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Last-Minute December Marketing (Cost: $0)

Know what happens to internet traffic during the holiday season?

I wish I could report that it goes down because we all hibernate with loved ones, but, well –

It spikes. 

It starts predictably:  On American Thanksgiving, traffic rises in the evening.  People settle into sofas after meals, grab their phone and go online – both to check out sales, but probably also to have something quiet to do in a post-pie stupor.

It doesn’t end there.  As December marches on, ads tend to get more impressions, click-throughs, and sales results, which makes sense because people are thinking about buying gifts (one Facebook survey showed that 62% of people do most of their holiday shopping in December, even if they have intentions of doing it earlier).

But even regular ol’ Facebook posting and sharing also jumps by a wide margin, and traffic is unusually high both on Christmas Eve morning and Christmas Day evening (before and after family activities tend to occur).  And people are more likely to buy something on mobile in the 3 days after Christmas than they are on Black Friday + Cyber Monday combined.

Meaning?  Even if you wind down your business and don’t take on any client work, it’s still a good idea to schedule some marketing this month.

There are lots of buy-ready eyeballs scouring their screens, plus people just logging more time than usual, which creates opportunity.

If you use ads as a marketing strategy, this season is a good time to examine yours carefully for impact.  But this post isn’t about paid strategies (though if you’re going to run an ad, read this about choosing an effective image).

Let’s talk about one strategy for riding the wave of increased traffic – for $0.

The idea is simple:  Take advantage of all that traffic by creating a piece of content that will be extraordinarily useful to people, and attach a gentle offer at the end.

Three steps:

1) Write a post with shares-itself content (feel free to steal one of these ideas):

In December, people are online sharing more than just photos of their Christmas socks.  They actively search for and share ideas that help them with season-specific concerns.

“Shares itself” content either answers a question they’re already Googling, OR promises to resolve a familiar concern.

Here are some examples:

How to Take Group Photos On Christmas Day (That Look Good, Without Tears) – No exhaustive tutorial required, just give them three hints.  You know your feed will be flooded after Christmas with these photos, and the majority will have similar problems from a technical standpoint, not to mention people could use a little advice on how to get kids (and adults!) to cooperate.  Even a couple small adjustments would have visible results, and they’d be grateful to hear them!

Be The Star Of Any Holiday Group Selfie – I would consider this article a public service because really, isn’t it time that people stop bringing their chin into their neck or leaning waaaaaay to far sideways in a chair to “get in” the picture?  Give people some hints about how to look good (yet non-fake), and they’ll be likely to click.

Christmas Camera Gift Guide – From a Photographer – People are already buying consumer phones and cameras this season, but they’re often clueless on tech specs.  You can offer a bit of advice on what to look for in a consumer camera, discuss tradeoffs (camera vs. phone upgrade, large camera vs. small), and explain what one or two technical things mean.  When you genuinely make people feel smarter, they remember it.

Three Photos You Need To Take On Christmas Morning – many photographers brand themselves as storytellers and memory-capturers, but you’re not going to be there on Christmas morning to do that for clients.  What suggestions do you have for them?  What can they look for?  In addition to photo suggestions, you could also make a printable page for them to write memories on:  Write categories like ‘gifts the kids got,’ ‘what we had for breakfast,’ ‘who was there’ – these are things we forget but LOVE to read later.  Give them something to print and they’re more likely to take a second to write it down!

Photos You Need To Take of Grandma + Grandpa This Year – Remind people to include their elders and take time to create those images they are going to really want to have.  Share a photo of an elder in your own family and what it means to you.  Offer some suggestions for groupings or moments to create/catch.

Let’s make one thing clear:  NONE of these ideas “compete” against you.

It’s a simple fact that people buy and use cameras, take selfies, and create images on their own.  Offering a few tips to do it better that lets them see a tangible difference only increases their trust in you that you know what you’re doing and that you look out for them.  They’re not going to get the kind of image you can create, and they know it (if they don’t – they’re not your client anyway).

A little help from you lets them get something better than what they would have gotten otherwise.  That is memorable and appreciated – and in the end helps you converts more clients.  (Especially if you do what I suggest at the end here – read on!)

A quick piece of advice about content:

Try to make the first tip something unusual.  If all you say are things like “try to coordinate outfits,” they already know or could guess that, so they’re not going to share it.

But if something is unusual or they didn’t know about it, chances spike that they’ll share.  Things like: A lesser-known phone setting (using the volume button on ear buds to trigger an iPhone photo, perhaps), a memorable way to remember to keep their chin forward, specific lines you can use for family members reluctant to jump into photos.  If they don’t already know it, they’re more likely to share.

2) Now, choose your SPECIFIC offer:

As you court an influx of visitors, you don’t just want their attention in general.  You want to direct them to one specific, clear action.

Examples of specific offers:

A) Tailored-Use Gift Certificates

If this isn’t prime shooting season, a call to “book now” may not work.  Gift certificates are a logical alternative.  If you offer gift certificates though, don’t only say “can be made for any amount.”  Give exact suggestions of amounts for specific purposes:

$XXX – a session plus a 16×24 canvas – a luxe gift that will let them hang their favorite image in their house right away.  Perfect for a family who just moved, added a new member, or deserves special attention.

$XXX – a session plus a set of 4×6 printed proofs – perfect for someone who would love a family session, but who might not have space for a large piece right now or you aren’t sure what they’d want – they’ll receive a keepsake box to enjoy anytime.

$XXX – gift someone a session only – let them choose their own artwork later.  Perfect for repeat Happy Photography customers who are already familiar with the photography process.

No reader should have to do any math – ever.  Spoon feed them the amount, the idea, and tell them who each is best for.

(Also, you might want to read this post from Rachel Brenke to help make sure you’re legally squared away on gift certificates.)

B) Hold A People-Focused Print Sale For Existing Clients

If you’re sending out your piece of content via newsletter, chances are it’s going to include past clients.

Any client who bought from you this year probably didn’t get every print they could have.  Since you already have the images, you might as well maximize getting all the payment you can for your work.  Holding a special holiday print sale gives clients the chance to buy prints of their most recent images.

BUT – don’t just give a general “buy prints on sale!”  Get more specific and give people concrete gift ideas:  A package of two 8x10s for each set of grandparents.  A 4×6 acrylic block for mom/dad’s office.  A set of photo tags to personalize all their wrapped gifts so they feel like they just walked out of an amazing Instagram feed.

Give them both a specific product and a specific use for it.  Don’t worry about being too specific – you can add a “build your own package” option.  The point is to take away mental work and be as concrete as possible with possibilities.  They don’t want to spend time deciding between “all products” – they want a recommendation so they can say “oh – that is a great idea!  CLICK.”

C) Build Your Email List for Winter/Spring Promotions

If a new person lands on your site, likes it, then leaves – it’s a bit of a waste, isn’t it?  The likelihood of them finding their way back all on their own is low.  Some people need to have their interest cultivated over time.

This is why it’s a good idea to have an email list – if they give you an address, you can follow up with more great things, including your early spring promotions.  So even if you decide not to offer anything specific now, the end of any post should include a clear nudge to sign up for your email list.

3) Use a pivot line to promote your specific offer at the end of your post!

You’ve written your post, and it’s time to make your offer.

Don’t worry:  As long as you delivered the content the headline promised, and made it valuable all on its own, then mentioning at the end how someone can hear more from or get more from you is not a slimy thing to do at all.  It’s not a bait and switch.  It’s giving them a chance to go further if they want.  If they don’t want anything beyond the tips, cool, they got what they came for.  But don’t be afraid to offer a next step.

All you need is a pivot line:


Get ready to enjoy better selfies!  P.S.  Now, you know as well as I do that group selfies are tons of fun, but for some uses they aren’t quiiiite the same as a photo someone else took.  If you’d like at least one family photo this year that doesn’t include anyone’s arms sticking out of the side of the frame, and you want someone to take it who knows how to make everyone look fabulous, here’s an easy way to get one: [Insert an offer here]

Thanks for reading about how to include your grandparents and beloved elders in your images.  I’m excited for you to try these ideas, because every button push will be a lifelong treasure in the making.
While this is on your mind, you might consider whether it’d also be a treasure to be IN the photo with them.  There’s something special I offer that I want you to know about:

Good luck camera shopping!  I hope whatever you end up with brings lots of joy.  There’s one thing you should know before you go:  Often, the person most interested in photography gets most left out of the photos.  Think about it – if you’re the one taking the images, how often are you IN them?  Don’t let the documentarian be left out of the story.  Even pro photographers hire pro photographers to make sure they’re not missing from their family records.  May I suggest you _________

Marketing that builds trust + actually helps people along the way is my favorite kind.

And as it turns out, audiences love it too.

By the way, if your audience is small, don’t be afraid to send what you wrote to a few close friends and ask them to pass it on if they find it helpful.  “Hey, I made this, and I’m excited about it and I want it to help as many people as I can – if you think of someone this would help can you pass it on?  No worries if you’re not interested” is a totally fine low-pressure thing to ask.

Get going!

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  1. Ceilidh on December 5, 2017 at 11:07 am

    Oh dearest Jenika,
    Getting up at 5am to go pick up my “assistant” at Starbucks (very cheap employee, really 😉 I was all like, NO JENIKA, there is NO WAY I can add something else to my busy season rush. And of course I knew that you’d tell me why I was wrong in the kindest and most “no excuses” kind of way and so I read your post while waiting for my coffee to get that ridiculously delicious sprinkle of chestnut praline crunchies.
    Thank you, truly. You are so good to your readers!


    • Jenika on December 5, 2017 at 3:19 pm

      I simply adore you Ceilidh! Thanks for the kind words. I hope you enjoyed your praline crunchies AND that your season rush goes beautifully well despite the chaos. I firmly believe in no-stress Decembers and yet the data is pretty surprising here so I hope people are aware of it as they make their decisions. Anyway! Sending a hug and a bright holiday wish to you!

  2. Jennie on December 5, 2017 at 3:31 pm

    Great post! Thanks for sharing. ?

    • Jenika on December 5, 2017 at 5:16 pm

      My pleasure! Thanks for your note Jennie.

  3. Brett Alison on December 5, 2017 at 8:37 pm

    Just wanted to say thanks as usual for some great tips and easy ways to take action on them! I always love your emails and open them up right away when they land in my inbox. I also wanted to say congrats on the upcoming arrival! I had a January baby (she’s 3 now), and the wintertime new baby snuggles are the best (if you can get them in while also wrangling a toddler ;)).

    • Jenika on December 6, 2017 at 11:26 pm

      Thanks for the congratulations! And I’m so glad you’re part of this community – thanks for reading and for your kind words. I appreciate them! Hope you and your family have a wonderful holiday season.

  4. Jessica on December 6, 2017 at 10:14 pm

    Oh these are awesome ideas! And now that I’m caught up this is perfect to do!
    My only concern would be offering a print “sale” to clients that JUST finished their session and paid full price for their pictures. Would I not include them in this email or is this just a way to get them to think about buying more in general rather than at a discounted price??

    • Jenika on December 6, 2017 at 11:25 pm

      You could do a few things: Only market to clients 6months or older, do a special package that was not available to them during their purchasing before (so like buy 3 8x10s get 1 free or something), offer a new product they hadn’t seen before (like ornaments, gift tags), or if you had packages with discounts built in you could simply extend that discount again (like if they got 20% off when ordering Package B, you could offer 20% off any purchases so you’re just extending the same discount they got before).

  5. Daryl Porter on December 6, 2017 at 11:39 pm

    This post is soooo useful and exactly what I needed to read right now, thank you for sharing!

  6. Diana on September 27, 2018 at 8:38 pm

    Great advice 

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