Building Your Brand | How to Be a Boutique Photographer, Part 3

In the previous lesson in this series on How to be a Boutique Photographer, we found our niche and narrowed in on our target clientele. Now that we know who you’ll be marketing to, it’s time to create a brand that appeals to that audience. First of all, your brand is not your logo.

Your brand is not the business name or studio. It’s not pretty packaging or even you as the artist. A brand is not any one of those things. Instead, it’s all of those things combined.

So what is the difference between a brand, your identity, and the logo? Just Creative summed it up perfectly:

Photo Credit: Just Creative

We’ll go more in depth into defining your brand identity and choosing a good logo in next lesson, but for now understand that a brand needs an identity to interact with its audience and an identity needs a logo in order to be recognizable. All of these elements work together to create your overall brand. With literally hundreds, if not thousands, of new photographers opening their businesses each year, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to remain unique and stand out from the crowd. That is why it is more important than ever to have a clear vision of what your brand is and why a client should book with you. Here a three questions that should remain in the forefront of your mind when building your photography brand:

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Q- What unique features and benefits does your photography and/or services offer potential clients and how should that affect the purchasing decision?

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Q- What emotions do you want your audience to associate with your photography brand?

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Q- What core values shape your business practices and policies and how do these values differentiate you?

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While you think about your answers to those questions, let’s deal with the core of what a brand is and how it bridges the gap between photographer and client. As we saw earlier, a brand is essentially the emotional connection that the audience has with your business. In this sense, a brand can have either a positive or negative emotional connection, depending on how it has been implemented. A good brand will evoke happy feelings and has the potential to make your audience smile at just the thought of your business. In the corporate world, there are some brands that are just “happy” by nature and receive very few negative connotations. Hallmark is one of the best examples of a brand that evokes happy thoughts and feelings in its customers and audience, whether they’ve received a birthday card with that embossed logo on the envelope or are watching yet another happily-ever-after movie. As a company whose business is built entirely on relationships and feelings, it was vital that Hallmark succeed in establishing a positive emotional connection within its brand, otherwise they would be just another card company instead of becoming the icon that they are today.

As photographers, we are in the business of preserving memories and capturing relationships, which are tied closely to the emotions of our clients. This provides the perfect means for establishing the positive emotional connection that our brand needs to succeed. One of the best ways to establish this connection is to find common ground that you share with your client. This could be as simple both shopping at Pottery Barn or having children the same age. Or it could be that you both honeymooned on the Hawaiian Islands or graduated from the same university. You could share a love for Chai Tea or cross-country skiing. Whatever it is, find at least one thing that you have in common and use that to create a relationship between you and your client.

This principle extends to your online presence as well, as you can use social media (such as Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram) to form personal bonds with your audience. Consider sharing peeks into your day-to-day life so that you are seen as both a professional and a “real person.” By creating these emotional ties, you are also establishing loyalty among your clients as they now see you as “their photographer” and are unlikely to patron another business unless it provides different service (newborn vs. family photography). The emotional attachment that your client experiences makes them more likely to refer their own friends and family since they are personally invested in your business.

Let’s revisit those three questions from earlier. Once you have your answers to these questions written down, shape them into the statements that will become the foundation that your brand is built upon, thus creating your brand philosophy. Since we all do better with examples, I went ahead and answered the questions using Megan Marlene Photography as the reference point:

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Q- What unique features and benefits does your photography and/or services offer potential clients and how should that affect the purchasing decision?
A- As a baby photographer, everything is focused on making that little one as comfortable and natural as possible. When photographing, I limit the props used so the baby is always the focal point of the images. Likewise, the products I offer feature simple designs that compliment rather than distract. At my studio, clients find all the comforts and amenities of home, such a coffee and sweets, the latest magazines, toys for the kids, and a changing table, diapers included.

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Q- What emotions do you want your audience to associate with your photography brand?
A- My style is natural and simple and focuses on the relationship between people, while imparting a sense of grace and timeless elegance. I want my photography to feel natural and sweet, my studio to feel inviting and relaxing, and my services and products to feel luxurious and memorable.

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Q- What core values shape your business practices and policies and how do these values differentiate you?
A- I believe in doing everything possible to make the client happy and going out of my way to exceed expectations. Whether this means hand-delivering an order to a busy mom, sending a specially wrapped gift to Grandma, or incorporating an heirloom into a newborn session, my goal is to under-promise and over-deliver.

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See how those three seemingly simple questions allowed me to sum up my entire brand in just a few statements? As I continue to build my brand and choose new services, products, and strategies to implement, I constantly refer back to those statements to make sure that each choice is lining up with my overall brand philosophy. This brings us to the next aspect of building your brand: consistency. One of the biggest dangers to your business is an inconsistent brand. This would be a brand where the logo is sleek and modern, the image editing style is hazy and matte, the studio is all-white with pops of bright pink and aqua, and the packaging is made up of burlap and vintage lace. At best such a brand would be confusing; at worse, it would be self-destructive. Now granted, that is more of a worse case scenario than a normal situation, but it helps drive the point home. Every aspect of your business brand has to be in sync, otherwise you risk undermining yourself. In the next lesson, we’ll work on defining your brand identity and remaining consistent and cohesive.

This may seem like a large undertaking but I can promise that if you invest the proper time and energy into creating an amazing brand you love from the very beginning, then you will not only save yourself the expense and headache of rebranding, but you will set the foundation for building a loyal client base and successful business that truly represents who you are as a photographer.

How to be a boutique photographer, a web series by beingboutique.com

January 12, 2013 - 3:45 am

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January 13, 2013 - 4:30 am

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