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Photography Marketing: Why it Doesn’t Pay to Run a Contest or Promotion

In the last few years of being a photographer, I’ve seen more and more advertisements for reduced cost photography services. “Is it your first child? Get 25% off a session package.” “Is it your first wedding? Get a second shooter for free!” (seriously) “Enter this contest and get a free mini session!”

While promotions can get you extra work, chances are that 80% of them will be one-and-done clients.

But Won’t it Lead to Return Clients?

The short answer — probably not. Chances are the winner of your contest saw your ad and thought, “Cool! Let’s try to get a free photo session that I haven’t thought once about!”

People who aren’t looking for photographers, won’t book photographers.

People who are looking for photographers ultimately know that they’ll have to pay for the service. I would expect most potential clients won’t browse the internet looking for local photographers running free photography contests.

With promotions, I’ve never once gotten a client to call me up because I’m offering a special on my services. While I may get calls asking if I have any current specials, or if I can work within a budget, usually that happens after the initial conversation.

When Do Promotions Work?

As I alluded to above, promotions can work — but only after the initial conversation with a potential client. Regardless of what genre of photography you specialize in, most potential clients are talking to at least one other photographer. It’s more worthwhile to spend time on the bid process and the follow-up, than to immediately offer a discount.

If the client is on a budget, they’ll tell you. This is when it’s good to consider a discount or promotion for them. Why is this better than offering it up front?

Being able to respond to a client’s needs is what will put you ahead, and will most likely get you return work (and referrals). While I have a set hourly and day rate for clients, I regularly adapt to a client’s budget for a certain project. In most instances, I know they’ll return the favor, hiring me for their next big event.

Conclusion

It’s all about the type of photographer you want to become. Do you want to be known as being the “cheap photographer” in town? Or do you want to be known for quality, being able to react to the needs of your client as necessary? Not to say that being the cheap guy in town is bad, but you have to respect yourself as a photographer, and the work you produce. Doing so will ultimately lead to you getting the clients you desire, rather than the ones you can pick up through discounts.

 

For more on Photography Marketing, see our weekly column.

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