The best marketers in the world never stop marketing. They blaze their own trails, often where conventional wisdom says you can’t go. They don’t let obstacles get in their way, or let minor details derail their plans.
For many photographers, marketing is a mystery. Many feel uncomfortable “tooting their own horn,” and avoid it as much as possible. This is a very common feeling among most of my photographer friends – but not all.
There seems to be two types of photographers – those who market themselves, their images, and their services, and those who don’t. The truth is: If you are an average photographer with above-average marketing skills, you can have an extremely successful career in the photo biz.
Some of my photo friends do quite well with marketing. So I decided to take a closer look at them, what they’re doing, and how they’re doing it.
Then I made some observations (10 of them, actually) and list them here in this story. These observations aren’t limited to photography – they’re present in any industry or person who really “gets it” when it comes to marketing.
The point of this is to take away the “mystery” of marketing, and show that anyone can be a “Master Marketer.” Yes, even you.
The 10 Traits of the Master Marketers
1) They realize, and accept, that marketing is a lot of work – but necessary.
Photographers want to spend the majority of their time shooting pictures, but a Master Marketer knows that without marketing, very few people will ever see the images they create. Therefore, marketing itself is part of the creative process for these people.
Understand that you’ll likely spend more time marketing your images than you did creating them, and accept that marketing is part of your job. Many photographers believe that, if they continue to create amazing images, the marketing will take care of itself. This is not true.
If you are not spending a portion of each day doing some sort of marketing work, then you’re not doing enough.
2) They are persistent and consistent.
Master Marketers don’t give up. They work every day, the remain focused on their goals, and they never feel that their job is done. These people understand that the day they stop marketing is the day that people start forgetting about them. To prevent a drop in sales, they consistently maintain a steady drumbeat of marketing messages that always reflect their own personality and style.
They don’t allow little obstacles and setbacks to derail their plans. They are focused on the big picture (not thrown off their game by little distractions) and keep going, no matter what others say or do.
They’re also not afraid to break from the pack, and try something different — even when conventional wisdom says otherwise. Trying new things doesn’t mean they’re out of touch with reality, though – as I address in point #3…
3) They know what works, and what doesn’t.
Master Marketers are constantly evaluating their own marketing efforts. They’ll repeat the ideas and tactics that worked, and avoid the ones that didn’t. They know what success looks like because they are always keeping track of their results. No campaign goes out without statistics and analytics going in.
They don’t rely on “feel” to tell them if something helped their business. If you ask them the effect that social media has on their bottom line, the Master Marketer will be able to give you conversion rate statistics that justify their efforts.
Too many photographers will do a wide variety of marketing activities and have no idea which ones are actually working out. Just because “conventional wisdom” (hey, everyone is doing it!) says you should be doing certain things, that doesn’t mean it works for YOU. Statistics and analytics can show you what works, and what doesn’t.
4) They know their audience because they ARE their audience.
Master Marketers are always asking themselves (and being honest with their answers), “Would I use the style of product/service that I am creating?”
Are you a wedding photographer? If you were the bride/groom, would you hire a photographer who shoots like you? What makes you different than any other photographer? The Master Marketer knows what makes them unique, and then uses those details in their marketing materials to excite their customers and separate themselves from the competition.
Also, you may find that your best customers might actually be other photographers. For example, photojournalist David Hobby left his full time job as a newspaper staff photographer so he could pay more attention to “Strobist,” a blog he created that helps teach other photographers how to use small cheap strobes to achieve big expensive-looking results. Hobby realized that his best customers were actually photographers, and was wise (and brave) enough to make a switch.
5) They find a niche, then define it.
The Master Marketer knows that to be successful he/she must set their targets on something specific, and become a master of that niche. For example, Vincent Laforet decided to make aerial photography his specialty. He didn’t just rent planes and helicopters and shoot from the air – he took it a step further by using different creative tactics while in the air. His images looked uniquely his own, and he succeeded by putting his own individual stamp on images made from the air.
For Laforet, this wasn’t a bit of one-time luck – he does this routinely. Today, he’s moved into high-end video production using Digital SLR cameras, and has already achieved success in this niche by putting his own stamp on it.
Why is this important? Because the Master Marketers know that if they are successful at defining a niche, people will ask for them by name when they want it. When a photo editor says something to you like, “We’re looking for an Avedon-style look for this assignment,” you’re experiencing the results of a Master Marketer who identified a niche, then defined it for everyone else.
6) They have character and manage to be entertaining or “interesting.”
The Master Marketer is not shy, and is able to get up in front of a group of people (large or small) and talk about their craft, their vision, and anything they’re genuinely passionate about. They know that being a positive, informative inspirational speaker will result in additional word-of-mouth buzz.
Having a unique personality, one that is easily identifiable, can cause total strangers to feel like they “know” who he/she is, beyond just their images. This especially important when it comes to #7, below…
7) They motivate people to spread their messages, using many different channels.
Their work, combined with their unique personal character, can cause many people to start spreading the word – free of charge.
The Master Marketer is mindful that there are many different platforms where messages can be delivered, and usually crafts a message that is suitable for each of them. Social media, blogs, newspapers, magazines, television, radio, corporate PR campaigns, in-person events, and casual emails are examples of very different marketing channels, each deserving a slightly different approach.
Over time, the Master Marketer develops an audience using each of these different channels, and is capable of reaching, and then mobilizing them quickly. This becomes a very powerful way to spread their marketing messages, however, he/she does not abuse their power, as I point out in #8…
8) They promote others (people, brands, services) in addition to themselves or their own products.
A Master Marketer doesn’t just toot their own horn all day. They willingly share the spotlight with others, especially if they have similar interests. These people realize that it is easily possible to overdo it, and become seen as a blatant self-promoter. To combat this, they make sure they spend time making others look good too.
Why? Because people like people who are willing to share the spotlight.
Similarly, people also like people who don’t keep “secrets,” which relates to #9, below…
9) They share their knowledge and educate others.
A Master Marketer knows that they’ll benefit more from sharing information than by keeping it under lock-and-key. Remember what I said in #5 (Defining a Niche), and #7 (Motivating People to spread messages)? Being seen as an educator helps them do both of these things simultaneously.
It allows them document what it is that they do, thus clearly defining their own special style. I t also gives people a reason to talk about, write about, and Tweet about – which is what great word-of-mouth marketing buzz is all about.
10) They try to never let the world see them “marketing.”
The Master Marketer is usually a pretty smooth individual, and even when they’re in full marketing mode, people are usually unaware. Their passion, energy, creativity, and personality are the things that take center stage.
They make marketing look easy. They make it seem like all you need to do is shoot great pictures, and the marketing will take care of itself.
Everyone is exposed to a different set of marketing messages, so my list would be different than yours. With that in mind, here’s my list of “Master Marketers.” I’ve personally experienced the effects of their marketing, and exhibit the 10 traits mentioned above.
Art Wolfe, Steve Jobs, Joe McNally, Lady Gaga, David Alan Harvey, Guy Kawasaki, Vincent Laforet, Richard Branson, Robert Caplin, Scott Kelby, Chase Jarvis, John Lander, Casey Templeton, and the Luceo Images photography team.
What’s your list? Please contribute to this story by leaving your comments below.