There are 1,440 minutes in a day.
That’s how much time you have each day to cook meals, eat, sleep, take care of the kids, and run your own business. Being an entrepreneur is wildly rewarding, but it’s also very stressful—oftentimes, it feels like 1,440 minutes just isn’t enough to get everything done.
Like many of you, I’m a solo-entrepreneur and I'm constantly wearing many hats as I run my photography business. While I do my best to prioritize my daily and monthly tasks— sending emails, writing contracts, compiling to-do lists, maintaining finances, editing photos, cleaning my equipment, and attending workshops (oh yeah, and capturing weddings!)— I find that there’s one part of running a small business that often gets neglected: marketing.
That’s why I’ve outlined five key aspects that have helped me manage my time better and grow my marketing efforts:
1. Develop a Simple Marketing Strategy
Just like any component in business, marketing can be very in-depth. Many solo-entrepreneurs create complex marketing strategies that are hard to measure and difficult to sustain. It’s like any new year’s resolution – the broader and bigger it is, the harder it is to accomplish.
Tip: Select a strategy that works specifically for your business. One way to identify what works best is research your industry’s trends and reach out to fellow entrepreneurs to see what’s worked for them. Once you select your strategy, develop a checklist of what you would like to achieve every week, month or quarter.
Some trends may include:
- Social Media Marketing
- Email Marketing
- Attending Trade Shows
Set a goal to schedule a social media post for every day at lunch, one 500-word blog post a week, and one testimonial for your website every month.
2. Start with Partnerships
I started my photography business in Fall 2016. Winter was quickly approaching and I had already missed the wave of 2017 wedding bookings. I was new to the industry and trying to adapt to my new schedule while fighting thoughts of self-doubt and skill level. The only thing I knew is that I loved documenting love and relationships. Instead of spending money on digital advertisements trying to get people to inquire, I went through the back door.
Tip: Utilize your neighborhood. I launched my photography career by researching local boutiques that are active on social media and interested in digital art. I would go door-to-door, offering my photography services free of charge in exchange for credit and promotion.
The responses were overwhelming. Nearly every boutique said yes and before I knew it, I was photographing a different model every day and growing my online presence. I went from having virtually no content for my own marketing to having hundreds of photos. Partnering with these boutiques allowed me to grow my marketing efforts very quickly.
3. Automate, Automate, Automate!
Automating your marketing process will help create the illusion that you have a marketing team of ten.
Tip: Invest in marketing platforms that can automate emails and social media. Most of the time, they are free or low-cost and won’t eat up your marketing budget.
Hootsuite and Sprout Social are excellent tools for scheduling social media posts. Write your content, choose which account you’d like to post on (Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram) and then select the time and day you would like to publish it. I like to set aside time one day a week to schedule all my social media for the next seven days. It saves me valuable hours.
Mailchimp and Active Campaign are two great services that can help automate your emails. Capture email addresses to grow your newsletter contacts. Experiment with different send times to see when your audience likes to read your emails, and aim to continuously improve your open rates and click-through rates by honing your marketing messages. Remember: shorter copy (almost) always wins!
4. Find Your “Why”
Customers don’t want to purchase WHAT you make, they want to purchase WHY you make it. They don’t want to purchase WHAT you do, they want to purchase WHY you do it.
Tip: Share your purpose on your website and in your marketing. It will resonate with the clientele you want to attract. For reference, here’s 'my why':
“I absolutely love what I do because this business is personal. As a photographer, I'm drawn to emotion and storytelling. I get to work with real people and turn their stories into real art. It's a total honor.”
5. Build Customer Testimonials
Having social proof is super valuable to the success of your company, especially at the onset while you’re building your brand. There are very few things in my experience that are more persuasive than customer testimonials.
Tip: Ask previous clients to describe their experience with you or your brand. People are more likely to share negative reviews on their own, so reach out for the positive ones. I know it’s not easy asking for an honest testimonial, but the feedback is extremely valuable.
- Focus on one marketing strategy at a time. If it fails, try another and learn as you go.
- Partnerships can be fast ways to build relationships and content.
- Automation will save you hours and help conserve those precious daily minutes.
- Make your “why” front and center. People will buy it!
- Customer testimonials will do the selling for you.
Katie is the owner of Katie Salerno Photography. She loves people, coffee, The Lord of the Rings, and is a mother to the most rad succulents. She absolutely loves what she does because her business is personal. As a photographer, she's drawn to emotion and storytelling, and gets to work with real people and turn their stories into real art. She loves working with couples that are free-spirited, have wild hearts, and crave artistry.