Getting to Your Customers
So what can you do to get your business in front of our customers?
Generally this can be done in a variety of ways including via:
Business Cards: These little pieces of card are a mainstay for any business person. It allows you to have in your pocket, bag or briefcase, coat or easily to hand on your desk your contact details in an instant. They can be produced to the same image quality as your letterhead and on a quality card of 160gm plus. They can be produced in full colour which allows you to incorporate pictures, logos etc, and can be printed both sides, but try to keep it in keeping with the overall business image you want to portray. They should contain your business name, the individuals name and position, address, telephone number; you can also include mobile phone numbers and email address and website information, but watch they donít become too cluttered. As a photographer you should also consider whether it is the little card you want or a larger size card on which you can put some of your best work and show people what you can do, or of course a combination of both. The larger card, particularly if A5/Postcard size, could also be used like a brochure and be used to get a wider message across to your potential customer. (See postcard printers for contacts).
Photographic Portfolios: It is always a good idea to have a portfolio of your work irrelative of which photographic area you are going into. Even if you choose the training route having one available to show your new customers when they arrive will instil confidence in them that you are going to know what youíre talking about. Today portfolios can be in printed form or on your website. However I would suggest you have both. The online portfolio, where the pictures are at a lower quality, are useful for the potential website customer to see what type of work you can do, whether you produce it as a gallery or spread them throughout the pages of your website its down to personal choice and what you are trying to achieve. However if you also have a printed portfolio this will show customers when they meet you that you are not only able to take good photographs, but you are able to produce them to a high standard and to a quality that they would be happy to hang them on their wall. For some areas of photography, like weddings, portraiture, commercial work and others these are important sales tools.
Brochures can be produced for the overall business particularly if providing a service or different brochures could be produced for different products or services. The main aim of the brochure is to communicate with the customer what is on offer. They should be designed with the target audience in mind; it will not be read if it does not appeal to the reader. Look at other brochures identify the key elements they use. Proof read everything, get multiple people to both read and comment on it, donít forget to check out headings, formatting and layout consistency as well as spelling. Also think about how many is required, there are many mountains of paper around in offices of out of date brochures because it was cheaper to get a larger quantity produced than what was actually needed. Choose the printer carefully many will quote delivery dates that they very rarely keep to, get fixed quote prices and make sure you get what you wanted, and get them to re-do it at their own costs if itís not as you specified, there are a lot of printers around so if you upset one, you can move on to another.
Another option to brochures is to produce a colour folder, which you can add inserts to. They can be cheaper to produce than brochures and can hold a combination of leaflets, information sheets, price lists, covering letters and so on. They also have greater flexibility in that the contents of them can be targeted at the recipient and if any of the enclosures become out of date then only the relevant insert has to be changed. Keeping contact details off the folder and on the sheets within it, means it is less likely to go out of date as quickly and a larger quantity can be printed.
Websites are a useful tool today, especially with more and more individuals and businesses having access to the internet. Define the purpose of the website, is it an information resource, providing details on the business or a selling tool where customers can buy products or services direct online or both. Of course once you have a website you can then create banners and links to enable other websites to advertise your website.
PR or to give it itís full title Public Relations or Press Release. This is the use of the media to help promote the business and doesnít cost you anything. Unlike advertising, PR is not guaranteed, you can send out a Press Release to target magazines, local and national newspapers etc but there is no guarantee they will pick up on it and publish it. However if the business is of a type that would be of interest to their readers then it can be a cheaper way of getting to your target audience.
Some publications offer deals whereby an article of say 250 words can be run alongside an advert that has been paid for. PR creates the image brand and highers the profile of the business, and runs alongside other marketing methods, a contact address, telephone number or website address can be included and then enquiries received can be sent more detailed information that will lead to the sale. PR can be done small scale and targeted or on a larger scale, and there are PR agencies that can be recruited to carry out this task, but make sure if using an agency that you tightly define what you want them to do and that the costs have been incorporated into your budget as it can become expensive.
Direct Mail is sending out targeted information to potential customers. This can be done via the postal system or email. So how is this done, a list is created or bought of names and addresses of the target audience, a communication is put together and sent out to these individuals. There are companies which sell both direct mail lists and email lists for others to purchase and use to market their products and services to. With the email lists it is wise to check out where or how the email addresses have been obtained as there is legislation in force which makes spam mail illegal in the UK. Of course you could create your own list, by using telephone directories or having a Ďjoin our email listí option on your website. The communications sent can be personalised and if it is done right, the impression can be given that the recipient has been personally identified, do it wrongly and it ends up in the bin. There are also other methods of using the same concept but actually posting out just an advertising card or single brochure with no personalisation, and they have the ability to be targeted on regions, postcodes, businesses or individuals. There are costs involved, if not creating your own list, in buying in a target list, producing the literature to send out, and posting out through the postal agencies, although they do usually give discounts for bulk mailings. However, because in theory it is a target audience the return to the business on that spent is usually higher than the cost of running adverts.
Advertising is the art of getting the business in front of a target audience. All methods mentioned within this section is a form of advertising via different means and probably the most common way that, we all think of, of getting a product or service in front of the target audience is by placing an advert in a magazine, newspaper, on a website, on radio or TV etc. It is not the only way, and for some businesses not an ideal way. It can be expensive and research is required to identify if the publication you are considering will get to your target market. However there are cheaper methods such as putting cards in local shop windows. You will also probably normally need to run the advert a number of times in succession for the audience to notice the business. Keep adverts short, to the point and make sure the contact details are clear and correct.
Exhibitions whether at a trade fair or industry show, craft fair, wedding fairs and similar this method can get the business in front of a large target audience. They can be used for launching new products or services, conducting market research and tests, raising the businesses profile in the industry, find distributors or marketing partners or allow networking with others in the industry sector the business is in. There are a number of cost considerations that need to be taken into account when budgeting for them like floor space hire (entrance and corner pitches usually cost more), stand design, construction and accessories, insurance for stand contents and staff and public safety, transport of getting both staff, stand contents and promotional material to the venue, public image of stand attendees should they dress similarly and should business colours or logos be incorporated.
Social networking: Either online via the various social networks or through local business groups if you like meeting/talking to people and are interested in finding out what others are doing these are not only good from the perspective of finding out what competition is in your area, but also a way of being able to chat with other businesses and get your business in front of them. Many businesses have a need for photographs, whether it be to promote their brands, or for use on their websites, or for manuals they produce or for pictures of their staff so that their customers can identify who is in their business or when holding staff social events to have a photographer on hand to take those candid shots.
Existing Customers and Word of Mouth. Of course once youíre established there is no better publicity than from those satisfied customers who have already used your services and skills. Therefore it is very important that you provide a good service above the best standard you could possibly think of, so that people will feel the need to tell others. So try and think of ways to get them to come back or to encourage them to tell others. Of course it doesnít hurt to have some of the items like business cards, brochures etc weíve already mentioned available for them to hand on to their family, friends and acquaintances on your behalf.