Write a Marketing Plan for Your Photography Business

21 Oct

Today, pro photographer and fellow Photocrati contributor Steve Buchanan offers some advice on marketing plans for your photography business. Steve is a commercial photographer in Maryland. His work can be seen at

When is the last time you updated your marketing plan?

This is of course assuming you have a marketing plan. If you do – good for you. If not – get on it. I certainly don’t want to hold myself up as a model of small business marketing. I have definitely made my share of mistakes (and will hopefully continue to do so) but I have invested a lot of effort, time and even some money into learning about what works and what doesn’t.

I’m not here to tell you what will work for you and what won’t because those will be different for each photographer. Your particular market, the type of work you do and your geographic location all come into play when determining the right mix. The point I want to make is that all successful marketing campaigns have a few things in common.

1. They are planned and executed according to a plan. Failing to plan is the biggest single error photographers when it comes to marketing.

2. They are executed as campaigns – not discreet events. I’m regularly amazed at how many photographers try a marketing technique, don’t see results and abandon it relatively quickly.

3. They are consistent with the core values of the business.

Whether you shoot commercial or retail work, people, food, or weddings – you’ve got to market yourself in order to bring in new business. As of this writing the international economy, well, sucks. Things are looking better now than they have for a while but they’re still way down.  In times like these it’s easy to pull back on marketing expenses, after all, if the money’s not coming in, you can’t put it out again. While I’m not indifferent to the plight of small business owners, and I certainly wouldn’t advise anyone to pay for and ad before their mortgage, cutting marketing budgets and efforts right now is a big mistake. Look at it this way. If you have a 10% market share of a million dollar market, you have sales of 0,000. If that market shrinks to 0,000 you need to increase your market share from 10% to 12.5% just to hold steady. That’s certainly not possible without marketing.

Writing a marketing plan is not an easy task and brining in outside professional help can be great. A marketing consultant can bring their expertise to yours and help you drill down through your business data. In the event you’re not able to afford or find a good marketing consultant there are a plethora of books and internet tutorials on writing marketing plans. Ask 100 different marketing experts how to write a marketing plan and you’ll get 100 different answers – but the basic concepts are the same.

1.  Establish your goals – these should be solid, measurable goals, ie increase sales to 0,000 or shoot 47 weddings this year.

2.  Establish a budget – usually a percentage of your monetary goal.  It will be different depending on your particular area of expertise, geographic area and your customer base. My personal marketing budget is 7 percent of intended sales for this year.

3.  Establish methods to reach your goals.  This is the meat of the plan and requires the most research. This includes the tools you’ll use as well as a schedule.

4.  Establish systems and methods to measure the effectiveness of your efforts.

I use a program on my Mac called Omni Outliner to keep track of my efforts. This program is great because I can essentially create an outline very easily add sub headings and break down larger tasks into smaller discreet tasks.  How do you eat and elephant?  One bite a time.

Of course writing the marketing plan is not enough, one must follow and execute it.  But this is the beauty of the plan. This business is usually very cyclical and inconsistent. With a well written plan and schedule in hand you can best utilize your down time.  If this week is slow get your newsletter articles written, start the printing on your postcards, shoot for your portfolio.  In other words, use your downtime and check those things off of your list.

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