When you decided to become a photographer, you were likely guided by your love of the art and science that is photography. Then, you figured out you could make a living doing what you love and started a real estate photography business. And just like that – *poof* – you became a business owner. Now, you have to worry about things like marketing, scheduling, and accounting systems and software.
You just wanted to take awesome pictures, right? There are going to be some days when you’re going to feel like this wasn’t exactly what you signed up for. That’s okay. It’s normal to feel this way. Owning a business – any kind of business – is not for the faint of heart. Running a real estate photography business is not just a job. Quite often, it’s about doing a lot of people’s jobs.
There are so many different aspects to running a business, it can be difficult to know where to start. Often times, the place to start is with your marketing.
You can’t run a business – big or small – without first examining your marketing strategy. After all, if you don’t market, how will your customers find you? And, if you don’t have clients, you’re not going to have a business for very long.
Marketing is not one of those things you can just leave by the wayside until business start picking up, or when you’ve got time, resources, and money to spare. You have to launch into marketing right at the get-go, or your business will never get off the ground.
Thankfully, we live in an era where there are many marketing tools available. This is especially true when considering online, or digital, marketing. Digital marketing is a vast discussion, but you will discover that most strategies revolve around having a website, an email campaign, and a social media presence. We’ve done some research, and come up with a list of business marketing tools that are relatively easy-to-use and will help you reach your real estate photography business goals.
You can’t build an online presence without a website. Your business website is the hub of your digital marketing strategy. It’s where people go to find you on the Internet. As a photographer, you will likely be drawn to the idea that a website should be beautiful and aesthetically pleasing to the eye.
While this is certainly true, keep in mind that in order to be functional, a good business website is easy to navigate, loads up quickly, and is easy to find on the Internet. And, on a more practical level, you want something that you can design, update, and maintain yourself (or with little assistance), with little-to-no-hassle or waste of your time.
In short, looks are not all that matter. Let’s look at and compare some DIY website building options…
WordPress is a popular choice for many photographers and business owners looking to design and maintain their own website. And with good reason. As it stands, WordPress boasts one of the biggest template catalogues of any website building platform. It is estimated that approximately 27% of all websites are WordPress-based. With WordPress, you can manage your website from any computer or device.
If you decide one day that you don’t like your website’s design, you can easily change it to something else with little drama.
It is important to note that WordPress performs very well in terms of Search Engine Optimization (SEO). What this means is that search engines – such a s Google – will favor websites that are created in WordPress so they are more likely to rank higher in searches.
One of the biggest benefits of WordPress is that it is supported by many different hosting companies that typically cost only about $5 per month and $10 per domain.
Furthermore, you can customize your WordPress website with plug-ins. Plug-ins are basically add-ons for your website that will give it more features and functionality. Some plug-ins are free to install, while others charge a monthly fee. You do need to be a bit careful with plug-ins, though. Adding or updating plug-ins sometimes causes bugs with other parts of your site, so things could get glitchy and technical if you’re not careful here.
Wix is another popular option for building your company’s website. Wix boasts over 400 templates to choose from for designing the look of your website. Unlike WordPress, you cannot switch between templates without losing your content.
Many users find it easier to use than WordPress, thanks to its GUI (Graphical User Interface).
At the same time, the templates are more rigid, so you will have less ability to customize your website to get it exactly as you want it.
Furthermore, you have no choice but to purchase your hosting services directly from Wix.
Like WordPress, Wix offers a wide array of plug-ins, which is very helpful in making your website robust. Just remember, plugins often come with a price tag, and you need to be aware of this as your monthly fees can quickly add up.
While WordPress websites are automatically responsive when you create them, (meaning the design will adjust to look suitable on phones and devices), you will need to use a tool to make sure your Wix website adapts on phones and devices.
Wix offers phone support, forums, and documentation should you need assistance.
Squarespace is another option to consider when looking for tools to build your website.
You won’t get as many templates with Squarespace, but they are well-designed and mobile-friendly.
You can also switch designs without losing your content, should you wish to do so.
Squarespace doesn’t have phone support, but they respond to all emails within 1 hour. They also offer live chat and around-the-clock forums.
Squarespace is a bit on the more expensive side, costing about $18 per month.
When executed properly, email marketing is a very effective way to stay relevant to your ever-expanding network.
As you meet more and more people who can help you grow your real estate photography business, you should be adding their contact information into an email database. You should then periodically reach out to the people on this email list with a helpful email message that adds value to them and reminds them that you are the professional they should be referring and working with.
Do not email too often, or be overwhelming with your sales message. This is known as “spamming” and won’t be well-received. Instead, email thoughtful information that is designed to help your target audience (for example, real estate agents who require high quality real estate photographs, panoramas, and 3D tours of their sales properties). Remind your audience that you are an expert in your industry and you are available to help them grow their businesses.
Having an email campaign is crucial for keeping in touch with your contacts on a regular basis. But, managing email lists and composing and sending out emails can become an arduous task to do on a regular basis.
Fortunately, there are some online business tools to help you with your email marketing strategy…
If you’re new to email campaigns, MailChimp is an easy way to get started. The templates are easy to use, but you are limited at what you can do in terms of customizing their look.
MailChimp enables you to add new subscribers one at a time, or you can import a CSV file, copy and paste from other documents, or import contacts from Google Contacts, Salesforce, Highrise, and Zendesk.
MailChimp allows you to track open and click-through rates, it can generate custom reports, and manage your subscribers for you. Basically, this is an easy way to manage your ever-expanding email list and campaigns.
You can get started on MailChimp for free, and then once your list reaches 2,500+, you’ll have to pay about $30 per month.
Constant Contact offers a diverse selection of templates that you can then customize to align with your brand as necessary. Their email templates tend to be better designed than MailChimp’s.
Constant Contact has a few more options than MailChimp when it comes to uploading contacts into your list. It lets you upload new subscribers one at a time, or many at once via cutting and pasting, or by uploading them with a spreadsheet (.xls, xlsx and .vcf). You can also build your list by integrating your Constant Contact with Gmail, Microsoft Outlook, and Salesforce.
Constant Contact also allows you to organize and segment your list in greater detail, so you can send emails to different segments of your lists, depending on the situation.
However, when compared with MailChimp, Constant Contact has very limited automation capabilities.
While you can create and send autoresponders after someone joins your list, you don’t get advanced automation features that will allow you to send behavior-targeting emails. For instance, with MailChimp you can send emails to people on your list if they visited a certain page on our website or didn’t or did open a past email. But, Constant Contact cannot do this.
The trial version of Constant Contact is free for 60 days, and then you’ll have to start at about $40 per month.
No digital marketing strategy is complete without including a social media element.
If your target audience is active on social media (and pretty much everyone is) you need to be there too. If you are not sure where to start, you can limit your seemingly endless options by focusing on the 5 main social media platforms: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and YouTube.
Post photos and videos of your work, but also offer helpful advice that will provide value to your target audience. Post often and with consistency. Use an application such as HootSuite to help you schedule posts in advance and manage your time.
Use social media to access a new audience, and then drive this traffic to your website. Once your audience is on your website, you should have a form ready for them to fill out so that they get added to your email list.
Offer them something of value in exchange for subscribing to your email list (such as a valuable tip sheet or ebook) so that they are more likely to subscribe to your email blast. Then, keep in touch with these qualified contacts via email, and constantly work at building rapport, so that they remember you and will want to work with you.
There are many digital marketing tools that you can use to grow your real estate photography business. Focus your efforts on building a strong website with WordPress, Wix, or SquareSpace. Use an application such as MailChimp or Constant Contact to stay in touch with your clients and potential clients via email. And, leverage social media to access a new audience, direct traffic to your website, and grow your email list.
Thank you again to our iGUIDE Operators that started the business tools conversation.