Spring season is right around the corner, and with it come many new interesting nursery and school photography jobs that have to be well prepared. Now is the perfect opportunity to sit down and start planning ahead. What’s coming up this school photography season? What should I focus on? And where do I see myself this time next year?
Projecting your income and determining how much to spend on materials and equipment is a crucial part of the process. But have you ever thought about creating a separate marketing budget for your school photography business? In this article, we will tell you why you definitely should and how to do it.
Why Should I Keep a Marketing Budget?
You can be an amazing photographer and still, if people don’t find out about you, business will be slow. To get customers’ attention, certain investments are simply necessary. A good example are the recent changes in Facebook’s algorithm. Ad placement competition has therefore increased and reaching a significant amount of possible customers without spending money is no longer possible. Check out Facebook’s official statement for further information.
Small school photography businesses often only have access to a limited budget and that is precisely why these available funds must be used in a structured way.
Planning ahead can help make sure that you don’t run into money shortages during months when you have completed your school photography jobs, but acquisition season is in full swing and calls for investments in marketing.
Step 1: What Do You Want to Achieve?
So let’s get started! First of all, think about your business goals for the time period ahead, and…
Do you want to increase your number of customers? Do you want to increase the number of jobs you complete? Or do you want to receive more engagement on your social media channels?
Think of this as a brainstorming session and write all your business goals down on a sheet of paper to make them tangible.
b) Make It Measurable
Make sure to keep your objectives short and clear. Whenever possible make them statistically measurable. Instead of “increase number of jobs” write “increase the number of jobs by 10%.” This way you can truly gauge your success.
If you are unsure with how to formulate your objectives, you can find more information on the specific topic in our article on revamping your school photography year.
For some actual examples of goals you could use for marketing, this article on Marketing Objective Key Results will be helpful as well.
You can’t focus on everything at once without being overwhelmed and eventually unproductive, so you should try and set priorities among your selected goals. The aim is to end up with a list of about three to five goals that you can then rank from most to least important.
Step 2: How Are You Planning to Tackle Your Objectives?
Goals are good but actions are better. After figuring out your most important goals you should create a roadmap for yourself on how to achieve these things.
For every objective, there are several tools in marketing that can help you succeed.
Some examples include:
- Various print materials like business cards, brochures and letters to nurseries or schools
- Advertising online via Google or other websites
- Optimising your website with a custom domain name and well-written texts which showcases your photos in a nice design
- Advertising on social media
- Researching and/or buying addresses of potential customers, nurseries and schools to extend your database (the researched ones are usually of better quality)
- Sending out email newsletters
- Advertising in magazines
- Offering a small voucher to every client that recommends you to a friend
Try to keep your target customers in mind throughout this entire process. Do you want to advertise more towards nurseries/schools or rather directly address the parents? How can you best communicate with your customers? Are they active on social media? If yes, do you/they prefer using Facebook or Instagram?
For ideas and further information, our nine marketing tips for school photographers can help.
Filter Out What’s Important
Again, some tools on your list will be more essential than others. This will vary according to which point you are at in the development of your school photography business. If you are just starting out, there are some basic things that should definitely be part of your budget, such as unique looking business cards.
Under each project that you include in your list, make sure to specify the media you will use and other requirements, such as software, materials and professionals you might need to hire. For example software such as newsletter2go or mailchimp could be helpful in managing your email and social media marketing. Newsletter2go offers a basic free package with limited functionalities as do SendGrid and Zoho.
To filter out which information should eventually go into your final marketing budget you should ask yourself which things you can already do yourself. You might be able to design a business card yourself instead of hiring a graphic designer if you have the necessary skills. But be careful because business cards represent your first introduction to people and must be high quality. Be honest with yourself on whether you have the skills to design something that immediately grabs people’s attention. Equally, you must ensure you have enough time to dedicate to a task like this.
Step 3: Start Budgeting!
This is the point where you open an excel sheet, your notebook or whatever you prefer. Have a look at the free helpful excel templates to help you get started.
Keeping in mind the ranking you previously created for your goals, assign a share of the marketing budget to each according to their importance – and their costs, of course. Look at what your minimum income has been so far to get an idea of how much money you can spend in general without running into the risk of financial bottlenecks. However, keep in mind that the ultimate purpose of marketing is to increase your profit. For an effective marketing method, it might make sense to invest a significant amount.
In the beginning it might be difficult to determine prices for every marketing campaign. Spend some time researching and comparing the prices for different services such as printing labs online to get an idea of how much everything will cost. Finally, if you have an idea of the core costs but are struggling to figure out the final details – estimate! It is good to at least have a number to start out with and you can always adjust your marketing budget later on.
Why You Should Double Check
After everything is done you must go over your marketing budget one more time because in most cases you will have forgotten something. Beware of possible hidden costs that might be important. Nothing is more frustrating than being halfway through designing your new website and then realising that your initial marketing budget does not allow you to pay the monthly costs for hosting it and protecting it against malware or viruses.
So make sure that you double and triple check whether you included everything – maybe sleep on it and have a fresh look at your budget the next day. Also, a helpful function of Facebook/Instagram advertising is that you can set a maximum budget per day, which will keep you on the safe side.
Going through the process of a specific marketing campaign in your head can be a good strategy to double check your budget. For instance, a leaflet campaign first goes through the design phase, where you have a choice of paying for software like Canva or Adobe Indesign, downloading free editing software such as GIMP or hiring a designer. In Canva and Piktochart there are also some free templates available for use.
Next, the leaflet will have to be printed, which opens a new array of possibilities. You could print the flyer yourself if your printer is good enough, use an online copy service or go to a local copy shop.
Finally, the leaflets will have to be distributed somehow. Most of the time you will do this via post. In some cases though, it might be a nice idea to go deliver your flyers in person to give the school or nursery a first impression of who you are. Here you could also invest in a tablet to be able to show examples of your website and portfolio on site.
Step 4: Review and Adjust
Nothing is certain in the school photography environment and naturally, some things you included in your marketing budget might turn out different as expected. That is no problem at all. In fact, you should come back to your budget on a regular basis – this could be once every month, once every quarter or a different time period depending on your preferences. Go through your budgeted expenses again and follow up on whether you think that you are making progress on the objectives that you set for yourself in the beginning.
Tracking Your Success
To figure out whether your marketing is effective, you don’t have to be an analytics expert. There are a few simple tools that can be very helpful. In general, the Facebook Business Manager is relatively easy to use and offers you an overview of the likes you get, how many people you reach with your posts and how much interaction your posts receive.
If you are paying for Facebook ads, you can also track in the Facebook Ads Manager the success of your ads against how much you have spent on them. Google Analytics is also intuitive and helpful when it comes to collecting data and understanding how your customers are interacting with your website.
Don’t Be Scared To Change Things
If you are not satisfied with the success of a specific campaign, don’t hesitate to adjust the budget – it is not carved in stone!
Last but not least, always keep in mind that “practice makes perfect” is also true in this case. You will figure things out as you go and eventually get into the habit of keeping a budget not only in marketing but in other areas of your school photography business as well.
What are you planning to focus on for your upcoming marketing budget? Share your priorities and strategies in the comments on our related Facebook post.