Don’t Follow The Money, Lead It
Since 1976, we've been told to “follow the money.” For Watergate investigators, it's good advice. For photographers who need to earn clients, there's a better way.
The Right Way To Follow The Money
I had lunch last Sunday with my friends Kevin and Sara Graham. They have a small business as Orlando wedding photographers. You put three people at a table who are all photographers and we're going to end up talking about photography. Not a surprise.
One of the things that came up was Kevin's interest in topics to write about. Many wedding photographers seem to follow the same recipe for their posts. They go to a wedding, shoot lovely photos, and then write something about how Bob and Alice were a lovely couple and we were thrilled to photograph their special day.
All true, but a bit repetitive.
When you think about it, your blog is our calling card for future business – not necessarily to highlight the business you just completed. So why don't more photographers, wedding or other types, write for their next customer instead of their last one?
As we discussed topics, Kevin brought up something that I thought was the most interesting fact of the discussion. Most couples choose the venue first, and then they look for people to service the wedding – photographers, florists, caterers, etc.
That statement shows the right way to follow the money. Kevin knew where his next client would start her journey – by searching for the perfect place to hold the wedding. That, in turn, offered up one of the best ways to lead new clients to their business.
How To Lead Your Clients To Your Door
Part of our discussion about blogging talked about trying to rank on Google for search terms in his market. The problem is that there are a number of phrases that someone may use to search for a photographer in his line of work. There's also a lot of local competition, plenty of other photographers who are trying to appear first on a search engine result page for local wedding photographers.
The trick isn't to create keyword stuffed articles trying to entice search engines to your site. Those types of tricks don't work very well, both because of changes to search algorithms and because the articles don't appeal to potential customers. You have to write for people, not search engines.
So if you can't win your playing field, choose another field.
As Kevin pointed out, most couples find their venue first. I suggested that the key may be to start writing posts on wedding venues. You're already there shooting photos. Take some more shots of the location itself. Those images aren't for the couple, they're for your marketing effort. Here's how this works.
Now you're providing a useful service to the couple searching for a venue, and you're the first photographer who comes to mind. By providing useful information about a venue and your own photos, you help the couple decide on a location and also show that you're qualified to create beautiful images in a number of venues.
The venue may like the fact that you're helping them market their business, giving them a reason to provide a link to your site. Business is about relationships, and search engine results are about links to your site to demonstrate your authority.
Don't stop with venues. You have relationships with other vendors. Write posts that showcase their business. Help the couple package their wedding, and work your relationships to get links back to your site. Many businesses within an industry already have peers that will recommend someone. A link to your site is just a digital confirmation of that recommendation.
These articles about venues, florists and other vendors become part of your cornerstone content – information that you can link to within your future posts. Create a page about venues, and then put a link to all of your articles about each wedding venue that you create. Do the same for every other recommendation you would make.
Keep in mind that you don't have to cover every venue in town. These posts are like your recommendations. If you hate shooting weddings at the VFW, there's no sense in creating an article about it.
Now the next time you write a post about how Bob and Alice had a nice wedding at some place called Bella Donna Wedding, you can link to your article about the venue inside that post. That's how you use your cornerstone content. It's like leading a trail of breadcrumbs from one article to the next.
Your potential customers – the ones who are really planning a wedding and need to hire – are already interested. You don't have to sell them. Instead, you feed the fire already burning inside. You stoke their existing interest and show them why you're the perfect person for the wedding, and how you already have a wealth of information that makes planning a wedding much easier.
If you live in a travel destination, like Orlando, use it to your advantage. People come to Orlando for weddings because of the attractions, the proximity to beaches, or because it's close to a cruise port. Use your location's benefits to attract potential clients who may want a destination experience that you can capture.
This is the kind of content that puts you way ahead of those competing photographers who aren't getting in the game until after the venue selection. By that time, your potential client has already made key decisions without you, so you aren't really a trusted part of their experience. Instead of following the money, you're leading it in the direction you want it to go.
People follow the path of least resistance. People search the web for information they can use. That's how you write a wedding blog. You aren't the star of the show. Your potential client is the star and you're there to help them achieve the best wedding they could ever desire.
It's Not Just For Wedding Photographers
Don't think you can't use this technique if you work in a different market. Your clients still have needs and they still follow a path. That means you can position yourself apart from your competition and make your business the obvious choice.
Establish mutually beneficial relationships with vendors in your industry who work in non-competitive fields. Referrals still earn more business than advertising. I hired a repairman to fix some things around my house today based upon a referral, not marketing. I asked him for a recommendation about a landscaper and lead me to a great guy for that work.
People put more trust in referrals when making purchase decisions than any other kind of information. When you start referring others, they'll refer you. Just make sure your quality of work is up to par. Nobody wants to make a bad referral.
Questions, other marketing advice for photographers? Let me know in the comments.