by Robert Provencher
Professional photographers are aware that if they are going to be in business, they are going to need a website. This is particularly true for photographers who focus on wedding photography and portraiture - potential clients want to see what you can do before they give you a call. Even if they do happen to call before viewing your work, they may ask for the address of your website. If you don't have one, rightfully or unrightfully, you may be considered an amateur - and perception is just as valid as reality.
Many companies, like Yahoo! and GoDaddy.com and many others will provide software for you to create your own pages if your sign up for their hosting services. Some photographers may find it easier to let a professional web designer put their site together for them. Or better yet, learn the basics of web design and create your own. That way you get to add samples or monthly specials whenever you want. Either way, there are five key elements that every site should have. Most web designers focus only on the design element of web creation and fail to see the sales power and marketing muscle that can be yours when used effectively. Here are five key ideas:
1- You must establish credibility - freely present your credentials and a nice portfolio. Avoid unprofessional graphics at all costs, misspellings, and grammatical errors. The most important message you can telegraph to your prospect is your work. In it holds your biggest benefit that you bring to your prospect. They must be able to see your best work, and as many samples as possible.
2- User-friendliness - make it easy for your site visitors to navigate - they shouldn't have to go backward to go forward. Or wait for slow loading flash files or work their way through cluttered layouts. And, please avoid the number one mistake that 90% of the photographers do over and over. What is it? Black background with light or white text. I know, I know, you want to look cccooooolll and artsy. But the fact is, and many studies have proven this to be true, that black text on white is the most easily read. Think about it. We read newspapers, magazines, books etc etc etc....alll black text with white backgrounds. Why do you want to go against the current? Ego. That's why. Don't let your ego steer you. Let common sense be your guide.
3- Include a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section. You'll be the one to write and answer the questions, anticipating your customer's needs for information. This is your chance to add facts that don't fit neatly onto your other pages. Of course you can include portrait planning tips, location ideas that work best for specific portrait ideas or at certain areas in your area. Include as much information as you can possibly come up with to pre-emptivelly answer the questions your prospect has in their heads. This is a great opportunity to help your prospect in a consultive way. You will be perceived as professional and someone whom they will want to do business with.
4- Promote your site. By this I mean managing traffic that arrives to your site through search engines and other online methods or any traffic that is generated by other media sources outside of the web, such as your local newspaper, yellow pages, business cards etc. You can easily and readily find out how many searches are done using specific search terms to do with your city or town. Have your site optimized so it ranks high enough in the search engines and you will get pre-qualified and targeted leads visiting your site. You can also buy qualified leads from google.com or overture.com. Your websites' job is to effectively sell these leads into clients. Overture and sites such as wordtracker .com have programs you can use to help you research search terms.
5- Sell. That's right, sell. Too many portrait studio owners are afraid of selling. They seem to think it is nasty and negative thing. Fact is selling is simply offering a fair and mutually beneficial service. The more you tell you better you sell. You mustn't be afraid to extol the virtues of your service by making offers, pointing out the benefits and backing up those benefits with the features. The truth is people are afraid of salespeople who don't reveal enough information. That's why your website is the perfect opportunity to sell, and have the site do a lot of the selling for you by using an informative and consultive approach.
A website should be a reflection of what your business is. You can't add anything to your web site message that conflicts with the reality that already exists. If you offer great service and products and have a great reputation within your community, your website will be an extension of that message.
A website will not magically create anything for you. You must have something to offer. This is your message. It is what makes you and your business different from all others. Your website is merely a delivery method of your message. An extension of you and our studio.
If you have an innovative approach to your packaging and products, that is a part of your message and it will and should be used as part of your sales message. If you have a dirty, cluttered place and your website suggests otherwise, what kind of message will you give to clients when they do show up at your place of business after they've checked out your website?
Take a good look at what exactly your business message is. What is your typical client like? How do they usually buy from you? These are basic, yet essential questions that will reveal more information for you to use in your marketing arsenal.
Remember that your website is an ad, and advertising is selling. Selling is serving. And serving is informing. With that golden rule as a guide you can never create ads or offers that otherwise would hold anything other than the customers needs as top priority. And you will profit by building a trusting and repeat client base.
About the Author
Robert Provencher has been a professional portrait and wedding photographer for over 25 years. Robert has authored several manuals on digital photography and photogaphy marketing. Photoshop tutorials & photography tips