I feel as though I should preface this post by saying I am NOT an expert when it comes to advertising—all the different options, how you should use them, when you should use them. There is certainly not one right way to advertise; this is just what has worked for me. By now, you probably all know that I started out in the photography industry second shooting for Amanda Donaho Photography in Cincinnati. I know quite a few people in the Cincinnati area and I still get some referrals down there, but when Nathan and I moved to Cleveland, I basically had to start over. Yes, I am from the Northeast Ohio area so I did have some family and high school friends to get me started, but Cleveland was all new to me and I knew I had to get my name out there other than counting on referrals.
- Paid Advertising. My first and only (to this day!) form of paid advertising was and is Wedding Wire. Why Wedding Wire? Well, that's how Amanda got her start and she was successful, so I figured why not? Probably NOT the way you're supposed to pick your advertising channel, but so far it's also worked for me! I do pay for a "featured" spot, which means that I'll always show up on the first page of local photographers. When I was first starting out in the area last fall I got most of my inquiries from Wedding Wire, so that featured spot was totally worth it. You'll also notice that I have seven reviews, which also helps with pulling new people onto my page. I have NO shame in asking for a review on the site, and most of my bride's are happy to help me out.
- Word of mouth, aka REFERRALS. Amanda always says that she is lucky enough to have "chatty" brides who help market her business just by talking to their friends, family and acquaintances. I have to say, I've been equally as lucky and have the BEST clients. Last year, most of my inquiries came from Wedding Wire, but as I started photographing weddings this year, I noticed that more and more of my inquiries were coming from friends of friends or the cousin of a past bride. By being communicative, organized, professional, friendly and helpful at weddings, and an overall friend to my couples, I'm representing my brand and building loyalty at the same time. Plus, I'm turning over a good product in a timely manner. In my humble opinion, if the core of your business is strong, people will notice and spread the word. Obviously, there's a little more to it than that but that's for another day. :)
- Other photographers. I'm naturally someone who likes to be around people. I enjoyed working in an office and had a little bit of a rough transition when I started working from home full-time (tune in tomorrow for more on that!). So when we moved to Cleveland, one of the first things I did was e-mail other photographers to set up coffee dates. Some might say that getting friendly with the "competition" isn't something you should do, but I don't think it's like that in this industry. There are plenty of weddings and family sessions to go around, and every photographer has a distinct style, so I think it's SMARTER to work together! I've made some really good friends in other local photographers and I refer them to couples when I'm booked. They do the same for me.
- Other vendors. After I'm done editing my weddings, I make sure to send a disc of applicable photos to each vendor I worked with. Photos of the bouquet go to the florist, photos of the hall go to the reception venue and so on. By sharing my photos, I'm helping them further their business and building relationships simultaneously. Plus, when I work with really great vendors I want to share my experience with my clients so they book the same really great vendors. It's a win-win.
- Social media. Facebook is a wonderful thing for small businesses. It's free and you have a huge web of potential clients at your fingertips. I post all my weddings and sessions on Facebook and tag my clients in their photos (I make sure to ask before I get tag-happy though. Some clients want to stay private and I respect that). When I do so, their friends (and maybe even friends of friends) see those photos and my business name. If I'm lucky, they'll come "like" my page themselves, but at the very least I've planted a seed for the next time they're looking for a photographer.
- Features. If you missed it, I got my very first feature a couple weeks ago! Yay! From that feature, I saw a couple new likes on my Facebook page and new hits to my website and blog. My goal for next year is to make a pointed effort to get every wedding featured. Not all of them will be published, but the ones that are definitely won't HURT my business. Plus, it's just cool to see your name and your clients' faces on another blog. :)
Again, I'm not an expert, this is just what has worked for me. I hope some of these things work for you, and if you have questions or some fresh, new marketing ideas that you want to share, feel free to comment below!