Luxury Photography? Your Real Clients are in the Real World

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Your target market isn’t on social media, they are in law offices, boardrooms, sales meetings, social events, and on the telephone with their own clients. The vast majority of luxury clients come from word of mouth. Their friends see the photos or brag to their friends about the photos, and so it goes. You have to crack that circle. You need to network.

The solution to the problem is not always what we think it is. That’s because the problem isn’t always what we think it is. Everyone knows that you need customers to have business. When your marketing efforts aren’t bringing in the leads, that is indeed a problem. But is the problem with your method, or with your strategy? That can be all the difference.

A young woman recently reported back that she was having trouble getting leads. She explained that she had done everything to home in on her target. She knew the photography she offered. Her business model was luxury photography and her portfolio was top notch. The exercises to determine what types of people best matched her offer were complete. She was satisfied she was going after the right people.

“So what’s the problem?” was the logical question.

“My social media advertising is reaching all the wrong people. I built a custom audience. I was very specific with my ideal customer as to income, area, and interests that indicated luxury services. People who matched my high ticket promotion. But my responses aren’t even vaguely close to the criteria. I got plenty of people interested in the photography, but even though I was clear about the cost, they admitted it was out of their price range. I feel like I’m wasting my time and theirs. I’m obviously not doing my ads right. I need help with my social media advertising. What am I doing wrong? Should I hire someone to help with my ads?”

“Hiring someone to help with social media ads is only a solution if your ads are the problem.”

“Aren’t you listening? I’m not getting leads.”

“Yes, I’m listening. But you only now mentioned your problem. The ads aren’t the problem. Not getting leads is the problem.”

“That’s what I said!”

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“No, it isn’t.”

“Then what did I say?!” By now she was frustrated and this conversation could have abruptly ended at any second.

“You said your ads weren’t reaching the people you thought they should. But the ads aren’t the problem. Your ads are a tactic. Your problem is that you’re using the wrong tactic.”

“So you’re saying my ads aren’t going to work.”

“You’ve already said they don’t work. You’ve also said that your custom audience was full of unqualified leads. Just because someone has an interest in luxury goods doesn’t mean they can afford them. Just because they see your ad doesn’t mean they actually live in your market area. Social media ad targeting is good for some things, but not everything.“

This was something she really didn’t want to hear. Social media advertising was supposed to be the magic bullet. It shows up in front of us all day every day, everywhere we turn in the virtual world. It worked on her, after all. Why couldn’t it work for her as well?

Because, I explained, what she was selling was neither generic nor urgent. She was looking for people with a lot of money willing to pay for a specific type of photography. She also had to reach them at a point in time where they were ready to have the photos taken. In other words, a lot of stars had to align.

Any photographer that sees themselves in her scenario needs the same piece of advice I gave her.

You need to concentrate less on the virtual world and more on the real world.

Unless you live in a densely populated area, and really finesse your ads, the wrong people are seeing them. In most cases, you probably don’t even have enough of a qualified audience after properly targeting. And targeting and retargeting. Again, wrong audience.

Your target market isn’t on social media, they are in law offices, boardrooms, sales meetings, social events, and on the telephone with their own clients. The vast majority of luxury clients come from word of mouth. Their friends see the photos or brag to their friends about the photos, and so it goes. You have to crack that circle. You need to network.

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Find local civic groups and join one. They have more of your target audience than the typical business referral networking group, where people’s main interest is furthering their own business, not yours. Civic groups are not specifically for networking (in fact, it may be frowned upon to start pushing your business) but they are the people you want to know and be known by.

Make sure that your portfolio is top notch. Your other collateral – your business cards (yes, you need business cards), leaflets, promotional material, gift certificates, etc – must all ooze the luxury of your brand.

Most importantly, carry yourself with confidence. Make yourself and your work known in your local community. It doesn’t happen overnight, but you’ll build stronger roots for your business to grow.

There are many things in modern life designed to make things easy. Social media advertising in a virtual world is inexpensive. Cheap and cheerful tactics can cast a wide net into your pond of prospects. Luxury brands, however, don’t often take the cheap and cheerful route.

Ferrari created a Facebook page for their business in 2008. As of August 2021, the page has over 20,000,000 followers. Yet they never sold over 10,000 cars per year until 2019. Ferrari’s annual revenue is measured in the billions – that’s billions with a B.

And how many ads from the company are in the Facebook ad library? Zero.

Ferrari has never run a Facebook ad.

In a world of instant digital sales gratification, we have forgotten the difference between advertising and public relations. Networking is public relations, and every interaction between you and the world is networking. A reputation for quality, an excellent product, and a customer ready, willing, and able to purchase, are the stars that align with the right amount of public relations.

Luxury brands know that good public relations make advertising practically unnecessary. The discerning prospect will find their way to you, if only you make yourself available.

Your perfect client is in the real world. You should be, too.