Vickie Black may have started out shooting weddings, portraits, and even pets, but soon zeroed in on her favorite genre — teen photography! Not only does Vickie now run a booming teen and senior portrait business based in Central Indiana, she also created and publishes the Senior Style Guide — an educational and inspirational publication for senior portrait photographers.
Today, we’ll talk about how choosing one market completely changed Vickie’s business, how she’s tapped into word-of-mouth marketing, and her annual fashion show — the one marketing event that drives most of her business for the entire year. Let’s get started…
Focus on One Market
It took Vickie about a year to realize what she didn’t want to do. During that time, she photographed anything and everything until a friend asked her to do a senior portrait session. She had no idea what to do, but her friend convinced her to try it.
As Vickie says, “I knew I was in love. That’s what I wanted to do!” She started cutting back on everything else and focusing in on the senior photography market. After a few years, she vowed to a group of other photographers, “This year, I’m only going to shoot seniors.”
And she stuck with it.
Every marketing expert says that you should choose a focus, but cutting business to generate more business feels counter-intuitive. For Vickie, it worked.
Once she focused on senior photography, she quickly realized what she needed to be doing and why.
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Marketing became easier, she raised her prices, and the entire business became more personable. She no longer split her time between brides, teens, families, and pet owners. Vickie was 100% in the teen world — looking for the best niches in marketing and finding ways to best meet the needs of her clients and their parents.
As Simon Sinek says, “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” For Vickie, this couldn’t be more true. She has a passion for teens and their parents. She wants the kids to feel as wonderful as they are and she wants parents to have the chance to share an amazing experience with them. This goal permeates everything from her experience sessions to her senior portraits to her charity work.
Share the New “Business Card”
Vickie’s used StickyAlbums in different ways over the years, but this year she’s decided to make StickyAlbums available to every client. Why? The more hands her work is in, the more her business gets shared.
She loads the top 15-20 images from each session (remember, it’s a highlights reel, not a proofing session). Then, clients get their StickyAlbum after they’ve paid in full and everything else is delivered.
The teens like the app, but the moms crave it! Why? They want to show off their kids! One of Vickie’s most loyal clients told her that when she first saw a friend’s app in church, she couldn’t wait to get hers!
StickyAlbums is a technical tool that lets you do old-school marketing better than anything else — and that’s where the magic happens. There’s nothing that replaces your client taking their phone out in church and showing it to a friend while raving about their experience.
Digital marketing is great, but face-to-face marketing is priceless. We can’t curate the narrative people tell each other — which means their praises mean more than any Facebook ad ever could.
When people talk you up and show off your product, the value of that advertising is exponential. It’s the modern-day business card!
If You Could Only Market Once A Year…
Could one marketing event really drive business for an entire year?
It does for Vickie.
Each year she puts on a fashion show that brings together a culmination of what she does and what she stands for. The teens have a blast while sharing this experience with their friends and family. Vickie gets another touchpoint with former clients and continues to build business partnerships in the community. And it all happens while raising money for anti-bullying that benefits local schools.
She works with 35-50 models (plus their parents) and multiple clothing vendors to put on this benefit in a private airplane hanger complete with a runway — how cool is that?!
What does she charge the vendors? Nothing. The partnership is mutually beneficial. She gets thousands of dollars of clothes for the kids to use (particularly in a push for prom) while they get tons of free advertising to their prime market. The teens usually end up buying the clothes if they have the option because they feel so great in them, and the tux companies make a killer during prom season thanks to the promo.
Vickie recently just upped her advertising to all of these companies and people that drive in to bring the products. It’s a win for Vickie, a win for the vendors, and definitely a win for the students.
This all comes back to choosing one focus. Vickie would never have made the time for this event if her focus had been split. She wouldn’t have had the social awareness to tap into the teens’ desire to be famous.
At the same time, bullying is a major problem and no child is immune. While the show does so much for business, it also lets her combat negative messages by building their self-image. During one show she quite literally turned those messages around.
Students began by holding up posters stating their fears and self-doubts:
I am awkward.
I am insecure.
I am fat.
At the end, they turned those signs around to reflect a new image. They are not insecure, or awkward, or fat — they are so much more. The fashion show gives teens an opportunity to see themselves in a new light.
Senior Style Guide
Obviously, Vickie’s a teen photography genius — not just because of her photography skills, but because she cares so much for her clients.
When she first started, she couldn’t find the types of resources she needed, so she created Senior Style Guide. Now, it’s one of the biggest and most supportive resources for senior photographers —both beginner and experienced.
This monthly magazine (available in digital and print) offers education and inspiration from industry leaders who are doing what you want to do — and they’ll tell you how they do it!
Sign up for their mailing list HERE to get a free download of a special issue of the Senior Style Guide that contains their best articles and insights from the last six years!
Vickie also offers limited one-on-one coaching for senior portrait photographers. For more information, check out teenmodelcrew.com.
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