Hey folks! Welcome back to the Ready to Wander Podcast EP4: My Marketing Strategy! How are ya? I’m your host, Sydney Breann, and I am so excited to jump into our first business chat. Psst… this podcast isn’t just for photographers. I am going to bring in some business chats to highlight things like marketing, outsourcing work, and burnout! I’ll even chat about the highs and lows of owning a business in general.
Today we are going to be talking about my marketing strategy changed my business, and how it can help yours! No matter the business, you have to have a marketing strategy to bring in more clients or customers. From an online product to a service, SEO and your marketing strategy will determine many aspects of your business. From how fast you can grow or scale, to how many people you can serve, and even how many paychecks are hitting your bank account each month.
Maybe you don’t agree, but marketing is one of the most important parts of bringing your biz more work. I would say the only thing more important is taking care of the clients you already have! Provide them with an awesome experience they can share with friends and family. Maybe they’ll even leave an awesome review so that people can see how great of a business owner you are. This will probably be another podcast episode topic, but client experience is key.
Your marketing strategy is vital to sell more products, book more appointments, and to serve more clients. It is the difference between waiting for clients to find you versus your work finding your clients.
Before I had a marketing strategy, I banked on (and waited) for clients to come to me. I did what I could to use hashtags on Instagram and get shares on Facebook. Unfortunately, that small organic reach wasn’t enough to fill my calendar. In the off chance it did fill my calendar, it was work I wasn’t jazzed about. They weren’t my ideal clientele, the location wasn’t my fave, or it took FOREVER to fill that calendar and I questioned if I could own a business full-time. It was work I had to take to keep my business running.
Once I had a brand I was proud of, I needed a way to expand my reach. Instagram and Facebook alone were not enough. I needed a way to get found on Google. Enter “establishing a marketing strategy, diving into SEO, and taking a chance on Google Ads”.
The massive success of my Google Ads may contribute to my location in Montana. This is because it is a destination that people are searching for. However, I do think my website SEO, landing pages for my ads, and how I structure my Google Ads contributed to the success of my marketing strategy.
With my marketing strategy, I am able to sit back and relax while clients find my website through their own Googling. I don’t worry anymore about how I am going to find clients! I know they will somehow find me, and it is usually through Google. Once I had the foundational marketing strategy set up, it became pretty passive. My website SEO works for me. When I do have a Google Ad running, it is just doing its’ thing without my help.
For small business owners, most business comes through word of mouth, social media, and search engines like Google and Pinterest. It is so important not to put all of your eggs in one basket, and to figure out which platforms your target clients will be using. For me, it is Instagram and Google, but I still put effort into Pinterest and Facebook. If one marketing strategy fails, I have a bunch of other backup platforms.
I know what you are thinking. “Syd, this all sounds way out of my realm.” OR “it sounds like a ton of work that will take up a bunch of time that I don’t have.” Newsflash: I had no idea what I was doing. Social media? I just posted when I felt like it (and here’s a secret, I still do). Google? I had no idea where to start. Website optimization? It took lots of practice and some dedicated time to start ranking on Google.
I can’t tell you enough: the payoff is real. By committing 1-2 hours per week to learn more about SEO and Google Ads, you can implement some serious changes. You could even start as simple as establishing a better social media strategy. A solid marketing strategy took me from feeling anxious about filling my calendar, to filling my schedule. It took me from 4 bookings to 35 in a span of 5 months. It took me from 1-5 inquiries a month to 1-3 inquiries a DAY.
Keep in mind, I have been a photographer for 7 years, full-time for nearly 3. In my second year as a full-time photographer, I was able to fully transition my business from 30 large weddings a year (plus seniors and families) to focus strictly on elopements and intimate weddings. I was able to raise my prices to work less and make more, all while working with ideal clients! My ideal clients are those that are down for a hike and getting a little dirty. I went from shooting 100+ person weddings to intimate weddings and elopements in just a year. Not to mention with no transition period of shooting both or being in that weird in-between stage. I contribute all of this to my marketing strategy, and of course my business coach.
So yes, I was booking out my calendar before, but it was filled with work that didn’t bring me joy. When I rebranded and focused on marketing towards adventure elopements, I needed a way to get my name out there. But I didn’t want to involve my previous work from the 300 person weddings. I needed a way to get my elopement work out in the open. My marketing strategy of improved website SEO and Google Ads took only a couple of months to implement. After another couple of months, it became successful.
Now that I have you hooked and wondering how you can create a kickass marketing strategy that will bring you success, we can jump in.
After I optimized my website through blogging, photo descriptions, and great copy, I was started ranking on Google. I ranked with a few keywords just a few months after I implemented these changes. I recommend getting the app SEO Edge to type in your keywords and see where you are ranking! Before optimizing my site and running ads, I was getting organically, about 200-500 website visits per month. After implementing my marketing strategy, I was getting around 1,000 website visits or more per month. Obviously, this uptick in traffic meant more inquiries and in turn, more bookings.
Before I implemented my marketing strategy, the only destination I was able to target my was own location. I felt like I never had enough work or enough reach to target specific locations.. It felt like it was truly just luck that people happened upon my work or page. Now, I can specifically target dream locations. Although I optimized my website for my home-base location, I also target other locations through keywords on blogs and landing pages. People do it all the time for locations like Hawaii, California, the PNW. You can target any location if you have the landing page set up, or work that you can market from that location.
Although my website is optimized for my home-base, I’ve created landing pages for dream destinations. This allows me to run a specific Google Ad for that target destination, which puts my website in front of more people who are searching for that destination. For example, although my home-base was Minnesota at the time, I was able to create an ad that targeted Montana (my eventual home-base). Through one ad for Montana elopements, I was able to target couples looking for a Montana elopement photographer. But I was also able to book out my first busy season in Montana with elopements (while still living in MN). Now I am located in Montana, but that Google Ad allowed me to book out my calendar before I moved!
With Google Ads, I can target a specific cohort of people to book more of my ideal client. Do you see how website SEO and Google are starting to tie together? I optimize my website to target locations, specific keyword searches, and specific clientele. From there, Google scans my site to determine if it fits the search, or who to show it to. Once Google can recognize who I am trying to target, it puts my website in front of my ideal audience. If you are not organically getting enough people to your website you can run a Google Ad to target your specific market.
For example, I want to target young, outdoorsy people who are searching for a photographer in Montana. I set up my Google Ad to target 20-30 year olds who are located in the USA. But I also market towards people searching for: “Montana elopement photographer”, “Glacier National Park elopement”, and “How to elope in Montana.” I now rank for those searches, and people are able to click on my site. They can even see at a glance that I am an outdoor-loving Montana elopement photographer. If they like what they see, they inquire. I am now able to directly target a bunch of people that fit who I am looking for as clients.
Holy smokes. That was a lot. And I could probably make a bigger list about how great and how important a solid marketing strategy is. I made these changes so I could move my business across the country without a loss of income or clients. A tight SEO and ad strategy to me means a steady income. It means doing what I love. Being able to make more and work less. It also means having more freedom. And it also means finding my ideal clients and shooting in the places I want to shoot. Really, you can’t go wrong with starting to learn and implement SEO and Google Ads. It can really make a difference in the growth and success of your business.
My business coach help me realize who I was and what I wanted my business to become. This is an optional step, but I recommend investing in a coach! Find someone who can give you constructive criticism on your brand, your website, and even your client experience. Once you are confident in your brand, you will be able to fully dive into a marketing strategy. Then, you can start booking your dream sessions, with your dream clients, in your dream locations.
Fun fact: you can’t just jump in. It’s important to know where, to whom, and what you are marketing. You have to know how many people you are already reaching with your website and social media. Look at those insights on Instagram. Look at how many website visitors you are getting and how long they are staying on your site. Figure out the keywords for the location you are marketing to, what keywords fit your business best, and how you want to be found on Google.
Numbers may seem overwhelming (or boring), but it is essential to understand how to read them. Google Analytics will show you who is viewing your website already. Google Analytics showed me how little visibility my website had, despite booking out my calendar. It just meant people were finding me on Instagram and through word-of-mouth, and not through my website. This stressed me out because I am not the best at being consistent with social media! I knew I needed to do something to get people to my website rather than my Instagram.
After learning Google Analytics, I knew I had a tangible number of people I was trying to reach through my website each month. Since I wasn’t hitting that number organically, I needed to run a Google Ad to supplement. My coach taught me how to run search ads and how to set them up to become successful.
However, even though I learned Google Ads, I couldn’t run them until I did a deep website edit to make sure SEO was optimized, and my website was exactly how I wanted it to look for potential clients. Like I said before, if you are not confident in your brand and if you don’t love your website, it will show. Your website is the place where people see your work, book your services, and learn about you. It has to be good and feel like you. It also has to speak directly to your ideal client.
I did a whole website SEO overhaul to make sure my keywords were spot on throughout my website and blog so that Google would prioritize my website when people searched for those keywords. You can find a ton of information about keywords and how to succeed with SEO on Google, in podcasts, and on YouTube. I specifically use Showit as my website host, which has a lot of information already on how to optimize your site for SEO. I also watched a ton of YouTube and read many blogs to learn about keywords and why they are important. All of the keywords I target have to do with being a Montana elopement photographer, or Montana elopements, Montana weddings, adventurous elopements, adventurous couples, mountain elopements, and so on.
Keywords in blogs or throughout your site helps Google recognize that your page has what people are looking for. However, you do NOT want to overstuff your site with keywords, because then you look spammy. When revamping my site, I also made the descriptions of my photos keywords, and the same goes for the images in my blog. It is just another way to show Google that you are the keyword that the people are searching for.
Keywords are so important, as it is what enables people to find your work. Let’s look at Instagram. If you are searching “Seattle Hikes,” there are going to be a bunch of hashtags (which are basically keywords), photos, and people that pop up based off of that search. If I had Seattle Hikes in my Instagram name or bio, or if I used a hashtag that was related at some point along the way, people would be able to find me. Google works the same way. If your site is optimized for a bunch of keywords that have to do with your market or clientele, more of those people are going to be able to find you if they search those optimized keywords on Google.
If you aren’t a photographer, this just means that you have to find something that makes your business different, and capitalize on it. Even the busiest markets are not saturated if you are doing something different or unique, and if you are owning who you are and what style you are. For example, when I rebranded for strictly elopements, I made sure my website and brand voice communicated that I was adventurous, outdoorsy, and down to help couples create a unique day that strays from tradition. I made sure to express that I am an all-inclusive photographer and that I am there through the planning process every step of the way. From helping couples find vendors, to helping secure permits if they are getting married on public land.
Not only did my words speak directly to my potential clients, but the colors, logos, and elements on my website were cohesive across all platforms, and spoke to who I was. My elements and colors are earthy, and speak to those who want a mountain experience. So my brand was there, my brand voice or copy on my website was there, everything was cohesive when someone inquired. So, I had to create an experience that lived up to the experience I was advertising to potential clients. An all-inclusive experience, and one that didn’t leave them hanging. What did this mean for me?
I created comprehensive pricing guides for before they even decide on me. Then, I made elopement guides for after they book me with a gear lists, maps, travel recommendations, and how-tos and what ifs. I provide custom location idea lists for every couple based on what kind of location they are looking for for their ceremony, portraits, hikes and activities. In my (seldom) free-time, I write blogs that answered questions before they even had a chance to ask me. I hop on unlimited Zoom calls and phone calls if they have questions or want help with vendors, timelines, permits, etc.
Through each step of working with my couples, I ensure that the entire experience is about THEM and their love story, and I do my best to take the stress out of planning a wedding. I have made every piece of my workflow easier so that I can focus more time and energy on my clients. Because I provide this amazing experience, I was able to raise my prices and start being selective with when and where I work. And since my clients love their experience, they write awesome reviews, which makes more couples want that same type of experience. So really my brand, brand voice, and the client experience was the hook for drawing people in and booking more clients. With more clients means a bigger workload, which means I may not be able to handle everything myself, or I want to put my time elsewhere.
I have always heard to consistently publish quality content for potential clients to find on your website, and I was not finding the time to do so, so I outsourced it. Now, I have a blog that hits my website once per week! The blogs feature portfolio pieces, educational content for couples (or other elopement photographers), and personal travels. This podcast will also have a blog posted. Really, this podcast is another way to boost my SEO. The more links and stuff leading back to your site, the more Google is going to push you to the top of the search.
Blogging is a huge way to implement more pages with keywords on your website. It is also a place to link to other sites or other pages on your own site, which makes Google recognize that you are important and should be boosted when keywords are searched. Blogging though, besides being great for SEO and keywords, is really a way to keep people reading on your website to keep those visitors from clicking away. Having informative, compelling, and curated blogs is a great way to boost your page, and I am so glad I have my VA to do it for me.
I was finally able to start getting my website out on Google in front of the right people. And boy, was it successful. Just one ad booked out my entire calendar for the next wedding season. That one ad brought in over 150 inquiries. Like SHEEESH! I had to be patient. Although I created a marketing strategy, it took a few months for me to see the fruits of my labor, but the payoff is there. If you take the time to learn SEO strategy, if you take the time to learn how to set up a Google Ad, if you take the time to hone in on your brand and your website, along with your amazing client experience, the work will come.
Woooeeee! I freaking love marketing strategy. I could literally talk about it all day. If you are wanting to know more or if you want to see exactly what my ads look like, reach out! Let’s set up a mentor session and I’ll teach you my ways.
Well, I guess this is the end of the Ready to Wander Podcast EP4: My Marketing Strategy. Are you ready to implement a new marketing strategy? I hope this podcast inspired you or got you jazzed to book up your calendar. Keep kicking ass, business owners! And I’ll catch you in the next episode! This is Sydney Breann, signing off. Are you ready to wander?