These days, I spend most of my time writing and teaching. My specialty is marketing and business—and building brand awareness. Most of the time, the audience is made up of photographers, either working professionals or aspiring to be.
As a business owner myself, I love what I’m doing. And I’m fascinated by the ever-changing landscape of the Internet, social media and their reach. Sadly, over and again, I meet business owners who love what they believe their business should be, but their passion is rapidly fading. They’re caught in the perfect storm. They’re buried under all the baggage that comes with technology, communication overload and the challenges of business today.
So, here’s the bottom line: what are you going to do to make yourself and your business different from everybody else? How many different things can you do to build more brand awareness? From my perspective, it starts with a blog, which I’ve written about before. But let’s look at a longer list of things you should consider.
With all the noise in our lives, you have to work even harder to reach your audience. Moreover, with the growth of social media, you’ve got Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and, for some of you, even Instagram. You need to be working to build brand awareness every day and literally with just about everything you do.
It is all about creating top-of-mind awareness, but it goes deeper than just people remembering you’re a retailer. You need to diversify and become known for education, variety in your product mix and support for the photographic community.
So, how are you going to get your target audience to remember your name? You need to weave a web around your target consumers. You need to be in front of your target audience at every opportunity.
10 Steps to Building Brand Awareness
I started using the target below in workshops several years ago. If your potential customer is at the bull’s-eye, then each component is another way to get through the noise and build more recognition.
I’ve written this before: your website is about what you sell, but your blog is about what’s in your heart. However, you need consistency in your presence and need to be posting at least 2–3 times a week. A great blog is all about putting a face and heart to your business. So if you hate to write, then identify a staff member who might be right for the project.
2. Direct Mail
It might be old school, but it’s back with a vengeance. Think about how many e-mails we get. At least 50% of the ones I receive are deleted off my phone before I even sit down at the computer. Doing a postcard mailer that ties in a product sale with an educational opportunity is a great way to reach your audience. Plus, bringing in a partner or two in the mailing reduces your cost and turns them into an ambassador for their business as well as yours.
It still has an impact, but not if you don’t negotiate for some editorial support as well. Don’t just fight for a decent ad rate; work on getting ink from a stronger publicity position.
4. Press Releases
Whenever you’ve got something newsworthy going on in your business, write a press release and share it with the community. Newsworthy is defined as anything that’s different in your business. You might have brought in a new product line; you’re launching a special promotional offer; or you’re spearheading a new educational project to help your customers become better artists.
5. Be the Expert
From publicity releases about special programs to the content on your blog, be the community expert in photography. Share tips on lighting, posing, exposure and composition. If you don’t have the in-store expertise, work with a lab to share ideas on different ways to present photographs and slideshows.
Hold a monthly imaging contest and work with your suppliers on various prizes to create a little excitement in the community.
7. Community Involvement
You’re looking for your community to be good to you, so you’ve got to be good to your community. Get involved with the school system, local nonprofits and various events that need help. Often they just need people and help in building awareness; it’s not always about a financial donation.
8. Social Media
There are hundreds of forums about photography in the Facebook world. Pick a few related to some aspect of your love for imaging—NOT selling. In fact, be careful and get involved in helping people, not in pitching your business. For example, I’m an administrator in Facebook Wedding Photographers, which has more than 30,000 members. While being a retailer would not get you in, being a photographer would. There are dozens of questions every day from people looking for advice on gear, technical problems as well as new techniques—all of which play to your skill set.
Pick up Scott Stratten’s book UnMarketing. He does a terrific job of reminding everybody to “stop marketing and start engaging!” Work to build relationships, from your customers to other businesses in your community.
10. Look to the Past
Every business is looking for new customers, but so often people forget about their database of past customers. Stay in contact with your database. Pick up a phone now and then and call a favorite past customer just to see how they’re doing with whatever they bought. Communicate with past clients about new things you’re doing and special promotions. If, for example, you’re hosting a workshop together with one of your suppliers, do some planning and get a mailing out, both snail mail and e-mail, well in advance.
Finally, when planning your business strategies, think about your favorite restaurants and what makes them special. Usually it’s a combination of service and quality. Your business is no different, and every business owner has the same challenge: Exceed customer expectations and make a visit to your store, website or blog habit forming.