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Self-Promotion For Photographers: IDENTITY
This post begins a short series on some of the essential marketing stuff a photographer will want or need to begin bringing himself and his product/service to market.
Self-Promotion for Photographers Series, 1
I was tempted to call this first article: Selling Yourself without Selling Out. Before you begin to look at other marketing thoughts and practices, you must get a handle on who you are as a photographer, and (more importantly) who you will be to your market.
I’m assuming that you’ve by-passed or passed-through the stage wherein you tell everyone you shoot everything for any budget. If you haven’t; if you’re right now face to face with that monster, kick it in the shins and run the other way. I’m sure there are people out there who shoot anything that moves and multiple frames (in macro) of everything that doesn’t. But you do not want to be one of those people unless this is just a hobby for you. If you want to do this and be successful you MUST specialize or have the appearance of specializing. A friend of mine shoots both headshots and food – and is seen as an expert at both because he markets both specialties seperately.
Find what you love to shoot, find what you’re best at shooting. Hopefully they’re the same thing. This knowledge ought to begin to clarify for you who your market it. If you don’t like shooting it, if you’re not good at shooting it – don’t shoot it, don’t tell people you shoot it – focus on what you’re excellent at. Life is too short and competition is too fierce.
Now ask: What sets you apart from other photographers? This is not a competitive question, it’s a question of uniqueness. In marketing-speak you are looking to uncover your USP, or Unique Selling Proposition. What will you say about yourself? You might position yourself as the exclusive and expensive photographer, or the photographer for the masses, or the East Indian Wedding Guy or the Pet Photographer. You might go broad, as in – “I shoot commercial images” or you might be very narrow in your focus – “I shoot Siamese cats.” You might choose to position yourself as easy to work with, or having incredible scope of experience in a particular industry. Whatever it is you need to know who you will be selling to the market you’ve chosen.
Hand in hand with uncovering your USP, you must be able to express it to your chosen market in benefit-oriented terms. There are features and there are benefits.
A feature-oriented statement would be: “I have been photographing clowns for 10 years. In fact, I WAS a clown for ten years.”
A benefit-oriented statement is the “So What?”, to the feature-oriented statement.
In this case, the benefit-oriented statement might be: “I understand the needs of the clown market like no one else.”
Do they care you were a clown? No. Do they care you have have expert understanding? Yes. The moment you can identify the “so what?”, is the moment you can begin to talk to your market. Connect their needs with your services in the simplest language. Make a list of your features – and then ask SO WHAT? for each of them. Give the client a reason to care. Features are great, but benefits are what the client is after.
Once you know who you are and to whom you will be communicating, you need a logo that is designed to represent you to your chosen market. For some reason, many photographers overlook this. Of all people we should understand that the visual language is a vital form of communication. Skip the logo and you skip another chance to connect with your potential market. You also miss a chance to begin building top-of mind awareness because people remember a logo before they remember a name. And you miss a chance to begin instilling trust in your potential market.
It is very important that this process be allowed to take a little time and be done honestly. When we speak about these things it is not in terms of convincing your market that you are someone you aren’t or offering a service you can’t live up to. Anyone can lie to the market once and get the gig, but if you aren’t who you say you are, and fail to live up to promises, you won’t last long in the market. Figuring out your identity (who you are to the market) MUST precede working on your image (how you communicate your identity), and both must be honest reflections of who you are and what you’re selling.
Find out who you are, who your market is, and begin to build the bridge by communicating in benefit-oriented statements, strong positioning, and a great logo.
This series is a short one and should not be considered an attempt at covering what is an incredibly big topic. Instead, I am hoping it scratches the surface, peaks your interest, and gets you moving towards stronger marketing. If you are looking for a great logo I would be please to talk to you about designing one for you, as I did recently for Matt Brandon, The Digital Trekker, and Johanna Kidd’s 19th Day Photography.
Recommended further reading on marketing a service-based business – What Clients Love, Harry Beckwith