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Ways To Market Yourself #36359
09/10/11 05:20 AM
09/10/11 05:20 AM
Joined: Jun 2011
Canada
Nicole St-Onge Offline OP
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Nicole St-Onge  Offline OP
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Joined: Jun 2011
Canada
Hello everyone!

I've been struggling lately with ways to market myself as a pet photographer. I switched from weddings/families to full time pets in February/March 2011. This month I photograph my last two weddings and will be fur-only from here on in (YAY).

My biggest hurdled at the moment is letting people I know I'm here and getting clients in the door.

I was wondering how some of you market yourselves to get the word out about your studio or professional services. What has worked, what hasn't. I feel like I am spinning my wheels at the moment. Help, ideas?

I've tried:
- Adding my flyer to grab bags at local fairs/festivals
- Street canvassing, dropping my flyer into mailboxes
- Setting up a small booth at pet shows (usually a 3-4 hour event at a local summer fair)
- Setting up a booth at the local cat club show
- Using free adds (local online magazines, the news paper, craigslist/kijiji etc . . .)
- Donating a free session as a door prise at the pet show/cat show

. . . And so far, nothing, my inquiries are few and far between. Even the people that have won the gift certificates have not come out to claim their prize.

I've done countless free sessions for families and friends to make myself appear busy on my Facebook and website (and to portfolio build). But the truth is, I've had one paying customer since I started this adventure.

I'm not sure where I am going wrong. Maybe I just need to give it more time and keep at'em like I have been doing and persistence will pay off?

I'm open to hearing what you all have to say. Thanks for the input.

Re: Ways To Market Yourself [Re: Nicole St-Onge] #36365
09/10/11 02:14 PM
09/10/11 02:14 PM
Joined: Mar 2005
Florida
Jim Garvie Offline
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Jim Garvie  Offline
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Florida
Nicole,
how did you market your wedding/family portrait business?

Jim


Jim Garvie
www.jagphoto.biz
Re: Ways To Market Yourself [Re: Jim Garvie] #36366
09/10/11 02:28 PM
09/10/11 02:28 PM
Joined: Jun 2011
Canada
Nicole St-Onge Offline OP
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Nicole St-Onge  Offline OP
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Joined: Jun 2011
Canada
For weddings/families I was mostly shadowing fellow photographers in the area. I would second shoot at their weddings and taking on some of their overflow such as a baby's b-day party.

Using craigslist and kijiji would generate inquires for weddings and even baby baptism events.

I also did some free shoot events, i.e the ladies that make the tutus and girlie clothing were always looking for photographers to take portfolio work for them. As a new photographer, this was a great way to meet 15-20 families at a time. Not to mention that the ladies themselves would become your biggest advocate and fan.

Doing the same types of things just don't seem to work for me in the pet photography industry. So I was just wondering what others out there are doing.

Re: Ways To Market Yourself [Re: Nicole St-Onge] #36368
09/10/11 02:55 PM
09/10/11 02:55 PM
Joined: Mar 2005
Florida
Jim Garvie Offline
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Jim Garvie  Offline
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Florida
Nicole,
my approach to marketing is very simplistic. First, I identify who my market is; then I figure out how to reach them; I try to understand how they buy (their buying process); and then I find the media that will reach that audience with the right message(s). Now that's pretty abstract so let me focus it a bit.

First of all, the "pet photography" market is a pretty big, amorphous group. Are you talking about dog owners; cat owners; bird owners; all of the above? Are you looking for all of the people in one of those groups egs. dog owners? Or are you looking for a segment of that market such as dog owners who show their dogs? Or, dog owners that live in upper-middle class to affluent neighborhoods?

Once you've targeted your market a bit the question is do they buy what you're selling and if they do, how do they buy it? For example, if dog show exhibitors buy pet portraits at dog shows then you know you have to be at dog shows. If upper-middle class dog owners tend to buy on impulse at special events, then you would need to be at those special events.

Then you'd have to shape your marketing program/materials/offers to those people and that buying process. Obviously, it gets far more complicated than that when you take into account the differences between markets geographically -- James in NYC and Julie Poole in Knoxville -- but within those variances is an approach you can use to reach a particular segment. Once you've reached it and started to produce paying customers, you'll have work that you can use in your marketing program and references/referrals for additional work which is ultimately your pot of gold. That's where social media plays a huge role. You would be amazed with the number of puppy shoots I get from publishing pictures of my own puppies on FaceBook.

You have to start somewhere. You can't reach everybody and offer everything. I suggest you focus on a particular segment of a particular market and work that segment. Get some business. Get some exposure. Get some clients. Get some samples. Once you've done that for one segment -- and it may become your only focus for a long time -- then you can expand your program to other segments or other markets. In my experience, the hardest thing to do is find that one niche where you will have immediate success and leverage it to build a larger business.

I apologize that this message contains a lot of broad generalities but I'll be happy to answer specific questions if you'd like.

Jim


Jim Garvie
www.jagphoto.biz
Re: Ways To Market Yourself [Re: Jim Garvie] #36369
09/10/11 06:07 PM
09/10/11 06:07 PM
Joined: Jun 2011
Canada
Nicole St-Onge Offline OP
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Nicole St-Onge  Offline OP
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Joined: Jun 2011
Canada
Thanks Jim,

Great questions and insight.

My market is middle to upper middle class pet owners, cats and dogs. Quite possibly a slightly older empty nester or younger couples who's "baby" is their "fur-baby." The dog owners that tend to buy on impulse at special events.

References/referrals may be golden, but its producing those first few paying customers that I seem to be hung up on.

Sounds to me like I am on the right track or at least well on my may to getting there. I just haven't given myself enough time for my seeds to blossom into a garden of flowers.

Re: Ways To Market Yourself [Re: Nicole St-Onge] #36370
09/10/11 07:35 PM
09/10/11 07:35 PM
Joined: Mar 2005
Florida
Jim Garvie Offline
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Jim Garvie  Offline
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Joined: Mar 2005
Florida
Well, not necessarily. If you're already doing a lot of the "right" things, then it may be that you are not doing them well (no insult intended but there's being at a show but being there with a less than impressive booth, for example). Passing out flyers is fine but how professional are the flyers themselves? How good are the images you are using to sell your capabilities? How professional is your booth at shows?

I realize that a lot of this is a Catch 22: you need clients to get good work to show but you need good work to get clients smile. That's why a lot of us do volunteer work to build our portfolios either at shelters or with Rescue Groups. You can't sell potential or promises. You have to have portraits that show what you can do and that are good enough for potential clients to visualize in their own homes. I'm not suggesting that you don't have those images. I'm merely emphasizing that you need to have them.

And, yes, the process does take time. You can decide that a particular venue isn't giving you access to the right people but if it does deliver the right audience and they still aren't buying, then it's something else. And maybe it's merely the opportunity to see your work again. We have major, national corporate clients that sell through trade shows and they understand that being at one show once isn't going to necessarily provide them with the sales opportunities they need. So, they budget for all the shows and they go back at least twice before they even consider pulling the plug on a show. In advertising, the formula is Reach X Frequency and it holds for shows as well as media advertising. If you reach your audience at one show and they don't buy, there's a chance they'll be more receptive at the next show if you are also there. Or the next one.

Jim


Jim Garvie
www.jagphoto.biz
Re: Ways To Market Yourself [Re: Nicole St-Onge] #36373
09/10/11 10:58 PM
09/10/11 10:58 PM
Joined: Nov 2010
Mississippi
drpotter2807 Offline
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drpotter2807  Offline
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Joined: Nov 2010
Mississippi
Yes... I agree with Jim. I am right now just at what I would consider my portfolio building stage. I photograph rescues and post them on Facebook and my blog to help find homes. I've had 3 people CONTACT ME to see if I was doing any paid sessions because they wanted to hire me.

So get in touch with a local rescue group and see if they have someone already providing this service... if not volunteer and get your watermarked images out there! Its great practice, because often these animals aren't socialized as well as a regular pet so it really makes you work for a great image. Makes a well behaved, trained dog EASY PEASY!

Rachel

Re: Ways To Market Yourself [Re: drpotter2807] #36378
09/11/11 04:46 AM
09/11/11 04:46 AM
Joined: Jun 2011
Canada
Nicole St-Onge Offline OP
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Nicole St-Onge  Offline OP
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Joined: Jun 2011
Canada
Actually, my flyers/marketing material were all wrong and I had a less then impressive booth too. It was just kind of thrown together with (4x6, 5x7, 8x10 etc . . .) prints of my work, rather then showcasing the products that I want to sale (albums and wall portraits). And my flyers were nothing more then a price list.

But catch 22, I didn't have the funds buy those 16x20 wall portraits that I would have loved to have there. So you hit that right on the nail Jim.

I just spent a week in a business for photographer course - it was amazing and eye opening. Believe me things are going to noticeable change and are in the works. I really paid attention in class!

I think I have a pretty strong portfolio, I'm just not showing it off in the way it should be in order to draw attention.

When the new marketing stuff is in place, I'm hoping to come at them strong with the WOW factor and knock their socks off!

Last edited by Nicole St-Onge; 09/11/11 05:09 AM.
Re: Ways To Market Yourself [Re: drpotter2807] #36386
09/11/11 03:56 PM
09/11/11 03:56 PM
Joined: Mar 2005
Florida
Jim Garvie Offline
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Jim Garvie  Offline
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Joined: Mar 2005
Florida
Rachel,
because I tend to work primarily with show dogs, I forget how difficult it can be to work with "family pets" that are not trained. Even our Moxie will sit/stay when told to do so. Well, most of the time smile. But your point is a good one: if you can make it work with dogs that don't have much training or, more importantly, much attention or play/food drive (or too much) then you can handle any situation that comes up in the future.

Jim


Jim Garvie
www.jagphoto.biz
Re: Ways To Market Yourself [Re: Jim Garvie] #36388
09/11/11 08:11 PM
09/11/11 08:11 PM
Joined: Nov 2010
Mississippi
drpotter2807 Offline
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drpotter2807  Offline
Wanderer

Joined: Nov 2010
Mississippi
I actually shot my FIRST dog that new how to sit and stay a few weeks ago and I was blown away by how easy a session it was. Sometimes the rescues are shy and don't even want to look at you. You spend time trying to bond with them so you can get some good eye contact.

Definitely good practice!!!

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