“I’m hoping you come help me with my marketing. I’ve been shooting real estate for just under a year now and I think that I’ve had enough time to get better and to get my processes down (on-site and editing) to where I want them. For me the next step is getting better at getting new clients. I did a mail out in the first few months after I started and I got a couple of bites. Most of my new clients though are from referrals. Any advice on marketing myself better?”
Hi Janice, thanks for writing in. You’ve touched on a huge topic and, to be honest, I’m not sure I have enough info from your question to really give you some definitive advice. That said, I’ll share with you that the line that caught my attention in your question, was when you said: “I did a mail out in the first few months after I started and I got a couple of bites.” This got my attention for a couple of reasons. First, I like that you’ve gotten some referrals -- to my mind, that’s really important early in one’s career. I’d dare say that for me, and for many others, getting referrals is a major factor in setting up a healthy RE photography business. So much so, that at the end of virtually every shoot that I did, early in my career, I asked the agent if there were a couple of other agents in their office that they thought might benefit from professional photography. If so, then I asked my client if they could make that referral/introduction for me. More often than not, my clients were happy to help me because I worked hard to treat them well and delivered quality images. That said, I didn’t leave it there. I would always follow-up a few days later to see where they were at with the referral and if it would be OK for me to contact the people they had in mind, directly.
The second item in that sentence that caught my eye was when you said that you’d done a mail-out. If this was the only one you did, then I’d suggest that once is not enough. More important than the frequency of these types of tactical marketing pieces, though, is how well they are aligned. There’s a reason why marketing campaigns are called campaigns. They require an ongoing, multi-modal approach (i.e., postcards, flyers, emails, presentations, etc.) aimed at building and maintaining awareness of you and your photography. Sending out a single postcard/mailer is likely not going to cut it, as it won’t keep you front-of-mind for very long. After all, you’re probably not the only photographer sending a postcard mailer out to the various RE agencies in your marketplace, right?
Be Strategic In Your Marketing
The other thing to consider is the importance of being strategic in your marketing approach. In other words, what decisions are you making that, when well-executed, moves you to you goal or desired state. For instance, who’s your target audience? What type of images do you want to be known for? Do your images align with the audience you’re targeting? What types of images are you choosing to show in your mail outs? Are they connected in some way (e.g., showing your ability to capture a variety of spaces)? What are you describing in the text you’re including on these mail outs--are you talking about you; or are you talking about how you address your target audience’s “pain points”?
The last point I want to make, Janice, is that a marketing campaign is not something that one just comes up with off the top-of-their-head. It’s a relatively long-term plan for how you want to approach and communicate to your marketplace. Many shooters that I talk to (including some who are not in our field) put a lot of effort into new business development. Indeed, they talk about how they visualize outward, several months (if not, a year) as to which marketing tactics and activities they’re going to utilize month-to-month and quarter-to-quarter. Their goal is consistency and alignment regarding their long-term marketing plan.
Staying With It
I’d guess that many of us struggle mightily with taking this sort of approach. I know that I lost lots of sleep trying to figure this out when I got started and goodness knows I’ve probably made more errors than the successes I've had. That’s the point, though. This stuff is hard and a great many of your competitors will let it slide after not seeing immediate success. If you stick with it, then the odds are that, over time, your target clients are going to remember you when they need a listing shot.
Janice, this is a huge topic and there’s simply no way to do it justice in a single post. I’m genuinely hoping that folks in our community will chime in with their suggestions/advice in terms of the things they went about their marketing, early in their career, re: creating a name for themselves in their own marketplace. Anyway, thanks for writing in!
Tony Colangelo is a residential and commercial photographer, as well as a photography coach, based in Victoria, BC, Canada. He is a long-time contributor to PFRE and is the creator of The Art & Science of Great Composition tutorial series.