Here’s the truth: building a photography brand that stands out in a busy market place is no easy feat. It takes time and perseverance, and of course you gotta have the skills to back it all up.
But get your branding right, and you’ll be booked solid for months with happy clients willing to pay a premium for your service.
Having taken my own photography business from 0.08% profitability to close to 60% profitability (and still growing) in just a few years, I’ve learnt a thing or two about what it takes to get to that point.
Here are my seven strategies to help you build a strong brand; none of them are expensive or difficult, but all of them (with your commitment and consistency) will set you apart from the competition and help you build a successful and highly profitable photography business.
- Find your niche
When you’re in the early stages of building your brand (and a business that supports you and your family), it can be easy to fall into the trap of thinking you have to say ‘yes’ to any work that comes through the door.
Bills have to be paid, right?
But running yourself into the ground, doing work that doesn’t light you up, or that isn’t in your zone of genius, can actually hurt your brand, and here’s why: you become the jack-of-all-trades and the master of none.
Specializing in just one, or even a few very specific areas, allows you to become known as the go-to expert in your field. People like to seek out those who are the best at what they do.
In my business, people come to me specifically because I specialize in pet photography. My clients know that I have the experience, as well as a whole bag of tricks and techniques up my sleeve, to get the perfect shot of their beloved pets. By being the expert, I can also charge a higher rate for my services.
- Photograph what you love
This may seem pretty obvious, but sometimes people choose an area of photography based on what they think will be more profitable. But honestly, working at something you don’t enjoy is just a recipe for burnout.
If your work feels boring, monotonous or stressful, then you’re going to have a hard time building a successful brand. Here’s what I mean: say you keep getting asked to do family sessions, the referrals are flattering and you can’t so no to the money. But secretly, you find working with kids suuuuuper annoying, that strain will eventually show up in the quality of your work, and in the service you provide.
By choosing an area of photography that you love, that you could talk about for hours, that you can imagine yourself doing in ten, even twenty years time, you’ll not only get far greater personal satisfaction, you’ll be more likely to build a brand that you love – and that in itself will attract the right clients.
- Give your brand a face
People don’t work with businesses – they work with other people. What’s more, they want to work with, and buy from, people they know, like and trust.
Being the face of your own brand puts potential clients at ease and goes part of the way towards helping them decide if you’ll be a good fit for each other.
So don’t be shy, put a recent photo of yourself on your website, or better yet, add a short 3 minute video and introduce yourself in person. This lets potential clients know who they’ll be talking to, and ultimately working with.
- Give your brand a voice
Not only do people want to visually connect with you, they want to connect with you on an emotional level as well. That’s why it’s so important to put yourself (your personality, quirks, and what makes you, you) into your brand – that includes your website, your blog posts and any interaction you have on social media.
We’ve already established that people prefer to buy from those they know, like and trust. So remember to infuse your you-ness into everything you do online, and you’ll connect on an emotional level before you even talk on the phone
- Step up your customer service
Customer service is such a huge part of our industry. Being able to talk to clients in a way that instills trust and confidence in you, as a professional, is only the first step.
Set your brand apart with customer service that goes beyond your clients’ expectations. That means: taking the time to return calls, promptly fixing problems that arise with a smile, and treating your client with the utmost respect throughout the entire process.
Our clients are the reason we are in business (and remain in business), so why wouldn’t we offer them amazing service?
Providing the very best service not only adds perceived value and creates happy clients, it also gets you (ongoing) referrals.
One of my favorite quotes about branding is from Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s CEO, and he says, “Branding is what people say about you when you’re not in the room”. Upgrading your customer service to a level that goes well beyond people’s expectations will enable you to position your brand as one of the best.
- Be consistent
This one is key. Having a bunch of different designs, or messaging that’s all over the place will make it hard for potential clients to understand your brand, much less connect with it!
Make sure every piece of communication you create, including printed promotional material, blog posts, social media updates or emails to your list, are consistent with the look and feel of your brand and carries the message you want to convey for your brand.
With all the ‘noise’ in people’s lives, full inboxes, crowded news feeds and advertising plastered everywhere you look, the last thing you want to do is create more overwhelm for people or, worse still, confuse them!
Building a strong brand doesn’t mean USING ALL CAPS to get people’s attention.
It doesn’t mean overusing punctuation marks to make a point!!!!
It doesn’t mean only contacting your list when you have a new product to sell.
It does mean building a relationship over time and being strategic, authentic and consistent in everything you put out there.
- Lastly, be visible.
Ok, it’s time to get real. Sitting back and wishing, hoping and praying people will find you is not how you build a strong brand – or pay the bills.
Getting yourself out there by consistently sharing your message with the right people is the only way to build your brand (or otherwise known as, ‘doing the work’).
But here’s the good news: once you’ve figured out what you want to do, who you want to do it for, and how you’re going to do it (and how much you’re going to charge for it), you simply need to stick to the strategies that work best for you, then rinse and repeat. There really is no need to reinvent the wheel every two weeks with something new.
Blogging, posting on social media, talking to new clients, and whatever else it takes to get the word out there WILL work, as long as you’re consistent about it.
A great way to make sure things stay on track is to schedule a studio-marketing day. Don’t book clients on this day; dedicate it solely to marketing activities for your brand. But make sure you schedule it in because (in my world at least) when things aren’t scheduled, they tend not to happen!
These are things I do in my own business to keep my brand head and shoulders above the competition. They are proven strategies that, done consistently, will ensure you build a brilliant brand of your own. I also created a FREE workbook that outlines these same strategies so you can get started in your own business. You can snag a copy of my FREE workbook here!
Remember, building a brand doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time and a ton of perseverance. But, it is well worth it to create something that is bigger than you – and, you know, helps pay those bills!
Now it’s your turn, in the comments below, tell me what brand building exercises you’ve implemented in your business recently, what worked, and what didn’t – I’d love to hear from you.
Oh and be sure to post a link to your website or Facebook business page so we can get to know you!