Brand Marketing and Brand awareness is key to any business. This, I learnt during my marketing sessions at university and later, whilst running my own businesses.
When I first entered the wedding photography business I took time out to try and identify what my brand could be – or at least, what I would like it to evolve into over the forthcoming years.
My style of wedding photography dictates that my clients must be fully aware of the type of wedding coverage they will get when employing me as their wedding photographer. For that reason, I have lent heavily on the photojournalism/reportage wedding phrases throughout my branding. As with all businesses, your brand reputation is one of the primary selling tools you have. If your brand is strong, it can do much of the marketing on your behalf. For example, Jeff Ascough is synonymous with the documentary wedding photography genre, and most people in the “wedding bubble” are aware of that – because of the strength of his brand (built on the strength of his great photography of course). People like Barrie Downie have a wonderfully strong brand too – creating gorgeously artistic and stylised wedding portraiture.
I try to permeate my brand through to my clients at all times. The website is very self explanatory and I have lots of sections backing up my preferred style of wedding photography. This is replicated throughout every “point of contact” with the client. All emails have brand awareness messages, whether that is subtly it the content, or slogans in the signatures of the email themselves.
This is very important not only for me, but also for the client. I really don’t want to spend time discussing with clients if they clearly do not want a documentary style photographer. And likewise, I don’t want them to waste their time on me. It works both ways and by ingraining the style in my branding in all communications it means that any contact that I get from potential clients, I already know that they are at least interested in my “style”.
One of the take-away points I got from all the lectures at university was the power of “Calls to action”. A call to action can be many things, but essentially they all achieve the same result; encouraging the potential client to take some positive steps. By simply adding three buttons at the bottom of all my pages on my website (one for Newsletter, one for Facebook and one for Contact Me) I immediately noticed an increase in Facebook traffic, along with more people stepping through the website and contacting me. Additionally, each email has a call to action – often that may be a simple “Have you seen my latest blog post?” or a more direct call such as “Call the studio now to secure your wedding date”. The marketing experts tell us that this form of physiological marketing works, and I believe it does.
Of course, the most important factor these days in marketing yourself is your website. I was very lucky to be involved heavily in the web world in a previous career, so I have spent a long time building my website to correlate closely with my brand. I definitely have an unfair advantage over many in that respect. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is of the utmost importance these days, and with Google constantly updating their algorithms it is even more important to understand this area of your business. In my opinion it’s not worth compromising on your website. If you are not confident in building and maintaining your own website, I would consider getting someone who is a specialist to do so. We encourage wedding clients to pick us to photograph their weddings because we are the “experts”. It may be worth using that analogy when you are looking at your website and consider if you are “expert” enough to make it do what it needs to do – which is to sell you and your products successfully.
I use my website to target potential clients, namely brides and grooms. However, I have targeted secondary and tertiary “tribes” that I try to attract to my website also. Those “tribes” for me are other photographers and the rugby world. I encourage both of these sets of people to my website with content, posts and images that I hope they find interesting and useful. By doing this, I am encouraging them to not only benefit (hopefully) from the content, but to also share (via links, Facebook, Twitter etc) on my behalf. They are then doing a lot of the SEO on my behalf. If you can think slightly out of the box with your website and allow it to become a total hub for your business you can start pushing content out to the wider world – which Google loves and you will be rewarded in the Search Engines.
Coupled with your online marketing strategy should be the core Social Networks such as Facebook, Twitter and now Google+. These tools are fundamental for the most part in any strand of marketing. There are many ways to use Facebook as a business tool – personally, I use it as conduit to drive traffic to my website and it works remarkably well. Google+ is a new social network that Google is rolling out and pushing further and further. The Google+ search results, along with Google Local are now being merged into our own organic Google results. Google+ really is somewhere you should be exploring now as the ball begins to roll.
Twitter is a tool I also embrace enthusiastically. It’s a great tool for just keeping in touch, but also it’s a marvellous business to business system. I get many blind referrals from other business vendors I interact with on Twitter from Cake Designers to Venues – most of whom I have never met but have built up an online relationship of business trust and knowledge.
Using tools such as Tweetdeck and Hootsuite you can also be very canny with searching and hone in on potential clients. For example, I’ve book several weddings now directly via Twitter where I have searched for keyword combinations such as “Wiltshire+Wedding” – noted a tweet and replied to it. Whilst I can fully understand people’s frustration with social networking tools, I really think they have helped my business and specifically push my brand out to other vendors and clients alike.
I use Twitter to spread blog posts and content updates from my website, which hopefully some of my “followers” will find interesting, share and forward. This can achieve a few things for you; It could potentially reach a bride who is interested in your work, it pushes and promotes your brand, and it simply spreads your content further afield (viral reach) which, as mentioned earlier, Google all love.
And, finally, back to the brand – because it’s so very important to protect in my opinion. Simple rules apply for me
– Never show things you don’t want to shoot
– Ensure that the clients make their immediate family aware of the photography style
– Keep the brand strong in your product offerings (albums, prints and DVDs etc.)
If I feel out of my comfort zone with the booking in terms of their expectations from me as a photographer, I will refer them on rather than compromise the style of photography that I prefer to shoot.