This is a complete growth marketing framework and guide for photographers, writers, artists, and creators alike.
This framework and growth mindset has allowed me to build a successful side business in photography while working full-time as a digital marketing consultant alongside enterprise companies such as Allstate, Samsung, etc.
Ranking on the first page of Google for important keywords for my business such as “Los Angeles Portrait Photographer”:
I have found many talented artists, writers, photographers, and creators that do not get the recognition they deserve due to a lack of marketing fundamentals or a proper framework.
This is a complete guide and my goal is to establish the framework and introduce you to the five main components of marketing.
Whether you already have an established business looking for further ways to grow, or you are fresh off the ground, you should get a lot of value from the guide and framework I am going to provide.
While the title is targeted toward photographers since I am a photographer myself, the core principles and framework applies to any artist as stated above.
What is Marketing?
Marketing encompasses the selling of a product or service through successful branding, price setting, placement, and promotion.
What is the Purpose of Marketing?
The purpose of marketing is defined by the creator.
You can market yourself as an individual, you can market a product, you can market a service, or you can market all of them at the same time!
At the core of marketing, it is about providing value.
The outcome of providing value is defined by you, the artist, the marketer, and the creator.
Whether you want to provide value for an intrinsic self-fulfilling reason, for monetary purposes, or because of an innate desire to help others, the choice is yours.
Here’s an example using the business of photography.
A photographer provides value through the actual service of their photography skills by providing photoshoots.
In that case, the photographer is providing value because they are offering their service and expertise.
If a photographer wants to run a successful blog, they need to provide value through the information they are sharing with their readers and audience.
If a photographer wants to start selling Lightroom Presets, these presets need to be helpful and provide value to the buyers if they are to be successful.
Whatever is being marketed needs to provide value and customer satisfaction to the end-user or buyer if it is to be successful.
Think of all the current top companies and startups that are now multi-million dollar businesses.
They all started with the goal of providing immense value to the customer.
Amazon’s goal was to “uplift the worldwide standards for customer service and customer-centricity.”
That equals value.
Airbnb’s mission was to “create a world where anyone can belong anywhere,” and they are focused on “creating an end-to-end travel platform that will handle every part of your trip.”
That equals value.
Uber’s mission was to “reduce the need for individual car ownership, thereby reducing congestion in cities.”
That equals value.
At the heart of every marketing framework or plan, is the goal to provide value.
How do You Successfully Market a Product or Service?
Marketing is an ongoing process and there is no finish line.
You don’t wake up one day and say to yourself, “my business is finished being marketed.”
It does not work that way.
Marketing your business is a continuous battle between you, the competition, and the times.
It is about constant growth in the correct direction one step at a time.
Once your business is more established due to your marketing efforts, it can get easier to sustain your market position and I’ll touch on that later.
For the most part, you will be marketing your business continuously until you decide to stop or sell your business.
In order to continue successfully marketing your product or service, you need to understand:
- The importance of branding
- Your product offering
- The price you are charging for your service or product
- The placement of your product or service within the market
- And how you are promoting your product or service.
These 5 components combined work in unison.
You can think of them like cogs in a wheel.
It is only when all 5 work together that you can see the power of marketing.
We will be diving into each 5 in this guide and I have separate in-depth guides listed in each respective section.
I’m a believer that marketing is not only an art, but a science, and a basic principle within science is that nothing stays the same, it is either getting better or worse.
Now, that doesn’t mean if you aren’t making more money than the previous month that you are getting worse, oftentimes, periods of monetary stagnation, while you are learning and improving your skills, means you are still getting better and growing.
I wanted to make that important distinction and as long as you are taking the steps towards growth, then you are getting better.
Action is always better than inaction — in everything that you do.
Now let’s dive into the 5 components of the marketing framework, starting with branding.
Branding consists of your corporate/business image and your positioning within the market.
Without an understanding of your corporate image, you may struggle to build a strong brand.
Without an understanding of your positioning within the market, you may struggle to have a defined brand.
In order to build your brand successfully, you need to understand both corporate image and positioning and how they work together in unison to create, enhance, and protect your brand.
So what is the corporate image?
1. Corporate Image
Your corporate image could either be the image of your business in people’s minds or the image of yourself in other people’s minds.
Essentially, the perception people have about either you or your business.
In the case of photography, it will most likely be how people perceive you as a photographer.
Difference Between Perception and Reality
I have been stating that it is the perception of your business in other people’s minds — not the reality.
There is a difference between perception and reality, and while we can take control of our reality, I believe we have far greater control over the former through an established marketing strategy and framework.
Still confused between the two?
Here’s an example — have you ever heard your voice on a recording and cringed?
Well, there is a strong chance that you actually have a different perception of what your voice sounds like than what it truly sounds like in reality.
See those running shoes in your closet with the “swoosh” on them?
Yeah, those Nike runners.
You probably bought them because you perceived them to be better than other running shoes.
In reality, they are made from the same material just as any shoe, you were just sold on the perception and brand of the shoe and company.
That’s the power of marketing.
Now, think about your art.
In this case, let’s think of photography.
I’m a firm believer that in order to be successful in photography, it takes 30% skill and 70% marketing.
I have seen a tremendous amount of very talented photographers who do not get much work because they market themselves poorly.
Now I’m not saying that you should stop self-investing in your skill set and invest more in your marketing efforts — I just want you to be more cognizant of the fact that in order to excel past your competition, you need to market yourself better than them.
If you are the world’s best photographer but no one finds your photographs, are you really the world’s best photographer?
No, it’s the guy/girl who markets themselves successfully as the “world’s best photographer” that is the world’s best photographer.
Now that we’ve touched on the idea of perception vs. reality, how does this tie into having an established “corporate image?”
Well, you can create and establish a strong corporate image to influence how your audience perceives your brand.
Corporate Image Strategy
With all this talk about corporate image, how do you actually go about building one?
I will be writing a separate guide on corporate image that you will be able to find here.
Essentially, your corporate image strategy should revolve around creating, protecting, and enhancing.
You create a corporate image through strategies such as a relatable “About” page, a company logo, brand colors, customer testimonials and reviews, blogging, social media, and lots more that I dive more in-depth here.
You protect your corporate image by building strong customer/client relationships.
You enhance your corporate image by advertising and promoting your successes to your audience either via your website, social media, email, etc.
As mentioned, corporate image and positioning make up your “brand,” so let’s now talk about positioning which is just as important.
You can’t have one without the other.
Positioning involves you identifying a target audience with an unfilled need and positioning your product or service to fulfill their need.
It’s about creating an image of your product or service in your target audience’s mind that basically says “my product/service will fill your unfilled need.”
Marketers have made the analogy that it is like a lock and key.
The lock would be your target audience that has an unfilled need.
The key is your product or offering that will “fill” their need.
In order to better understand this, you have to think about what you offer in comparison to other photographers, artists, or creatives.
What is your unique benefit?
For example, I try to position myself as a photographer who takes portraits specialized for social media.
I target the audience that wants to build their social media following and needs high-quality photos that are designed and tailored for social media through specific editing, posing, and photo exporting methods.
Since I have photographed with many beginner “social media influencers,” I have the credibility and photos to back it up.
The way I position myself also separates me from most other photographers.
But of course, there is always competition.
So How Do I Position Myself Successfully?
That is what marketers across the world strive to do every day.
In order to successfully position yourself within your market, you need to have an understanding of the other 4 components (price, place, promotion, and product) and they all need to work together.
You also need to understand the other half of the “brand” component which is your corporate image which was discussed earlier.
At a high level, you need to uncover what makes you unique and what “benefits” you offer to your audience.
You want your product or service to be the kangaroo’s pouch.
What do I mean by this?
Let’s say the kangaroo’s pouch is a unique feature/benefit (which it is for the most part) and that you were selling the kangaroo for some reason and all the other kangaroos in the world did not have pouches.
You can sell the “kangaroo” by focusing on the “pouch.”
When talking to potential clients, you can emphasize the “pouch” (the unique feature/benefit) while also explaining to the customers that you also provide everything everyone else is offering plus this unique pouch.
Think about what your unique benefit is, and what your plus is.
Now, of course, with around 7.6 billion people on Earth, there is bound to be someone else who has the same unique benefit as you.
Something that makes your “brand” similar to another competitor.
Well, that’s why we have the other 4 components of the marketing framework and that your brand is made up of your “corporate image” and your “positioning.”
Remember, your corporate image is the perception of your business in people’s minds and your positioning is the image of your product/service that fills the unfilled needs of your target audience better than your competitors.
People often talk about brands without understanding what makes up your brand, and for the most part, that is your corporate image and your positioning.
So now that we have covered branding (corporate image and positioning) let’s dive into the next component (no particular order) which will be your actual product.
Just as the name implies, the product component relates to the goods or services you provide your target audience.
In my example, I am a photographer so my services are the actual photoshoots for clients.
Other products I offer are Lightroom presets and professional retouching, but I’ll touch on that later.
How Does my Product/Service Tie Into the Branding Components
As mentioned in the above section, your positioning strategy should create an image of your product/service in your target audience’s mind that fills an unfilled need.
With that being said, your positioning strategy created an image of your product/service, now your actual product/service needs to deliver on that image.
Going back to my example, if I position myself as a “social media/influencer photographer” and I deliver my client’s photos that weren’t exported or edited correctly and when they post them on social media they are blurry and dark (not optimized for social media) then my product is not delivering on my positioning strategy.
Here‘s another example, let’s say you position yourself as a wedding photographer who captures light and dreamy wedding photos.
If you are selling wedding photo Lightroom presets that produce dark and moody edits only, then your product is not delivering on your positioning strategy of being a “light and dreamy” wedding photographer.
So you might be thinking, well what’s wrong with diversifying and offering different products/services?
There is nothing wrong with it, but if you are positioning yourself as one thing, then you need your product to follow suit or else it confuses your target audience and they will not have a clear perception of what your company is, what you stand for, and what your product offers.
If you do not offer a product/service that aligns with your positioning strategy, then you will not create that strong connection and perception of your brand (corporate image and positioning) in your target audience’s mind and they will most likely go with another competitor who has stronger positioning.
Remember, you are most likely not the only one targeting the same “niche” or unique benefit.
Product and Positioning Real-Life Example
Let’s look at a real-life example with Google.
Google’s brand is well known for its internet search and advertising platform that we have all grown to know and love (sorry Bing users).
Because of their strong positioning, when we all think of Google, we think of them for this platform.
Other than their search platform, did you know that they are also fighting against age-related diseases, offering super-fast Internet, and they provide funding for “bold new companies.”
You may have heard some talk about these, but when you think of Google do you instantly think of these things?
Most likely not, because they have done a great job of distinguishing their products/services with their brand.
They did this by creating a separate brand (corporate image and positioning) for each of their products/services and by creating a parent company called “Alphabet.”
In 2015, Google wanted to “more easily and logically expand into domains outside of internet search and advertising” (Investopedia).
They had different products and offerings but they did not want to misalign their positioning with Google as an internet search and advertising platform.
So on a grand scale, this was their solution and it is working.
When users think of Google, they still think of the internet search platform, and when users think of Google Fiber, they think of the super-fast Internet.
This is a great example of establishing a brand, and then aligning your product/service with it.
To sum it up, the goal is to have your target audience instantly think of your unique benefit when they see your company logo and see or hear your name.
If you nail this down correctly, then the goal following that will be having your target audience instantly think of your brand when they think about a unique benefit.
I hope you can start to see how the two components of branding (corporate image and positioning) and product tie into one another and feed off each other.
I want you to start thinking of how this applies to you and your brand and product offering/service.
Is your product aligned with your overall positioning strategy?
Now that we have covered branding and your product, let’s dive into pricing and how this component ties into the other two.
The next component in the marketing framework is pricing.
Pricing is the amount of money buyers are willing to pay for your product/service as well as the amount you are willing to sell it in order to hit your financial goals.
Your ability to control the price amount directly ties into how effective you execute the other components in the marketing framework:
- Branding (corporate image and positioning)
Why is that so?
Take Apple and their iPhones for example.
They have effectively branded their company as the leader in smartphones within the US.
Because of this, they are able to charge a high price for their products.
How Does Price Tie Into Previous Marketing Components Discussed?
We’ve already touched on corporate image and positioning (which make up your brand) as well as product.
In short, your pricing affects your positioning strategy and your positioning strategy affects the price you can set.
I am writing a more in-depth guide on pricing alone that will be here.
Positioning and Corporate Image Influence on Price
There is a price value rule that we all perceive that essentially means that we make an assumption about a product or a company’s value by the price of the product if it is unknown to us.
Here’s an example.
Let’s say you are in the store and you are shopping for new running shoes and are looking at two similar-looking shoes.
There are no brand labels on either shoe but you know they are made by two different companies.
If one is priced higher than the other, without knowing the company that made it, most will assume that the higher-priced shoe is of higher quality.
You may not be able to see any difference but you may think to yourself, “hmm, they look the same but that one is higher-priced, it must be made of better material or have better durability.”
Now let’s take that same exact example and let’s say the lower-priced shoe is from Nike and the other higher-priced shoe is made from “Nate’s Fast Shoes” (I’m still working on the name).
Remember, both look pretty much identical.
Now has your perception changed about each shoe?
Most of us may now be thinking, “oh cool, this Nike shoe is on sale.”
You will most likely grab the lower-priced Nike shoe because Nike has a solid corporate image and positioning strategy built through years of effective marketing strategy and because it is cheaper than the unknown “Nate’s Fast Shoes” brand.
While this example is pretty elementary, I hope you can see how pricing can be used as a competitive weapon if your other marketing components are executed and established effectively.
I want you to be thinking about the price you are offering your products/services in relation to your positioning strategy and competition.
If you have not thought about it before, no worries.
There is a lot to cover with pricing in regard to pricing strategies, so as mentioned, I will be diving into this subject exclusively in a separate guide.
Now that we have covered the three marketing components of branding (corporate image and positioning), product, and price, let’s dive into placement.
Placement is also known as distribution and it is the process of placing your product/service in the marketplace to make it convenient for your target audience to find, use, or buy your product/service.
When thinking about placement/distribution, it is easy to think of it in terms of “channels.”
The most common channels include direct-to-end buyers or going through a middleman such as a wholesaler or a retailer.
1. Direct-to-End Buyer
Direct-to-end buyer means your products/services are offered to your target audience through a direct means without going through any middlemen.
This includes selling services via direct channels such as your website, phone sales, or even via sales with face-to-face contact between you and your clients.
For photographers, artists, and other creatives this is the most common channel since we are either selling our service, photography prints, presets, or even guides.
2. Wholesaler and Retailer
This channel involves having a manufacturer selling to a distributor that sells to a retailer to send to an end buyer.
As you can see, this channel involves middlemen with the wholesaler and retailer being in the middle before reaching the end buyer.
This channel is used most often when you are selling physical products so I will not be touching on this channel as much.
Since most photographers, artists, and other creatives will be selling their services through the direct-to-end buyer channel, I will be focusing on that.
Now let’s briefly cover the biggest and most effective distribution channel for most photographers, creatives, and artists.
If you haven’t guessed by now, that is the Internet.
The Internet has become the most efficient distribution channel for many reasons including:
- People all around the world can access and order from it
- Anytime is convenient because the Internet is there 24/7
- Quick digital delivery for any products (presets, photoshop actions)
- Can be shipped to the end buyer (if selling physical products)
- Very convenient, people don’t have to get dressed up, go to the store, and wait in line
Will that being said, you need to ensure that you are on this distribution channel and that you are placing your products or services on the Internet with your own Website.
By creating your own website, it can house your portfolio, your pricing, as well as your blogs (just look at my site that you’re currently reading from!).
And through promotion strategies which I will touch on next such as SEO and PPC, you can drive more users to your website, increase your brand discoverability, drive thought leadership, and drive more revenue.
It’s a win-win-win for creating a personal website and if you have no idea how to start, I will be creating a guide on it soon so be sure to connect with me.
I want you to be thinking about how you are distributing your service.
Do you have a website? How are you mostly receiving your business?
These are key questions to think about and that will be tied into the next section when we dive into promotion.
With the discussion of SEO and promotion strategies, let’s dive into the last marketing component which is promotion.
The promotion component is defined as the communication of your benefits to your target audience with the goal of them making a buying decision.
In other words, actually letting people know about the benefits of your product/service so you can sell your service/product and make money, gain followers, increase brand awareness, etc.
There are many forms/types of promotion and I will touch on them briefly here.
The types of promotion include:
1. Personal Selling
This is a face-to-face promotion with one individual or a few people.
An example of this is if you are at a party and you meet someone who says they have a party coming up and they need a photographer.
If you mention to them that you are a photographer and give them your business card, that is an example of personal selling.
This form of promotion is mostly impersonal and is typically paid.
Examples of this include print advertising with flyers, broadcast with TV commercials, outdoor billboards, or an online advertisement.
If you are a photographer, artist, writer, or any other form of creative, then you might not be purchasing TV commercials or billboards yet, I just wanted to list the wide range of options.
Most advertisements these days by creatives are done online either via Google Ads, Youtube Ads, Facebook Ads, Twitter Ads, Instagram Ads, etc.
I’m sure you have hopped on Instagram and received one of these ads by another photographer offering to sell their Lightroom Presets for 50% off.
Well, that is a form of advertising through the Instagram Ads Platform and I will be diving into those specifically in another guide in the future.
Direct advertising consists of communication without face-to-face contact.
This is usually accomplished via direct mail, telemarketing, and the Internet.
Most photographers and other artists do not engage much in direct mail or telemarketing tactics, however, they will be using the Internet and it is the most important form of direct advertising in today’s day and age.
Through the Internet, you can promote to anybody around the world through the form of a website or through paid advertisements discussed above.
4. Sales Promotion
Sales promotions consist of you providing incentives to your target audience to buy.
If you are a photographer, examples of this include a sale for the month on a photography package of 20% off on your Lightroom presets.
5. One-on Many Face-to-Face
One-on-many consists of you speaking at large gatherings whether it is a seminar, a trade show, or a talk at a conference.
For example, if you build up a name for yourself and are given the opportunity to speak at a Photography Conference, then this is a perfect example.
6. Publicity/Public Relations
This consists of creating press which could be in the form of written articles, testimonials, video clips, a podcast, or creating blogs.
These mediums listed above are great ways to not only promote your business and brand image but to drive and shape the story of you as an artist.
The beauty is that you can talk or write about whatever you like.
Of course, if you are writing with SEO in mind to utilize your SEO skills to make money, you may choose to write about certain topics to help drive traffic to your site (I will be writing about this in a separate guide).
7. Word of Mouth
Word-of-mouth promotion is just as it sounds.
Word of mouth is often the most trusted source of promotion and 88% of consumers place the most trust in word-of-mouth promotion (invespcro.com).
How does this work for photography or any other art?
Have you ever had a friend of a client reach out to you and ask about your photography service because the client said they loved working with you?
Well, that’s an example of word-of-mouth promotion.
If you treat your clients with respect, provide a great experience, and deliver high-quality photos, that is a golden ticket to an abundance of word-of-mouth promotion.
These are the seven main ways of promotion.
Being a photographer/artist, make sure you are covering all these forms and promoting across all of these categories.
If you are not, think of ways to start promoting them.
Speaking with other photographers, I’ve found that the biggest category they struggle in is the “Advertising” category when it comes to running any paid ads on social media platforms or the “Publicity/PR” category when it comes to deciding what to write about on their website to help drive traffic and promote brand awareness.
As mentioned, I will be covering these topics more in-depth in another guide so be sure to connect with me and sign up for my email newsletter!
How Does Promotion Tie Into the Other Marketing Components
When you are promoting across these categories, it is important to remain “on brand.”
For example, if you are a family photographer and your main form of promotion is via Instagram, you don’t want to be posting inappropriate Instagram stories of you going out to the bars, getting drunk, and cussing at the camera.
You also want to remember the pricing component.
Once you determine your pricing and it accurately reflects the positioning strategy you want to take, well the promotion categories are where you will actually display your price.
Once you determine the products you want to market, the promotion categories are also where you actually promote them.
We have covered the marketing framework from a high-level view and I’ve introduced you to the 5 marketing components.
I hope you are starting to see how branding (corporate image and positioning), product, price, placement, and promotion all tie into one another and how they act like “cogs in a wheel,” as mentioned in the very beginning.
My goal was to introduce you to these concepts so you could start looking at your own photography, writing, art, or creative business through this marketing framework lens.
Nate Torres is an entrepreneur, growth marketer, and photographer and writes mostly on those topics. Nate runs his own professional photography business called Nate Torres Photography. Nate enjoys learning about new digital marketing strategy and new ways to think creatively. He is also a photography speaker and author on Photofocus.