Why Every Photographer Should Define a Content Marketing Strategy
Photography is 20% great photos, 80% effective business and marketing strategy execution
There are a lot of great photographers out there. There are not a lot of photographers who are great on the business and marketing side of things. As photographers, we absolutely must build a set of business and marketing skills, or we will never reach out full potential. The Internet is just too big to hope someone randomly finds you. You need a plan that is documented and executed on a daily basis.
People want to find you and your business. Build the bridge to them!
We live in an Internet obsessed age. People of all ages are consuming more content than ever before. According to a recent study(1), Americans spend almost 11 hours a day consuming media (smartphones, tablets, TV, radio, computers and video games). This content does not just appear out of thin air. Armies of writers, filmmakers, bloggers, vloggers, photographers, etc. are creating the content the world consumes. As a photographer, having a content marketing strategy is critical. Simply being a great photographer isn't enough. You need to formally define your strategy that consistently delivers content that your target market is looking for.
The first step to defining a Content Marketing Strategy (CMS) is to define exactly what a CMS is.
According to the Content Marketing Institute(2), content marketing is defined as:
"Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action."
Basically, you're providing extremely relevant and valuable content to your target market that they need to fulfill a need or desire. Instead of outbound spamming (email campaigns, ads, etc.), you are creating a network of content locations where your potential customers can consume your content in a no-strings-attached way.
A well-defined CMS has numerous benefits:
· Greatly increases visibility of your brand
· Builds lasting relationships with your audience
· Increases brand awareness and recognition
· Creates loyalty and trust with both current and future prospects
· Positions you as an authority and builds your credibility
· Positions your business as an expert in your industry
· Generates traffic to your site, effectively improving and increasing lead generation
· Opens a channel of communication through social shares and comments
· Provides value with no strings attached
With so many awesome benefits, why is it so hard for photographers to successfully implement a CMS? The reality is that executing a CMS is not a set-and-forget activity. It is a never-ending process that requires constant delivery of highly focused content that ultimately increases your visibility, credibility, and expertise.
Challenges facing creating a CMS:
· Figuring out your goals for content marketing
· Being able to focus on a niche you wish to serve and understanding the roads that audience takes to find the service that fulfills their needs
· Committing the time required to produce the content your target audience is looking for
· Writing down a plan that establishes a roadmap for what to produce and when
· Not fully understanding what content to produce and in what format
· Not knowing where to post the content so it reaches your target audience
· Producing high-quality content on a consistent basis that keeps your base energized, informed, and excited
· Measuring the effectiveness of the content you produce
How do I define my photography business content marketing strategy?
First of all, there is no single strategy that will work for every business. You know your photography business better than I do and you need to take the time to find out what your customers are looking for and how you can be there, in every channel they search, for what they want. Having said that, below are a few goals you could include in your CMS goals.
Build trust and a bond with your audience
This is stating the obvious, but it needs to be said. When you create interesting, compelling, thoughtful, and unique content, your audience begins to trust you as a thought leader and expert. They get a sense of what it would be like to work with you. If they don't trust or respect you, they will not convert views into purchases.
Attract new customers via your existing ones
Your content needs to be interesting enough that it compels others to share your links and comment on your posts, creating dialogue. This is how people find you. It expands your footprint. Awesome content that gets shared all over the web is where you'll find new prospects and point them back to you.
Understand your potential customer's pain
Put yourself in your customer's shoes. Say they are looking for a wedding photographer, what steps do they have to take to find one that they can trust, is in their price-range, and delivers work that meets their needs from a quality and format perspective? Basically, use all the tools they would use to find you. Understanding this will help you understand their path to purchase and help you document where you should be posting content as much as possible.
Let's state the obvious places you should be posting:
Facebook – This is growing less and less important, but they still have billions of users, and it is a free platform (mostly).
Instagram – This is where I receive 100% of my non-referred photography inquiries. Be here and post daily!
Blogging – You absolutely must blog. It shows you are knowledgeable and someone your client can trust. The blog post is packed with keywords that make you show up in search engine queries.
Tell your customers how you are solving their problems. How are they able to obtain what they need or want from you? Why is it a better idea to buy from you as opposed to your competitor? What are your unique approaches to photography that others don't or won't deliver? Don't just tell them, show them. Show them testimonials, pictures of previous customers receiving their albums, or your work on billboards or magazines.
Once your potential customers find you, you'll need to find ways, in the content you post, to overcome obstacles to them purchasing your products or services. Are you more expensive than the competition? Show them why your services are valued so highly and why other’s lower price isn’t really a savings, but a lesser product. Show that your photography or services, are so unique and in such high demand, that the cost is actually worth it.
Show them what life is like with your photography
Help your customers understand what it would be like having your photography in their hands. Show them wedding albums, printed 8x10's, pictures of happy couples, amazing headshots, etc. Give them a sense of the pride they'd have in owning a delivered product from you.
Establish fierce loyalty with existing customers
All businesses need to continue to find new customers to keep paying the bills, but we should nurture the relationships with our existing customers. Satisfied, loyal customers tell everyone how awesome your photography is. If you're a wedding photographer who photographed their wedding, they'll tell every single one of their engaged friends that they "MUST use you!" for their wedding photos. Referral business is essential.
All this being said, your fiercely loyal customers will LOVE it when a portion of your content strategy includes posts of them. Make a point to gush over these customers in your posts, they deserve your admiration, and they will pay you back a thousand-fold.
Make search engines love you
Search engines love you when readers find you valuable. Part of goal #3, Knowing your customer's pain, taught you where they're going to find you. Be sure to post there heavily and use the keywords you used in your research in your posts.
Measuring effectiveness of your strategy and harnessing trends
Your strategy is most likely spread across your blog and social media platforms. You need to measure interaction, growth, and responsiveness to each piece of content you deliver. The following measurement areas are things you should track and measure on a consistent basis.
Spreadsheets are life!
Create a spreadsheet for each social media platform you use as part of your CMS. Record each piece of content you post and the time it was posted. Be sure to note follower count at the time of posting. I also like to track "likes" at three-time intervals over the day.
Say I post at 8 am, I would record total at 9 am, 3pm, and 9 pm. This enables me to see how much of an initial surge of activity I received the first hour after posting and the stamina of the post over the day. Trends will develop as you post at different times of the day, enabling you to determine the best time to post to reach your unique niche market.
Use Google Analytics!
You absolutely should be using Google Analytics on your website. It's free and really easy to set-up. Once installed, it will give you a mountain of data to pour over in regards to every aspect of your site, especially your blog. It will show where your traffic is coming from, how long they stay on your site, where they go while they're on your site, and so much more.
Using Google Analytics, focus on which blog posts seem to be performing better than other blog posts. Once these posts are identified, you can break down that post and extract the keywords and topics used, then write more blogs in that vein and post to social media suing hashtags of the successful blog post keywords. Build on the momentum your blog posts create, don't simply let it die down on your website!
That's a wrap!
You owe it to yourself to take the time to map out a content marketing strategy. You have worked so hard to build your photography skills, it would be a waste to have your potential customers never find you. I hope this post gets you excited about content marketing, provides the tools to get you started, and helps you truly grow your business. You can do this!