Hello creators, today I wanted to talk a little bit about marketing plan basics for your creative business.

In order to start selling your beautiful work, you need to find people to buy it. You can make great art all day long but unless you have a marketing strategy in place that you can act on day after day that connects your work to the people that will buy it, you will not get very far in making the money you need to live on and grow your business.

 

Photography Business Marketing ideas 2

 

 

Many creatives start their business with great enthusiasm for the work itself. Often the business grows out of a hobby or passion or a type of work you have a natural affinity for. But to make it your career and your business, you will need customers who will support you by purchasing what you create for them.

In this article, I am going to talk about making a plan, a roadmap, a marketing strategy to get you going on the path to profit.

This is a quick start guide. There is so much more to marketing strategy than can be covered in one article. But if you are just getting started and need a ‘point A’ to start from, or if you have been around for awhile but have never really done a marketing plan before, then these 3 steps to making a plan might be a good place for you to begin.

Without a doubt, creatives have a HUGE leg up on other types of business when it comes to marketing – we are already creating beautiful visuals (designs, photographs, videos, or art of any kind). Marketing, especially digital marketing, it all about great visuals. Right out of the gate, you have this skill set on your side. But to leverage that awesome work in marketing, you will need to get a structured plan in place that makes the most effective use of your visuals. If you are putting the wrong type of visuals in front of the wrong audience, you will just be spinning your wheels.

I am going to suggest you take an afternoon and work through these 3 steps and get a written plan in place (it doesn’t have to be fancy) that you can refer to as you go about working on the specific marketing activities (which I will discuss in future articles).

Get yourself a nice hot drink, maybe a snack and put on some background music. Be sure you are working somewhere with no distractions (kids, phone, email, facebook…laundry). Work somewhere you can be productive but feel creative and open to ideas as you work through each section.

Before you work on these steps, let’s just take a moment to do ONE pre-step. Declare in one or two sentences, what you are in the business of offering. For example, if you were a photographer:
I offer portrait photography in my studio, maternity, and newborns
I create amazing headshots for the entertainment industry
I travel all over to create unique wedding portraits in stunning locations
I specialize in product photography for websites and catalogs for e-commerce businesses
If you are a graphic designer, artist, designer, videographer or any other visual creative business, be clear about what EXACTLY you offer. You might offer other services alongside this main business, but we are going to focus on the bread and butter of your business. Other lines of business will need its own marketing strategy. For the purposes of this exercise, we want to focus on the main thing you do. Write this down before you do anything else.

Let’s work through 3 steps to developing your marketing strategy.

 

WHO Is your Idea Target Customer?

The reason I asked you to first declare your MAIN business offering is that you will need to be very clear on who the customer for that service will be. ‘Everyone’ is not your customer. You need to clearly understand who you are selling your primary services/products to.

There are a few ways you can start to work through this question. Start with your current customer base. Looking at your favourite or very best customers. Who are they (gender, age, profession, financial status, family details, etc)? What do they have in common?

You might find there are some commonalities across all of these customers, or you may notice a few different types of customer. We want to focus here on the best ones – the ones that are best to work with, that there is little friction with, that “get” you and your business offering – they want what you do, they want to spend money on that, they are happy to tell people about it all.

Maybe you don’t have this person yet – you might be just getting started or want to make a change to a new type of customer. Or maybe you have customers but they are not easy to please, are not spending what you need them to spend, or generally are difficult to work with – you might be inadvertently attracting the wrong type of customer to your business.

One creative way to understanding who your ideal target customer might be to write 2 or 3 customer ‘persona’ profiles. A customer persona is a short description or story about a specific customer type might be, personified with specific characteristics that represent a real person or type of person.

Some of this might feel like you are making it all up. That sometimes how I feel doing this exercise. It helps me to visualize a real person or customer when developing these personas. This exercise is about giving you some direction about your idea customer so that later you can make choices about how to reach and speak to them.

Here are three examples of how a simple customer persona could look like and the kind of information that you might include:

My ideal customer is 50+, female, with a large extended family that is growing and lives in many different locations. When the family gets together every year, she wants to have an updated family portrait taken, as new spouses/children join the family and everyone grows. This woman is often middle to upper mid middle class, and the family is most interested in buying a few larger prints for the wall and lots of digital files so they can share their images all over facebook. My customer often has a landscaped property for the photos OR will have access to something similar in her city.

My ideal customer is a pregnant woman, who wants to artistically capture her beautiful belly with a sculpture made from a cast of her body. This customer is financially comfortable, has an artistic flair to her home decor, which is modern and well kept. She loves lots of attention and customer service. She will invest a substantial fee to have this one of a kind piece of personalized art which will adorn her home.

My idea customer is a medium size business that is in growth mode. They have grown beyond their small business roots and need to refresh their branding and move away from the homemade, in-house brand and logo that they currently use. Because they are trying to attract business in the tech sector, they need a designer that understands the industry and will create a brand package that will be modern and simple to execute. The head of the marketing understands the value of hiring a professional designer and is looking for an expert to take the lead, and will not micro-manage the design process.

Understanding something about your idea target customer, even broad brush strokes such as these personas, make the rest of your decisions going forward much clearer.

Take a bit of time now, to write 2-3 personas that represent your most ideal target customers for your main service/product.

Okay, this was the biggest of the steps. Give it a bit of extra time and thought. But remember, you can always adjust this later. You might find out who you THOUGHT was your ideal customer, is not quite right. Adjust later as you learn what works and what doesn’t.

 

Choosing Marketing Channels

Marketing Plan Basics

Once you have some ideas about your customer, you can start to think about the kinds of marketing channels they could be reached on.

I am suggesting that you begin marketing on social media channels, as they are the easiest and most cost effective ways to start begin reaching potential customers with marketing messages. After you implement your marketing on social media, you can begin to assess and implement other tactics. There are SO many options that you can consider, but let us not muddy the waters with too many options at the outset. Keep it simple.

Choosing the social channel that will work best is imperative. Not all channels are created equally for YOUR ideal target customer.

For example, if your target audience is a 25-year-old university graduate who is recently engaged, you are probably NOT going to be looking at a flyer in the mailbox or listening for radio ads about your service. You will definitely need to be on Instagram and Pinterest to reach her.

On the other hand, if your target audience is retired people looking for handcrafted wood crafts to decorate their cottage, you will likely avoid the use of snapchat or any type of messaging app.

Sometimes, the channels that your ideal customer can be reached on is very clear, but not always. If you already have a customer base that you are building on, you could ask a few of them for input on where they like to hang out online.

If you can’t ask anyone directly, then you will need to do a bit of guessing and testing. Testing is important anyway because you definitely want to be measuring the successes (and failures) of your efforts, at least on a basic level.

Choose social channels that are, in general, popular with the demographic of your target audience. Don’t make the mistake of only promoting your business on the channels that you personally enjoy, unless by luck it is the same as your target audience. This is an easy mistake many marketers make – they gravitate to what works for them personally, not so much for what works for their customers.

You will not be able to take the time to be everywhere on all channels all the time. Many articles and books will tell you to stake out all the channels and get a profile everywhere. The problem with doing this is you will unlikely be able to keep up on posting to all of them. You many think that you can save time by simply posting the same content on all the channels, but this is not consistent with the best practices for all of the various social channels.

You must consider what type of content works best for each channel. I suggest that you go all in on 2-3 channels. Understand how they work, what does content look like on that channel, and figure out how often you can reasonably keep up with posting there (hint: on some channels, the more the better, on others less is more).

Here are a few thoughts on different channels.

Facebook – the behemoth. Everyone is on there. But it is most suited to an older crowd, as people under 30 tend not to post on there as often. Post on facebook no more than 2-3 times per day. Try to make posts a nice mix so you are not always selling or talking about your work all the time. Be entertaining, informative, personal, emotional (funny/sentimental/empathetic) and above all, always be thinking about each post “why will my target customer care about this post? What is in it for them?”

Twitter – this one moves fast. It might be best suited to a business that offers in-the-moment events or activities. You can post quite frequently on Twitter, as news feeds go fast. But the news feed tends to be quite ‘noisy’ with so much fast flowing content, and if you are just sell-sell-sell all the time, you will be lost in the mix. This is a great place to be part of the conversation about events, local happenings, recommendations and to do some connecting with other businesses that might be complimentary to yours.

Instagram – as a visual creator, Instagram is a MUST DO, in my opinion. Keep your account ON TOPIC and impeccably beautiful. You don’t want a mish-mash going on with your posts. Again, always think about what your target audience wants to see and why. You can post 1-2 times per day, but you can get away with a few nicely planned posts each week.

Snapchat – this one is great for targeting a younger audience. It is very in the moment, ephemeral as they say. You definitely want your content to be more casual and authentic. Not too salesy (actually that is a theme for all social media – they are meant to be “social” after all, so keep it social and engaging). Snapchat is amazing for behind the scenes posts, in the moment events, thoughts and light hearted content that your target audience will like based on their interests. You can use this to educate, demonstrate and share interesting experiences as well.

Pinterest – when it comes to inspiration, Pinterest is the place to go when people are planning special events and to find great products to purchase. Again, beautiful visuals created just for the platform is imperative. Tall vertical layouts and images work best, as horizontals/squares get lost in the feed when people are just scanning quickly. Keep it simple but beautiful. Post a few times each week, and up to 5-10 times per day.

There are so many other channels to look to for social marketing, but these are the big ones. Start with a few that seem to match your ideal target customer best, and work hard at consistently using them for a few months.

Other online marketing options, such as email marketing, blogging, guest posting, SEO/SEM, etc. and offline marketing like word of mouth, networking, public/media relations, collaboration, charity marketing, etc. are also very important to when implementing your marketing plan. Starting with social media channels is a great way to get going NOW, as they are easily accessible to you right now and you likely are already somewhat familiar with most of them already.

The main things you need to keep in mind when beginning a social marketing plan is:

1. to leverage the channels our ideal target customer prefers
2. to post content that is appropriate for that channel
3. to keep the idea target customer’s needs in mind when choosing content (why would they care about this thing I am posting?)
4. to post often and regular enough to have a noticeable presence

 

Scheduling, Publishing and Measuring Results

Now that the creative part of the plan is taking shape, you will need to take some practical steps to implement your ideas.

The primary thing I hear from small creative businesses is that they just don’t feel they have the time to spend on marketing activities.

The reality is, you need to MAKE the time. Marketing is a key business activity. I would argue it is MORE important than the service/product itself – without a steady flow of customers, your business will not survive long enough for you to create more products or provide more services.

Here are a few tips to figure out how to find the time:

  1. Focus on just a few things at a time. Really. It is better to do a GREAT job with a social channel, than to barely keep up with 10 different marketing ideas. Start where you think your idea customer is most easily reachable, and do a great job, every day, of showing up there. Be entertaining, helpful, informative and consistent. The more you do this, the faster you will get at the process, and you can consider adding more tactics at that time.
  2. Use a social media scheduling tool like Hootsuite or Buffer. Hootsuite is free and is a great place to begin. There are many others, with varying levels of offerings and prices. The point is to choose one and use it every day. You can plan a group of interesting posts for over a time period and do them all in one big marketing work session each week. You should still try to post live from time to time so you can keep your tone authentic and timely.
  3. Reuse content. Different images or text snippets at different times and on different social channels can take your hard work and multiply the traction you can get out of it. Content creation is by far the most time-consuming part of marketing (and remember, as a creator you already have great visuals!), so you want to take advantage of it wherever you can.
  4. Share other people’s content. I don’t mean take it as your own, but think about your ideal target customer and their interests. There will be interesting news articles, magazine snippets, funny memes, etc. that will be of interest to them, so share them from the original content creator, giving them the credit and your audience interesting new things to enjoy. Whenever you come across something your customers might enjoy, keep that link handy for your scheduling day. Or share it right away.
  5. Pick a day that will be your marketing day. Or make it an hour a day. Find a way to schedule the time and keep it as sacred as a client appointment on your calendar. It is too easy to put off marketing tasks. You will need to make it a priority on your weekly schedule. No exceptions. Like any habit, once you get used to doing this for a few months, it will not seem as onerous and in fact, you will start to enjoy the challenge. After all, this is the most “creative” of all the normal business activities. Use that to your advantage.

Next, you need to measure the results of your activities. Because we are starting out with a simple plan, measuring some basic key metrics is a great place to begin. In a simple excel spreadsheet, you can track things like engagement, traffic, likes/follows, and reshares of your messages. All of the social media platforms have insights/analytics under the account settings areas of your account.

You can also track activity on your website, including traffic from social channels, if you have installed the Google analytics tracking code onto your website. This might be an advanced tool for you, and we can talk about that in a later article. If you already have this in place, you can also measure things like who is visiting your site (gender, location, age) and how they are getting there (clicking on links in social media, organic search, referral links from other websites, etc.)

Track the information you want to measure at least monthly. I would also suggest taking a snapshot of this data immediately before and after an bigger campaign (such as a new blog post, contest, email send out, website update, etc.).

Over time, you can start to see what is working best, what is not delivering the results you want, and make adjustments accordingly.

Of course, the BIG metric to track is your sales, customer inquiries, and any other revenue positive conversion. This is going to be a big indicator of whether you are on the right track with your marketing strategy overall.

 

The Takeaways

Marketing Plan Basics

In summary, here are 3 ways to a quick start marketing strategy for a creative business:

  1. Understand WHO your ideal target customer really is (or who you want them to be). Create a short story on paper about them, which will make it easy to visualize how to reach them with a marketing message.
  2. Start reaching them with your marketing message on social media channels they like to use. Don’t try to be everywhere all the time. Carefully choose a few channels to post appropriate content to the platform that will reach your ideal target customer. Don’t just post where you personally feel comfortable. ALWAYS keep your ideal target customer in mind when you choose the social channels to be active on.
  3. Plan how often you can reasonably post, make a schedule, use a scheduling tool to help you plan ahead and measure your results on a regular basis, even if you only keep track of a few key performance metrics at first.

With these three steps, you will be on your way to reaching your ideal target customer for your service or product. Once you start to measure and track the results of your activities, both good and bad, you can tweak your marketing strategy along the way to get the results you are looking for and be on your way to the next stages of implementing your marketing plan.

 

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Julie Tauro is a Kitchener Waterloo marketer, blogger, and photographer. She has been taking some time recently to experiment with photographing lots of new types of subjects and is having a blast doing so. She considers herself to be a beauty seer, button pusher, paper lover and is always looking for some fun amidst the chaos.

Find her on Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter.