Brooke Summer is a boudoir photographer, educator, and overall marketing genius based in Denver, CO.
She’s also one of the most strategically-minded photographers I’ve ever met. As the founder of Business Straight Up, Brooke teaches professional photographers and creative entrepreneurs how to think differently about business — especially in their marketing.
What makes Brooke unique is that she’s also a full-time photographer… which means she actually practices what she teaches.
I was so pumped to have her on the show to talk about:
- How she integrates her website and email marketing into one unified strategy;
- How email marketing has helped her book the right type of clients that don’t balk at her prices; and
- How she teaches email subscribers to take action.
(Here are the highlights, but you can listen to the full conversation below and find even more episodes on the Momentum podcast).
Brooke got her start in photography in 2006, shooting a high school for $20 with a point-and-shoot camera. She was convinced she’d made it, and she couldn’t believe someone was actually paying her to do what she loved.
After three years of shooting families, though, Brooke realized her heart was actually in boudoir photography.
For Brooke, creating amazing images of everyday women wasn’t simply a business opportunity. It was a mission. Her work was helping these women remember their power — that they’re not just a mom, wife, grandmother, or worker bee. They’re more than that. They’re valuable and very much alive.
Now Brooke’s entering into her 10th year of running a wildly successful photography business, and it’s plain to see how her passion for her work coupled with her marketing brilliance has made her so successful.
Website and Email Marketing — 2 Tactics, 1 Strategy
As photographers, we’re all strategic when creating an image. We see an image in our brain, think about the focus point, and then put everything in place to bring it to life.
Unfortunately, we don’t always take the same approach to our marketing.
In our websites, for example, many of us are just concerned with getting it done. We throw something together, publish it, and hope for the best. Instead, we need to take a strategic approach to our websites.
Think of your website as your handshake to the world. It’s your introduction, but you only have a moment to capture your visitors’ attention. The average attention span is just three seconds, which means you should ask yourself, “What do I want them to do in those three seconds?”
Do you want them to click something, download a free guide, join a free course, or something else? Whatever it is, every page of your site should have a goal and encourage the visitor to do something.
One of the most important goals should be to add people to your email list. This is where the tactics come together to form a unified strategy.
When your website visitors take the action you want, they’re added to your email list — not so you can sell them something at every opportunity, but so you can serve them.
By serving your email subscribers, you’re building a relationship. This is extremely important if you’re in a genre like newborn, family, or boudoir photography. It seems obvious! You would never hand over your newborn or get undressed for someone you didn’t know, like, and trust — but many photographers fail to take the time to build trust and still expect their potential clients to book sessions with them.
As Brooke points out, email marketing is the key to building the trust factor. It’s a way to nurture the relationship so that — even if someone on your list isn’t ready to book a photographer right now, they will be eventually. Then you’ll be the first person that comes to mind.
Using Email to Book the Right Clients
Today, we hear a lot about the importance of being authentic.
This gets tricky, though, when we exclusively rely on platforms like Facebook and Google search results for our marketing. We’re playing by the rules of their algorithms, which is all about getting clicks. This makes it incredibly tough to stick with our own authentic voice.
In email marketing, though, you don’t have to play that game. People are on your email list because they’ve chosen to be there. They’ve willingly opted in and said, “Yes, I want to hear from you.” If they choose to unsubscribe at any point, that’s completely okay, and just ensures that your list is made of the right type of clients.
This gives you the freedom to be your authentic self and grow the relationship.
For example, Brooke once sent an email to her list with the subject line, “Saggy Baggy”. In the email, she talked openly about how a new medication caused her to lose 50 pounds in 2 months, leaving her with saggy skin.
In the world of SEO, a blog post with the same title and content probably wouldn’t perform very well. But because it was an email, it’s Brooke’s most popular email ever.
Her list loved it. They wanted to hear all about it. They loved hearing her say, I’m a real person. I have saggy baggy skin and I was worried sick about it, so I completely understand your concerns about what you look like, too. I get it, and here’s what I can do to help you.
This transparency and openness helps build trust with her audience and ultimately makes it easier for them to book sessions with her.
Building these relationships over email is one of the biggest reasons Brooke is successful. Now, when she sends out the occasional email about her openings, they’re filled almost immediately.
And because her email list is made up of her ideal clients, objection to her prices or time slots are never an issue. Her email subscribers value what she does and are ready to book sessions with her no matter what it takes.
Teaching Your List to Take Action
Brooke points out that in email marketing, you never want someone to open an email, skim it, and delete it. You want to build a relationship and start serving them by offering value in every email you send.
Every email you send should make someone’s day better — even if it’s just a little bit — and encourage them to take action.
Just like the website, ask yourself what the goal is. This could be booking a session or visiting a scheduling link. Or it could be replying to your email.
This is one of my favorite tactics Brooke shared. When you encourage your list to reply and someone actually does, respond back to them. Brooke always responds back because it tells the other person that the relationship is important to her.
This reinforces that she’s a real person — a human being, a mom, and a woman just like them. It shows that they can relate to her and trust her. Brooke brings up the point that people do business with people, not “brands” or “businesses”. That means to get bookings, you have to be a real person to your audience.
Humanize yourself in your emails and teach your audience to take action with every email, which becomes hugely beneficial when you occasionally sell to them.
Getting Started with Email
Email marketing may seem overwhelming or impossible, but it doesn’t have to be.
Take a deep breath, proceed with baby steps, and remember the goal — turning website visitors into email subscribers, automatically nurturing them, and eventually turning them into inquiries and bookings… all while you’re shooting, editing, or spending time with your family.
Also, start thinking about what you could write about to give value to your audience.
If you want some inspiration, that’s part of the reason we launch StickyEmail. It comes with 14 pre-written sequences you can use as a starting point and launch today. Even while polishing your voice and content, you can have something live that’s reaching your audience.
Links from the show…
Brooke was generous enough to offer two free courses to our listeners: One for email marketing, and one for SEO. Check them out, HERE.