The following advice is specific to Australia. Most Western countries have similar structures and the broad principles are similar. However, you should consult your own advisers for specific information.
Marketing is all about getting work in the door. It is more than just advertising, it's always doing a good job so people will use you again and refer you to others. Marketing is something that you do all the time - it needs to be the essence of how you do business.
A good marketeer will keep in the back of his or her mind one thought: how will what I do now ensure people continue to use me and my studio?
With this said, there are some basic marketing tools we all need to get started. These are the ‘physical' aspects of marketing, but a good looking business card or website alone will not ensure you have a good, profitable studio.
Starting out, a great looking business card is essential. Although you can create your own with an inkjet printer, it pays to have it professionally designed.
When people look at your business card, they will judge you by its design. Does your card say you are suave and sophisticated, homely and friendly, or cheap and cheerful? The design should match the type of studio you wish to run.
Some photographers include photographs on their cards, others create small booklets the size of business cards which display a series of images - a mini portfoliio if you like. And then there are the modern aluminium cards with dye-cut logos and etched writing - very swish.
What does your business card say about you?
In the same way, your letterhead and stationery say a lot about your studio's image. Do you send your CDs out with a handwritten scrawl, or a smart, full colour label? Is your letterhead appropriately designed - do you even have a letterhead? And does the design on your letterhead flow through onto all of your stationery?
Smart stationery can lift your image.
Today it is practically essential to have a website. It's a statement that you are a serious business. Once again, when your potential customers view your web pages, what does the design and the choice of photography say about you and your studio? Are you showing people the type of work they wish to buy?
Whether commercial or domestic, photographers need to show their work to clients. A portfolio, album or book of your work is a common approach, but how will potential clients remember you and your work? Sometimes brilliant photography alone is not enough, the portfolio itself needs to be rememberable. There are many album and portfolio manufacturers - look around and create something that is unique.
The photographs hung on your wall are also important marketing tools. In a commercial studio, they give your client confidence in your ability and may also boast the calibre of clients you have worked for. In a domestic studio, make sure the prints hanging on your walls are the size and style of work you wish to sell. There's no point hanging 8x10s around if you want to sell 20x30s - clients will expect to buy what you are showing them.
While you're looking around your studio, what does it say about you? Compare in your mind a smartly designed and appointed studio with one that needs a clean and a paint? Which studio is likely to be more expensive?
If all your marketing says ‘good but expensive', your clients are less likely to baulk at higher prices, simply because subliminally they are already expecting it. In comparison, if they turn up at an untidy, messy studio with little presentation, they don't expect to pay top dollar.
Do the same exercise yourself: how much do you expect to pay in a boutique clothing store compared to a downmarket clothing store with lots of ‘sale' racks out the front? Your clients are making the same assessment about you when they walk into your studio.
Your studio location can also be more than convenience, it can also tell your clients how much they expect to pay.
Clients are less likely to travel from Sydney to Melbourne for a photographer than they are to drive a kilometre or two down the street. Sure, a studio location isn't going to stop some distant clients from hiring you, but generally most of your work will come from a close geographical area. (There are exceptions to this as you become more established, of course.)
Similarly, our clients realise that rents are more expensive in cities than suburbs or country areas, so they expect the photography to be comparatively priced. On the other hand, you may choose to work in the suburbs or country, in which case other aspects of your marketing will need to establish your pricing.
Location in itself is not a problem, but generally speaking when you're starting off, domestic photographers will find it easier to charge more if they work from a high street studio or mall compared to a spare room in their home. Exceptions to this rule happen once photographers have established themselves.
Commercial photographers these days need not worry so much about their location if they use hire facilities - this aspect of marketing is changing.
If you're a wedding photographer and you drive a 20 year old car with bald tyres and scratched paintwork, do you think your potential clients might be just a little worried that you mightn't turn up on time?
If your client sees you turning up in a bomb, they immediately think you're not earning enough to afford a good car, so they in turn don't expect to pay much. On the other hand, turn up in a Porsche and they might not want to hire you because they think you charge too much!
While commentators in our industry have got themselves into trouble in the past when recommending photographers drive a smart car, not too plush, but definitely not a bomb, there have been screams of outrage from some photographers. Well, let those photographers scream - your car can subliminally tell your clients how successful you are. Yes, this is a generalisation and someone turning up with a penny-farthing bicycle might be considered super cool...
And what about your dress? Corporate photographers used to think it was cool turning up in jeans and dirty runners to photograph the managing directors - who were invariably dressed in their best suits for the occasion. It might be more comfortable to work in jeans, but you'll be less of a tradesman and more of a professional if you dress smartly in these situations.
Sure, there will be times when photographers don't need to dress up, but it's something to consider.
Manners maketh the man or woman! Holding open doors, not interrupting, saying please and thank you, being considerate of others when working on location - manners are a simple and highly effective form of marketing.
Very often, photographers are hired because of our personality and our manners, not because of how good our portfolio looks or what car we drive.
We should never forget this!
The information in this article is general in nature and should not replace personal advice given by your own legal and financial advisers.