Shoestring Budget

The Myth of the Shoestring Budget

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Every time I read an article describing how photographers are advertising on a “shoestring budget” it makes me want to scream. Who made up that word anyway? I must confess, I am completely guilty of using the term myself, but I am doing my best to consciously stop using it.

Why is it bothering me so much? Well, if you look up the word “shoestring budget” in Google one of the first results that explain the definition is wisegeek.com and they claim it is “a very limited or small amount of money to spend on something.” What I want to know is who gets to call the amount of money you spend on advertising small or limited? Is a shoestring budget $100? $500? $1000? I can guarantee you that to most people, the amount they spend advertising their photography business doesn’t feel very small to them. Furthermore, why isn’t the time you spend doing the work for advertising your business factored into that “budget”?

Did you know that it is considered “normal” for most business owners to invest 10% back into their business for marketing and advertising purposes? That means, if you want to have revenue of $100,000 this year, you should be dropping $10,000 back into your marketing budget. Does $10,000 feel like a shoestring to you? Assuming you are following along with those numbers, it sure doesn’t feel like it to me. Even if you aren’t putting in the full 10% back, isn’t your time worth something to your business?

It’s time to start rethinking the advertising and marketing budget for your business. You have to stop thinking that you are small potatoes and realize you can be the cream of the crop! To do that you have to be aggressive and creative in your marketing strategies and realize that there is NOTHING shoestring about your marketing efforts.

“But I really am on a shoestring budget; I don’t have much to invest back into my marketing.”

Absolutely false! You have TONS to invest back into your marketing. You have YOU! The best part of that is that nobody else has YOU…except you! How’s that for being unique? We can spend pages upon pages going over how to setup a marketing budget, how to decide what money to spend and how to allocate it to the marketing efforts that work (and we will do that), but for now…I want to focus on those of you who feel you are working on a shoestring budget or worse: NO budget at all. I want to show you how investing some of your own time and effort can yield you great marketing and advertising returns without breaking the bank.

Check out my top 10 ways to invest yourself back into the marketing of your business all at no cost to you except your time and energy. You may not feel like you are on such a “shoestring” after following some of these:

  1. The media is always on the lookout for new and exciting things, especially when they can support local businesses. Sending out press releases on a regular basis to a media list is a great way to build solid relationships, show your longevity and get some free publicity should they choose to write up a story about you.
  2. Create a fan based Facebook that will drive your competition nuts! Be active in it, provide useful information, share session images, and show just how professional you can be. Facebook pages spread like wildfire once people start “friending” or “liking” something. Check out other resources for Facebook creation to get the most out of this incredible marketing effort.
  3. You probably already have a website and that website probably has some sort of “contact us” link right? What is that really doing for you? Is it simply emailing you their contact information? Do you respond within minutes? Hours? Days? Unless you want to risk the possibility of that potential client who is looking for information about your business going elsewhere set up an auto responder to all email inquiries so that they receive a message back from you instantly! Include basic information that you may not include on your main website and assure them that you will be calling them to follow up very soon. This is a very powerful marketing tool for new customer retention and starts that client relationship building process.
  4. Become an authority and teach a class for free to your community. Teach others how to take better pictures of their family. Not only will they appreciate you for the information but it is a great reason to send out a press release, shows you care about others pictures (even ones you aren’t taking yourself) and places you in the role of an authority on the subject.
  5. If you are trying to build up a list of names for future mailings you may have thought about purchasing a mailing list. Save your money and instead network with other local businesses and arrange to place a “drawing box” in their place of business. Offer a prize each month for the winner and share the list of names with the business to put on their own mailing list. It’s a win-win situation for you and the other business.
  6. Turn your clients into evangelists for your business. Offer an awesome referral program and give them the tools to make it rock!!! You can do this completely FREE if you make the referral gift a service rather than a product. If you really must make the item product based keep it to a minimum cost such as a small print print.
  7. Most local newspapers have a business section where they announce news about their business and even promotions and new hires. Send out letters of congratulations to these people and don’t forget to let them know they may need a new executive portrait for their new business cards while they are at it.
  8. Get involved in the “welcome wagon” for your city. Contact the people who run that program and ask if you can make a donation to the welcome basket they give out to new residents. Most people who are coming to a new town may be ready for a new family portrait and what a great way to introduce yourself to them!
  9. Hold contests that your whole community can be involved in. Remember, these contests can be promoted easily through press releases, facebook, blogs, etc. What kind of contests am I talking about here? Anything goes! For example, during the Father’s and Mother’s Day holidays, host a write in contest through your blog to have your clients or prospective clients write in and tell you why their mom or dad or wife or husband should be crowned mother or father of the year. This will generate extra traffic on your blog and will most likely yield new clients as well.
  10. Give something away for free! Offer a “Free Report” through your website on “How to choose the right photographer”. As you write the report, show the advantages of choosing your studio. This will help you gain credibility with your clients (and prospective clients) and will also help you build your mailing list if you require them to signup via email to receive it.

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