We recently talked to a professional photographer who is also a friend, about his marketing needs and challenges. Meeting Mehul brought home one of the biggest reasons why we wanted to dive into consulting with small business owners: there is so much we can learn from them.
Here are some of the marketing lessons we — and maybe you as well — can learn from Mehul.
Know your audience.
Mehul knows who his customers are — which also means he knows who they aren’t. They are young engaged couples who want him to photograph their wedding day. But they’re also couples who are having a somewhat lavish wedding: someone like me who didn’t bother to book — or even think of having — a wedding photographer doesn’t count. They are people who are of a certain age and are planning their own weddings, not leaving it to an aunt or a father. They are people who think a set of candid shots of their wedding is important and worth paying for. Which brings me to…
Mehul only does candid shots. He doesn’t ask people to pose — he captures the unscripted moments. He doesn’t guarantee to capture every turn around the fire, but he catches that intimate moment when the bride is smiling at her mother or the groom is looking at her in rapture.
So if you want a video or a record of every moment or lots of posed family photos… Mehul isn’t your guy. He might pass you on to someone else though, or bring a colleague along to get those shots as well.
Provide great customer service.
The flip side of being invisible is his subjects are comfortable. He doesn’t have them hold awkward poses or repeat a ritual so he can catch it this time. He doesn’t ask them to smile. He doesn’t ask them to put their arms around each other. In fact, he blends in, becomes almost invisible, and lets them get on with this extremely important day.
He is quick to respond. He’ll dash out replies to emails and happily answer his phone and tell you when he’ll get your wedding album ready. He’s happy to advise you on what flowers will work well with your decor — but if you don’t ask him, he won’t advance his opinion.
We freelancers/small-businesses are eager for work. Even desperate at times. We find it difficult to say no. When the work isn’t something we really want to do, we feel we should take it anyway: what if this leads to better work later?
Mehul says no: not only when his schedule is full but when he feels the project isn’t the best fit for him or he for it. He happily passes on his competitors’ contact details instead. He wants his customers happy, not just paying.
Mehul doesn’t carry business cards — in fact, he doesn’t have any. When a guest at a wedding asks for his card, he asks them to get his contact info from the bride or the groom (i.e., his current client). That’s a brilliant marketing tactic — why?
Because it’s giving his customers the opportunity to recommend his work to his prospects. Mehul’s harnessing the power of the testimonial, and the in-person testimonial at that.
Use social media to your advantage.
When a prospect calls him, Mehul sends her to his Facebook page. Not only so that she can look at more pictures, but also so she can see which of her friends like his page already and have maybe used his services. If she likes the page, she keeps connected to his work even if she decides not to use his services right away. If she doesn’t like the pictures on his page, she can decide he’s not the right fit for her and save them both time.
Work your network.
Not only does Mehul use referrals from his customers, he gets referrals from other wedding vendors — makeup artists or wedding planners — and even competitors. How? By freely referring them to his customers. When he can’t shoot at one wedding because he’s booked already, he passes the lead on to a competitor. He converts the competitor into an ally, maybe even a friend.
Define your marketing objectives.
Mehul is getting more business right now than he had hoped for when he started a year ago. He is booked up for the next few months. But he wants to work on marketing so that his pipeline remains full, so he can get more fun assignments. He knows exactly what he wants from marketing and he’s ready to spend time and money to make it happen.
Click on, Mehul!
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