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Marketing Strategies that Work

Lesson 43 from: Creating Your Ideal Photography Business

Kathy Holcombe

Marketing Strategies that Work

Lesson 43 from: Creating Your Ideal Photography Business

Kathy Holcombe

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Lesson Info

43. Marketing Strategies that Work


Class Trailer

Class Introduction


How To Price Your Products


Which Products Will You Offer


Methods For Pricing


Mark Up Factors On Products


What Is Your Per Hour Figure


What Is The Feasibility Of A Product


Target Sales Average


Session Fees Pricing Strategy


Minimum Purchase And Incentives Pricing Strategy


Bundling Pricing Strategy


Pre-Design Pricing Strategy


Album Pricing Strategies


Example Pricing List


Business Basics Overview


Tracking Product Lines In Your Business


Track Your Session Counts


Know Your Sales Average


Importance Of Data Analysis


Overview Of Costs


Professional Photographers Of America Benchmark Survey


Creating A Vision For Your Business


What Do You Want To Accomplish


Take A Leap Of Faith


Refine Your Vision


Products That Sell


Identify Pricing Strategies


Portrait Pricing Strategy Example


Album Pricing Strategy Example


Online Pricing Strategy Example


Fine Art Prints Pricing Strategy Example


Packages Pricing Strategy Example


Sales Strategies Overview


Portrait Sales Session Overview


Sales Strategy for Portrait Sales


How to Present Images to Client


Sales Strategy for Wedding Sales


Album Pre-Design


Marketing: Define Yourself


Who is Your Ideal Client?


Who is Your Ideal Partner?


How to Start a Partner Business Relationship


Marketing Strategies that Work


Product Lines: Business Plan Part One


Workload: Business Plan Part Two


Sessions: Business Plan Part Three


Expenses: Business Plan Part Four


Clients: Business Plan Part Five


Lesson Info

Marketing Strategies that Work

Here are some other things that we have done. Some have worked better than others. When we first started out, we had a display at a mall. And when we were defining our brand, we thought this was a great place. There are families that are there. They're shopping. It was a high-end mall. They probably had disposable income. And we were like okay, let's just give this a shot. And it worked, but it worked because of the specific way that we did it. It wasn't just hanging our images at the mall. We did have a really nice display. We rotated our images through regularly, and people saw them. But the thing that really worked well for us is we had a little box that says enter to win. And in that box, they could win a free session. And we started out with the dreaded 11 by 14. And we quickly changed that to something else. I think it was probably a 16 by 20. What a weird thing to include, right? So, or maybe it was an eight by 10. I can't remember exactly. But what happened is every time I woul...

d go to the mall every week and check on our display, we had a box full of name, phone number, email. Now, when business was really good, we would do one drawing a month and we would give that session away. When I didn't have the sessions booked that I needed, I would call everybody that entered. You won a free portrait session with Holcombe Photography. We are so excited. Let me tell you a little bit about what we do. It was my least favorite part of my job that I've ever done. It was so scary to call somebody out of the blue, hey, you've won. Okay, let's schedule this. It's gonna be a little harder than you thought. It's not just coming into the studio. We're gonna go someplace great. It was unexpected, but it taught me a couple of really important skills. Number one, it taught me how to make cold calls, which is really intimidating, and it helped me build my client list, my potential client list. So, and it helped us book sessions when we needed to book sessions and we didn't have any other way to do it. It worked great. It wasn't always our ideal client. Sometimes we had good sales and sometimes we didn't, but at least we were trying things and trying to build that client base. And when we found a good client, we would ask them to refer us to their friends. So, in desperate times, things like this can work really well. Malls are pretty expensive to display in in general, they're onto the whole photographer thing, but smaller businesses aren't. So if you can find an ideal partner and do a display there, you can accomplish the same thing. And I can't emphasize enough how important it is to practice cold calls. Because practicing with all those potential clients gave me the confidence to call potential businesses and work with them which gave me confidence to call potential corporate partners that I'm doing now. I still do those cold calls on a regular basis. And with all of these years of practice, I've gotten better at it and I've gained more confidence, and with that, I get more success every time that I call. Okay?. So, practice this. Do this. It's a great thing. The next thing that we've done that has worked brilliantly, it's one of our favorite marketing strategies, is silent auctions. We are generous at heart. We love to help other people. And so, if we can find an organization that has a silent auction event and it's an organization that we believe in and we can donate something to them and in the process gain a new client, that is a win-win for everybody. And so, we've learned a lot about how to make this work to get good, qualified clients back from that event. We love donating. Either way it's a win. But when we can get a great client in return, that's even better. And so, we've become very selective when choosing your partners 'cause you could just give away your whole entire business. So, one of the things that we have kind of drawn a line at is we like to do it where it's a hundred dollar a plate dinner to even attend the event. That really filters the clients to make sure that they have expendable dollars. And then, we found that what we donated to the event was more important than anything else. And here's the trick. We started out with a 16 by 20 in a portrait session that we donated. And what we found is that people would take their free session, the session that they won, and they would take their 16 by 20, and pretty much they might order a few other things but that was about it. And then we experimented with donating a gift certificate. And so, we donated a gift certificate for the same amount. It was like five or $600. And what we found is when we left the door open saying that we're gonna give you this credit, you can use it any way that you want, they would invest well beyond that dollar amount and we had a better sale. So what we learned right off the bat is that it was better to leave that door open and let the client tell us what they want rather than us telling them what they need. So, then we started playing around with the dollar value that we donated to the venues or to the organization. And this is where things got really interesting. I told you I always play around with things to see what works best. So we started out with that $600 donation. I was like, well let's see what happens if we donate a thousand dollars. That would really help the organization more. See what happens to our sales. It almost was a penny for penny match. We donate a thousand dollars, the client orders two thousand dollars. We have a thousand dollar sale. Okay, well let's see what happens if we donate $1500. Same thing happened. We donate $1500, we get a $3000 sale, we get $1500 back. It was really interesting. So we kept bumping it up until we found the sweet spot. And what I found was that about a thousand dollars, a thousand to $1500 for our business of a donation, I would still have a sale where I collected $1500 to $2000 on the back end. And then those clients would come back to us the next year. So, we raised a thousand dollars for the organization, we got a great sale in the process and a client for life. What an incredible scenario. We couldn't ask for anything better than that. One of the things we did learn the hard way is be really clear about what's included and what's not. And so, we started doing 15 20 donations a year. We loved building our client base this year. It got to actually where it was a little bit tough to manage who had won what and where we were. So, we started giving out official gift certificates that had a few little terms on there like you can't trade it for cash. We didn't wanna pay them a thousand dollars. And we put an expiration date on it. And that was really important. We also clarified with the organization that we wanted to know who the winner was and get their contact information. Because sometimes those gift certificates would get misplaced and we would never hear from them. And that kinda defeated the purpose. And so, if we could get the contact information, they would start to see the kinda service that we offered. Hey, we're so excited that you won our gift certificate at the silent auction for such and such. Thank you so much for supporting such a great cause. Let's go ahead and get your portrait session on the books. We book up really quickly, and we wanna make sure we can take great care of you. And then I could schedule the planning consultation and move them through the process. So, getting the contact information and then getting an expiration date. Sometimes it's really easy for people to put things off. And if you have an expiration date, we usually made it good for six months, then I would call them and say, oh my goodness, your gift certificate is about to expire. We don't want you to miss out on that. Let's go ahead and get you in. Let me get something on the books. So we would schedule that. And then of course sometimes people would call years later and we would still honor the gift certificate even though it was expired because we don't do that to our clients. It was a really incredible way to be an active part of our community and build our client base at the same time. So, I highly recommend doing a gift certificate over a specific product. You're gonna have to experiment with the dollar amount and see what works best for your business and your sales strategy. You need to be sure to include an expiration date on that gift certificate, and you need to try to get the contact information of the person that won so that you can reach out to them and tell them what you do. Okay? So that's how that works. Alright, special events in the community. The more active you can be in your community, the more people will know about you and the easier it'll be to book portrait sessions or weddings or whatever. So, there was a new magazine that started up in the neighborhood adjacent to ours when we were in Boulder. And I got wind of it. And I talked to them and I was like, so who's doing your photography for the new magazine? And they were like well, we're still trying to figure that out. And I was like, well what if-- It was a magazine that featured a family in the neighborhood. And I said, well what if we did the photography for that particular family that was being featured. We'll provide you with incredible images as long as we can have the opportunity to sell those images to that family. We'll give them an eight by just as a thank you for being a model for the session and letting us photograph them. And then, anything on top of that is great for us. And so, it was a really nice neighborhood. It had our kinda clients. We knew it well. And it gave us an opportunity to meet people that we hadn't photographed yet. It took a couple hours out of our day a couple of times a year. And we tried to block them all together so that we could photograph three or four featured families in one afternoon to really make it efficient and minimize our time investment. So we would do the session. We would do it our way. We would take them to our favorite places. We would give them the full session experience, but we tried to block them together. And then we would do a sale session for that family in their home. I would help them find a piece for the wall. We had our same sales average. It was great. It was really good. Another thing that we did-- Do you guys remember the big flood in Colorado a few years ago that was horrible? We saw our friends and neighbors just get decimated. It was the town right next to ours. And so, we decided that we wanted to do something to help those people. And so, we donated the entire session fee. We actually raised the session fee for that specific event and donated the whole thing, and we donated 10% of the sales from all of the sessions that we did during a certain window of time. It was for three months following that crisis. And it allowed us to reach out to our past client base and do something good for our community. And we were able to write a check to a family that had lost everything for thousands of dollars. It was fabulous. And it was a way for us to pull our community together and help people that really needed it. So there are wonderful things like that that you can do that also build your brand and build your community involvement and things like that. So, we always try to do charitable marketing, which we really, really love. So, let's keep going. Back to this whole cold call thing. Whenever it gets really desperate, your best client is your past client. They know how amazing you are. So whenever you find that you don't have those sessions booked that you really, really need, reach out to your past clients. I haven't seen you in a while. I really miss you guys. How are the kids? How's your husband? What's going on with you guys? Are you interested in updating your wall art? We'd love to see you again. Do you know that we have free sessions for life for our favorite client? Come back in. Let's do something cool for you. Okay? Reaching out to past clients. Reaching out to client networks. So, if you have a client that is a hub. You know who they are. They're all over Facebook. People are always commenting. They're the ones that are saying, oh my gosh, I just got this. Do you know about this or have you seen this or have you heard about that? You know that person? If one of those people is your client, you need to work with them as much as you can. You can do all kinds of incentives for them. You can say, oh my goodness, this is a great way for you to earn money towards your portrait session. For every client you send to me, I'm gonna give them a hundred dollar gift certificate and I'm gonna give you a hundred dollar gift certificate. Come back in. Let's spread the word about Holcombe Photography. It's gonna be somebody that loves you anyway. Get them to reach out into their network and send their friends to you. And then, reach out to those businesses, those ideal partners that have that same community that you're looking for. Give them a call. Don't forget the infamous snowflake incident. Make sure that it works for your business what you agree to do. But make sure that you keep reaching out to those wonderful partners. Ask how you can help them. What can you do for their clients? What can you do to make their business stronger in return for giving you access to their clients? And then, just reach out. Keep going. Marketing is all about getting the word out. These are things that we did when we lived in Boulder and we had a space. Now we rely a lot more heavily on social media. And so, we're constantly updating things through Instagram and Facebook. And whenever we come into Colorado and we say, oh my gosh, we're gonna be in Colorado in three weeks. We have room for three portrait sessions while we're there. We have this huge network of people that say me, me, me. And then, of course we book seven or eight sessions because we can't turn people away. And that network has expanded all across the country. So there's so many different ways that you can use marketing in your business. You just have to get out there, get creative, and go for it. This is from Rika who says, when you do approach someone to collaborate with, do you set a timeframe to see if the collaboration is mutually beneficial? For example, you may do photos for their website and social media in return for them promoting you to their clients? But what if after you've delivered, you still couldn't get no clients from their business. How do you work around that? Any thoughts on that? That's a great question. And that's really, really important. We tend to think of things as projects. And so, when we went in the toy store, we had a specific project that we were collaborating on. We knew it was gonna be over at the culmination of this event. Whenever we partner with things where it's not as definitive, we make sure that we're both contributing right off the bat. So I don't know that we would ever have created images for someone's website because that is a huge gift to give to someone. When we do someone's website, it's thousands of dollars. But what we could do is create images for a campaign where they are sending out specific images to a certain group and our logo is on that. So I would encourage you to think about that as a definitive campaign with a start and an end and some checkpoints in between to see how it's going on both ends, see how you need to adjust things as they progress. And I think if you look at things in discreet entities like that, then if it goes really well you could say okay, what's the next campaign that we're gonna work on together. This was really good for both of us. Let's keep going. Or you have a comfortable out to say, thank you so much, this was a wonderful experience.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials

Business Plan Worksheet
Expense Worksheet
Sales Averages by Product Line Worksheet
Sales Projections by Product Line Worksheet
Session Count Worksheet

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Art of the Sale Book
Creating a Vision Workbook

Ratings and Reviews


I started my business a year ago with little formal technical photography education. It's hard to admit but I've been winging it, figuring out each small task that goes with photographing a session, editing one, and working with clients as I go. I may be doing things backwards, but now that I feel like I'm more comfortable in those small, specific parts of business, I need to figure out how to make this business sustainable and profitable. Kathy's class felt perfect for this time in my business to take a step back and look at the bigger picture of what I want to focus on and where I want to go (and how much I want to pay myself!). She uses realistic, specific numbers: something that's SO helpful and I feel like I rarely see in the photography community. And she breaks everything down in an organized and easy to understand way. The classes were easy to follow along with and Kathy's positivity and patient manner is inspiring and motivating. The fact that she used to be a school teacher is clear. Thank you so much Kathy (and the rest of the Holcombes)!

Jenny Farrell

I am so glad I was able to attend this course in person and receive all the wonderful and practical information Kathy shared with us. I also really enjoyed the connections with other audience members and side conversations with Creative Live peeps as well as the Holcombe family. What an inspiration this family is--lots of practical info, but also a great pep talk to not sell yourself short and get out there and do what you love, but use sound business practice while doing it. Thanks so much for these incredible two days.


Fantastic course! Very helpful instruction and how-to guide for anyone considering starting up a photography business. Kathy was an excellent instructor, with a wealth of knowledge and experience. I gained a good understanding of the practical everyday aspects of running this kind of business, and how to create my own vision.

Student Work