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        After taking a little bit of a detour last week to talk about some of the things that pushed us into going full time we’re getting back into marketing.  This week we’re writing about our social media approach, building a network with other photographers, networking with other wedding professionals and Instax because Instax is awesome!  🙂

        Small Business Advice and Photography Mentoring by Bellingham Wedding Photographer Joe and PatienceSocial media is obviously huge in building a business because it can have such a wide reach.  All of us are able to reach people now that would have been completely unreachable before the age of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.  That’s both amazing and completely daunting for us since we really like the idea of living a pretty private life.

        As we’ve said before, around 80% of our business comes from referrals but that doesn’t mean that we can ignore the social media platforms.  Instead of posting teaser after teaser we have taken the approach of using Facebook and Instagram to link people back our blog posts (just like the FB link you probably followed to get to this post).  This means we aren’t as active as other photographers are on social media but it gives us the opportunity to drive people to our website where they will experience the images we have taken in a very controlled environment.  We have spent a lot of time and money developing our brand so it’s in our best interest to get as many people to our website to see these images as possible.  Social media is a great way to accomplish this.

        We have taken great care in developing our craft as storytelling photographers.  We shoot everything with the constant attention to building a story so that our clients are able to experience their wedding just like it was.  While Facebook and Instagram are great for showing images they tend to be focused on single images rather than the storytelling aspect like we shoot.  Using these platforms to push people to our blog is the best way for us to use them because it allows us to market our work in a context that we feel has the most impact.

        Small Business Advice and Photography Mentoring by Bellingham Wedding Photographer Joe and PatienceFor the first several years of our business we operated with almost no other photographers knowing we even existed.  I can’t tell you how huge of a mistake this was for us!  If you are just getting started out you absolutely need to reach out to other photographers.  Building a network of photographers is going to have a huge impact on your ability to grow as a business.

        After our daughter was born in 2009 we decided to upgrade our camera and in doing so it seemed like a really great idea to get a business license so we could write off some of the expenses of my hobby.  The intention of our business was to always be part time to the extent that it wouldn’t really get in the way of me going to nursing school or our full time jobs.  Well, that didn’t end up going as planned but we had held on to the idea that it was just on the side for several years.

        I can still remember going to a Christmas party in 2012 that we were invited to by a local photographer that Patience had second shot for during the previous summer.  It was the first time we had embraced the idea of meeting some of the local photographers.  The thing we didn’t expect was that this Christmas party would build strong friendships and working relationships that would take our slow and quiet business way farther than we could have ever expected.

        Building relationships with other local photographers is really important in building your business.  We constantly refer couples who inquire about dates we have already booked to this small network of photographers and they do the same for us.  It’s a perfect situation for all of us.

        My recommendation is to get out of your comfort zone and go meet people.  A great time to do this is during the holidays when people aren’t busy but there are always small things happening.  In our local community we have been having small blogging meet ups at least once a month that are organized by Sheila Carson, the photographer who started and runs the Facebook group for local photographers in Bellingham.  It’s a great way to put a face with a name outside of Facebook and could easily turn into a great working relationships for everyone.  If you aren’t already a part of a local photography group on Facebook you should definitely look into finding one.  If one doesn’t exist you could always create one.  Building community is going to be beneficial for everyone involved.

        Small Business Advice and Photography Mentoring by Bellingham Wedding Photographer Joe and PatienceThe same recommendation goes for building relationships with other wedding vendors.  If you want to build a successful business you’re going to have to get out there and meet people in the industry you’re hoping to work in.  Most vendors put a high value on what you offer as a photographer but it can be a lot deeper than being just a give and take relationship.  Take the time to get to know them and understand where they are hoping to go.  Whenever you look farther into successful people’s lives you start to realize that they have a really great support network around them.  By helping other people build their businesses they’ll be willing to be there for you in building yours.

        In the last marketing blog post I mentioned how we spent a bunch of money early on in an attempt to gain clients through publications.  It didn’t work out very well and we vowed to not spend money on marketing except to add to our client experience.  Well, there is one form of marketing that has paid off incredibly well that didn’t directly involve a paying wedding client.  A few years ago we shot our first wedding at Maplehurst Farm in Mt. Vernon.  It was an awesome wedding, with an awesome couple and an overall great experience.  More importantly, it was the kind of wedding in the type of venue we really wanted to be shooting at so we decided to make them an album.  It wasn’t just a cheap album though.  We went all out.  We delivered a top of the line album and included the owners in the design so they would feel it best represented their venue as well.  That album has not only helped us book several weddings every year at Maplehurst Farm but it has also helped us to book clients who saw the album there and decided to book with another venue.

        When doing something like this I highly recommend involving the owners or managers of the venue.  It creates a great opportunity to work hand in hand with them so when people ask about you and your work they have the personal experience necessary to confidently refer you.

        Make sure what you are delivering is your top of the line product too.  You need this to stand out in the pile of other albums that are surely going to be at the same venue.  This would mean choosing a unique color and choosing a unique wedding.  I can’t stress this enough!  You need to stand out!

        This next one is a kind of a funny one for me.  I’m not a huge fan of styled shoots and I think that the market is pretty saturated with them.  I also think that potential clients are pretty wise to the fact that a styled shoot isn’t a real wedding and most of our recent bookings really want to see actual weddings.  The most requests we have been getting this year is for candid photos.  Styled shoots don’t usually put you in a situation to create a lot of candid and authentic moments.

        None of this means that styled shoots don’t their place though.  I think that styled shoots are an absolutely amazing opportunity to work with a large group of great vendors in a more controlled situation than what a wedding would provide.  You’ll have the ability to give them more of a styled and commercial product which looks great in their portfolios.  Again, the stronger your network of like minded professionals is, the better.  Approach the vendors you really want to work with and build a great relationship with them because it will pay off for both of you in friendship as well as professionally.

        Instax…  our secret weapon!

        Small Business Advice and Photography Mentoring by Bellingham Wedding Photographer Joe and PatienceWe took a chance this year and decided to include Instax photos in every wedding we shot not sure of what the results would be.  To say we’ve been blown away by the response is an understatement.  We get emails all of the time following weddings about how amazing it was to get Instax photos from the wedding day as the couple left for their honeymoon.  It’s one of those things that has done so well with our weddings that we now shoot Instax at engagement sessions and family sessions.

        Our approach to this is to have the Instax Neo 90 camera with us for the entire day or shoot.  As things are happening, Patience will take occasional photos throughout the day during key moments.  Things like the bride getting her dress on, the first look, a few ceremony photos, first dance and other reception stuff is all included.  When all is said and done there are usually around 30 photos that we deliver in a small bag with our logo on it at the end of the night when the couple is leaving.

        The other part of this is being able to give guests a photo with whoever they came with.  During the reception both of us go around and grab couples and families and take a quick photo with our digital camera and one on the Instax camera.  The couple getting married gets to see the digital photos of the guests that attended their wedding and the guests get to take a print home.  We actually book family sessions from doing this so it has a huge payoff from a referral standpoint.

        If you’re only doing family sessions you can do the same exact thing.  You don’t have to shoot a lot of Instax photos either.  We usually do one pack of 10 photos at each family session.  Not only are the kids super into it but the parents love to get an instant preview on their drive home.  We actually have people regularly ask if we’re going to be doing the same thing at their family session since they hear about it from the person who referred them.  It’s awesome!

        Thank you so much for reading!  We hope you have a great day!

        Check out the other posts in this series:

        Personal Fear

        Financial Fear

        Marketing Part I

        When Were We Ready?