Photography Marketing Essentials-Step #1: Define your “ideal client.”

The most essential step in creating an effective marketing plan is to first decide who you most want to work with. If you don’t have a specific answer to that question, you won’t know where to begin to look for them.

Almost every photographer who calls me for photography marketing help has the same basic issue: “I want more work. How do I get it?” I wish there was a simple solution to offer them; but like any goal worth going after, it first takes some understanding of what the end goal actually looks like.

One of the first things I do is first ask them: “What kind of client do you want to work with? What kind of works brings out the best in you?” or the corollary “What kind of work does NOT inspire you on any level?

Many times I get “I don’t really care. I just want work!” While I totally sympathize with that generalized need (in this economy especially!), any viable photography marketing plan MUST begin with narrowing down which would be the best client/market niche for YOU to pursue.

The narrowing down process I go through with my clients is, of course, far more individualized and in-depth, but here are a few key questions that will go a long way in helping you choose strategies and tactics to reach YOUR ideal prospects. They’re simple questions, not easily answered, but ones which are critical to your success.

When you’ve found the answers to these questions you have the beginnings of a road map that can help you eliminate or avoid marketing activities that will not give you as high a return on your investment of time and money.

•What kind of clients could most benefit from what I bring to the table?
•What do I do that an advanced amateur photographer could not do as well–or at all?
•What market segments will NOT appreciate my level of professionalism?
•If it’s an uneducated market segment, am I willing to do “”whatever it takes” to help those potential clients understand the real value I add to their business?
•What kinds of assignments/projects do I always love doing?

You’ve probably heard the advice “it’s important to first know where you want to go before picking up a map.” Knowing your destination will determine which marketing map you actually use.

Many marketing resources discuss this concept in depth, but I prefer the succinct wisdom of Lily Tomlin: “I’ve always wanted to be somebody, but I see now I should have been more specific.”