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Talent doesn’t make the phone ring

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GURUS FROM PPA STUDIO MANAGEMENT SERVICES ANSWER YOUR BUSINESS, MARKETING, AND SALES QUESTIONS.

Q. I’m a highly talented wedding and high school senior photographer, but I can’t seem to get potential clients to call me. How can I boost revenues through marketing?

A. Marketing and networking are essential to business survival. Photography is readily available to consumers, so it’s important to define and communicate what’s unique about your services, your products, or the experience you offer.

The first step in marketing is defining your target client in each of the markets you serve —weddings and seniors. Determine two things: Where is she spending time, and where is she spending money? These factors say a lot about the client you want to do business with. Find out what’s important to her and what her expectations are. Once you’ve determined who your client is, you can start getting in front of that type of person. There may be organizations you need to have a presence in. You may want to write a blog post for a site other than your own. How about partnering with a business that has the same type of client you want?

One simple marketing practice is to keep connecting with past clients. High school graduations and weddings are once-in-a-lifetime events for most people. (OK, I grant you that weddings may happen more than once in a lifetime.) But the point remains: Keep clients coming back by suggesting the next logical step. Offer a complimentary session to the family of senior clients who invested well with you. Follow up in the spring to find out what they need for graduation parties. Offer invitations, thank-you notes, additional wallet prints, guest books, and party favors.

Look for referrals from your clients. Contact the seniors you enjoyed working with and find out if they have five upcoming senior friends they would refer to you for a reward.

You can market to wedding clients year after year by offering a session on their anniversary. Keep up with couples and find out about transitions in their lives. Did they adopt a puppy? Have a baby? Touch base with them and let them know you’d love to photograph their new addition. Don’t forget about the bridesmaids and other connections you made during the wedding. Send a note letting them know how much you enjoyed working with them and include a gift certificate toward a session.

Make vendor connections at every opportunity. Give the bride a worksheet and find out each of the vendors she’s hired, then begin building a relationship with them before the wedding day. People who enjoy working with you will refer you to others, so networking is important.

Waiting for the phone to ring doesn’t work. I’ve been in business for more than 15 years, and it gets harder each year to keep the calendar filled. There are many ways to market for little or no cost, but it takes a time commitment to stay in front of your target client.

Q. As a sole proprietor, is it more beneficial for my studio to be classified as an association taxable as a corporation or should I keep it as a disregarded entity?

A. A sole proprietorship can be taxed only as a Schedule C. A limited liability company, or LLC, can be taxed as a disregarded entity and as a sole proprietorship or as an association taxable as a corporation. PPA recommends that if you choose to be taxed as an association taxable as a corporation, then make an S election to be taxed as an S corporation. In states that recognize an S election as applicable by federal law, S corporations have a more favorable tax treatment.

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