by Jen Basford
Senior portraits are one of the most highly competitive markets in the photography industry today. As such, more and more photographers are struggling with how to get the ‘right’ seniors in the door, and how to do it with little or no budget for marketing.
While this may seem impossible when faced with so much competition, by focusing on a few key factors in your marketing you can not only bring in more of the ‘right’ seniors for your business, but you can also book them all year long!
That’s right – you can actually build a year round successful senior business no matter where you live. My studio is in the heart of the midwest, which is known for having one of the most stringent ‘senior seasons’ in the nation (I’m pretty sure we have a kickoff festival for it on the community calendar somewhere). But when I started paying close attention to what my ideal target senior valued, I realized that there was a big part of the senior market that I had overlooked.
The keys to successfully booking more seniors can be found in the details of your marketing. So I want to share with you some tips that will help you keep the phone ringing all year long.
1. Be consistent.
One of the biggest mistakes that photographers make in their marketing is that they are inconsistent. Have you ever had a really great idea for bringing in more seniors and you couldn’t wait to get started on it? Maybe you started posting behind-the-scenes images from your senior sessions on Instagram. You did this regularly for a while but then you noticed that it wasn’t working the way you wanted it to. Or maybe you got really busy shooting other types of clients. Either way, you slowed down and eventually stopped.
But then you noticed that your books were empty and you panicked – how were you going to get more clients? So you start doing as many things as you can to try and get seniors in the door. But they aren’t listening. They’ve either gone somewhere else or they’ve moved on. And you have to work harder and longer to try and get back in front of them again.
Take the time to plan out your senior marketing in advance (I recommend planning at least 6 months at a time, if not the full year). It may seem like you don’t have the time to do it right now, but if you don’t make time up front it will cost you in time and money all year long. Consistency in your marketing will ensure that you are the one that your ideal senior is thinking of when it comes time to book their senior portraits.
2. Build relationships first.
Marketing is all about building relationships and trust. If you are repeatedly pushing your services onto your audience without taking the time to develop a relationship with them first, then you will scare them off.
It’s like asking someone to marry them before you’ve even been on a date. They need to get to know you first before they can commit to something bigger.
So if all of your marketing involves telling seniors to ‘Book now!’ or that your sessions are ’50% off!’ then you need to stop and take a step back. Start creating a connection with your market – show interest in what they do, where they hang out and what they like. And share a bit of yourself with them that is relevant to what they value – and if all else fails, a little humor goes a long way!
3. Figure out what makes you DIFFERENT.
Ahhhh…. we all think we know what that is, right? I use only natural light! I provide a great experience! I put their images online!
But these aren’t the things that make you different to your seniors. What I’m talking about is your Unique Value Proposition (huh?). Which is basically just a fancy phrase that stands for the one thing that makes a senior say ‘I HAVE to have you take my senior pictures! There is NO other option!’
So before you go any further take some time and figure out the ONE thing that sets you apart from all of the other senior photographers in your area. Because if you don’t know the answer to this then I guarantee that your potential clients don’t either.
4. Make sure that seniors can find you.
Sounds simple enough, right? But if I were to go to your website right now – or your Facebook page, or your twitter account – would I be able to find you?
I look at hundreds of photographers’ websites and social platforms each month, and I can tell you that no matter how hard I looked I still can’t figure out where some of them are located. They could be right in my own backyard and I wouldn’t know it because no matter where I look there is no address, city, state or phone number available.
Simply having a ‘contact form’ on your website isn’t enough. Why would I contact you unless I know where your business is? If your target market can’t tell where you are located, then why would they inquire about your sessions (much less book one)?
Be sure that your city, state, phone number and email address are easily accessible from every page on your website, and in all of the ‘About’ sections on your social media platforms, or you could be losing clients.
5. Show only your BEST work.
You only get one chance to make a first impression, and if you are trying to please everyone you will end up pleasing no one.
The purpose of your marketing is to show your target senior what makes you different from the rest, and why they should choose you and no one else. If you are displaying images of everyone and everything, then what sets you apart?
For example, outdoor portraits are not what I am known for. While I am quite good at creating images on location – and have what I consider a pretty distinct look – they are not part of what makes seniors come to me. So I rarely display on location images in my marketing unless there is a specific reason that goes along with my unique value proposition (there’s that weird phrase again).
Sure, I photograph a variety of images for my seniors, but I only show off my best work. I want to make sure that I stand out to my target market and set myself apart from the rest. This helps me to bring in more of the right clients all year long who value what I do.
With a little thought and planning you can have a senior business that’s right for you – one that works seamlessly with your lifestyle and your goals. And I hope that this information inspires you to fall in love with your senior marketing!
Peace and popsicles! :)
Jen Basford, Oklahoma
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Jen Basford owns 3 girls photography in Edmond, Oklahoma. She is best known for fashion-inspired high school senior portraits and the annual must-see fashion show she puts on for upcoming seniors each spring. Jen is one of the top senior portrait photographers in the Midwest largely due to her out-of-the-box approach to marketing and client relationships. Jen also owns Seniors Ignite, an organization dedicated to providing next-level senior portrait photography education to photographers to help them grow and succeed in their business. Jen is mom to 3 crazy and outgoing girls, who are the namesake of her studio. Between competitive cheer and dance, they keep her hair and makeup skills up-to-date at all times (poof, anyone?). Jen is also obsessed with fashion, pretty office supplies, healthy eating, and trying to keep everyone’s schedules organized.