Business + Marketing

The Benefits of Going Organic—With Marketing, That Is

May 29, 2018

By William Innes

Photo © Willliam Innes

A bride and groom at dusk in Valencia, California.

Marketing used to be so easy. Back in the day, you could place an ad in the local yellow pages, buy a mailing list and send out postcards, attend a couple of bridal shows, or even call up prospective clients. Then the digital revolution hit hard and out went the old and in came the new; email campaigns, websites with strong SEO, Facebook and Instagram advertising, and online directories suddenly became the new way to get business. I propose there is still another way grow your business: organic marketing.

Before we can effectively market, we need to know who our ideal clients are—wealthy and willing to spend a lot of money; green and concerned about the environment; adventurous and want to get married on a mountaintop or under water; or fun partiers who want to dance the night away.

For my business, I prefer the latter. Once you know your client type, the goal is to try and only book your ideal customer. In his book titled Book Yourself Solid, marketing expert Michael Port describes his “red velvet rope” policy, similar to a long line at a nightclub in Las Vegas with the doorman choosing who gets in. It should be the same in your business, with you getting to decide who you want to work with. This is where organic marketing shines.

Every business should have a marketing budget and a set amount to spend every month on various ways to promote your business and make contact with potential customers. By using an organic marketing approach, you can generate referrals from clients, vendors and venues. Receiving recommendations from like-minded clients, vendors (usually in the same socio-economic class) and from venues we love increases our chances of only working with our ideal clients.

How good are referrals? The global information company Nielson found in a study that 84 percent of consumers “say they either completely or somewhat trust recommendations from family, colleagues and friends about products—making these recommendations the source ranked highest for trustworthiness.”

To get these referrals flowing into our business, we need to apply a very important business law called “The Law of Reciprocity”: “When someone does something nice for you, your hard-wired human nature determines that you do something nice for them in return.” Think about walking through a department store and sitting down for a free make-over at the cosmetic counter; you have a nagging feeling that you should make a purchase.

Let’s take our marketing budget, along with “The Law of Reciprocity,” and apply it to vendors and clients.


• Give them free digital images to use for their website and marketing materials. Do not watermark these. Who would want to put images on their own website with someone else’s logo? This is the easiest way to get started. Most photographers promise photos but almost none follow through. I know because I have asked many venues and vendors and their number one complaint is always how difficult it is to get photographs.
• Raise the bar and give them free canvases and albums with your logo. Be sure the products you give them showcase their venue or business. I have used this technique numerous times to get me on the approved vendor list.
• Refer them. If they refer me, I feel I should oblige and do the same. This is The Law of Reciprocity in action.
• Get social. Take them out for coffee, lunch or dinner. This is also an opportunity to build relationships.
• Create 5 x 5 press-printed trifolds with imagery that highlights their business. Only put your logo and information on the back. Businesses love handing these out to potential clients.
It is very important to always be in front of your clients and provide exceptional customer service.


• During our initial consultation, I present them with a 24-page branded magazine that outlines my pricing and business. They leave with something tangible in their hands.
• Two months before their wedding, I send them a hand-written note with a copy of The Newlywed Cookbook. (I buy them in bulk from Amazon). Portrait photographers could find some other small token of appreciation to send.
• Two weeks before the session, I send another hand-written note and a small gift card to Starbucks.
• The day after the wedding or session, I send an email thanking them and explaining the process for them to receive their images. This is an automated email using my studio manage system.
• My digital files are delivered on a crystal USB drive, with 4 x 6 prints all in a beautiful branded presentation box.
• I offer them killer album design with online proofing and surprise them with a slideshow they can share with friends and family.

Make A List

I have many more things I do—too many to mention here—but the goal is always to under promise and over deliver. I am sure you can easily come up with a list of 10 to 15 things you can do to take care of your clients and vendors.

I know this referral system works; last year, 85 percent of all my weddings came from referrals. An additional bonus was receiving commercial work from some of my vendors and clients. And don’t forget, when someone refers you, reach out and say thank you!

William Innes’ first career entailed running aerospace companies, which gave him a keen interest in all things photography related. A fluke request by his nephew to shoot his wedding propelled Innes into an industry he loves and has worked in for over 12 years. The Panasonic Lumix Global Ambassador lives in Santa Clarita, California, with his wife. His favorite wedding venue in Southern California is the one he is about to shoot.

Related: How to Build a Photography Business in a Small Town

Seamlessly Switching Photo Specialities Without Losing Clients