Re-investing in yourself through sound promotional strategies is an extremely important (and unavoidable) expense that must be incurred in order to run a successful photography business.
When it comes to your promotional strategy you’ll need to consider a number of things, but primarily it comes down to separating your promo activities into two pieces – promotional budgeting and promotional communications.
You can approach budgeting your photo promotional strategy in a few ways.
1. Percentage of sales method: automatically allocate a percentage of sales to the advertising budget
For example, if you determined that you would always re-invest 5% of your earnings into advertising, then your advertising budget based on yearly earnings of $30,000 would be $1500.
This method is good because it is easily calculated and ensures that you are spending only what you deemed as an affordable promotional expense. However, this strategy isn’t necessarily bullet-proof, as it doesn’t take into account fluctuations in earnings, nor does it allow for flexibility when more (or less) expenditure is necessary to secure market share.
2. Competitive parity approach: allocating amounts based on competitors
If you know Joe is spending $1000 and Jane is spending $1000 and both are successfully reaching their target markets, then it’s probably a good indication that you don’t need to spend more (and possibly shouldn’t spend less) in order to get a piece of the pie.
The obvious problem with this method for independent photogs is that rarely will you get another photog to give you an accurate figure as to their allotted promo expenses. After all, it’s a phodog eat phodog world out there and everyone needs to keep competitive advantages in a tough marketplace.
3. Objective and task approach: determine your objectives then allocate promotional expenditures based on the tasks required to achieve those objectives
This is theoretically the one that makes the most sense for an independent photography business owner. More-or-less, you can set your own goals and budget accordingly.
For example, if you’re trying to impress an art buyer at a gallery, then your “tasks” (i.e. the promo activities you use to differentiate your photo business) would be different from those of a photog trying to break into the editorial magazine world. Likewise, the expenditures of each of these photogs would differ, making this method extremely adaptable to personal goals.
Although this method is flexible, it can also be problematic if you aren’t on top of your cost of doing business calculations.
Basically, if you failed to keep track of how much you earned relative to what it actually cost to earn that amount (i.e. return on investment, ROI), then perhaps your “tasks” (i.e. the methods used to implement your chosen promo strategies) were too costly in order to reach the “objective.”
Similarly, if you made a huge return on your investment, but in fact, the objective could have been accomplished through less expensive tasks, then this method might prove detrimental to the bottom-line in the end.