by Mary Fisk-Taylor

Owning and operating a photography business is as diverse as the art of photography itself. There is no limit to the many styles, concepts, mediums, and genres of photography. However, in order to maintain a profitable, sustainable, and satisfying business in such a creative field, there are some key elements that will keep business owners on the track to success. These concepts have proven themselves over time and the small businesses that  choose to create and sell photography have found them to be essential to their personal, business, and financial goals.

We all know that roads have curves, hills, and valleys. But, if creative business owners stay dedicated to these concepts, their journey will be much smoother, with fewer trials and tribulations. This is not to say that there won’t be challenges along the way because, let’s face it, “shift happens” and we often find ourselves in a situation that must be modified, simplified, or amplified. However, those key concepts should never be abandoned. They simply need to be looked over and redesigned to address trends, new technology, and business opportunities that may come your way.

For example, mainstream portrait, wedding, and event photographers had to embrace digital photography many years ago in order to maintain a viable business. Most small business owners have to modify their entire advertising plan every few years to attract the next generation of potential new clients in order to stay relevant in the marketplace. To attract the Generation X clients, they had to create websites, blogs, and to understand the importance of Search Engine Optimization (SEO). When they mastered that, or at least began to understand it, along came the Millennials and it became crucial to understand Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, Vimeo, SnapChat, and every other social media platform that came along. Every one of these generations usually require a completely unique marketing and sales concept. However, one thing they all have in common is that they all desire and embrace a concept or brand.

The elements in a small, creative business that do not change should be considered the virtual foundation of the business itself. When a business is built upon these key concepts, it gives the business room to grow with some flexibility and creativity but ensures a base strong and stable enough to create a sustainable business and livelihood in the realm of professional photography.

All successful businesses must have an established brand name with a substantial consumer reach. These businesses should strive to give platinum customer service 100% of the time and to offer unique and custom products. All of this has to be done in the simplest of systems. In today’s climate, most of our clients are extremely busy, and, while we must stay true to the foundation of our business, we should be flexible enough to consider their busy lives. They must be convinced that we can provide them with exactly what they want, even when they do not know what they want, and then photograph it to perfection and deliver the product and services with all of the excitement and approval they can imagine.

The definition of “branding” is “the marketing practice of creating a name, symbol or design that identifies and differentiates a product from other products.” Beyond having a memorable logo, business card, website or social media platform, good branding increases the value of the business and gives you, your staff and your clients the exact direction in which you want them to go. Your brand should and will be a road map leading your clients and potential clients to the product lines and services you want to sell and offer.

A “brand name” has been defined as, “the symbolic embodiment of all the information connected with a company, product or service. It also encompasses the set of expectations associated with a product or service which typically arise in the minds of people.” With this in mind, one can come to the conclusion that you, as the artist, business owner, studio employee, become a significant part of the brand and will be identified as the brand itself as your business grows and finds more success. In other words, your brand is not just a pretty logo. It is everything that you share, create and use to promote your business.

This could certainly be your portrait work, your social media or website blogs, and it is most certainly the partnerships you develop with local charities and like-minded businesses in your market area. Your brand can and will set the tone for so many preconceived ideas right out of the gate. It might be sharing exactly what you would like for them to think about your business, but it might not.

For example, if you want to sell fine art black and white wall installations and your brand is earth tones, giving potential buyers the impression that you are an environmental portrait artist, your brand has caused confusion right out of the gate. Unfortunately, confusion does not generate sales.

In today’s world, your target client buys a brand first and quality second. Quality is simply not enough. Professional photographers often take for granted that we create quality images, but we sell ourselves short if we do not capitalize on the things that set us apart from the competition. Therefore, it is vital to establish a unique look or style that makes your images recognizable as a product of your studio business. This will become your studio’s brand name.

Because most people make purchasing decisions based on emotion instead of logic, you must create an emotion in your prospects every time they see your brand. If consumers care and feel something about your brand, they have a reason to purchase those products and services. So, below are five reasons to turn your product into a “brand name.”

1.     A successful brand name demands a premium price and garners greater name recognition. A Louis Vuitton handbag is not necessarily better than any other leather handbag, but the perception of quality and elegance allows them to be sold at a much greater price.

2. Your client reach becomes greater. As your brand name develops and grows, so will your market area. Clients from outside your area will be more likely to use your services if you have a brand name which has proven desirable to others, and they would be willing to drive greater distances to have access to you and your services.

3. You will stand out amongst your competition. A distinctive photography style and image will be recognizable to those who see your work. This is, of course, your BRAND!

4. You will reduce your advertising costs. When you have secured a brand name in your market area, clients will come to you to own the brand name product. This will allow you to forego more traditional forms of advertising, such as direct mail, print advertising, etc., and rely on more word of mouth, charitable marketing or other partnership plans.

5.     You will streamline your business. As your brand grows, so will the top products and services that you truly want to sell. This usually means that you are able to shift your sales and camera room focus to only selling those products and move away from selling the lower margin, higher production items that are usually not as profitable, more time-consuming and higher cost items. This allows you to concentrate fully on the products and services you want to sell and eventually cut out all of the leaner products that you no longer want to offer.

Regardless of their size, the most successful businesses are the ones who establish themselves as a leader in their industry by creating a strong brand. When these businesses focus on building valuable customer experiences, they easily transform customers into “brand ambassadors.”

Join Mary Fisk-Taylor and Jamie Hayes at Texas School ‘18 in their class, “The Best of Both Worlds.” This course is not just about business. It also covers the creative and technical aspects that result in products your customers love. More info available at www.HayesAndFisk.com.