Copywriting for Photographers – Marketing for Photographers
This chapter is an excerpt from the in-depth e-book, Creative Freelance Marketing for Photographers.
If your aim is to sell anything with words, it is important to understand the art and science of copywriting.
Copywriting is the technique of crafting words in ways to induce people to take a specific action. Most often, that action is to get someone to purchase a product, hire you for a job, or have you join a list, but it can be used for many different purposes.
We are going to cover the most important copywriting tips and techniques here, but this is a broad topic that is worth delving much deeper into. Professional copywriters work daily for large companies to sell their products, and the science of copywriting can certainly help you sell your products, whether it is a print, a service, or a portrait session.
Copywriting is not trickery meant to convince people to purchase something they do not want. If this is the case, you will have a lot of unhappy customers and will quickly be out of business. Copywriting is a tool to show people the benefits they will receive from your product and to help get them over the hump of purchasing something that they need or want. If you do not use copywriting and effective selling to your advantage, even if your product is better than all of the competition, you will have a hard time selling it.
If you are selling any service or product on the internet, it is recommended that you have a specific page dedicated to selling it. This is called a landing page, and we will cover it in more detail later in this section. Landing pages are where a majority of your copywriting will go.
If someone has clicked on one of these pages, they are interested in your product, and this is your chance to make a sale. This is where you need to take the time to craft language that will explain to the person why they should want your product, so they will take the action of purchasing it or contacting you for more information.
Your copywriting should be representative of the services and products you offer. For instance, while you want your work to benefit your clientele, you want your copywriting to highlight these benefits to them. While you need to figure out what makes your work and business unique, you need to highlight this unique selling point in your writing. Copywriting is a way of explaining these best business practices to your reader in order to convert them into a customer.
Here are the primary copywriting techniques:
Know Your Audience
The first and most important step to writing copy is to understand your audience. Who are they and what are their needs? How can you fulfill those needs? If you do not know whom you are writing to ahead of time, then you are writing to no one. In addition, if you do not craft your product or service to the needs of your audience, then no amount of copywriting will do the trick. Your time is valuable, and you need to think about these aspects before you begin.
Benefits Over Features
This is the heart of copywriting. People want to be sold on benefits and not specific features. Especially at the top of a sales page, they would rather hear about how the product or service will benefit their lives instead of the specific details about what makes the product great. You can explain these features later on in the page to back up the benefits.
What will the product do for a person, and how will they be better off if they purchase it? If you can paint a picture in a person’s head about how they will be better off, it will help make the sale. An example of the benefits of a piece of art is that it will warm up a room in a home and make it much more interesting, inspiring, and enjoyable to spend time in. It fosters an environment of happiness and fulfillment. It can remind someone of a place or thing that they love. It will become a conversation piece when guests come over. It can be a way to show off someone’s personality, style, and interests. In addition, a good story behind an artwork can be a benefit. It can be a story that a customer can relate to and proudly speak about when friends and family come over and see it. That is one reason why galleries focus so much on telling stories about their art and artists.
How will your service make someone’s life or business better? Will your work help a business stand out and obtain more clients or make more sales? Will it generate income for them? Will your photographs help sell a product or bring eyes to a website? Will your portraits make your subject look attractive, natural, and trustworthy? Will they capture a subject’s personality? Will your wedding photography and albums show the most beautiful and important moments to be saved and cherished? Will you be a fun part of their day in addition to taking good photos? How will the bride and groom’s day be better because you are there to capture it?
Features, on the other hand, are specific aspects of your product or service that make it stand out from the rest. They should be used as a way to backup the benefits and to explain the reasons why your work or service is top quality. A feature of art is that it will last for hundreds of years because the highest quality archival material is used. A benefit of the archival nature of a print is passing down something beautiful and important to your children. A feature is the expert technical qualities of your work because you have been dedicated to your craft for the last 15 years. A benefit is that it will remind someone of his or her favorite place and vacation memories. A feature of your wedding photography is that you have experienced enough weddings that you now carry a small sewing kit for the occasional times that a bride’s dress gets stepped on. A benefit is that the bride will feel more secure and relaxed during the day due to your experience and professionalism.
Elicit Emotion and Tell a Story
Your ultimate goal is to make the customer feel something when you write. A purchase is an emotional experience, and this is particularly true if you are selling art or an artistic service. Tell a story that comes to life every time the person views the work, or create a scenario that will show a vision of the benefits of your work and how the person will feel with it.
If you are selling prints, give a sense of what the photograph is about or why you created it. Some people will not fully understand certain works the first time they experience them. Art is emotional, and if you can tell a story behind a piece that further emphasizes this, it will only help. The story and idea behind the art can be just as important as the look of the art. Or talk about how the room will feel when the photograph is in it.
There are many ways to share emotions about your services. For example, as a wedding photographer, you can tell an interesting story from a wedding along with the images. This will help the couple visualize the experience from the perspective of the happy people in the photos. There are many creative ways to think about how to elicit emotion depending on your particular product.
What is Your Unique Selling Proposition?
Once you figure out how to create a unique product, make sure to communicate this uniqueness on your sales page. Explain and highlight what separates you and your work from everyone else.
Headlines and First Sentences
A good title can be the difference between an article being shared around the web versus nobody clicking on it. The best content in the world is worth nothing if nobody is tempted to read it. Spend time crafting a title to give readers a sense of what the article will be about and to motivate them to click on it.
Good titles pique interest. They make a reader curious to read more. They give enough information to create a sense of what the article is about, yet hold just enough back. This is called the curiosity gap, and it is a style that is common for headline writing.
Create a title that adds some curiosity but also addresses the needs of your target audience. Are they doing something wrong or is there an easier way of doing something? The title is the way of showing them that reading the article will benefit them. Some websites go too far with this and try to manipulate readers into clicking on worthless articles, so make sure to stay away from the gimmicky titles, but it cannot hurt to learn from their successes.
In addition, the first few sentences of the article are as important as the title. You have successfully pulled the reader through the door, and this is your chance to make your first impression. This is your chance to suck them in so that they will commit to the entire piece. If a reader does not enjoy the first few sentences, they will not be enticed to continue reading. They have not yet made the commitment. Each sentence should lead the reader into the next one, and each sentence is an opportunity for the reader to give up, especially at the very beginning. Craft your sentences wisely.
Talk Directly to Your Prospect
You is one of the most effective words in sales copy. Try to use it instead of I or we. Focus on the reader as much as possible. You will often have to talk about yourself; however, do not open with this.
As described above, start off talking about the benefits of your work or service to the potential client. Explain how the reader (“you”) will benefit, and then delve into the features. Lastly, describe your credentials and examples of past experiences that exemplify why you would be able to do this job effectively. Review your copy and pay attention to how often you use the word “I,” and try to alter the focus of the text by changing some of them to “you.”
After you have drawn potential clients in with benefits, features, and stories, you will need to support these assertions with testimonials. Testimonials are necessary to put potential clients at ease about hiring you, and they will show that you have experience. Testimonials mixed with guarantees and good communication is the trifecta for building a client’s trust of you and your offerings. Put a selection of your best testimonials directly into your sales pages.
When my wife and I were looking for wedding photographers, I always looked for testimonials, and I noticed that many photographers did not use them effectively. Many of them had missed this vital aspect of selling their services. On most wedding photographer websites, you usually see the best shots from the more lavish weddings, but you do not often get to see a complete album worth of images. It is also impossible to get a sense of how easy the photographer is to work with or how reliable they were throughout the process just by looking at the best images. Testimonials are a chance to pass along this type of information.
Create a list of each potential concern that a client might be apprehensive about, and seek out a testimonial from one of your clients that explains how you solved that issue. You can ask clients who are writing testimonials to cover these issues and key areas of working with you. Ask one to include information about your reliability and quick responses, another to cover how easy and fun you were to work with throughout the process, and one to talk about the quality of your work and how satisfied they were with the finished product.
Pictures can also add to the effectiveness of a testimonial because they make it feel more real to the reader. If you include a picture of the client, couple, or an image from the job next to the testimonial, it will only enhance the effectiveness of it. For print sales, the most important testimonial is that other people have your art on their walls and enjoy it. Ask customers to send photos of the work on their walls along with a testimonial.
In addition to client testimonials, always think about how you can increase your credibility on a sales page. Can you get someone of a certain stature to say something important about your work? Did you have a specific career success that relates to what you are trying to sell? Were you quoted in a local paper or featured in a magazine. Did a large and well-known company use your work? These notable events are worth sharing with your audience. These count as testimonials in the reader’s mind and should be included throughout your sales page.
Address Common Concerns
Everyone second-guesses purchases, no matter how much they need or want something. They will consider all the reasons that they may not want to make the purchase and will then need to justify the expenditure. If you can identify potential concerns upfront in your sales copy, then you will clear the path in their mind to make a sale. Make a list of potential concerns that clients or purchasers may have about a particular product, service, or piece of work you are marketing, and address them.
Good copy makes an article feel like the author is speaking directly to the reader. It feels comfortable, natural, and relaxed. There is nothing too fancy about the words, and it uses simple but expressive language. The more you write in a conversational tone, the more rapport you will build with your reader.
There are exceptions to every rule, but if you read many of the most popular and most successful bloggers, you will notice one common theme is that you can get a sense of their personalities from their writing. It feels like they are speaking. I have met a few of these bloggers in person, and their real life personality feels so similar to their written personality. You do not need to come off as a scholar; you need to come off as a real person that readers can relate to.
Don’t use four words when two will do.
If possible, offer a no questions asked money-back guarantee. The longer the length of the guarantee the better. Make this guarantee prominent on the sales page. This is particularly important on the internet, where customers cannot see the product before they purchase it.
Customers take an inherent risk when purchasing online, particularly with art but also with services, and a money-back guarantee mitigates that risk. Customers will feel nervous about making the purchase, especially if it is expensive. They might wake up tomorrow morning and immediately regret that purchase. A guarantee gives them the confidence that if at any point they feel like they made a mistake, they can undo that mistake. They also cannot inspect the product ahead of time like they could in a gallery or a store. I have personally seen this with some photographers, where the small jpeg shown on a monitor hides some glaring deficiencies in the final print. If your work is good enough, people will almost never take you up on this guarantee.
In addition, it shows that you are confident about your work. If you are not confident about your product, then you should not be selling it. A purchaser will understand that if you are willing to give such a good guarantee, the product must be good.
For services, there is much more risk when offering guarantees because of the time involved. It ultimately depends on the service you offer and how much time goes into it. I would not offer a money-back guarantee when photographing a wedding because of the work involved and the temperament of clients, who are at their most stressed. For individual portrait sessions, where you spend a couple of hours with the client, I would at least consider it. If you have built your skills up to a certain level of experience, a rare few will be disappointed, and refunding one job every couple years may be worth it for the comfort it provides to clients.
Call to Action
A call to action is an instruction to your reader to take an action, such as purchasing a product or emailing you for a service. You need to create a clear and defined action that the reader should take on a sales page. It can be as simple as a box that says, “Contact us for more information” or “Click here to purchase.” You can make it more elaborate by using an image of the product or even highlight a couple of the main features that were mentioned in the article, such as, “Guaranteed for two months” or something about the ease of purchase, such as “Instant digital download.”
Once you have created your call to action, make it prominent and repeat it two or three times, depending on the length of the page. Place it at strategic intervals so a person has multiple chances to take it. Place one of the calls to action at the end of your piece, and consider having an area that sums up the most important points as well. A postscript at the end, where you rehash the main benefit to the reader will be one of the most read elements of a page.
For further education, download Creative Freelance Marketing for Photographers.