Archives for June 2014

For Photographers: The Simple Yet Powerful Website Copy Tweak That Will Win You More Clients (& How to Implement It)

photography web marketing

[NOTE: Though this post is geared to photographers, the principles apply to all creatives selling any kind of product or service.]

Photographers, I love you. Fine art photographers, wedding photographers, lifestyle photographers, product photographers, pretty much all of you.

For years, I wanted to be among you:  a working photographer, making a living from photography.  I chased this dream for some time.  I took a year-long course in photography at my local community college, worked for a local photographer as an assistant, then put together a portfolio and applied to the photography program at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. Lucky for me, I was accepted into the program. Unluckily, I decided art school wasn’t in the cards for me at that moment. I moved to New York anyway and went to “regular” college, taking a few photography courses during the three years I lived there between other commitments.

I share this with you because I want you to know that my heart is with you, that I’m not coming to you strictly from a place of sharing advice on how to write persuasive web copy that can help you win more clients in your photography business, but also from a place of big, full-hearted, sappy love for the work you do every day.

Now that we’ve established that, let’s talk about the simple yet powerful web copy tweak that can help you win more clients. But first . . . .

The Problem with Most Photography Websites

Many photographers make the serious mistake of assuming their gorgeous images will speak for themselves to sell their services and get clients, imagining that once a potential customer sees the talent evident in the online portfolio, they’ll immediately reach out and inquire about working together.

Unfortunately, this rarely happens.

While having a web presence and an online portfolio is a great first step, it’s not enough. The “build it and they will come” approach simply does not work online, where you’re competing with dozens, if not hundreds, of other photographers in your town who provide exactly the same service you do. And if you live in a big city, thousands of other photographers.

Since your potential clients can easily find at least two dozen other talented photographers whose images are just as stunning as yours with a simple Google search, you’re going to have to show them more than your gorgeous portfolio to get them interested in hiring you.

What Potential Clients Are Looking For

What a potential client is looking for when they land on your photography site is evidence that you clearly understand who they are as a client, that you have the solution they’re looking for, and that you, specifically, are exactly the person to provide that solution.  

In other words, they want you to be “the one.” They’ve been searching and searching online, and they’re feeling frustrated that they’ve already been to 12 other wedding photography/lifestyle photography/insert your photography specialty here websites, and they can’t distinguish one photographer from the next. They want to land on your site and think, “This is it, I’ve found the ideal photographer for my job at last. I can stop searching, cue the trumpets.”

This is why you get price-shopped, by the way. Because most photography websites look nearly identical to one another and most photographers provide similar services, the ONLY thing potential clients have to go on to distinguish you from your competition is your price, so naturally they’ll choose the person with the lowest price.  This is not the kind of client you want.

{To learn more about web surfing behavior and what potential customers are looking for when they search online for that thing you do, check out 7 Ways to Improve Your Web Copy Today for Better Sales: Basics for Creative Entrepreneurs. And pay particular attention to Item #2, where I share an example from the world of wedding photography.}

So how do you convey to your ideal clients that you’re the right photographer for their project? You do it through compelling, client-focused web copy. That’s the simple yet powerful website copy tweak that will win you more clients: CLIENT-FOCUSED web copy.

That may sound way too simple, but you’d be surprised how many photography websites don’t adhere to this simple, yet persuasive principle. (Lots of other kinds of websites don’t either, by the way, not just photography sites.)

Your web copy must connect with the reader/potential client and speak to what’s important to them as a photography client, as opposed to using company-centric copy that focuses mostly on the company, i.e., with language like “our goal,” “we have,” “we specialize in,” etc.

Because the edifying truth is, people don’t really care who you are, they want to know how you can help them. They’re seeking the answer to the question, “WIIFM?,” meaning, “What’s in it for me?”

So what you want your web content to do is make an emotional connection with your ideal clients through speaking directly to their desires, wants and needs in a way that makes them eager to do business with you.

Building the Foundation: How to Create Compelling Client-Focused Web Copy

To create persuasive web copy that effectively sells your services, you have to get the foundation in place first.  This is critical work that if left undone, will create frustration, vexation, and irritation (you can tell we love our thesaurus around here), loads of wasted time, and frankly, will attract more than your fair share of pain-in-the-butt, price-shopping clients. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

On the other hand, if you do the foundational work first, creating compelling web copy for every page on your site, from your Home page, to your About page, to your Services and Pricing pages, and everything in between, becomes a breeze.

This foundational work consists of:

#1: Figuring out who your ideal clients are so you can speak directly to them with a targeted and persuasive marketing message

#2: Determining what makes your work, your process, your services, or the way you do business different, better, more special, or more compelling to these ideal clients than others who do what you do, also known as your unique selling proposition

I cannot stress enough how important these two steps are to creating your compelling marketing message; everything flows from this.  It will inform everything else in your business, from the kind of clients you work with, to the services you offer, to how and who you market to, to your tagline and your client pitches, and lots more besides.

Stick with me, I’m going to tell you how to do this.

{If you want to read the story of the exhaustion, struggle and overwhelm I experienced in my business and how I resolved it by figuring out my ideal clients and unique selling proposition, check out Creatives: Are You Making These 3 Web Marketing Mistakes?}

Defining Your Ideal Clients

This is the fun stuff – where you get to dream up exactly the kind of person who would be perfect for your services and who you’d L-O-V-E to work with. 

Because the bottom line is, if you haven’t defined your ideal client/perfect customer/target audience, then you’re trying to talk to “everybody” with your web content – which means it’s most likely bland and boring and homogenous.  And that means that as lovingly crafted and well-written as it may be, it won’t convert the right readers into your dream clients and potential clients. Say it with me: bland and boring does not convert!

To find out more about defining your ideal clients, including the opportunity to download a free Defining Your Audience Checklist, check out The Dreadful Client-Repelling Mistake That Will Keep You Broke (and how to fix it). The downloadable checklist is at the end of the blog post.

How to Uncover Your Unique Selling Proposition

Once you’ve determined who your ideal clients are, you can begin to work out what your unique selling proposition is. Your USP is simply the collection of factors unique to you and your business that compel your ideal clients to choose you over someone else who offers the same product or service.  In fact, who you serve – your ICA or “ideal client avatar” – can be part of your unique selling proposition.

The benefit of a well-defined USP is that you’ll begin to connect with and convert your ideal clients, instead of ending up with the ones who make you want to plunge daggers into your eyes.  Because when a potential ideal client lands on your website and sees it’s not like the hundreds of photography sites they found when they were Googling that thing you do, they will stop and take notice, instead of trucking right on past your website never to return.

To find out how to uncover your USP, including the opportunity to download a free Defining Your USP Checklist, check out Creatives: How to Uncover Your Unique Selling Proposition (and why you need to). The downloadable checklist is at the end of the blog post.

In that post you’ll find a couple of examples of creative service providers doing differentiation right, so you can see what that looks like in the context of writing client-focused web copy. On a similar note, you might want to check out this guest post I wrote called 6 Authentic, Low-Cost Ways to Differentiate Yourself Online to Attract Your Ideal Clients and Customers.

Ok, So You’ve Figured Out Your ICA (Ideal Client Avatar) and USP (Unique Selling Proposition), Now What?

Once you’ve knocked out these two very important first steps, you’re ready to implement what you’ve discovered about your ICA and USP to create compelling client-focused copy on your web site. The foundational work you’ve now done makes this much easier.

I would start with the Home page and the About page first, because those are the two most visited pages on most websites.

(For more information on writing an effective About page, including a template created especially for creatives, check out For Creatives: The Secret to Transforming Your Boring, Lackluster About Page into an Ideal Client-Attracting Magnet.  At the end of that blog post you’ll have an opportunity to get the template I use to write About pages for clients, gratis, of course.)

Now on to the Home page. You want to think of your Home page as a virtual storefront – unless you provide a warm, welcoming, value-packed reason to come inside, people are going to walk right on by.

On the web, that means potential ideal clients will click away from your site faster than green grass through a goose if you don’t instantly demonstrate value and relevance to them.

Your Home page needs to: 

Convince busy web visitors on a mission to find specific, problem-solving information to stay on your site long enough to read further, find out what you’re about, and take some kind of action – such as checking out your products and services, signing up for your email list, or requesting a quote/more information, etc.

And because of the way people read and search on the web, you only have a few seconds to do this.

Here’s a down-and-dirty Home page checklist that will help you get yours in tip-top shape.

An effective Home page will do these 5 things:

1. Demonstrate that you understand your target audience’s problems

2. Offer a solution to those problems by sharing the benefits of what you have to offer, clearly, concisely, and compellingly.

3. Explain how solving the problem will improve your clients’ lives. See copywriting power tip #1, below.

4. Let your website visitors and potential customers know how you’re different from the competition and what makes you uniquely qualified to solve their problems.

5. Include a clear call to action. Very simply, this means giving them something to do next that will deepen the relationship with you, such as reading your blog or signing up for your email list, etc.

Remember, all the copy on this page needs to be client-focused. It’s less about you and more about your potential client’s wants, needs, and desires.

Your Home page will demonstrate what you can do to make your clients’ lives easier, better, healthier, richer, more successful or what have you, depending on the exact product or service you provide.

While the blog post linked up here is not strictly about Home pages, you’ll find some helpful advice on wooing and engaging potential buyers with web copy:  Why Most Product Websites Make Me Sad: The Good, the Bad, and the Unsightly.

For the fine art photographers reading this, I know you may think that these suggestions won’t work for you. If that’s the case, I suggest you check out this post I wrote on how you can apply copywriting principles to what you do:  Can Copywriting Principles Work for Visual Artists?

A Powerful Way to Reel ‘Em In: Three Bonus Client-Attracting Copywriting Power Tips

Copywriting Power Tip #1:  “Paint a Picture”

Whatever services you offer – wedding photography, lifestyle photography, product photography, even fine art photography – you need to help your potential clients and customers see the vision of what can be for them when they use your services or buy your work – their ideal outcome.

A very effective way to do this is to “paint a picture” with your web copy. Get the nitty-gritty details of how to do that here:  What a Personal Development Classic from 1959 Can Teach You About Writing Web Copy That Sells.

Copywriting Power Tip #2:  Inject Personality

One of the most common website faults among creative service providers is boring, bland, and flavorless web copy.  Remember, bland and boring does not sell.  And since bland, boring copy is a common malady all over the web, if you buck that trend, you’ll stand out – in a good way.

There are creative ways to invest even the most plain, utilitarian thing with personality through the use of compelling web copy. That said, creative services typically are not bland and boring, so your web copy shouldn’t be either. Copy with personality gets remembered, creates desire for your services, and more importantly, sells more effectively than homogenous, dull as dirt web copy.

This doesn’t mean you have to get crazy, mind you. If you’re more Josh Groban than David Lee Roth, then own it, and let that shine through in your web and other marketing.

To learn more about using personality in web copy, check out these two posts: How to Sell Any Boring Old Thing with Scandalously Good Copy and If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em: The Baby Carrot Story and Using Personality in Marketing.

Copywriting Power Tip #3: Tap into the Power of Emotion

One of the most important pieces of advice I can ever share with you about writing compelling copy that persuades people to buy your creative services, is to tap into the power of emotion in your copy. Buying decisions are emotional decisions.  People buy based on emotion and justify purchases based on logic.

You may have heard that little bon mot dozens of times, but what does it mean in practice?

Think about chocolate cake.  Or Krispy Kreme donuts.  (Mmmm, donuts . . . as Homer Simpson would say.) If people acted rationally they wouldn’t buy these things – sugar is bad for you, it’s not nutritious, and it makes you fat – it’s nothing but empty, unhealthy calories.  But cake and donuts are both multi-million dollar industries because eating them makes you feel good.

So when writing your web copy, you want to make an emotional connection with your ideal clients that makes them feel good, or excited, happy, inspired, relieved, encouraged, understood, relaxed, or any one of dozens of other emotions, depending on the exact service you offer.

So, how do you figure out the deeper emotional benefit you want to tap into? One way to go beyond the surface benefits your product/service offers to get to the core emotional benefits your customers want is through the use of what’s called the “so what?” technique.  It’s simple, and it works.

Learn the “so what?” technique and how to apply it here: What Can Chocolate Cake and Donuts Teach You About Selling More?

The bottom line: you have to use client-focused copy to create an emotional connection – that’s how you stand out among all the other talented photographers online, and that’s how your right people will find you.

And there you have it, my talented photographer friends – the simple website copy tweak that will win you more clients: client-focused web copy, and how to create it.

I know this was a heckuva lot to take in all at once, so here are the steps again, simplified:

  1. Figure out who your ideal clients are and what they desire (I pointed you to a free downloadable worksheet for this)
  2. Determine your unique selling proposition (Ditto on the free downloadable worksheet)
  3. Use this information to create compelling client-focused web copy that speaks to your ideal clients wants, needs and desires, starting with the Home page and About page on your site

But wait, there’s more!

You might find this post I wrote on taglines valuable as you re-work your website copy to focus on your ideal clients. It’s a dead-simple formula for creating a tagline for your creative business in 20 minutes flat: Taglines 101: How to Create a Tagline for Your Creative Business.

Questions? Comments?  Leave ’em below! 

To get on the VIP List to find out when my upcoming course — 30 Days to a Magnetic Marketing Message That Sells: A Course for Wedding, Portrait, and Lifestyle Photographers — drops, head right over here.

[For more on writing copy that connects with your ideal clients, sign up for free weekly updates and get instant access to the CREATIVE REBEL GUIDE TO WRITING A CLIENT-ATTRACTING ABOUT PAGE, plus copywriting & web marketing tips and other fun stuff for creative freelancers & biz owners that I only share with my subscribers, delivered straight to your inbox each Tuesday.]

New York Experience Required

photo by kconners

photo by kconners

Nothing could top the magic I felt the day I arrived at New York’s Penn Station from Wilmington, a smallish town on North Carolina’s southeastern coast, to officially begin my New York life. I felt liberated and inspired, intoxicated by the notion that anything was possible now that I was going to be living in this magical city.

It was 1991 and my then boyfriend was getting his MFA in Creative Writing at Columbia University. I was living in Wilmington, earning my English degree at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. After we did the long-distance relationship thing for a while, the topic of me moving to New York came up. I was already packing mentally 30 seconds into the conversation. Back in the real world a few days later, I dropped all my classes at UNCW, began the process of transferring to Fordham College at Lincoln Center, and starting packing my belongings for real.

Luckily the boyfriend had scored a sweet little apartment on 119th and Amsterdam, in a building with a doorman and a nice restaurant on the top floor called The Terrace, through some impossible magic of Columbia student housing.  With safe shelter out of the way, my first order of business was finding a job to fill the time and my bank account until I was to begin classes a few months later.

I started looking for waitressing work.  For a girl with plenty of restaurant experience who had never had trouble finding a waitressing gig before, this turned out to be surprisingly difficult. I would comb through classified ads in The Village Voice spying ad after ad that said, “New York experience required.”  I was baffled. I had no clue what the difference between waiting tables in a small southern beach community and Manhattan’s restaurant scene was.

After a few weeks of searching, I scored a job in a casual hamburger joint thick in the theater district just off Broadway on 45th between Sixth and Seventh Avenues.  I was both thrilled and terrified to be given this opportunity. Rows of tables lined up neatly along the length of the restaurant, next to the bar, in front of the kitchen, and around the corner and into the next room, as if every millimeter of empty space that couldn’t accommodate a customer was an affront to commerce. Tables were so close together you could reach out a take a sip of the beer your fellow restaurant patron was enjoying at the next table over as easily as eating a French fry off of your very own plate.

10 minutes into my first shift the need for “New York experience” started to sink in.  Navigating the cramped spaces between tables to deliver food and drinks was dicey. I was forever worried that my butt was in the face of some unsuspecting restaurant patron trying to enjoy their burger and curly fries as I delivered a quesadilla to their neighbors at the next table over.  The distance between my ability to do my job properly and invading my customers’ personal space was exceedingly slim.

Maybe this was different from waitressing in the comparatively spacious and slothlike environment of southeastern North Carolina’s beach scene. 

And it wasn’t just the space issues. From restaurant patrons who arrived at 6:45 pm, waited 30 minutes for a table, then ordered a well-done steak, announcing, “we’re in a hurry, we’re trying to make an 8 o’clock show,” to the purse snatchings inside the restaurant, and from the occasional celebrity sitting in your section to orders for things like lime rickeys and egg creams, nearly everything I encountered in my first few weeks on the job called up the phrase, “Dorothy, we’re not in Kansas anymore.”

But I was in hog heaven, as we say in the South. I embraced every experience my new job and city had to offer, assenting to both conveniences and annoyances in equal measure, mentally placing them on my “Proof I’m a Real New Yorker” list. The vague suffocation I felt when I lived in the South began to dissipate.

I noticed New York’s peculiarities everywhere: the way the city would empty out in the summer, its residents fleeing the trapped heat and humidity to escape to the Hamptons and other beachy enclaves.  The frequent celebrity sightings, whose frequency made them ordinary. The constant barrage of people asking for money.  The ever present noise of sirens and car horns at all times of the day and night.  Getting shat on by a pigeon as you made your way across 45th street just after crossing Broadway.  (Yes, it happened to me.)

With every new first I felt my hayseed sheen begin to wear off – my first book party in a big fancy apartment on Central Park West, where clumps of minor literary celebs and starving writers from the Columbia MFA program stood around chatting about Lewis Lapham’s latest editorial in Harper’s Magazine, my first celebrity sighting (Paul Schaffer, David Letterman’s musical director) in front of Coliseum Books on 57th and Broadway, the first time I got yelled at by a homeless person I chose not to help that day, the first time I stopped being offended by the admonition of “Next!” and the absence of eye contact in line at the bank.

Like an onion, layer after layer of Southerness peeled away with each passing day.

The day I felt fully transformed into a New Yorker came one glorious spring afternoon as I was leaving the restaurant on my way to everyone’s favorite ubiquitous New York drugstore, Duane Reade. Walking across 45th Street, I spotted a crowd gathered in front of a youth hostel, where several people stood silently hovering around something on the ground, their hands clasped over their mouths, eyes wide. I didn’t want to linger, but I could tell from the shocked energy that hung in the air something bad had happened, and I was curious.

Turns out, a young man had jumped or fallen out of the window of a nearby building, landing on the sidewalk in front of the hostel.

What I remember most clearly all these years later is this young man’s enthusiastically curly red hair, springing from his scalp vibrant and alive, juxtaposed with his body, which clearly wasn’t. 

After a few brief moments of this shared experience with my fellow New Yorkers, the crowd began to disperse, collectively making its way on with the rest of the afternoon. As I walked away, I made a mental note of what I needed to buy at the drugstore.