Marketing: Define Yourself
Alright, it's the question you've all been waiting for. How do I get clients in the door? And it is one of the most ambiguous things out there. It seems like marketing changes all the time. And so, today, we're gonna talk about bringing all of those pieces together. This is the last big component before we put our business plan together. And, marketing is very personal to your business. It's very temperamental. And so today, I'm gonna share with you things that have worked really well in our business. They're things that you should take what seems good to you, and try those, and maybe it'll work, and maybe it won't. You're always having to adapt your marketing strategies. Earlier, we talked about defining yourself. And we've kind of brought that theme all the way through this class. And, whenever your brand, your identity, your price list, your images, and your sales strategies, whenever they all come together, you have a harmony with your client. When one of those things is out of pla...
ce, is when you start getting objections in your business, and clients are saying, "Wait a minute. Something doesn't feel right." So we have to come back to, how do you define yourself, and what do you have to offer? We talked about how important it was to offer something that they can't get anywhere else, and to make it really easy for them. It also should be easy for them to identify your brand. So I'm gonna bring you through a progression of our business, to show you how we eliminated some discord. So, we shared earlier that we started out taking any job that we could get. And, these are some of the things that we tried. We started out, and we built a great relationship with some venues in downtown Denver that were incredible. They were big cathedral weddings. There were wonderful high end weddings and great clients. But it wasn't what made our hearts sing. We love being in the mountains. We love being outside. And we really don't like photographing in dark cathedrals. And there are so many rules about how you have to photograph there, and we found it very limiting as an artist. And so this is one of our images from a wedding downtown. And you know, we did a great job at it. But when we went there, we were like, uh, we're in the city. We're dealing with parking. We are on a fast paced urban environment. It just wasn't our scene. And so, pretty early in our career, we pretty much eliminated shooting in an urban environment. And then, I told you about the whole babies debacle, where I decided we were gonna do babies, and then I get thrown under the bus, and I turned out loving it. I really liked it. And that's when I grew as an artist, and that's where I really became a photographer in my own right. So it was a great thing. I still really enjoy shooting babies. Peter photographs anybody once they can get dirty, but babies are all mine. And, so this is the kind of stuff I thought was super fun. I loved creating images. I loved playing with little guys. And it was an amazing thing. But it didn't align with our brand. This is very different than all of the other images that you've seen, right? Peter and I absolutely have a very different style, but when we're branding our business, this is not what we show anybody. This is out of sync. So if we were to put images like this on our website, our clients would feel discord. Now, when our wedding clients come back to us, and say, "Oh, we just had a baby. We want you to do baby portraits." I can take these out and say, here's how we like to do it. Or here are some of the things that we have to offer. But, it's not in harmony with our brand. Remember how we talked about, when you define your vision, you ask what makes you happy and unhappy, and what your skills and talents are? And when all those things align, incredible things happen. When you're defining yourself, sometimes you have to think about what doesn't fit first. Sometimes it's too much to try to identify what your brand is. Sometimes it's easier to start with what your brand isn't. Okay? So for us, it definitely wasn't downtown weddings. It definitely wasn't babies, and oh my goodness, the infamous Snowflake incident. This was another time in our business when our sales weren't where we needed to be. And it was November. Usually, we talked earlier in the numbers game, I'm watching things all year round, and it was when the economy tanked. And no matter what I tried, it wasn't where I needed it to be. And so it's November, and I'm like, we have got to make our sales. We don't borrow money, and we're about to that point. And so, I reached out to a local toy shop in Boulder, and I was like, we would love to collaborate with you. We specialize in photographing families, and we think that the families that shop at your store, are a perfect complement to our photography. And originally when I went in, I was thinking more of a partnership where they sent their clients to us, and we photographed them outside. Oh no no. The business owner said, "Perfect. We just got a seven foot tall snowman, that we named Snowflake. You guys can come in. You can do portraits in the shop. We'll do it as this whole exciting event. And you guys can shoot and sell in our store. People will come in. It's gonna be an extravaganza." I was like, yay. And I hung up the phone and I was like, so Peter. (laughs) This didn't go exactly how I was thinking. But we've been tasked with photographing children with a seven foot tall stuffed snowman. And he was like, what? (laughs) And not only that, we built a whole marketing campaign, where we took Snowflake out into the streets of Boulder, and we photographed him in crazy environments. On park benches, and in restaurants that were icons of Boulder. And we built this whole marketing campaign, leading up to this event in the store. And, people would sit down in Boulder on the park bench next to Snowflake and have conversations with him while we were shooting, and crazy things happened. So, it definitely wasn't Peter's favorite thing to shoot ever. We really aren't high key photographers. We don't like shooting inside a whole lot. But, desperate times call for desperate measures. So we built this whole event that came into this toy store. And, we had families in line around the block. Which was great. And this was one of those times, where we used our per hour figure, to figure out what kind of special we're gonna offer. So we knew that we had 30 minutes with each family. I built packages so that we had 150 dollar package, and a 300 dollar package. We shot in the store. We sent the images straight to the laptop. It was a system. It was like a factory system. So, the studio was here. The family moved along to me at the computer. I did in-person sales. In-person sales in a store, right there on the spot. And then we delivered the products a week later. So here's what's really neat. The in-person sales process works, because not only did I hit the 150 and 300 dollar sales, we had a 500 dollar average, on that 30 minutes of work. Whoa. Blew me away. So we did sessions, every 30 minutes, 10 hours a day, over two days. And we were able to get our gross sales where we needed it to be. Was it our favorite work? No. Did we create something amazing for our clients? Yes. Were they excited and did they learn about Holcombe photography? Yes. Guess what we included when we delivered their images? A gift certificate for a free portrait session. Come back to us. See what we really do. Okay? So, the infamous Snowflake incident, fortunately has never recurred in our business since then because we were a lot more proactive, and economic times have changed since then, for the better thank goodness. But, the point is, whenever you're thinking about marketing, you need to think about relationships. That's how we've always looked at marketing. And building relationships that help both of us. That toy store had one of their best seasons ever in the middle of one of the worst economies. So it was good for everybody. We collaborated, we came together, and we built each other up. And to us, that's what marketing is. It's all about relationships. So, Abby cried when we had to give Snowflake back, by the way. (laughs) So then, once we figured out what we weren't, it was pretty easy to identify what we were. We wanted to be in the mountains. We wanted to be doing weddings up in the mountains. We wanted to do portraits up in the mountains. And, that's where we really focused our attention. We built relationships with wedding venues in Aspen and Vail and Summit County, all over Colorado. And we started talking to our portrait clients. Hey, would you guys be willing to meet us here. We have this great location. And then, all of the sudden our clients were willing to drive a couple of hours to go to a portrait session, to get these incredible locations. So, and sometimes they would even go beyond. This is over six hours away from our studio. And ironically, from this session was when Peter and I were driving home, riding our Vision, when I said, "Hey, would you like to sell the house and move into an RV?" So, I thought that was kind of a neat tie-in there. But basically these are the kind of images that illustrate our brand. Remember that word organic that I talked about earlier? Do you see the organic feel in these images? They're natural. They're wild. They're still simple. They're wonderful. So, these are our mountain weddings and portraits. This is our brand. It's very clearly defined. We don't muddy it with all the things that we've done that don't fit that definition. Same, our commercial lifestyle images are the same. They still have that wild, organic feel to them. They just also happen to feature products, in addition to people. Same concept, same brand. When I talk to my commercial clients, we were always so worried that we had to keep our portraits and wedding separate from our commercial clients. We thought that that would maybe devalue us in the commercial world, that we did portraits and weddings. But it's all the same kind of work. And in fact, some of our commercial clients have asked to do family portraits for them, in wild places. They value it. It's all consistent. The brand is the same. And then of course we've added adventure travel to the mix of our brand. Again, the same simple, organic element to it. So, as you go and start to work on your marketing campaign, you have to make sure that everything in your business is harmonious. Make sure your brand is clear. We talked about on your salsa list, writing down those words that describe your photography. Describe your brand. Make sure those are consistent with all of the images that you're showing. Make sure it's consistent with all of the materials you're putting out in the world. Make sure it's consistent with the client that you are targeting.