This post like many that I write was inspired by a real event. I had a photographer tell me, "I'm not ready to advertise" or something along those lines.
I think the deeper issues are: "I don't have money to advertise" - "Advertising will not pay off" - "I'll go broke advertising" - "Advertising is risky."
Take it from someone who has spent money on advertising including being in the Yellow Pages in the late 80's/early 90's trying to get more business, advertising can be risky at time, but the right advertising can pay off. But the right advertising is hard to figure out.
Even when you do find advertising that works, it is not always consistent. For example, I had some success with targeted direct mail in 2015. I kept it simple, low cost and strategic. In 2016 so far, the nicer, more expensive direct mail piece that I did has yielded ZERO calls. It's no fun when advertising doesn't pay off.
Using a service like Thumbtack.com is also very risky, but it can pay off. It's a HUGE and I mean HUGE numbers game. You have to pay money to quote and most people NEVER, EVER communicate with you. So like anything, you have to crunch the numbers and ask is it worth it. For example, how many quotes did I have to do to get a client, how much were all those quotes and was it worth it?
Facebook advertising is really cheap compared to most other advertising. However, you may be hard pressed to find that Facebook was where the business came from. I have more success from my personal Facebook page. However, I still advertise my business Facebook page for 3 reasons: 1) Branding 2) Getting in front of new people 3) Business Facebook posts are not seen that well without advertising.
I wish that I could say that advertising is easy, not risky and XYZ will pay off if you just spend the money on it. Although I have some success in advertising, it's not for the faint or heart and it's risky.
What are the alternatives to expensive advertising? Here are a few that come to mind:
1) You cannot just sit around: Network, Network, Network. Both FREE (Meetup, North Hills Networking, One-to-One/Face-to-Face with connections you have, etc.) and Paid (Chamber, Associations, BNI, etc.) should be considered.
2) Referrals - You know people. They know people. Do the people that you know understand what you do? How can you help the people you know and how can they help you? Work on referrals by staying connected with those you know, like and trust that also know, like and trust you.
3) Speculation - Doing photography that has no financial guarantees may not be the best idea on the planet, but if you can keep it to digital files initially and you are just risking your time, then it may be worth a try. For example, I've been contacted before about Quartet photography. The idea is to go in, photograph the Quartets and offer packages from them to buy. If they buy, money can be made. If they don't buy, time could be wasted. This doesn't interest me, but if you are trying to grow your business, it may be worth the risk of your time for possible revenue.
4) Repeat Business - Getting repeat business means that you need enough clients to get repeat business from. This will likely take time. However, once you build up a client base, repeat business can account for a decent percentage of your business.
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