Where are your clients?

Earlier today I met fellow photographer Matt Jerram, who runs Salt Photography and ably assisted me in photographing Lindsey and Dan’s wedding in May last year. Not only did we share a few beers and munch on ribeye steak (God bless you Mr Jerram), we also discussed all things photography including marketing techniques.

Matt recounted the tale of Joshua Bell who, back in 2007, treated unsuspecting commuters to a virtuoso performance on the Washington Metro system. For those who don’t know, Joshua is an American Grammy award-winning violinist, so you’d think that (a) commuters in their hundreds would stop to listen to Joshua’s playing, and (b) Bell would make an absolute fortune from his busking exploits.

Of course, as you’ve probably guessed, it didn’t quite work out that way.

This started me thinking about us photographers, and our marketing efforts (or lack of, in most cases). As creatives, I’m sure we’ve all been guilty at some point or another of the, “If I build it they will come” syndrome, in which we’re sure that our beautiful photography will automagically generate clients out of thin air, with little or no effort on our part.

Or, we spend hour upon hour updating our websites, in the knowledge that clients will definitely book us because our photography is fantastic.

You know what? I’m sure your photography is fantastic. I’m sure it could make a burly Canadian lumberjack weep openly in public at thirty paces. The problem is, the quality of your photography has no impact on your success as a photographer.

That’s a bitter little pill to swallow isn’t it? But it’s true.

So, to recap. If our fantastic photography has no bearing on our success, and nobody seems to care even though we’re virtuoso performers in our chosen field, then what’s the point? The point is, it’s all about where we market ourselves. To take an extreme example, as a photographer you wouldn’t dream of advertising in Gardener’s Weekly, would you? (Unless you’re interested in photographing someone’s prize begonias, and if you are , then good luck to you). If you’re Joshua Bell, then you’re unlikely to choose busking as a viable method of attracting new clients (yes, I know he’s won a Grammy and is famous, but even if he wasn’t, I’m sure he’d be more savvy than to rely solely on busking as a way of generating interest).

As photographers, we need to ascertain who our clients are, and where they’re hanging out. And then stop busking to them and start marketing to them instead.

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