Let’s say I want to start a vegetable garden. So I go out to the backyard, rip up some grass, and scatter seeds over the dirt.
Then I water haphazardly (mostly whenever I have time or think about it) and wait.
Many of the seeds get blown away by the wind.
When plants start to come in, some bear a little, but others are crowded out by weeds and produce nothing. So I don’t get much out of it overall.
What would you think if I then looked at my dismal harvest, scoffed, and said “Gardening doesn’t work. It’s a waste of time”?
You’d probably have a few suggestions for me, right?
Because I’d be making some mistaken assumptions.
Namely, that I can throw seeds on top of any old dirt, and that the seeds can take root and grow all on their own.
And some seeds CAN do that, but some – including the ones I most want to enjoy – probably won’t.
Gardening is about strategizing a little, planting well, nudging things along, pulling weeds, then enjoying both early and late fruits.
Your blog is basically a garden plot.
Seeds are the prospective clients.
A handful of prospective clients will land on your blog, and take root (hire you) all on their own.
But unless you do something to prepare the ground before you send traffic to your blog –
Most will get blown away by the wind (click away at the first distraction, never to return).
And some will get crowded out by weeds (worries about hiring you, timing and other life conflicts) and never bear fruit.
But before you say “Blogging doesn’t work, it’s a waste of time,” let’s just lay out a little strategy, okay?
Many photographers and creatives use a blog to showcase new work. Clients share the posts and you get traffic from their friends.
And some bloggers use SEO strategy to increase search traffic – and the more relevant searchers you can bring to your blog, the more likely that some of them will hire you. All of these are great things!
But let’s be clear. If you happen to be counting on lots of people seeing your work, reading a few sentences, then hiring you – you’re counting on the following being true:
1) That the person who landed there is even interested in hiring a photographer at all. (They might just be a host of Great Aunt Marjories from out of state who stopped by.)
2) That those interested in hiring someone are interested in doing so now,
3) That it’s going to be mostly your work that convinces them to choose you,
4) And that they’re going to spend long enough to search around and that weeds (time pressures, worries) aren’t going to come and choke out their interest.
Those are some BIG assumptions. They are not going to be met very often all by themselves. There are a few people out there who are looking for a photographer now, are ready to hire one, and are waiting for your images to come along – but qualified leads like that are few and far between.
If you throw massive numbers of seeds onto your blog ground, you’ll get some to succeed – but maybe there’s a better way. Maybe you just need some more deliberate cultivation.
Here are three ways to avoid wasting blog traffic (and cultivate instead):
1) Plant the seeds that come – don’t let the wind carry them away.
Other industries might call this “lead capture,” but in normal human-speak we call it “get them to give you some contact information so you can let them know when you do new things.”
Very few people are ready to purchase something on their first exposure to it. Frequent contact brings familiarity, trust, relationships, and eventually – loyalty.
This is why if you don’t have an email list, I recommend getting one. I’ll go into more strategy about this in a minute, but essentially:
Any time a good person visits your page and leaves without leaving an email address, think of it like a single seed blowing away in the wind. Grab the seed, bury it in good ground, and water with regular contact.
Someone might not be ready to hire you today, but six months from now when they’re thinking about rebranding/making Christmas cards/whatever, don’t count on them remembering that one link they clicked on last January. If you’ve been in their inbox a few times, you’ll probably be the first person they check out, especially if you’ve been smart about your messaging.
MailChimp has a free email service for up to 2,000 contacts, so there’s little down side in giving it a try. I know it sounds like “one more thing” but it’s one more thing that can truly prevent all that traffic (that you worked so hard to get) from visiting your site and never returning.
2) Pull out weeds before they have a chance to get big.
Never know what to write about on your blog? Here’s a killer way to never run out of things to say:
First, sit down and speed-write a list of 25 excuses clients give for not hiring a photographer (or graphic designer, or dog groomer, or whatever your profession). You can probably do this pretty intuitively. Get ’em all down.
Yes, $$$ might be near the top, but that’s never the only reason – and usually not even the main reason if they’re being honest. Things like:
I’ve never had anyone take a photo of me that I liked.
How can I trust this person? I don’t know anything about them.
My kids won’t cooperate.
My husband/business partner thinks it’s a waste.
I’ll do it when I lose ten pounds.
I’ll do it when I get through this busy summer.
Meh, this wouldn’t really impact my life. I’m off to go order a Kate Spade handbag because it will make me feel pretty and make my friends envious.
Keep going. Every excuse. (If you need a few starter ideas to get in the swing, you might even run through your own mind – why haven’t you hired a photographer lately?)
These concerns are weeds that choke out people’s interest before they can become clients.
Now here’s the magic:
Every time you put up a blog post, put something tiny in it that addresses one of those concerns.
Make sure every post plucks a single weed.
In that gorgeous family session you just did? You can throw into the post:
Josie, the mom of this merry band, told me beforehand that she wasn’t sure how these three full-of-life boys were going to handle the camera – she didn’t think they’d be cooperative for over an hour or hold still long enough for me to get anything ‘good’.
Then talk about some things you did in the session – how you work with rambunctious kids, how everyone thinks their kids are the craziest but really it’s common and you’re totally used to it, and now here are the photos – do you think we didn’t “get anything good”? (Cue money shot from the session.)
This technique doesn’t address the whole list of concerns in one go, but each post pulls one tiny weed out. And as people read through your blog, they think they’re reading stories about sessions, but actually they’re having their minds slowly changed by you subtly proving their fears wrong.
Every client you’ve ever had has had to overcome at least one of these concerns you listed. Find out what they were.
How? Once you’ve completed a sales session and you have a good rapport, you can ask/email:
“Hey, back before we started working together, did you have any concerns about hiring a photographer? About how the session might go or what you’d think of the images? I just want to make sure I’m able to communicate well to new clients.”
Most people will name something. And if you want to use something they said, it’s easy to ask permission, just say/email:
Hey, remember how you mentioned you might have had some concerns about _____ before you hired me? I’m finding that lots of people have that exact same concern. And I’m thinking that if they hear that someone as fabulous as you was also concerned about _____, that it’d help them feel less anxious. Would you mind me mentioning _________ on my blog to help ease people’s minds about that?
You can mention these kinds of concerns without reflecting badly on the client – it’s all in how you do it. And it increases your readers’ trust when they realize that others have the same concerns. Each of your clients has a little nugget like this you could put in a post. Go find it.
3) Water regularly – give their interest a reason to grow.
Each time you put up a post, you hope that client will share it with people who don’t know you yet. Absolutely.
But you also want the friends of your last ten clients to come back and see you again. Become more familiar with your work. So you can keep cultivating that seed that is sprouting into real interest.
But you have to take initiative and tell them to come – they came last time because their friend shared a link. Now they need YOU to get the message to them – that’s why you get them to sign up for a newsletter. (Liking on Facebook works too, but with the massive plummet in organic reach, you basically have to pay to get people to see it).
So when you send out a newsletter with your latest post (or write a post with a link on FB), here’s a neat trick I rarely see people use:
Don’t just say “Check out this gorgeous session!” with a link. Your prospective seedlings – er, clients – may or may not care about seeing photos of people they don’t know.
Instead, look at your list of 25 concerns that you wrote out. Those are the things that will intrigue them. Work in something about how this post addresses one of those concerns:
Check out this new session – and learn what really happens when you have a photoshoot with three kids under the age of 4.
Here, you’re tapping into their fear that kids won’t behave. You can do this for any concern, though:
New photoshoot on the blog today, plus one real client’s advice for what to do when you think you “don’t take a good picture”
If you think you have to “look perfect” to have your photo taken, you’ll love today’s story…
New session for you today, plus one father’s words about how a photo session changed his mind.
Someone who might not care about a new session might be quite interested in the line that addresses their biggest concern about hiring a photographer.
(I mean, which article would you be more likely to click: “Canon releases a new camera body!” or “Canon releases a new camera body designed to focus in low light and capture perfectly crisp photos while you’re walking”? You might not care about new camera bodies – but you’d pay more attention if one said something about solving a frustration you currently have.)
This is just one way to feed and encourage prospective client interest – but one I wish I saw more often because it’s so effective.
Blogging multitasks many powerful things at once:
Creating connection, cultivating relationships, alleviating fear, sharing your voice, giving you a chance to capture emails, generating SEO juice, taking advantage of familiarity psychology – if you want to achieve these with other platforms, you certainly can – but blogs sure wrap up a whole bundle of benefits into a single place.
Just be sure you don’t blog JUST “to blog” or because other people say it’s good. That’s throwing handful of seeds (traffic) into the ground and checking every once in awhile to see if anything edible has sprouted up. Make sure you’re capturing and cultivating that traffic and your yield will be higher.
Try these tips and let me know how it goes!
P.S. If you want more clear instruction on how to generate blog posts, write captivating content, and speed up the whole process,
I wrote a popular e-book about all this and more. It’s called Irresistible Words. Feel free to try out the tips in the free chapter!
Here’s an email I got from one person after they finished just the first 1/4 of the course:
“I HATE TO WRITE.
I purchased your course on a whim and SO wanted it to be full of nonsense. Because if it was, then I wouldn’t have to reach deep inside and put my feelings on my website – on my blog – on my facebook page.
Gosh dang it, you are freaking right and I hate it. Like I need one more thing to do….
Since the proof is in the pudding, I wanted to share my facebook post from last night.
NINETY NINE likes and a handful of comments, with a reach of 3521 in less than 24 hours. Small potatoes for most people, but these are numbers that I have not seen since FB changed their algorithms.”