Free/Cheap Marketing Ideas & Tips: What has worked for me, and what hasn’t

by guest contributor Tara Staton

MARKETINGThe big bad scary overwhelming term that makes a lot of photographers instantly want to curl into a ball, cover their ears and pretend to not hear it.   It really shouldn’t though! I love marketing. I know it isn’t as fun as shooting or editing, but the business side of things can still be fun! I always tell my husband that if I wasn’t a photographer I would love to be in a marketing field.  However I know that is also partially because of my personality type and I know not everybody loves the whole interactive side of  it as much as I do.   For me, when I think of marketing I am not thinking about product sales, but as selling myself.  As a photographer, I am really selling ME, my style, my vision, my work.  So it is really important that all of that be authentic and central in anything I do in the area of marketing.  My products, session environment, business policies, etc ALL are controlled and molded out of my personal style.  YES, this means that not everybody will like you or enjoy your work. YES, this means you should be turning away clients that aren’t a good fit, and YES you will be much happier with the results of your marketing and the clients you get out of it if you stay true to yourself.  So, what has worked for me, and what hasn’t in the area of marketing?

MASS MAILING:  Huge fail. Definitely didn’t work.  I made the mistake of spending a lot of money on having a service that “targeted” the market I wanted and mailed out postcards, etc. Definitely not worth the money I put into it.  I should have realized from the start that it was not personal, did not match my style of interaction with clients, and did not really leave me much control over who it was reaching.

COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT:  One of the biggest successes I had marketing wise, was getting involved with the local highschool community.  I taught for a day for the photography class, I donated to different events and fundraisers for the sports teams and cheerleaders (both time and some money).  The end result was a network of connections and amazing relationships with the students who not only come to me for their senior pics because of style, but because of the reputation and relationship I have with the schools network of people/students.

Another way of getting involved in the community is to donate to special events, charities, and causes that are special and important to you.  You will get asked to donate to a lot of different things, but make sure that you are giving your time and money to causes that you really want to support and that have special meaning.  Because you will find your time and talent best served on things that you are passionate about!

For me getting involved in the community is a perfect match for my style. It is technically marketing, but at the same time builds lasting relationships and allows me to use my talents in a way that gives back. Which is the best part!

BOUTIQUES/CROSS ADVERTISING:  This can be very successful, but once again be very careful who you “get into bed with” so to speak.  You can offer to do wall displays, or cross advertise with local boutiques and businesses that might offer mutual benefit.  However, like I said, be sure that you know the company/person well. Once you attach your name to something, you are somewhat vouching for that person/product/business.  Also make sure that these businesses really do reach your target market!

WORD OF MOUTH:  My main method of advertisement is word of mouth.  However, this whole process is pretty involved.  I am selective about clients that I accept. I have them fill out a questionaire to make sure we are a good fit before I even send them an info packet.  So because I have amazing clients, they usually refer some pretty cool people.  There is nothing better for business than a happy client!  So my clients that are referring their friends are often referring the type of client that I want to have!  I offer a 25.00 credit for both participants for referrals and I give referral cards BEFORE sessions.  Because most clients forget about it after. By giving them out before, they try to get their friends to book so that they can get a discount on their upcoming session.  A lot of my best word of mouth referrals was a mom was had a goal in mind of certain products she wanted, so she actually referred over 10 clients in a very short amount of time. She was very goal driven!:)  I was more than happy to give her that amount in credits for purchases when she essentially helped build a fabulous network of clients.

PHONE BOOK/PRINT ADDS:  Another fail.  Once again. Too impersonal, and I am not as much in control of who the adds reach.  I changed my listings in phone books to the very basic and have not done any print adds again.

I know a lot of people tell me that they are just too shy or they don’t want to approach people, etc. However, the reality is that if you want clients you have to be willing to put yourself out there and open yourself up in ways that you might not always be comfortable doing. I am a pretty outgoing person and I don’t usually get nervous at all. That has come from years of performing in highschool and college and forcing myself out of my shell though. I used to be painfully shy and rarely talk, but I soon realized as I grew up that in order to accomplish what I wanted to, shy just wasn’t an option. So if you find that you are one of those shy personality types, take baby steps. Jumping head on into it might be to much for you, but I REALLY encourage you to step out of your box and build your courage up a little bit at a time. Every positive response that you get will help boost that confidence more and more!  The worse people can say is no!

About the Author:   I am a mom, wife and photographer based out of Washington state.  I specialize in environmental portraiture and offer workshops and resources for other photographers.  I am absolutely IN LOVE with what I do and love sharing it with others!

Visit Tara’s website at Tara Staton Photography

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Jennifer Ramirez - June 17, 2011 - 8:39 am

Very great article! Thanks for posting! :)

Adrianne - June 17, 2011 - 8:52 am

Perfect timing! Thanks for your insight into what can be a daunting task for many people.

kristin cook - June 17, 2011 - 8:54 am

Great wisdom! Thanks for sharing!

Ngarie Humphrey - June 17, 2011 - 10:12 am

Great article thanks for sharing marketing is way scary

kellytonks - June 17, 2011 - 9:03 pm

Great article Tara!!:-)

JenC - June 20, 2011 - 12:00 pm

Tara you are awesome!!! Thank you for sharing your side of marketing, I love it!

Liz Garland - June 20, 2011 - 12:39 pm

Love, love, love the referral program. Thanks for sharing!

Brittany Nair - June 20, 2011 - 8:46 pm

I love your work. Thanks for the useful tips on marketing. The place I struggle with the most.

Julie Figg/ Julie Rae Photography - July 4, 2011 - 10:41 am

I liked all the Vendors~

Julie Figg/ Julie Rae Photography - July 4, 2011 - 10:41 am

I liked Your page. :)

Julie Figg/ Julie Rae Photography - July 4, 2011 - 10:42 am

I shared this Giveaway on my Fan Wall. :)

Julie Figg/ Julie Rae Photography - July 4, 2011 - 10:44 am

I joined your mailing list.

Angela - July 5, 2011 - 9:12 pm

I’m already a fan of yours :)


Elysha Gagne - July 5, 2011 - 11:58 pm

liked you on facebook, already a fan :)

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