Business + Marketing

Five Promotions That Worked This Year

December 16, 2013

By Jessica Gordon

Looking for creative ways to drum up new business? We asked five photographers to tell us their most successful promotion or marketing strategy this year. Whether or not the following ideas translate into more dollars, one or more may hit just the nerve that boosts your business.

Cadence & Eli, Minneapolis, MN

Our “Wish List” idea [a list of Cadence & Eli’s dream wedding shoots, posted on their blog in April 2013] was really born out of [Cadence’s] experiences on social media. About two years ago, when Vera Wang released her black wedding dresses, I tweeted and Facebooked that the first bride with a black Vera Wang dress to book us would get a discount. Then, a local dress shop promoted the tweet and invited us to their Vera Wang trunk show, which resulted in booking a bride with a black Vera Wang, as well as several other brides. Then, this spring, I was pulling long hours at the studio and I jokingly posted on Facebook that the first person to bring me a chocolate chip cookie would get a free portrait session. Thirty minutes later, I had a bag full of gourmet cookies. These two occurrences made me think about “putting stuff out there” and asking for what we wanted to shoot.

A screengrab of Cadence & Eli's Wish List.

So I quickly made a wish list, pared it down to the top seven “wishes,” and published it without giving it another thought. Initially, my endgame was to drum up more business—but more varied business. But then I realized that it had just as much to do with expanding the portfolio, and getting to photograph things that might fulfill me in a different way. 

As far as benefits for clients who responded to our Wish List:
• Our first same-sex couple (to be married in June 2014) will receive the wish list discount—which we made equal to our friends and family discount—of 10 percent.  
• Our first European wedding (upcoming in May 2014) is getting a wish-list discount as well.
• Nothing on Cuba, yet—fingers crossed, as that’s my ultimate wish-list item.
• One of our current wedding couples was game for shooting in the rain, so that ended up being a bonus for us—we actually had to turn away a lot of inquiries for that shoot.

The result of one of Cadence & Eli's "wishes"—shooting a couple in the rain. ©Cadence & Eli

We definitely received a lot of attention on Twitter and Facebook, and a lot of inquiries as a result of the post. We also had a lot of previous clients contact us and share it with their friends. Overall, it increased our exposure in our market and we’ve booked several jobs just from the circulation it received via social media.

Shauna Lofy, Bakersfield, CA

I implemented a new marketing approach for booking senior portrait sessions this year. Because my marketing budget is very limited, I have been devising ways to get a lot of potential client visibility so that I can directly interact with my target audience, mainly 17- to 18-year-olds and their parents, in places that are frequented by them.

First, I printed 500 flyers to put on cars at two local high schools, as well as in pediatric doctor offices and dentist offices. As a parent myself, I know that parents and kids will be in the waiting rooms for at least 15-30 minutes—lots of time to look through a magazine or two. All my flyers have a QR code that, when scanned with a smart phone or iPad, links to the magazine I created (Shauna Lofy Portraits), which is hosted on ISSUU.

Shauna Lofy's flyer complete with QR code linking to her online magazine. ©Shauna Lofy

In addition, I have posted my flyer/link to all the high school Facebook pages in my city. I also placed a Facebook ad (just in my city) that targeted teens ages 16 to 18 and their parents. The ad ran over this last weekend, so far reaching approximately 7,000. My Facebook page likes have increased as a result, and I have received a few inquiries.

My daughter is also a senior this year, so I have elected her my first senior ambassador, with her portrait featured on all my marketing for this campaign. The reactions to her images have been very positive and have generated a lot of excitement among senior girls. In the last two months I have had 12 inquiries.

Karlee Brown, Ionia, MI

I proposed a day of “Vintage Mini Sessions” to give my clientele a little something different. I created my own backdrop, and selected a few locations at [Michigan’s] Ionia Fair Grounds. I already had quite a few vintage or antique props, such as old suitcases, chairs and cameras that I was able to use. Throughout the day, I had 12 different people or families that were involved; they each got their own 25-minute session for $50, and they received 10 different edits on a CD a couple weeks later.

One of Karlee Brown's Vintage Mini Sessions. ©Karlee Brown

Everyone had so much fun and even dressed the part with their lace dresses, suspenders or vintage hats. The people on my Facebook page really enjoyed checking them out as well! Even though I was using the same backgrounds and props for every session, I still feel that everyone looks a little different.

John DeFiora, Asbury Park, New Jersey

Sometimes I will shoot a free lifestyle/editorial session with someone who I know has a big reach on social media, and this way it’s like cross-advertising: nine times out of ten, one of their friends will contact me for photos. This year I photographed my friend, model Victoria Vertuga, a model who was also in an episode of the show Dexter. That shoot directly led to several other headshot bookings for actors and actresses within the industry. 

Actress/model Victoria Vertuga. ©John Defiora

Jana Williams, Los Angeles, CA

Shooting film has not necessarily made me more money this year, but it’s been a really great promotion to offer my clients who are interested in telling their story in a totally different medium.

©Jana Williams

It’s also made me a better photographer in [the following] three ways:

1) When shooting medium-format film, you have either 16 shots per roll or 32 shots per roll before you need to re-load. With each shot meaning so much, I have found myself waiting until the moment is just right. Patience as a photographer is a virtue just the same as in life.
2) If I feel like I have the shot while shooting film, I move on. Instead of spending too much time on one thing, I have found it so useful to move on and pay attention to the moments going on around me at a wedding.
3) I’m looking at color combinations in a different way. I’ve shifted away from warm tones, and more toward neutrals to present a more timeless, classic look.