Huh. Well that was unexpected.
That was the first thought that went through my mind when I read the email from Jane Gaboury, director of publications at Professional Photographers of America (PPA):
One of the Professional Photographer editors at PPA found some info you'd posted on theLoop [PPA's online member forum] and brought it my attention. After looking at your website and seeing how you market business portraits, I'd really like to tap into your expertise and share it with other PPA members. I haven't seen anyone else do such a thorough job of explaining the benefits of professional headshots for business people and then show how it's done to put them at ease about the process.
Would you be game for being the subject of an article that addresses how you market, create, and sell business portraits?
Would I be game? How fast can I type YES!
(That was the second thought that went through my mind.)
I joined PPA in 2009 and have been reading and learning from Professional Photographer magazine since the beginning. PPA is the largest nonprofit organization for professional photographers in the world, so getting a chance to have my business profiled in the magazine is pretty neat.
If you want to skip the backstory, you can read the article (PDF) as it appeared in Professional Photographer.
For the curious, though--how did this come about?
The majority of my promotional efforts are built on an inbound marketing approach. I blog regularly, market with email, and do some social media promotion. When someone in Peoria, Springfield, Decatur, or Bloomington/Normal does an online search for "business headshot photographer," I want them to find me. My search engine rankings are good in my central Illinois market (first or second page of organic search in Google) but I felt my business portrait page was weak.
Toward the middle of 2014, I knew I wanted to grow the headshot/business portrait side of my business. It's work that I love and it gives me a chance to meet some new and wonderful people around central Illinois.
I needed to do three things to make this happen:
- Offer a unique product that clients couldn't get somewhere else
- Deliver a special kind of experience that would make a trip to Lincoln worth the effort from nearby towns like Peoria, Springfield, Decatur, and Bloomington/Normal
- Create an attractive landing page that answered as many questions as possible about having portraits made at the studio
I wanted my guests to be able to come to the studio, take time to get comfortable, to not feel rushed in the process of making pictures. And once we were finished, I wanted them to walk out with great photographs as well as feeling like they had a really fun time during the session--an experience they would tell their friends and colleagues about.
With input and feedback from some PPA folks on theLoop forum and Don Giannatti's P52 members (a commercial photography group to which I belong), I developed a series of "packages" for branding portraits. These would come to include photographs as well as design services. The Trio package, for example, would include three poses. The premium packages like the Professional would include six poses as well as custom designed banners for Facebook, Twitter, or About.me.
Once the concepts for the packages were in place, I made the sample pictures for each package and wrote (and re-wrote and re-wrote...) the copy for the page. Again, input from other professionals was invaluable.
My goal was to launch the new offerings on January 1, 2015. The last step, then, was to design the new business portrait page.
The new page features a 69-second intro video followed by lots of client samples (to show prospects what their pictures could look like). The page also contains some behind-the-scenes videos and links to blog posts describing what's involved in a session, so that prospects clearly understand what to expect when they come to the studio. A few client testimonials are sprinkled throughout the page so site visitors can read first-person accounts of other clients' experiences.
The page wraps up with the package descriptions and more sample photos as well as a map of downtown Lincoln. Why the map? Well, for clients who visit from out of town, I figured they might like to know where to get good coffee or lunch or dinner while they visit Lincoln.
Launch and following...
At the beginning of 2015, I announced the new offerings to my email list and on the blog. I've had a number of new clients come from Bloomington, Springfield, Peoria, and several from Lincoln. As you'll see from the testimonials in the links, they've shared that their experiences were exactly what I was striving to create.
A few different times after the first of the year, then, other PPA members raised questions in theLoop forum about headshots and marketing. I responded from time to time and shared the link to my business portrait page, encouraging them to have a look.
So there I was, merrily making pictures at my studio in Lincoln. And then at the beginning of March, I got the aforementioned email from Jane Gaboury.
She put me in touch with Jeff Kent, editor-at-large for Professional Photographer. Jeff interviewed me over the phone and wrote the piece. The article now appears in the July 2015 issue. Again, here's the link (PDF).