You’ve heard people say that email marketing can transform your photography business.
You’ve heard the crazy success stories of how so-and-so launched an email campaign that tripled their photography clients in just two weeks. You’ve even read stats showing how email marketing outperforms every other online marketing strategy… by a long shot.
And now, you’re ready to put email marketing to work in YOUR photography business to book more photography clients.
Making that decision is an exciting step in the right direction, BUT…it’s only the first step. Now it’s time to get the ball rolling.
In this post, I’ll show you how to get started. We’ll look at the different types of emails you should send, when to send them, and tips for writing them. (I’ll also share some email templates to help you jumpstart the process.)
The Email Marketing Mindset
Before you even write a single word, you have to get in the right mindset.
This is absolutely critical. If you skip this initial step, you’ll never follow through with an email marketing strategy. You’ll start, but you’ll never finish.
As a professional photographer, you’re a creative… but you’re also a business owner. And creatives, like myself, tend to suffer from “Shiny Object Syndrome”. We get excited about some awesome new “thing” — whether it’s a new tool, gadget, or strategy — but then something urgent comes along and we’re gone, never to return.
That’s because there’s a fine line between what’s important and what’s urgent. Here’s how it works for most of us:
- When something is important AND urgent, it becomes your top priority. You have to get it done RIGHT NOW because your photography business depends on it. So you drop everything to get it done.
- When something is urgent but not important, it also rises to the top of your to-do list. These are the tasks responsible for filling up most of the calendar, even if they don’t make the biggest impact on growing your photography business.
- When something is important but not urgent, it could make a huge impact on your photography business, but it doesn’t require immediate attention. So, it usually gets pushed to the backburner. Email marketing often falls into this category.
This is where we need the business owner in us to take over.
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Before you take the first steps in email marketing, make the decision to get it done. Even though it’s not the most urgent task in your queue, make the commitment to start it AND then most importantly finish it.
Now that it’s become a priority, it’s time to set yourself up for success.
Manage Your Time and Energy
First, understand that creating your email marketing system will take a chunk of your time. Even if it’s only a few hours, it’s still time you’d otherwise spend on other tasks.
Give yourself the best chance of seeing it through by breaking it down into smaller chunks. This takes what would otherwise seem like a huge, daunting project, and turns into a manageable, actionable plan. This gives you a sense of completion as you finish each mini-task.
For more on this, check out my conversation with Jen Swedhin where she unpacks her “Cheesecake Method” as an alternative to the traditional to-do list.
Interruptions can cost us so much time and energy. And even though we’re constantly bombarded with interruptions and distractions every day, many of us have found a way to tune them out when we’re working.
But when you’re sitting down to write an email, staring at a blank screen, trying to figure out what to say… that’s when you’re at your most vulnerable. It’s nearly impossible to see every notification that pops up on your phone and keep your train of thought when writing.
Eliminate those distractions by:
- Setting aside time to work on your email marketing when you’ll have the least chance of being physically interrupted by someone; and
- Turning off all notifications on your phone and computer by enabling Do Not Disturb mode.
Only Focus on Your Ideal Photography Client
When many photographers sit down to write an email, self-doubt starts to creep in. And when the first distraction pops up, they jump at the chance to walk away from the email.
They think to themselves, What am I supposed to teach? Nobody really cares what I have to say.
The truth is you have a very unique wisdom that’s going to attract your target market in a way that nobody else can.
Understand that what you’re writing won’t resonate with everyone… and that’s okay! You’re communicating a piece of knowledge that will only attract to your most ideal photography clients, which is a very specific target market.
For example, if you’re writing an email sequence about how to get great engagement photos, you’re targeting engaged couples — not families with newborns.
Then, to get even more specific, if your ideal client is young hipster couples that like barn weddings, speak in their language. Write about what’s helpful to them. You don’t have to appeal to every demographic of engaged couples out there.
Offering your unique perspective will help you attract the kind of client that want to work with you and you alone.
The Email Marketing Toolset
Once you have the right mindset, it’s time to start crafting your email strategy.
First, let’s get clear on the three types of emails used in email marketing.
1. The Onboarding Sequence (Email Course)
When a website visitor gives you their email address in exchange for the free resource you offer, this automatically triggers an onboarding sequence.
The onboarding sequence is a series of emails that delivers your resource in the form of a multi-part email course, which is important for two big reasons…
First, many photographers offer their resource as a single PDF, but this only gives you permission to send one email. Once the subscriber gets downloads the PDF, they really don’t have a reason to open any other email from you.
But by offering your resource as a multi-part course, the subscriber is giving you permission to send them multiple emails. Not only will they not mark your emails as spam — they’ll actually want to open and read them.
This lets you build a relationship of trust and positions you as THE photographer they’ll want to hire.
Second, the first 14 days after someone opts in for your resource is the most important window of time for email marketing success. This is when a person is most likely to open, read, and engage with your content.
By delivering your sequence over those 14 days, you can gradually build a relationship and ultimately win their business.
For more collecting email addresses, creating free resources (lead magnets), and email automation, check out these posts:
2. The Newsletter
Newsletters are weekly or monthly emails that tell your existing audience what’s going on in your photography business.
The best newsletters focus on giving value, like helpful tips, updates in the community, or interesting resources. For example, a wedding photographer might include a section in the newsletter about “The Hottest New Trends in Wedding Venues”.
While newsletters are focused on providing ongoing helpful knowledge, they’re more of a long-term investment of energy. Because they’re not directly selling, they just serve as a reminder that you exist.
For newsletters to bring in more photography clients, you’ll need a huge list of email addresses, you’ll need to be extremely consistent with writing and sending them, and your content has to be amazing. Otherwise, you’re wasting your time and energy.
Until those conditions are met, newsletters probably aren’t the best type of email to use in your email strategy.
3. The Broadcast
Broadcasts are the unsolicited emails sent out to a list that ask them to book you or make a purchase.
Basically, it’s spam. Even if it offers discounts of “huge” savings, it’s still spam. Randomly sent broadcast sales emails often cause open rates to plummet and unsubscribes and spam counts to skyrocket.
As a general rule of thumb, stay away from this type of email.
Having said that, there’s a way to use them effectively a few times each year, but only if you’re giving them true value and earning their permission with good content throughout the year.
The best email marketers tell their subscribers ahead of time that they’ll send them newsletters and the occasional special deal, but they always give them the option to not receive it.
Too many photographers forget to do this, and when they randomly send a broadcast email promoting their upcoming mini-session, it blows up in their face.
The ability to earn a quick, high return has onboarding sequences the gold-standard of email marketing in every industry — not just in the photography business.
Even though there’s a place for newsletters and broadcasts in an email strategy, ignore them for now and start by creating your onboarding sequence.
5 Tips for Getting Started
1. Focus on Your Resource’s Headline
When first getting started, the actual content of your emails is far less important than the headline of the offer that gets people to opt in.
You could have the best resource content imaginable, but no one will exchange their email address for it if the headline isn’t enticing.
Think about what your ideal clients desperately want to learn, then say it in their words.
2. Make It Live ASAP
One of the hardest things for any creative is to publish something that isn’t “perfect”. For your first email sequence though, throw any illusions about perfection out the window.
You just need to get it done and make it live, fast.
Sure — quality content is important, but it’s nothing to stress about in the beginning. The reality is a plain-jane, just-good-enough email sequence will convert 100 times better than the other photographers in your area that aren’t doing any of this.
And if you put off publishing your first sequence until it’s “perfect”, it will never get published.
Create a catchy form, publish it to your site, and improve/polish your emails later.
3. Encourage Readers to Take Action… Gradually
As we mentioned earlier, a lead is most likely to take action within the first 14 days of requesting your resource.
While you need to promote your photography business in the sequence, it’s crucial to get the timing right. Otherwise, readers will feel like they’re being sold to right from the start — which doesn’t help in building trust.
The first three or four emails should solely focus on value. These are all about giving — not asking.
In the remaining five or six emails, start introducing and offering your business. Begin with a light call to action, offering access to a portfolio or investment guide, then gradually become more direct in each email.
4. Start with a Template
If you’re new to writing content, nothing is more intimidating than staring at a blank screen. And for creatives, it’s easy to second guess every word we write… spending hours coming up with ideas and writing them out, only to read it, hate it, delete, and start all over from scratch.
This is why it’s extremely helpful to start with a proven email template.
A template not only helps you structure your content, but it helps you get it done fast.
Remember, you want your email sequence to be live as quickly as possible. Start with a template to create your email sequence so you can make it live and start capturing leads for your photography business.
5. Get Started Now
Get the email templates, sequences, and popup forms you need to get started with a free trial of StickyEmail.
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