the most impactful and the most powerful marketing strategy a business owner could ever devise.Allan Dib
Optimize Your Content
Content is one of the top two organic ranking factors in Google search. However, the volume of content being produced for the web is growing exponentially, making it increasingly difficult to stand out from the crowd.
Content optimization is the process of optimizing your on-site and off-site content so that:
- People can find your website using search engines (SEO)
- People and search engines can assess your website’s level of trust, authority and popularity (OSO)
- Visitors to your website engage with your content and follow your calls to action (CRO)
The three cornerstones of content optimization:
- SEO — Search Engine Optimization
- CRO — Conversion Rate Optimization
- OSO — Off Site Optimization
Search Engine Optimization
The job of a search engine is to provide the most relevant and useful content for its users. Google does this by using multiple ranking factors to determine how well each page on your website will serve a searcher’s query. On-page ranking factors are many and include keyword relevance, content length and quality, internal, external and inbound links (backlinks), page speed and more.
The process of optimizing your content for search engines actually starts before you begin planning and writing your content. The first step that will inform the topics, and structure of your content is keyword research.
A typical conversion funnel.
Conversion Rate Optimization
Conversion rate optimization is the process of improving your conversion rates by testing different ways to present your content.
Let’s look at a few tried and tested ways to increase your conversion rate:
Use Strong Calls to Action
A call to action (CTA) can be a button, a link or a graphic that prompts a visitor to take a desired action by clicking / tapping on it. Methods for increasing the conversion rate on your CTAs include making them bigger, giving them a colour that contrasts with the rest of the page and using the right language. Starting your CTA text with a verb is a common technique to inspire action. Some common examples:
- Book a Consultation
- Download a Price list
- Get The Free Guide
- Request a Call Back
- Subscribe For Updates
Placing your CTAs nearer the top of the page can have a positive effect on conversions.
Write About the Benefits
In addition to writing about the wedding photography services you offer or the features of your fine art prints, make sure to talk about the benefits of choosing you over one of your competitors. What makes you unique can be the small details you pay attention to.
Use Lead Magnets
Lead Magnets involve giving your visitors some additional content that is of value to them, in exchange for some information that is of value to you. For example offering a free ebook, infographic, cheat sheet or list of resources in exchange for subscribing to your newsletter.
Please note, if you have visitors from the European Union, it is important to comply with GDPR guidelines when collecting personal information in web forms.
Keep Forms Short
When collecting information via a form, use the least amount of form fields possible to reduce friction and increase the likelihood of your visitors completing your form. If your goal is to get visitors to subscribe to your email newsletter, all you need is their name and email address. Their name is not even essential but useful for personalising the emails you send out.
It’s not uncommon for photography websites to have lengthy contact forms that are more akin to questionnaires, asking visitors for dates, budget and other information that could be easily gotten later via email. Nobody likes filling out forms so you can dramatically increase your form conversion rate by just asking for some essential information that enables you to make contact.
Use Testimonials and Case Studies
We talked about Earned Media earlier in this guide. Written with authenticity and placed strategically on your website, testimonials and case studies are a powerful form of social proof that help to build trust and increase conversions.
Include a Guarantee
Including a guarantee that offers the options of a re-shoot or a no-questions-asked refund offers peace of mind by reducing risk and has a positive effect on conversions.
Keep it Simple
Keep your navigation and page design simple. Don’t offer too many options and make it obvious on every page what the next step should be, whether that is to view some case studies or subscribe to your newsletter or book a consultation.
Off Site Optimization
A backlink is is a link from any third-party website to your own website. Also known as inbound links, backlinks help search engines understand how relevant your website is to a searchers query.
In addition to improving your organic search engine ranking, backlinks generate targeted referral traffic and help search engines index your web pages more quickly.
See our detailed guide on how to get backlinks.
Local SEO is the process of optimizing your website to rank for searches with 'local intent, e.g. ‘portrait photographer near me’, and helping people in your area find your business. It’s an essential part of your strategy for growing your business in the local community and dramatically increases your visibility on search engine results pages, since well-optimized local listings get priority over organic listings.
See our detailed guide on Local SEO
Build Your Email List
Once you’ve attracted visitors to your website, your #1 priority should be to get their email address. This is referred to as “lead capture” in marketing speak and capturing leads for your email list is the single most effective way to grow your photography business online.
Here are some reasons why:
Email Engagement Is Much Higher than Social Media
Despite being a 40 year old technology, email is still used more than social media. According to ExactTarget, email is the first check of the day for 71% of people.
While maintaining a social media presence is important for photographers and helps connect with new prospects, social media posts suffer from abysmally low click-through rates so are not good for conversions.
Recent changes to the Facebook news feed algorithm mean that posts from friends get much higher priority than posts on your business page. The number of fans of your page who actually see your posts can be as little as 2%.
People are getting ‘banner blind’ to ads and promoted posts on social media, whereas someone who has opted in to your email list has requested you send them interesting content and offers on a regular basis. It stands to reason they’ll pay more attention to your email than the relentless barrage of unsolicited ads in their news feed.
Furthermore, 72% of people prefer to receive promotional content through email, compared to 17% who prefer social media. (Source MarketingSherpa)
Email Marketing Shows a High Return on Investment
When done well, the return on investment from email marketing can be significant. This is partially because email marketing is inexpensive but also because engagement is so high, as mentioned above.
VentureBeat reports that for every $1 you spend, you can expect an average return of $38.
Personalization Is Easy with Email and Boosts Conversions
Personalized emails generate six times higher transaction rates (Source: Experian) and with modern email marketing software, It’s easier than ever to personalize your message for each individual subscriber.
In addition to personalization, you can also divide your subscribers into groups and deliver targeted content to each group based on their interests and preferences. This is known as segmentation and is a powerful tool for increasing the relevancy of your content.
You Can Test to See What Works
Popular email marketing apps like MailChimp and Campaign Monitor enable you to test multiple versions of your emails and subject lines to see which content and designs are most effective. This helps you refine your process to increase open rates and click through rates.
You Own Your Email List
Social media platforms are great for building a network of followers, however like we’ve seen with Facebook, a few small changes to their algorithm can have drastic consequences for small businesses who have invested time and effort building a following.
The difference with your email list is that you have complete control over how it looks and who gets to see what.
Measure Your Results with Statcounter
The more we know about how visitors are using content, and the more accurate that knowledge is, the better we can find out what sort of content works best for our target audience and adjust our strategy and posting schedules accordingly. Content may be king, but data is its queen.Jordan Louis
Here are some of the ways Statcounter can help you understand your visitors and gauge the effectiveness of your digital marketing strategy.
Gauge the Seriousness of a Sales Lead
Time wasters and price shoppers can eat up valuable time you could be spending creating targeted proposals for serious sales leads and winning more business. Statcounter helps you gauge the usefulness of a sales lead by answering the following questions:
- How did visitors find my website?
- How long did visitors spend on my website?
- Which pages did my visitors look at?
- Are they on my website right now?
- Have they been on my website before?
- When is the best time to follow up?
Analyze Your Traffic Trends over Time
Track how your key metrics are performing over time by comparing pageviews, sessions, visitors and new visitors for any date range. Spot negative trends so you can react quickly and turn things around and positive trends so you can see the results of your efforts.
See How Your Website Is Doing at a Glance
The Statcounter reports dashboard displays the most meaningful aggregate metrics for a clear overview of how your website is performing and the ability to drill down into each report for deeper analysis.
The Statcounter Reports Dashboard
See the percentage of your visitors coming from search, referring websites, social media and direct traffic. Drill down further to see individual referring websites and keywords.
Get a clear picture of where your visitors are when they browse your website. From Country down to IP Address level, our comprehensive visitor location data maps out your audience.
Monitor your visitor's returning visits, visit lengths and file downloads to see how engaged they are with your website.
View aggregate information about your visitors' browsers, platforms, screen resolutions and operating systems so you can make informed decisions on building and testing your website.
Identify the most heavily visited pages, and optimise them for maximum impact by viewing the pages of your website ranked by popularity.
See how many times your banner ads and links to other websites are being clicked by your visitors.
Get Full Visibility of Your Visitor's Experience
Remove the blind spots and uncover the browsing activity of individual visitors in real time with Statcounter’s recent activity feeds.
Statcounter recent activity feed.
Watch a real-time, live feed of your visitors to see their location and system stats, and understand their behaviour and engagement.
Make informed decisions about design and content by examining the navigation paths your visitors take through your website.
View a forensic level of detail on each of your visitors and identify anonymous web traffic as leads and customers.
Analyze Your Google Keyword Data
Sync your Google keyword data with Statcounter and unlock the search terms and phrases visitors are using to find your website
Track Your Paid Traffic and Detect Click Fraud
Monitor how your paid traffic is performing on ad networks such as Google, Facebook and Twitter. Detect click fraud and see how much of your budget is being eaten up by click farms. Monitor and reduce the waste with our Paid Traffic report.
Keep Your Bounce Rate in Check
See the percentage of single page visits broken down by page. Bounce rate shows you where to focus on improving content, speeding up page load time and improving usability.
Add Descriptive Information about Your Visitors
Visitor Labels enable you to add descriptive information about your visitors to help you track them as they visit, leave, and return to your site. Store notes, business names, customer IDs, and more.
Never Miss an Important Visitor
Set alerts to be notified when an individual visitor returns to your website so you never have to miss an important visitor again. Chose to be alerted by email or on your mobile device via the Statcounter mobile app.
Get the Complete Story in Your Inbox
Create email reports that deliver basic summary stats so you can quickly see how your site is doing or configure detailed reports that include all of the key metrics you are tracking for your projects. Our mobile-friendly email reports can be generated daily, weekly, or monthly.
Keep Track of Your Website While on the Move
Access your stats from anywhere on your phone or tablet and get notifications when individual visitors return to your website. The Statcounter mobile app is available for iOS, Android and Windows Phone.