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Building Your Photography Business for under $3,000

Lesson 24 of 41

Identify Your Target Client


Building Your Photography Business for under $3,000

Lesson 24 of 41

Identify Your Target Client


Lesson Info

Identify Your Target Client

So, when you start talking about your marketing plan, the place to start is your target client. And, when we started our business, everyone told us this as well. You need to define your target client. And it was such a weird, ambiguous thing to me, because my target client when I first started my business was somebody that would invest the amount of dollars that I needed them to invest for my business. So, when I started out, I just wanted somebody that had expendable cash. Okay? So, and I think that's where we all start. We want somebody that can afford us. But that is a huge pool of people. And what we found is that some of our most affluent clients were not necessarily our best clients. They made us work in a different way than we wanted to work. And they made it very difficult. They were high pressure in the sales room. They were used to running a meeting, and they wanted to run my sales session, and they kind of gave me the run around. And so, it occurred to me that just because t...

hey have money doesn't mean they value what I do, or what Peter does. And so, there's no way that I can say your best client is X. I can't define that for you. But what I can tell you, is that money has very little to do with whether they're your ideal client. So, some questions to ask about your target client basically, is people that you like to work with. And you might like to work with different people than I like to work with. But your target client is somebody that has a high value on what you do. So, for us, it's the client that shops at outdoors stores. They may have a pair of 800 dollar hiking boots, but they probably don't have a pair of Jimmy Choo's in the closet. Okay? That's my target client. They may be somebody that has a really nice RV that they take out on the weekends, because as soon as they're off work, they're out climbing, or kayaking, or hiking, or mountain biking. They're super busy because they work really hard, they're professionals, but they're out the door in the woods as soon as they're off of work. That's my perfect client. They're educated. They're professional. They spend every second outdoors. And they value photography. Okay? So, I can't tell you who that is for your business, but those are the kind of people that I like doing business with. They're the kind of people that say, "Oh my gosh, I followed your adventure through the Grand Canyon. I can't wait to take my family to do that same thing." We can have a conversation about what we like to do together outside. Okay? So as you're thinking about your target client, you get to make this part up. This comes from your heart. And so here are some questions that you can ask yourself, as you're thinking about who you want to do business with. Yes, of course they have to have money to invest in your services. But, who are they, and what do they buy? Where are they doing their shopping? My clients do most of their shopping online, because they do it quickly in the evening, because they're outside the rest of the time. Where do they like to shop? REI, Patagonia, those kind of stores. They're investing in gear that makes their life functional, and more comfortable. So when I think about those things, I can align my services to appeal to that type of buyer. So think about who they are, and what do they buy. Earlier in our business, I would listen to other photographers talking about, well you need to go have this experience at a really high-end boutique. And I was like, okay. So I went to a high-end boutique, and I looked at the service, and I looked at the attitudes, and it wasn't comfortable for me as a buyer, and it wasn't comfortable for me as a business. And so, all I can tell you, in finding your target client, is what's comfortable for you and your business. Who do you wanna serve? What kind of person? And then, once you start thinking about what that person is like, then you need to start putting categories. What do they have in common? What are the things that are common among all the people that you like to work with? And those are your target groups. So when you start thinking about designing a marketing campaign, or a social media campaign, those are the kind of people that you're looking for. So, I might place an ad on Facebook, that targets outdoor enthusiast. People that identify with adventure, with exploration, with environmental concepts. Okay? That's how I'm thinking about my target client. And that's why I have products with names like organic, simplicity. My client wants clean, simple, natural things. See how all of this starts to come together? And then, the question is what do they buy from you? How can you serve that person that you're describing? Do they want something that is flashy, and modern, and chic? Is that your target client? Is that somebody that you like to work with? Is that what they relate to? Or is it more earthy, and natural, and organic? Or is it maybe more classic, and refined? Think about all of those things. What would your favorite person to work with like? And then what product do you have to offer them? When those things come together, then your business has harmony for your consumer, and they will be knocking down your door, to invest in you. So, we've talked about some characteristics of what they like, and where they buy, but who are they actually? How old are they? Where are they based? Male or female? What income level? Are they married? What occupation do they have? Are there any commonalities in who you enjoy working with, in this bracket? So, and our business has changed over the years. So when we started our business, our client was younger. Because we wanted to work with people that were in the same decade of age as we are. And so, when we first started our business, we were looking at single people, because we had a wedding business, that, you know, obviously engaged but not yet married. So that was the marital status. We were looking for wedding clients that were 25 to 35, because we didn't want the super young client, because we didn't want to be working with their parents, who's primarily who plans a super young couples' wedding. We wanted to be working with couples who had already graduated from college, that were budding professionals, and so we hit that 25 to 35 age group. Did we have clients that were younger and older? Yes, but our favorite group to work with was 25 to 35. So, typically in all iterations of our businesses, we have worked with females. They're the ones that we emotionally connect with. They're the ones that connect with our images. However, we had strategies in place to connect with our male buyers as well, because we knew that that was some of the hurdles that we had to overcome when we were booking wedding clients. So, we connected originally with the bride early in our business. And then, when they came in to our sales theater, we had Bose speakers, and things were edgy and technical, and we had big monitors, and that's how we connected with our male buyers. And so, you need to think about who you're interacting with, and who is making the decision to purchase your work. It can go either way, but it's a very different approach. And then what income level? This is a really interesting thing. Because, I always put top income level, because I wanted people who could afford our work. But some of our best clients, had blue collar, moderate income jobs. They were the ones that really loved what we did, and were really interested in investing with us. So, it's always good to have extra income, but I wouldn't use this as the income, as the determining factor for who your target client is. It's way more important for them to love what you do, than it is to make a gazillion dollars. Because it, just because they have the money, doesn't mean they want to invest it with you. Okay? Marital status. Particularly for weddings this is important. But, not necessarily as important otherwise. Occupation. So, our target client is typically well educated with a graduate degree. They often are a boss at some level. They often run the show at their work. They typically aren't under other people. So they're professionals, they're not aggressive, but they are ambitious, and they like to charge ahead. So this is our target client. So, you need to think about who you would like to work with in this spectrum. Because our target client isn't necessarily yours. But I bet you can think of somebody that you've worked with that you're like, oh my gosh, I want 80,000 of these people calling me all the time, because they're just amazing. My favorite person to work with. Start there. Write down what they're like. What characteristics you really like about them. And then you will help define your target client that way. Okay? So then, you need to start thinking about their psychographics. And what is it about them specifically, that you enjoy working with? Is it their personality? I typically like bubbly, happy, excited, energetic people, because I like to be around people that are like me. And so if I have somebody that's very quiet and shy, it's really hard for me to suppress my energy levels to mirror the way that they are. So, and I think that's true for all of us. And so, if people are typically calm and reserved, it's hard for me to interact with them at their same place. So, think about their personality, and what personalities you like to interact with. And what attitudes did they have? So, my client has an attitude about getting out and doing adventures in the wild. Typically they're environmentalists, because they spend a lot of time in the wilderness. They often, let's see, different attitudes ... It's hard to think about those, actually. What kind of attitudes. They're usually positive. They're usually excited. They're usually engaging. So, that's attitudes. And then values. What's important to them? So, for us and our brand, made in the USA is a pretty big deal. We value that a lot. Our clients value that a lot. They value environmental friendliness. That's important to us too. So, we're connecting with people that have similar values. What are their interests and hobbies? Climbing, kayaking, backpacking, all of those things. That's what our client likes to do. And then lifestyle. Active and adventurous, for us. And then behaviors. So once you identify all of these things, you're starting to hone in on who it is that's your perfect client. And if you think about the numbers that we spoke about earlier, we're talking about 100,000 dollars of sales. So, if you have a target sale of around 1,000 dollars, you have to do 100 sessions. That means you need 100 clients. So, you use all of these descriptions to hone in on exactly who you're targeting, but it doesn't have to be that big of a pool. You're really looking for 100 clients. Some businesses have that walk in the door in 10 minutes, right? But that's not what we're looking for. We have a limited pool. And so it doesn't have to be this gigantic group of people. We just need the right group of people, that's a little bit more defined. Okay. So, once you've identified your target client, and in your marketing plan worksheet, it will help you walk through all of these steps. So be sure to think very carefully about all those questions in the bonus material, the marketing plan. Identify those people, and then, this is really important, you have to make sure that your products match that group of people. Okay? So, how can your products fit into their life? And this is a big deal. So when you think about my target client, for portrait sessions, it's somebody that likes to travel. It's somebody that likes adventure. It's somebody that likes being in nature. And so, if I can offer them a session, a destination portrait session to a place that they've never been, doing something that they've always wanted to do, would they be willing to invest thousands and thousands of dollars, just to have that experience? And then on top of it have beautiful images that they can put around their home to remember that incredible experience. That's a product that hits my target client squarely. Can I give them something that's natural, and organic, and beautiful, and authentic, to put in their home? Will they buy it every single time? Absolutely. If I give them something very classic, and hand painted, and formal, would they buy it? Probably not. They want to be out in the world, doing things, like this. Not reserved like this. That doesn't mean there's not a market for the other. It's just the market that I serve. So, how do your products fit into their life? How will they use your products? So, my clients might use these products in a variety of ways. I guarantee that if my clients go on an adventure with me, and we create amazing images of them being tough, and vivacious, and conquering whatever it is, they are absolutely gonna wanna put them on social media, right? For sure, digital files has to be part of it. Do they also want something beautiful to hang in their home, that every day they walk by it, they're like wow, can you believe we did that? That was amazing. They gotta have that product too. And probably they also need a book to tell the entire story of the adventure. That's how they're going to use these things, so that when they have friends come over they're like, oh my gosh look, I went rock climbing. It was awesome. Right? So, how will they use their products? And then, what features are most appealing? So if I'm talking about this specific group of people, and I have two products in my hand, and I say, "Well this particular product has, you know it's very beautiful, but this product is made in the USA, out of environmentally friendly materials." Which one are they gonna buy, every single time? They're gonna buy the organic, environmental friendly one, right? Because they value it. They would invest more in that particular product, because it aligns with their core values as a buyer, right? Even if it's 50 dollars more. Of course I wanna do that. I wanna save the earth, who wouldn't? Okay, that's my client. And then, something to think about as well, how does your target client search for information? This is really important. Do they talk to other people? Is it a word of mouth thing? My community is a tight community. I know half of the paddlers in the world, probably. And so, I know how they search for information. If somebody in that community talks to somebody else in that community and says, "Oh my gosh, this is the greatest thing ever. It will make your life better." Half of the community invests in that. It's important, right? So word of mouth in my community is really important. It's also very important, my community searches online a lot for information. They're educated. They research things. They want to know about things. They want to be super informed, and make good investments. So you need to think about how your community, and how your target audience searches for information. And then you need to be all over that. So for my community, I am out in that community all the time because word of mouth is important. I show up every single time. I show up when it's hard. I show up when it's in the middle of nowhere. I show up when it's expensive to be there. And I show up with my camera, and I show up with a smile, and energy, and I am ready to go. Always. That's my business. And that's what separates me from a lot of other people. I'm willing to go. I'm willing to bring 100 pounds of equipment with me. And I'm willing to get the shot, whether it's rain, or shine, or lightning, or miserable, or wonderful, and I do it consistently every single time. And my client sees that. They see me out in the community. We blast things out socially all the time. And so when people think of kayaking and photography, Peter is the one they think of. Always. So when a magazine needs an image, in that community, they call us. Oh my gosh, do you have any of these images? Of course I have those images. I'm out there, I show up, I've built this huge reservoir. Okay? So that's how we interact with our clients in that community. And so you need to know where they look for information, and how they find it. It's really important into getting your name out there. So, we've talked about narrowing in your criteria of your client. Tighter and tighter so that you have a really good definition of who that person is. But then you have to look at it in the grand scheme of things. Are there actually enough people in this box that you have drawn out, to run your business? Okay? This is all, you have to have a big enough pool to draw from to make a living, but you need to define it as closely as you can. Does that make sense? Alright. And then, will my target benefit from my product? So here's an interesting concept. When we first started getting into adventure sports, and photographing those, we wanted to photograph extreme, elite athletes. That was the pinnacle of awesomeness for what we wanted to do. And, we kept hearing, again and again, why don't you guys just go photograph your family? We're like, well that's not any fun. We want to go photograph the really rad people. And so, we kept fighting that, and we kept fighting that, and eventually we started just blogging about our personal adventures. And lo and behold, people were like, I want that image of you guys. And we're like, really? That's so weird. And what we found is that there aren't very many families who are photographing extreme sports. So we created a whole new category of business that hadn't ever been out there before. And so there are tons of images of elite athletes doing crazy things that are out there. Everybody wants to photograph that. We were a tiny little fish in a big pond. But when you talk about the people that are out there photographing moderate, mortal people doing things, nobody was really doing that. And so, we created a whole new niche for ourselves that didn't even exist. And that's where we found our success. And we've built a brand around it. And we've built a successful commercial division around that. So, something interesting to think about is, it's really hard to go up against somebody that has existed for a long time, and is a powerhouse brand that's out there. But if you can think of a way to establish your business in a whole new light, a whole new category. A specialist of some kind. Then you have amazing power to charge ahead, and create this whole new thing that doesn't exist. So, a company that did that really successfully is Fedex. So whenever they came into the marketplace, there was another company that dominated the nation in delivering packages. Fedex came in, and they said, well we're a delivery company, but we specialize in overnight delivery. Okay? Lots of delivery services out there. Nobody was doing it overnight whenever they came in. And so now, what do we say when we overnight a package? Oh, I'm gonna Fedex something, right? They started a new category, and they did it really well. That's what we did in our business as well. We started a new category of family adventure, and we did it really well. So now, somebody coming in behind us, has to deal with an established brand that's already there. Just like anybody going after Fedex, holy cow, that's a big job. You better have all of your ducks in a row to come in and change the standard of overnight delivery. Right? So, what you have to do, as you are thinking about your business, is is there a new category that you can serve? If you're just going against somebody that already exists, that is already well established, it's gonna be a battle. But if you can come up with a way that you can shine through as something new and different, then you're gonna charge ahead, and you are gonna have this whole world of success ahead of you. It only took us 20 years to figure it out, but now that you guys know the secret, you can do it right away. (laughs) So, think about that. And as you think through these questions, it'll help you define it. Remember talking the baby whisperer? And how that's not me, but there are people that are amazing, that can make babies do things that I don't even know how they do that. I was lucky to get my daughter to stop crying half the time. And so, there are people that have amazing superpowers like that, and if they come in in their area, and they're like, just let me take care of your newborn. I love them. And I have everything under control. I have everything you need. Just come on in, we'll take care of the whole thing. That's something that people in your area would love. Or if you've traveled all over the world, and you have these phenomenal landscape fine art images, so that when somebody calls you and says, "Hey, do you happen to have this image?" You're like, of course I have that. I've been everywhere. That can be your niche. Doesn't matter what it is. It just matters that you're unique in your community. Okay? Alright. So, will my target benefit from my products? You gotta be able to answer that. The answer has to be yes. How will they benefit from your products? Do I understand their decision making? So this is another thing. Who makes the decision in the family, and how do they make that decision? So for Peter and I, in our family, just ask our daughter. We talk about everything to death. So we co-decision make in our family. Some of my clients, one or the other partners makes the decision. Sometimes it is the public relation firm that we work with that makes the decision. So how does that decision get made. Is it a group decision? Is it an individual decision? If it's an individual decision, who is it that has the final word? That's the person that you work with. That's the person that you have to understand. Okay? And then of course, this is really important. Can they afford my products and services? If the answer is no, can they afford my products and services, if I offer payment plans? That's a way around that. Okay, is there a way to solve that if the answer's no? If not, you need to find a different target. Okay? Alright. Then, this is the trickier part. Can I reach my target client with my message? How can I get my message to them, and how will they respond to it? So, can I access them online? Is there a place where they come together that I can reach them with my message? Do I need to be there in person, or can I send something that's printed, or can I send a representative, or can I do it socially? What's the way that I get to my client with my message? So, if I decided that celebrity rock stars are my target, can I get to them with my message? It's gonna be really tricky, right? But if I decide that pet lovers are my target, pet owners, then there are lots of places in my community where I can go meet pet owners, and I can talk to them, and I can interact with them. So, these are really important questions. Can I reach my target client with my message, and are they easily accessible? Alright. So, now, you've kind of mapped out who this person is, and what they look like. There is all kinds of information you can find out about these buyers. There is market research being done all the time about consumers, and how they buy. So you, with a quick Google search, can often find information about your client. So you can enter their demographics, their age, and their occupation, and their income. And then you can even go deeper, and enter their psychographics. What are their values? What are their interests? We are getting that information all the time, and people are compiling it. And oftentimes you can get the information for free, or with a very small charge. This is worth it. Look for it for free first, because you are on a 3,000 dollar budget. Search online for information about them. What can you learn in more detail about how your client buys, and what they value? And then, read forums and magazines. There are tons of forums out there that talk about this. There's so much good marketing information online that you can find. So, see where these people are shopping. See what they're reading. See how they're making their decisions. There's information about your target client out there available often for free. And then, if you already have a current customer base, pick your favorite five or 10 clients, and ask them questions. They would probably be happy to do a survey for you if you love them, and if they love you. They'd be happy to take a couple of minutes. So, we did this with one of our favorite clients. One of our favorite wedding clients. We actually hired her to help us with our marketing, because that's what she did in her real job, and we just didn't want to let her go after the wedding. We loved her so much. And so she consulted us, and we asked her all of these questions. Why do you like us? What do you like about our style? And she helped give us key words that we could use to communicate our style on our brand to other new buyers. And so, asking her, she was our perfect client. And asking her what she liked about us, helped us communicate that message to new target buyers. So, we've talked about you defining who you like to work with. Now it's time to do a little bit of research about the competition. This is super important as well, and you will learn a lot from doing this research. So, looking at your competition, online is usually pretty easy to take a deep gander into their business. Describe who their customer is. Who do you think they're targeting? And what does the competition have to offer? Do you have the baby whisperer living next door? If so, probably not a wise niche to pursue. But maybe you don't have an adventure photographer next door, or maybe you don't have a wedding photographer that specializes in downtown cathedral weddings, or mountain weddings, or farm weddings, or whatever it is in your area. What do they have to offer, and how is that different from you? And really analyze, is there a group of people that will value photography that isn't being served? So for our business, it was moderate adventure sports. I'm not an extreme athlete, but I love getting out there and having fun on adventures. Who knew that was gonna be my niche? I sure didn't. But all of the sudden, here it is, and it's my dream job. So, is there a niche that isn't being served? It's just like the Fedex example. If they had gone up against the shipping giant that existed and said, "Oh we do shipping too," they would have been out of business. They saw a need for overnight deliveries. They jumped on that. They became the specialist on that, and now look at them. It's a brand, you see the green and purple, everybody recognizes it, right? You have to do the same thing in your neck of the woods.

Class Description

When starting a new business, you will make hundreds of decisions, and many of those can be costly and affect the future of your business. Most photographers have little direction available on how to take these critical first steps to set themselves up for success.

Kathy Holcombe and her husband Peter have built multiple photography businesses over the last 15 years. Kathy will share what they have learned so that you won’t waste time, money and resources trying to find the perfect formula.

You will learn how to:

  • Define your brand
  • Set up social media channels and a business website to support the vision of your brand
  • Develop an effective strategy for marketing to your ideal client
  • Develop a product line and profitable pricing structure
  • Develop a sales strategy to maximize your time and sales average

This class is for anyone who is standing at a crossroads, wanting to start a photography business, but not sure exactly how to go about it. You’ll not only learn how to get you started but also how to turn a profit through your photography in your very first year of business. Skip years of trial and error and invest your precious startup dollars in strategies, tools, and equipment that will immediately start making you money.


Amanda Beck

Kathy was a wonderful instructor. She was engaging and someone who was precise and incredibly helpful. We have a full time photography business and are always looking for new ways of running our business. Her information was insightful and forced us to have conversations about our business that we have haven't had in several years. She is fantastic and someone who has the information needed to help you start or expand your business. Thank you for a wonderful class!!


Thank you Kathy for yet again another very thought provoking class. You are such an inspiration, teaching us the right questions to ask ourselves so we too can be brilliant photographers / entrepreneurs. I was a fulltime RVer for seven years, traversing 44 states and seeing some of the most beautiful places on our planet. It gave me a great opportunity to meet some extraordinary people and to hone my photography skills. Now I have put down roots in Stapleton - Denver, CO and am soon to launch my own Family Lifestyle Photography business. Your course has definitely given me the courage to just charge ahead and go for it!

Tristanne Endrina

I am VERY impressed with this class! The structure of the class is well done. Each segment was thorough and backed up some knowledge from the previous segments. Kathy breaks everything down into understandable knowledge and also makes it very enjoyable to watch. I HIGHLY recommend this class if you're unsure about what to do to start your photography business. $3000 may sound like a lot of money, but you'll going to find yourself in a determined state to raise that money if you're REALLY passionate and serious about starting your photography business. Thank you, Kathy & Creativelive, for this class. I'm excited to get the ball rolling and build my photography business.