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5 Word-of-Mouth Marketing Ideas for Innovative Photographers

14 min read

Heather Yeager always loved photography, but when postpartum depression hit hard, she realized she needed photography. As she embraced the creativity so key to her healing process, Heather found herself caught in a whirlwind of word-of-mouth marketing that quickly elevated her dream job to a full-time success story!

“I LOVE my business. I’ve never felt this confident about anything!” – Heather Yeager

Heather built her photography business with purpose, thoughtfully crafting every aspect of her branding, pricing, and visual style. As new clients fell in love with her work, word spread quickly throughout the close-knit, midwestern community of Warrensburg, Missouri. Between her business launch in September, 2016, and May, 2017, Heather had fully booked her 2017 calendar, and her 2018 calendar was beginning to fill up.

How did Heather Yeager – former fashion production assistant, licensed esthetician, military wife, and mom-of-two – turn word-of-mouth marketing on its head in only a few short months?

Thankfully, Heather’s not one for keeping secrets!

"Hello lovely" mug and word-of-mouth marketing genius Heather Yeager

#1: Specialize In A Genre You LOVE

Before Heather launched her business, she spent nine months actively researching. She tested everything: subjects, locations, editing styles, marketing materials, price points. If it would later be used in real-life client scenarios, Heather gave it a trial run first.

“I’d say, ‘I just got this new lens!’ or ‘I just found this location – can I photograph you to test it out?’ and people almost always said yes!” – Heather Yeager

Heather photographed guys and girls, families and babies, couples and kids. While her test-clients all loved their images, Heather knew almost immediately who she wanted to photograph moreyoung women in their teens and early twenties.

“I very quickly honed in on the types of photographs I really wanted to be making: fashion-inspired images of senior girls and young adult women. That was it. I put 100% of my energy into reaching and photographing only those clients. My husband said, ‘You’re going to turn down money?’ I said, ‘YES! I’m not going to do something I’m not into!'” – Heather Yeager

white desktop with pink and black accessories

By narrowing her focus to only one very narrow genre of photography, Heather was able to build a rock-solid reputation as the go-to photographer for fashion-inspired portraits of young women. Word-of-mouth marketing told the story: Heather was a specialist in her field – and her clients were drawn to her passion.

Pro Tip: In her research phase, Heather talked to test “clients” and community members about pricing possibilities. She quickly learned that she couldn’t base her rates around what people said they wanted to pay. Instead, she built a pricing structure around her costs: the costs of living and the costs of doing business. She spent a full month detailing her personal and professional budgets, and calculating the amount of time it took her to do a job – down to the number of minutes required to fully edit a single image. When she had her number, she knew it was rooted in cold, hard math. It gave her the confidence needed to state her prices proudly. She was worth it.

brunette teenage girl smiling with flowers and a bicycle by Heather Yeager

#2: Immerse Your Clients In An Experience

Heather wanted to give her girls more than great photographs. She wanted to give them an experience that would make them feel valued, confidant, and seen. Heather’s passion extended beyond photography, and straight to the young women she was serving.

Word-of-Mouth Marketing LOVES A Catchphrase!

Once her ideal client had been targeted, Heather set about crafting branded marketing materials that would speak directly to the girls she hoped to book. “Helly, Lovely!” was her catchphrase – one you’ll find her using in real life – and she peppered her website and swag with it.

word-of-mouth marketing genius Heather Yeager's desktop displaying her "Hello, Lovely" website

She knew: making “her girls” (as she calls them) feel like royalty was the key to a killer client experience – one they’d tell all their friends about. Word-of-mouth marketing at its finest!

SHOW, Don’t Tell

In her planning months, Heather invested hours into developing the 60-page digital magazine she now delivers to each inquiring client.

In addition to pricing, Heather’s magazine includes:

  • Raves & reviews from past clients – word-of-mouth marketing put to print!
  • A detailed overview of The HYPE – The Heather Yeager Portrait Experience
  • Wardrobe & styling ideas
  • Images of prints, albums, & other exciting products
  • Lots and lots of beautiful photographs of actual clients!

word-of-mouth marketing guru Heather Yeager's custom digital magazine for seniors

We photographers are selling a visual experience. Instead of sending prospective clients a page full of dull text, make the details memorable with a visually impactful, custom-branded magazine!

Pro Tip: Building your own digital magazine is just a few clicks away with easy-to-customize templates from Design Aglow, Modern Market, or Creative Market!

Pinterest Turns Clients Into Collaborators!

Heather is rocking Pinterest for her business!

Her public boards connect new clients to her personal style, but her private boards are really where it’s at!

custom social media graphics for word-of-mouth marketing

Three weeks before each shoot, Heather schedules a styling session with each new client. The client arrives at the HYPE Hangout (more on that later!) with armloads of clothes and bags full of accessories. Heather helps her pare down to precisely six outfits.

“I give each girl three branded garment bags – one for each location we’ll shoot at. When they arrive for their session, their clothes, shoes, and accessories are ready to go in their garment bags!” – Heather Yeager

Each final outfit is photographed and pinned to a private Pinterest board, where Heather and her young client add concept photos of poses, locations, and hair and makeup styling. As each girl pre-visualizes her session, her excitement builds!

Heather takes this a step further, encouraging her clients to also pin images that simply inspire them – places they want to go, celebrities they love, dream homes, adorable animals… anything that further connects Heather to her client enables a more custom session.

>>> Explore Heather’s Pinterest boards!

#3: Make “Showing Off” Simple

Everyone is familiar with the business advice, “underpromise and overdeliver;” Heather knows why it matters. Busy high school seniors and college freshmen quickly become distracted by the next new thing. Heather’s goal is to deliver surprises that keep each girl on her toes, excited about her session, and eager to tell – and show – her friends.

“These girls have a million things going on. School, dating, parties, the latest social media drama… Their excitement about their pictures will dissipate quickly. I have to capitalize on that excitement while it’s fresh!” – Heather Yeager

ShootProof Mobile App on a white iPad with blue accessories

Sneak Peeks

Heather delivers the proverbial “cherry on top” first – Sneak Peeks! An actual session timeline looks something like this:

  • Saturday, 9am: hair & makeup
  • 11am: session begins
  • 2pm: session ends, & Heather goes home to dump cards & cull images
  • 6pm: Heather sends her client three – five sneak peeks, fully edited & watermark-free – before products have even been purchased! (This girl’s Sunday will be consumed with falling in love with her photos!)

“They’re GOING to buy. The sneak peek just amps up their excitement about their Premier Ordering Session!” – Heather Yeager

senior girl tossing confetti by reflective glass

Pro Tip: Why doesn’t Heather watermark any of her photographs – even the sneak peeks? “My girls don’t like that!” she says. And what Heather’s girls want, Heather’s girls get. It sure doesn’t seem to be hurting her business any!

Mobile Apps

The “icing on the cake” comes next: the Mobile App. Each girl is primed to expect her Mobile App two weeks after her session. The Mobile App will signify that her photos are ready! But Heather overdelivers – in a big way!

“My clients have their very own app on their phone! Mobile Apps are one of the things my girls DIE over. They literally freak out!” – Heather Yeager

After Saturday’s session and Sunday’s Sneak Peek extravaganza, it’s “Mobile App Monday!”

  • Monday, early morning: the client’s Mobile App is ready, with 30 fully-edited photographs – plus a few surprise bonus photos!
  • Mid-morning: Heather’s client is at school, showing off her photos to all her friends via her Mobile App! This word-of-mouth marketing is priceless.
  • After school: the girl or her parents call to schedule their Premier Ordering Session. Their excitement is at its peak, and they can’t wait to select their prints and products!

ShootProof Mobile App on a white desktop with gold accessories

Pro Tip: ShootProof Mobile Apps NEVER expire! When your client downloads the app onto their smartphone or tablet, it’s live indefinitely! Create Mobile Apps for FREE with your ShootProof membership!

#4: Create A Community

Heather has targeted her ideal client so well, she’s always one step ahead of their wants and needs.

“I buy Starbucks for all my girls! That was a must-have when I established my budget!” – Heather Yeager

As a licensed esthetician and a former production assistant at an editorial fashion photography firm, Heather knew she wanted to give her girls the full beauty experience by providing hair and makeup services to all her clients.

But she also wanted to go deeper. Heather found herself mentoring her young clients, connecting them with internships, job opportunities, and new learning outlets.

brunette senior girl in a field with flowers by Heather Yeager

She enhanced this outpouring of love when she and her husband converted the lower floor of their split-level home into the HYPE Hangout – The Heather Yeager Portrait Experience studio space. The HYPE Hangout is half-consultation office, half-gathering place for her young clients. They drop in to do homework, gossip about their days, seek advice, and make new friends.

“My girls all take selfies to post on the wall in the HYPE Hangout!” – Heather Yeager

teenage girls taking selfies with Instax Polaroid cameras

Pro Tip: Don’t have space for a HYPE-style Hangout of your own? Integrate into your community to build relationships and cultivate a network of trusted friends and referrals! Whether you’re active in your church, volunteer at a local pet shelter, or attend the weekly bar crawl, events that bring you closer to the people you want to collaborate with are good for your business – and your soul!

Online communities are a thriving alternative to physical networks. Many photographers have developed private, clients-only spaces through social media, where photos, stories, and behind-the-scenes insight can be shared. Written “word-of-mouth marketing” is every bit as effective as the in-person kind!

teenagers posing on a school bus by Heather Yeager

#5: Shine A Spotlight With Social Media

Any teenager can tell you that social media is all about “me, me, ME!” But for a savvy photographer like Heather, social media is all about “you, you, YOU!”

She uses social media to shine a spotlight on her beloved clients – not only their physical beauty, but the light that emanates from within.

“I don’t need to say, ‘Here’s so-and-so; isn’t she pretty?’ The photos show that these girls are beautiful. The caption is where I tell their stories – who they are and where they’re going! That’s what I want people to know about them!” – Heather Yeager

Making her clients the main event influences them to share, like, and comment! While others are boosting posts and paying for ads, Heather is enjoying organic reach because her girls want to engage with her posts!

Organic Reach = FREE, Effortless, Word-of-Mouth Marketing

>>> Follow Heather on Instagram!

Even client raves get a special spotlight – featuring their brilliant young author, of course!

great client referrals for word-of-mouth marketing

We Heart Word-of-Mouth Marketing

As you hone in on your ideal clientele, you’ll cultivate a loyal following of devoted ambassadors.

They’ll provide the referrals you want most – recommendations that comes straight from the hearts of clients who truly love your work, value your service, and respect your business.

If you invest your time and creativity wisely, you’ll find that this word-of-mouth marketing occurs organically, drawing more and more of your favorite client-types right to your door!

beautiful blonde smiling teenage girl in a floppy hat by Heather Yeager

How do you show your clients love and ensure excellent word-of-mouth marketing? Tell us your tips in the comments!

Then let us show you some love! Join ShootProof today!

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