Today our guest contributors are TJ and Larissa of Larissa Photography, offering up some advertising don'ts for your photography business...

copyright Vladimir Yudin/ iStockphoto

As business owners, we all hate dipping into the business account to pay for advertising. What's even worse than missing the money, is missing the clients that are not walking in the door after the advertising money was spent. Over the past 8 years, we've made some big mistakes that cost us thousands of dollars, so consider this your chance to save yourself from the same frustrations and go home with more money in your pocket.

Advertising in the Yellow Pages
Yellow Pages sales guy, used car sales guy - what's the difference? Not much really. At least in our experience, they both will tell you whatever it takes to make the sale. Our first yellow pages experience was filled with promises of customers coming in masses. The estimate was actually 2 to 3 phone calls PER DAY from our ad. After $1,000 in advertising in the book, we got 2 or 3 calls TOTAL - for the entire year. We tried a national phone book too. That one had an Internet directory as well. Really, the only difference we saw was that we only paid half as much. The phone book just doesn't work for photographers any more.

Short term advertising
One of our favorite bridal shows had an offer to do a 1 week radio ad for a fraction of the cost of a regular ad. What a steal. Not so much. Even though I had done my research on demographics, number of listeners, etc, advertising for only 1 week was a good way to throw a few hundred dollars out the window. Actually, we probably would have had a better response throwing money out our window. That would have at least created a buzz. Any advertising you are considering doing for only a week is setting yourself up to be a 1 hit wonder. Nobody is going to remember who you are the next week.

Assuming more money means better advertising
Increasing your advertising budget isn't always the best way to get more clients. You've got to be selective with where you're putting your advertising dollars. Consider a budget photographer who pays big money to be a vendor at a bridal show for upper-class brides. It doesn't matter that this should be one of the "best" bridal shows because the photographer isn't talking to the right brides. Know where YOUR customers are.

Failing to market locally
"Local" means different things to different photographers, but the principle is the same - if you try to promote your studio outside of your local area, you're mis-spending advertising money. One thing we've found is that people don't want to travel for photography. Our wedding clients may travel an hour to come to the studio, but we rarely get clients for other types of sessions willing to travel further than 30 minutes away. Also, consider that advertising in entirely new areas all the time will dilute your message. It's much better to have your studio name in front of a single customer multiple times than multiple customers a single time.

Taking a hands-off approach with any marketing
With our radio ad, we handed over the reins on the advertisement to a "marketing professional". She asked for some of our selling points, and went to work. It sounded like a good idea at the time, but the professional image that the ad painted wasn't OUR image. It would have been great for a photography studio 30 years more "established" than we are, but it didn't say young, fresh, and fun like the rest of our stuff. Even a more amateurish ad that actually lined up with our studio personality would have worked better for us.

Final Thoughts
If you've found a way to advertise that brings in clients, stick with it. You don't have to try everything. It's OK not to make big mistakes like we did. For us, bridal shows, SEO, Facebook, and vendor networking are where we see results, so that's where we are continuing to invest time and money. You have got to find what works for your studio, and stick with the stuff that consistently brings new business.

Contributor Bio:
TJ and Larissa are passionate about the business of photography, and they have recently made it their goal to be named one of the top 10 wedding photographer teams in the world. They are located in Southern Illinois.

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