Thursday, March 11, 2010

Business Day Thursday: The TOP 20 Tips For Building You Business by My Guest Blogger, Matt McGraw

Good Morning Everybody,

We just barely made it through the rest of the WPPI tradeshow yesterday - I found a few more goodies to tell you about, but I'll wait till next week to do that.

DAZ WestcottMy lighting demos at the Westcott booth were a "kick" - thank you to all the folks that came up and said "HI".  Even the book signing went smoothly.  I'm the kind of person who's easily distracted when writing so it's easy for me to goof up on dedicating a book when I'm writing and talking.  Throw chewing gum into the mix and I'm totally out of it;~) 

Anyway, I made it through all the book signings without one mistake. I have to say, it is quite an honor to have someone ask you to sign their book. Thank to all you folks!!

Today we are taking the day off.  We've got two more days in Las Vegas and then we head back home on Saturday.  Today we are catching up with friends and heading to the Valley of Fire, one of the most beautiful places in America.

Matt McGraw2Anyway, let's get on with today's post.  About a week and a half ago, I featured the work of outstanding wedding photographer, Matt McGraw [link].  Matt is doing some very creative photography and his images are stunning.  Check it out for your self - here is the link to his site right here.

Matt and I started emailing back and forth on a couple of different items and the subject of a guest blog post came up. He graciously accepted the invitation.

Blog StatisticsMatt runs one of the top studios in Wilmington, North Carolina and he didn't get there without trying.  He'll tell ya', it's lots of hard work.  And the hard work is not something you do on a weekly basis, it's something you do on daily basis.

In today's post Matt shares his TOP 20 Business Building Tips with you. His list is "dead-on".  Matt's message is targeted to the "aspiring professional" all the way up to the "seasoned pro."  The list is a solid set of rules for anyone who really cares about running a successful business.

Hit the "Read More..." link below for the rest of the story. You'll be glad you did.

Matt McGraw's TOP 20 Tips For Building You Business

Vendor buddies - fotolia_10883510 1.  Vendors: Vendors are important!  From reception venue personnel to cake makers… I do a pre-questionnaire for my brides and grooms.  In that questionnaire I find out who I will be working with including ministers, reception venue personnel, disc jockeys, caterers, wedding planners, and the “cake boss.”  I obtain all the contact information for these vendors. 

After the wedding I compile a list of photos that each vendor would find interest in.  I splash my logo on the photos, email images, and offer high res photos in high res with and without my logo.  I send new reception contacts a 20X30 print with my logo splashed all over it, as well as 4X6 prints of the same photo with my contact info to pass out to potential brides. 

I send them a disc of images they might be interested in to use however they like.  Become buddies with everyone.  For example, I’m on a “hug basis” with the sales directors of 5 major hotels in town.  Their cell numbers are in my phone I'll sometimes meet them on a casual basis for a beer. 

I never talk about my photography---   it's always “buddy” talk.  They feel comfortable around me.  I photograph their kids, and occasionally this casual networking lands a great opportunity to market my services!

2.  Newsletter/blog:   Start one!  I use constant contact, set up a page, and send information out once a month.  My email list is 6,300 strong.  Most photographers have a web page.  We do not.  I’m not opposed to web pages, but I prefer the email newsletter.  How do you get an email list of 6,300?   Anyone that emails me is added to the list.  I advertise in two magazines that provide lead sheets.  I update email leads monthly before sending out the newsletter.

3.  Advertising:  In the beginning of your career, spend most of your advertising money online as opposed to print.  Print is just name recognition.  They'll see or hear your name and see an ad and say I've heard of this photographer… 

4.  Online advertising:  There are resources that provide free advertising.  Go online and be a savvy consumer find out what wedding sites come up first.  Type in your city and photographers … these are common search words for brides and grooms.  You can also add the word weddings.  You’ll find ways to post your information so that potential clients will easily find it.

5.  Search engine placement:  Research companies that specialize in moving your information to the top of the search engine’s results.  This effort may not bring immediate results, but you will find the investment over the long run may build your business quickly.

High Five 6.  Every person you meet represents 10 people:  Sounds cliché… but when I introduce myself as "Matt McGraw,” people often remark they know my name.  Even my wife is continually asked if her husband is a photographer!  Irritating?  Maybe, but she likes the income name recognition brings.

7.  Local publications:  Don’t limit yourself to just wedding magazines.  Local magazines are always looking for material.  In my case, I submit top photos from recent weddings to a local publication that has a wedding section. I ran into the editor one day, and she said I was the only photographer that sends in photos! She was very appreciative of the photos and the support I provide her readers.  If your local publications don't have a wedding section, send images anyway... and suggest they start one!

8.  Bridal shows:  I do one every year.  The same one… I’m the only veteran at these shows. When asked why I continue doing them, I say that it's because it's an opportunity to keep my name out there.  Bridal shows also give me an opportunity to meet vendors or new vendors in the area.  I get to know the vendors, and they know me!  (Not to mention the opportunity to talk to lots of potential customers!)

9.  Website:  Make sure you have your best stuff on there.  First impressions are lasting.  All too often I look at a websites and see subpar material.  I know some of these photographers, and know they have much better images on which to build a business.  It’s mindboggling!

10.  The drip rule:  A lot of drips pass through the coffee pot to the cup.  There is not one in particular marketing rule/campaign that will work above all others.  You may not get immediate results, so do not think that your efforts have failed.  When asking “how did you get my name?" I am amazed at the variety of sources (friends, places) at which I can be found.  One drip at a time! 

11.  Business cards:  Throw away traditional 2X3 cards.  Everyone uses them.  (Do you know where the business cards that people have given you?)  I use a 4X6 photo with my contact info all over it! When I shoot a wedding, I'll use an engagement photo of the couple for business cards.  Put them on a table at the reception.  Everyone wants a beautiful picture of the bride and groom!  So this business card probably won’t end up in the trash.  Don’t use a traditional card!

12.  Email management:    I use Microsoft Outlook.  Do not have a @hotmail or a @gmail acct for business.  Your email should be… being professional and businesslike.  Treat email as an integral part of your business.  I have a very detailed and organized contact cards.  I have a vendor folder, client folder… if I need to get a hold of someone it takes seconds to find the contact information.  Organization is a MUST in marketing!

13.  Be accessible:  Nothing bugs me more than leaving a message!  I use my cell number so that I’m almost always accessible.  If I don't answer the phone one of my employees takes the call. If someone sends me an email they'll get a timely response.  My contract provides my cell number with permission to call anytime, as well as storing the number in the client’s phone for easy access.

14.  Be creative in your marketing:  For example, call me to advertise. With a little research I found 45 photographers advertising in this particular city.  To set business apart from all of the other photographers, I asked if I could advertise in the Reception section.  It was a good idea.  I was the only photographer on the reception page and got a number of calls. 

15.  Attitude:  Always, always have a good attitude at weddings.  Have fun!!!  You'll be known as a fun photographer.  If something doesn't go your way, roll with it… it’s part of life.  I hear stories of photographers blowing lids for the most stupid things.  You'll get a ton of referrals because of your fun attitude.  

16. Slideshows for reception sites and vendors: We shoot at the same locations quit a bit. We compile a portfolio for these particular places and make an online slideshow for them.  The vendors were ecstatic with the images. They immediately put my slideshow on their website, and in turn we started getting calls. (Check out the slideshow below!)  I did this for all the reception sites in town!

17. Charity work: No, not the “soup kitchen” variety... I mean, doing shoots without a charge or at greatly reduced prices to grow your marketability.  For example, a friend of mine (who is an excellent videographer) and his wife are having a baby.  He wanted to hire me for a photography shoot of the baby in the hospital. 

I refused the pay.  Here's why! This particular videographer sends out a newsletter to 2,600 people and he’ll be putting my photos on his newsletter --- with my name splashed all over the place.

Another example: Our church has an attendance of 5,000 people.  The head of the Children's Education Committee wanted to hire me to photograph a program that my kid was in.  I refused to let him pay.  These photos with my name on them are going in a program that 5,000 people will see. 

To avoid being taken advantage of, only do charity work once. If someone asks a second time, don’t feel badly about charging them. Be charitable, but protect your business.

18. The eight month rule: There is an unwritten rule called the 8 months rule.   It typically takes 8 months from the start of a marketing campaign or "drip" campaign to officially start seeing results. If you set goals for yourself, you’ll see results in about 8 months. So be patient. 

Your goals?  Higher Google placement, more bookings, more inquiries, stronger vendor relations and referrals… The reality is that it takes.... 8 months.  Study, plan and implement.  In 6-8 months you'll start seeing the results.

Cultivate relationships, and with time, they will grow.  More inquiries are your goal?  Be more visible.  Get your name out there through the methods above.  Meeting goals will substantially increase income.  Also, don't think meeting those goals will bring you automatic success.  

I spend at least an hour a day doing something with marketing or networking, from it be supplying vendor photos, staying in touch with networking contacts.  I have a laundry list of things I do to stay on top of the inquiry chain.  

19.  Marketing:  Never think for a second that you don't need to market yourself.  And never never, ever think your better than everyone else. 

I was talking to a veteran photographer the other day and he asked me how many weddings we had booked for the coming year.  He said he only had 1 booked, and had seen a huge decline in business.  He never does a bridal show, never puts his name out there, and most importantly never goes the extra mile.  He thinks his name will get him through. 

There are a lot of good photographers out there right now.  Someone is looking to sweep away your clients.  So, market yourself and reinvent yourself and your business to stay current in the industry.  Don’t take for granted that you can slide through a competitive business arena in a difficult economic time.

20.  Facebook:  Get on Facebook.  Not only put your personal stuff on there, put your latest work on there.  It's free and great exposure.  Who isn’t on FACEBOOK???

Matt McGraw
Matt McGraw Photography
We're Facebooked!  Click here!

Hey Matt, thanks a bunch for the great article. -David

Cheap Cents Matt's article goes right to the core of what one must do to be successful in the photography business.  A closer look at ,many of Matt's rules shows that they apply to any business which wants to be successful.


Hey gang, that's it for me today.  Oh, one more quick note before I head out of here.  Our webinar is nearly booked up for next Wednesday.  You can still sign up and register but this time you will be put on a "waiting list."  Once we get all the open the "doors" next week, we'll see if we have any "no-shows".   If we have some space open up - please come on in.  I'll keep you posted.

We are heading into the desert. 

See ya' tomorrow everybody. -David

1 comment:

  1. Jason D. Moore, a young photographer with an exciting future has written a series of articles on Search Engine Optimization, or what you can do to raise your visibility.

    Since that happens to be part of his "day job" the level of detail far exceeds the usual banalities.

    Here's the link:

    In case the software here prohibits links, you can find it by visiting his site: and then searching for this: