You wouldn't buy a new camera without reading the manual…
By now you’ve heard that Kim Kardashian has filed for divorce from her sports celebrity hubby Kris Humphries after a short 72 days of marriage. (If you haven’t heard, you clearly partake in only elitist highbrow journalism. So don’t judge us!) Turns out, however, there’s a marketing lesson just about everywhere these days. So, no matter how you feel about Kim, here are five smart marketing tips you can take from her and apply to your own photography business.
Build a following
When news first broke last week, who do you think picked up the story? Everyone. Literally every online and offline publication published some version of the story, from celebrity gossip queen Perez Hilton to The Huffington Post to CNN. We ask ourselves, why does anyone care? The answer could be a blog post in itself, but the point is that Kim Kardashian has built a serious following over the years. That means when news breaks, anywhere between a handful and hundreds of media contacts will help spread the word.
As an independent photographer, it’s important that you also have a list of people that you can contact with worthy news. Sharing new news is the best possible reason to put your work back in front of people. Whether it’s new work, a gallery exhibition, or a holiday limited edition sale, you can use this content to encourage prospects to reappraise your work, and build word of mouth about your photography services. Your contacts might be past and current clients, gallerists who have featured your work, and influential photographer friends. Send a short email with a few sentences about your news and, as always, a link to your website. And when you don’t have new news to share…you need to manufacture some. (That’s not to say Kim’s news was manufactured. Really, it’s not.)
Build brand awareness
You, your friends and probably even your grandma know who the Kardashians are. The family has built a massive brand with TV shows, perfumes, handbags, books, workout videos, and more. It’s hard to go anywhere and not see one of their products or Kim’s face on an advertisement.
I’m not saying that you need to go out and launch your own perfume, but it is important that people recognize your brand. Spend the time (or the money on a professional) to design a custom logo that you can use on your website, business cards, and email signature or mailer. Think about ways you can increase the “touchpoints” where more prospects could find themselves interacting with your photography. Also select a few key images for your website’s homepage that you want to become synonymous with your brand. Repeat the use of these images across the other areas where you have both an online and offline presence. When people in your circle think of nature photography, fashion photography or whatever your specialty may be, make them think of you first thanks to your pervasive brand awareness efforts.
Collaborate with non-competitors
It can be tough to build your own brand from the ground up. Even Kim Kardashian needed some help – check out her TV show on E! and you’ll see that it’s not “Keeping Up With Kim Kardashian” but “Keeping Up With THE Kardashians”. It’s hard to be interesting all the time, so E! enlisted the entire family to have cameramen follow them around all day and make a reality show.
You can do the same with your photography business. If you’re already friendly with some likeminded photographers, then you can set up a Virtual Agency on PhotoShelter. The idea is to maintain your independence as a photographer while leveraging the group to market your work collectively, garner more contacts, and get your images found online. We consistently admire the folks at Luceo Images for their collaborative spirit and the ways that their coordinated, collective efforts drive new assignment work and image sales from their archive. They host group shows, book portfolio portfolio reviews together, hold seminars on key topics impacting photography, contribute to other photography blogs, and even speak regularly at photo schools. The end result is more business for all.
Remind people you exist
If Kim Kardashian was worried that people would forget her after the rights to her wedding sold for $17.9 million, then getting divorced was certainly a good way to remind us that she’s still alive and kicking. Even after news of her divorce spread, Kim kept the momentum going by announcing her trip to visit Kris Humphries in his native Michigan. This is marketing 101 – just when people start to forget that you exist, hit them with something new.
This tip is especially important for photographers. Many buyers may look at your initial email, like what they see, and then hold onto your email for a later project. There’s a pretty good chance that your email gets lost and then the buyer forgets that you ever got in touch in the first place. Keep two separate email lists, one for past clients and one for prospective clients. Then, when you release new work, send a tailored email to both lists. (Tailored email is the key – buyers keep telling us that there’s nothing more annoying than promos that don’t match their needs.) You’ll put yourself back in the buyer’s mind and have a greater chance of getting hired or making a sale. See PhotoShelter’s free guide on Email Marketing for Photographers for more tips on this topic.
Play your strengths
Kim Kardashian is sexy. Even in her workout videos and advertisements for sneakers, she’s looking unrealistically hot and put together. This is her strength and she plays it to her advantage.
As a photographer, you should do the same. (Um, play to your strengths, not necessarily look hot and put together.) It’s great if you dabble in more than one genre of photography, but there’s a good chance that your work is stronger in some than in others. Specializing is how you stand out – buyers want to put you in a “bucket” to best remember you for future opportunities. Put your best foot forward and spend the most time showcasing your strongest work. It also makes sense when marketing yourself to new clients – if you’re marketing yourself as a sports photographer, than make sure that your sports photography is front and center. Prospects will chafe when you send them a promo only to arrive at a website that showcases a totally different style and genre. Your best work should be at the forefront of every marketing campaign that you do.