It’s Shark Week on Business Friday

Small businesses like photographers are a lot like sharks: Every year during the Discovery channel’s Shark Week, a sonorous narrator reminds viewers that if a shark stops swimming, it dies. I believe that when a photographer or studio stops promoting and marketing itself, it dies too, but there are obstacles in the way of becoming a lean, mean marketing machine. Some photographers (and I am just as guilty of this as the next guy) are just not naturally adept at marketing and, at the same time, not solvent enough to afford a dedicated marketing person. This means that the bulk of marketing falls on Big Enchilada, but it doesn’t have to be traumatic.

Your business card is the single most important marketing and promotional tool. While seemingly tiny, this lowly card has billboard-like implications. Are you using those cheapo, generic cards from a business-card-in-minutes machine? And vertical cards! Let’s strangle the designer who came up with that idea by his or her mouse cord. No Roladex in the world is set up for these and you want potential clients to save and refer to your cards even if they scan it into a database.

Avoid the temptation to knock out some cards on your ink-jet. Future clients will be less likely to toss out something with a quality look and feel especially if it has a photograph of a person on it. It’s like a real photograph to them When Mary and I had our studio people would hang onto out photo cards for years before calling for an assignment. Here’s a tip: Take a look at inexpensive photographic business cards—using your own images—from Moo. And make sure the card has your website, e-mail, Twitter, and Facebook addresses as well.

Wearing a blazer didn't work; the right shirt did!

Wear your company. One successful entrepreneur I know almost always wears a golf shirt emblazoned with his company’s logo. These are nice-looking shirts, some are even silk but all of them get attention because you never know where your next sale might come from. Several of his clients liked the shirts so much they’ve asked him for one, turning themselves into walking advertisements for his company.

Let me tell you a true story: I was photographing a car show in Los Angeles. On day one I was nicely dressed wearing a blazer and wanted to photograph this racecar but it was surrounded by stanchions and ropes and I could never get a good shot. On Day two I  wore one of my long sleeved shirts that has the Tortuga Racing logo discreetly embroidered on the front and on the back. I went back to that same display and someone from the race team sees me and says “let me move these out of the way so you can get a better shot.” And while shooting he returns and says “ Would you like one of our models to pose with the car?” Needless to say, I got much better shots. A coincidence? Maybe. Maybe not.

All of your marketing efforts don’t have to be expensive. Never underestimate just being nice to your customers and potential customers. And I think that over-the-top customer service almost always pays off in the long run. And if it it doesn’t; it just feels better to be nice. Finally, look for ways to show your company in a positive light, because I believe that where small photography businesses are concerned “Nice Guys Finish First.”

Author: Joe Farace

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