If you want to learn how to brand a photography business you’ll need to think a lot bigger than logos, fonts and color pantone references. I’ve heard a lot of garbage spoken about branding in corporate meetings.
Those meetings always throng with irritating phrases that make you want to tear off your ear lobes and use them as earplugs. Phrases like value proposition, customer-focused, customer-centric, brand identity, and mission statement.
So if your brand is not about logos, colors, and slogans, what is it about?
What is a brand?
My own personal definition is this: “A brand is the emotional response or feeling people have when using or thinking about your product or service.”
Here are some other quotes on branding that echo this view:
“A brand is not a logo. A brand is not a slogan. A brand is not an identity, corporate or otherwise. A brand is not a symbol or a shape……a brand is the total sensory experience a customer has with your company and its product or service.” James Hammond
“Products are created in the factory, but brands are created in the mind” Walter Landor
“Mass advertising can help build brands, but authenticity is what makes them last. If people believe they share values with a company, they will stay loyal to the brand.” Howard Schultz
In fact, there are very few quotes about branding that talk about logos and fonts. I guess that’s because the people worth quoting actually understand the true meaning of a brand. That’s partly why they got famous and quotable in the first place!
So how can photographers create a brand?
Even though you create a brand, you don’t own it – your clients do. The easiest way of explaining this concept is by asking you to think of all those company slogans that promise one thing but deliver another. If the company’s view is completely different than the way customers see it, the business is not in control of brand.
What does this mean to you?
Let’s take a family portrait photographer as an example. Let’s say their website promises a ‘quality service’. What do they do to back that claim up?
- Meet their family portrait clients before they’re hired so they can discuss the photography style the prospect likes, the most suitable types of clothing for portraits and to plan locations for the session.
- Use Proselect software so the client can see their photos in a photo of their own home before they invest in their portraits.
- Project their photos to their clients in person so they can help them choose the right products and sizes for their décor and wall spaces.
- Serve wine and nibbles while the clients view their photos and select their order.
- Have a sincere guarantee where they promise to photograph another session free of charge if the client isn’t happy, or refund their money if they’re still not happy.
- Offer the finest frames and albums they can find, or are they dumping everything on a CD
You can’t promise one thing and deliver another.
Does your brand fit your personality?
- Do you say you’re a friendly photographer but always email clients back instead of calling them?
- Do you say you ‘love working with people’ but you hide in the shadows at weddings and never chat with the guests (under the guise of reportage photography)?
- Do you call yourself helpful, but get enraged when wedding guests take photos at the same time as you?
- It’s important to have consistency to create a strong brand. If you say one thing and do another then you’re confusing the message.
Giving your brand emotion
OK, so you’ve synced what you think your brand should be with reality and you’re consistently delivering the appropriate products and service. That’s great, but you’re only half way there. You need to generate an emotional response.
“To build a strong brand, you need to focus your attention on influencing as many positive emotions of your customer as you can, as often as you can.” James Hammond
Part of creating a strong brand is ensuring the brand sticks in the long term memory of your client – and the only way to do that is to have as many positive impressions as you can for as long as you can.
Now you’re starting to understand branding you deserve to get the succulent piece of information you’ve been waiting for.
Here are some of the things I recommend you do to ensure your clients have a multitude of positive, emotional experiences when dealing with your photography business:
- If you receive an email, then call the person back, if there’s a number. If not, then politely explain that it will be so much quicker, clearer and easier for them to call you. The reason for this is it’s much easier to have a phone conversation that generates emotion and rapport than it is via email.
- Ask questions over the phone that are designed to generate an emotional response from your client.
- There are many reasons to meet your clients before they book you, but one benefit is it’s an extra step in the system that helps build rapport and implant your business into their long term memory.
- Project your images for your clients. Again, there are many reasons this works so well, but it’s also another opportunity for you to ingrain positive feelings towards your brand in your client’s long term memory.
- Show an interest in your clients and their family by asking questions.
- Don’t drone on about yourself – make it all about them.
- Show your enthusiasm. If you really love photography then let it show.
- Be unerringly polite and respectful.
- Send thank you cards to every client who books you.
- Send anniversary cards to wedding clients.
- Keep in touch via an email newsletter.
These are just some of the ways you can have a positive impact on your clients and reinforce your brand image in their minds.
Compare this multi-step approach to photographers who:
- Book over the phone.
- Never ask the client what they want.
- Start photographing the client when they’ve never met them before.
- Spend 30 minutes on the photography, treating the client like they’re on a production line.
- Chuck all the photos online once they’re ready – leaving the client to figure out what they want.
- Burn a CD and post it off, or ask the client to pick it up.
With this second approach a client will barely remember your name in a week, let alone a year.
If your clients forget you, then you have a weak brand. If you have a weak brand then you become a commodity and if you’re a commodity then price becomes the determining factor.
“Be distinct or extinct” Tom Peters
So, what are you going to do this week to prevent your photography business going the way of the dinosaurs?