Business + Marketing

5 Fixes to Weak Marketing ROI for Photographers

July 1, 2021

By Christie Osborne

UPDATED 12/20/2022

As a professional photographer (who reads Rangefinder), I’m willing to bet money that you have an amazing Instagram game. I’ll wager that your feed is gorgeous, your engagement is great, and you get all the DMs from interested clients. But maybe you’re sensing that you could be doing better. Getting more inquiries, sales, and ideal clients sounds really nice, right? But how? You’re already doing “All The Things.” These are the top five reasons great photographers see weak marketing ROI, and how to address them in order to boost and optimize exposure to your business.

[Read: 5 $teps for Pivoting Your Photo Brand Towards More Profit]

1. Photographers don’t view marketing as a system.  

Truth bomb: Most photographers aren’t doing “All The Things,” even though it feels like they are. They’re only doing one or two things really well. 

The real secret is to understand that marketing isn’t just something you do. (The individual tactics you do are really promotions.)

To get higher marketing ROI, photographers must first understand that true marketing is an interconnected system of promotions. This blend of marketing efforts involves a map of a client’s booking journey. Optimizing the system requires an evaluation of the platforms clients use to: 

  • Find you (awareness)
  • Engage with you (engagement)
  • Evaluate you (consideration)
  • Inquire about services (conversion)

When you start thinking of your marketing as a system rather than a bunch of promotional tasks, you’ll find gaps, problems and failure points in your marketing ROI that you can improve. 

2. Photographers get weak marketing ROI by forgetting about storytelling.

They say an image is worth a thousand words, but whose words? When you fail to give content, add detail, or entice your potential clients, you risk looking like everyone else and weakening your marketing ROI.

[Read: Why the Photography Slow Season is Absolutely Nothing to Dread]

In general, people are notoriously terrible at picking up on the finer nuances between you and your competitors. To them, if you all look similar enough, they’ll evaluate you on price. You have to tell them what sets you apart.

The good news is that people crave more information when investing in a valuable service like photography. They want to know how they’ll feel, what they’ll experience and what catastrophe they can avoid by working with you. 

So, give it to them. 

[Read: How to Turn Personal Photo Projects into Paid Work]

Whether it’s a mini-story about a family shoot in an Instagram caption or a real wedding on your blog, give them the context and info they crave. Here’s a case story formula I love starting with:

When [client’s names] came to me, they [wanted/were concerned about ______]. I worked with them to make their dream a reality by [doing the one special thing my competition can’t and doesn’t do]. The end result was [some magnificent moment/image/testimonial]. Want to know more about what it’s like to [work with me]? Inquire about pricing and availability.  

3. Photographers don’t ask clients to inquire often enough.

Brilliant photographers struggling with weak marketing ROI don’t ask for the inquiry often enough. You don’t have to do the “chicken dance” online, running around saying, “book, book, book … book, book.” But ask for the inquiry frequently, especially when you’re telling stories about real clients. And keep it easy: Including a line that says “Inquire about pricing and availability” at the end of your post is simple, straightforward and effective. 

4. Photographers get weak marketing ROI by neglecting their website. 

Your website is the hub of your marketing system. Think of it as the engine in the car. Without it, you won’t get very far.  

It’s tempting to assume that those DMs coming in demonstrate modern couples’ preference for social media. But, when you think about your website and Instagram feed from a systems perspective, things change.

[Read: How to Submit Wedding Photos to Publications in a Changing Media Landscape

DMs are only part of the story. Give your website a little love. Include all the information a client needs to make a booking decision—like services and pricing—and you’ll speed up that decision-making process, whether they reach out via your inquiry form or slide into your DMs. 

Where would they find that on IG? 

5. Photographers don’t use Google Analytics strategically.

Most small-business owners, including professional photographers, don’t use Google Analytics strategically for their marketing ROI. 

[Read: How to Strengthen Wedding Photography Client Relationships in 2021]

The average photographer will log into Google Analytics once in a while and casually observe the dashboard, which gives them traffic metrics, bounce rates, and time spent on site. Perhaps they browse a few additional reports, but that’s it. 

Sounds good, right?

Not really. Nothing in Google Analytics alone will help you become a better marketer. Nothing. 

The information you need is in there, but you aren’t going to stumble upon it like Indiana Jones looking for treasure. You should be Julius Cain in The Good Wife, aggressively pursuing a line of questioning until you get satisfying answers. 

If you want actionable metrics, you have to ask good questions. Don’t ask where traffic is coming from; ask where qualified traffic is coming from. Then, brainstorm how to get more of it.

This subtle change makes all the difference when using Google Analytics to determine success, track the health of your marketing system and fix any problems that arise. 

With a few simple mindset shifts and some straightforward tweaks to your marketing, you can turn your marketing ROI into a profitable machine. 

Christie Osborne is the owner of Mountainside Media, a company that helps event industry professionals brands develop scalable marketing strategies that bring in more inquiries and leads. She is a national educator with recent speaking engagements at NACE Experience, WIPA and the ABC Conference.