Episode 16: How I Plan My Photography Marketing

how to plan photography marketing


Photography Business Institute
Photography Business Institute

Something that may shock you is that I don’t plan my photography marketing more than a few months in advance. Let me explain. I’ve got three kids. My kids have a ton of activities and I get their sports schedules a couple of months before the season starts. I run a second business, Photography Business Institute, where I coach photographers about running a profitable photography business. A lot of times, cool opportunities will come up that I want to do. So, if I tried to plan out all of my photography marketing a year at a time, none of it would actually happen on the day I planned.

I’m going to share with you what works for me when I plan my photography marketing. If you’re staring at a blank calendar and you are not sure where to start, don’t panic. I’m going to share one simple tool that I call the drip and hammer. I learned this when I was a marketing director at an advertising agency. It changed everything for me and it will change how you look at your photography marketing, too.

How to Maximise Your Photography Marketing Budget

Years ago, when I was working as a marketing director for a local advertising agency, part of my job was to plan marketing for my clients. We were located in central Illinois, a small market. We didn’t have huge media budgets, so we had to maximize the money. Once I learned the drip and the hammer, it all started to work for my clients. Let me explain to you what the drip and the hammer are and how they can help you make a better photography marketing plan.

The drip, it’s like a faucet. Drip, drip, drip. People need to know that you are always there. If you’re doing the drip properly, it will feel like you’re everywhere. At the advertising agency, that was our goal for our clients. We wanted to create the impression that they were everywhere, even though they didn’t have billion-dollar budgets.

Simple Ways to Promote Your Photography Business

For example, in my photography studio, my drip strategy is to stay out there all the time. I’m writing notes. I volunteer every month. I mentor some high school students in a class called CEO, Creating Entrepreneurial Opportunities. They go to class every day from 7:30 to 9:00 AM  where they learn how to start a successful business, and then start their own business. They come to my studio twice a month and I run a leadership program for them. So every year, fifty kids are very familiar with who I am.

I speak to leadership groups throughout the year. People pay me money to fly in and speak as a keynote at their conference, but in my own community I do these things for exposure, not pay. I do these to be a drip in my market. I speak to new moms at the hospital and I get in with the mom groups. I’m featured in the newspaper at least once a year. I hired a former CEO student to come paint an inspirational mural that high school students could come and take photos in front of.

We came in one weekend and there was a whole family in graduation outfits taking photos by this mural. The TV station covered it and so did the newspaper. The TV station didn’t have any news that week, so they just kept running it, over and over and over. That gives the impression that we’re everywhere. These things cost me no money. Sure, we do some marketing. I partner with people. We raise money for charity. But most of my photography studio marketing are drip activities.

The Dip is a Long Term Marketing Strategy

Here’s the conflict or the challenge with the drip. If you want the drip to work for you, you’ve got to commit to the long game and you have to have patience. You have to pick photography marketing activities and stick with them. You can’t build a great photography business overnight.

Hammer Activities Will Put You on the Map

Let’s talk about the hammer. The hammer is when you own the conversation. When I was at the advertising agency, we would do huge campaigns where we dominated the market. We would do TV ads, radio ads and mail to their entire database. We would saturate the entire market. When I started my photography business, I had no budget. I had to figure out how to mimic the hammer on a very small budget.

Here are some of the things I do at my photography studio to create a hammer. First, I hold events and partner with local charities. I’ve partnered with the Animal Protective League to put posters in every pet business, from groomers and veterinarians, to doggie daycares. The APL also mailed my marketing piece for me. We saturated the market during a few week period. What’s cool about the hammer activity is its scarcity and urgency. It creates such a buzz within a smaller group.

We did a senior launch event where I launched my high school senior photography business. I never thought I wanted to do seniors, but my clients’ babies were growing up and the demand created itself. We had a fashion show where we invited a couple of kids from each high school. It was amazing. It put us on the map. Kids for five years were saying, “Oh my gosh, I came to that and I knew I wanted you to be my photographer.”  If you were in our target audience, you knew about it. It was a hammer. It was amazing and we had so much fun.

At Photography Business Institute, our podcast is a drip. When we launched it, it was a hammer. We had a contest where we gave away a Canon camera. Over 500 of you rated the podcast, and then reposted on social media about the camera. We saturated the photography industry and had a blast doing it.

Good Photography Marketing Does Not Happen Overnight

Here’s the conflict with your hammer activities. In your photography business, having an event or sending out a mailing can be expensive. You’re going to have to make an investment. Hammer marketing takes commitment and planning. You can’t just create a hammer activity in two weeks for your photography business. You have to plan for it.

Another consideration is, you can’t constantly  hammer. A hammer is something you do once or twice a year. But without any drip around it and no sales plan or strategy, it’s not going to be successful.

Successful Photography Business Use Both the Drip and the Hammer

The drip needs the hammer. The hammer needs the drip. They have to work together. If you want a successful photography business, it doesn’t happen overnight. I’ve done over $100,000 almost every single year in my photography business alone. It runs like a well-oiled machine. I’ve built a 13,000 square foot studio where I bring my photography students to study and be immersed in education. None of that would have happened without the drip and hammer in both of my businesses.

If I can share anything with you today, I will tell you to learn the drip and the hammer. If you look at your marketing calendar like a drip and hammer, you will give the impression that you’re everywhere to potential photography clients.

People see me in all of these places because I’m committed to the drip. When you master the drip and hammer, you’ll start seeing people respect and treat you differently. You’ll feel amazing about yourself and you’ll have more confidence to take risks and do cool things in your photography business. When that happens, your business will keep growing and growing. It all starts with the drip and the hammer. Write it down and commit to it.

connect with portrait photographer Sarah Petty on instagram to learn the best photography marketing plan

Episode 221 – What #FamilyFirst Really Means

Family first is our credo, our motto, one of the three pieces of our framework at the Photography Business Institute, and the reason I have taken so many risks in my career when I could have had a nice well-paying, safe job that came with golden handcuffs to my desk....