A lot of “funnel” metaphors in this one, but bear with me, it’s a nice thought process to help you think of where your photography business is going.
Let’s start by defining it.
Deconstructing a photography business funnel
1. Above the funnel = “Traffic”
At the top of the funnel, you have your website traffic, your social media followers, and any other referrals/connections you might have.
At any given moment, you have a certain “reach” in the industry, based on how popular an online presence you have.
Common ways to increase “traffic” at the top of the funnel:
- guest interviews/podcasts
- word of mouth
2. First half of the funnel = “Converting traffic into leads”
Out of all the people that hear about you or see your work, some end up liking your work.
The quality of your work is critical here.
And so is the quality of your photography website, putting your images in the best possible light.
3. Second half of the funnel = “Converting leads into clients”
Out of all the people that signal in some way that they’re interested in your photos or services, you’ll only be able to “convert” some them.
This is where your soft-skills come into play, and how well you convince them that you know your stuff (aka “onboarding”).
4. Below the funnel = “Income”
Because income is ultimately the main goal of any photography business.
How to fix a leaky business funnel?
Going from top to bottom (through all the stages of converting traffic into leads and then into buyers), here are some ways to make sure you’re not losing too much water:
1. Only show your best work
Learn the critical skill of “portfolio editing”. You want to impress people with your images, not with your “range” or how you can shoot the same scene from multiple angles.
A must-read on this topic: The process of selecting images for a strong & coherent portfolio
2. Website user-experience
Check out this interview I did on the PhotoBizX podcast for a good overview of how to improve your site’s UX: PBX 268: Alex Vita – Everything you need for a successful photography website
Even if you have a gorgeous website, the actual text on your site needs to be well written to attract your target audience.
I’m not even talking about spelling, grammar, and semantics (those are a must!).
Good copywriting makes your website inviting yet discreet. Professional yet friendly.
Make your content you-focused by writing less about you as the photographer, and more about the needs of your audience and the benefits they’d get from working with you.
4. Communication and other soft-skills
When people show interest in your work, your one-to-one communication skills can either convince them or push them away.
Whether it’s through phone calls, email replies, or social media comments, you need to show the soft-skills necessary to prove yourself as a professional and reliable photographer.
How do you know when you have a good funnel?
- Monitor feedback (when you have little to no traffic)
- Monitor email replies, social media comments, or any other small signals that your audience might be writing about your work. Take it as constructive criticism, patch up your funnel, and continue.
- Review your Google Analytics reports (when you have some traffic)
- Check the “Behavior” reports in Google Analytics to see if people are sticking on your site long-enough (“avg. time on page”) and if they’re leaving without navigating to other pages (“bounce rate”). And check your “Acquisition” reports to learn where your existing traffic is coming from.
- Look for signs in Google Search Console (when you have a lot of traffic)
- The “Performance” report in GSC will show you what search queries people are using on Google to find your site. When the click-through-rate (CTR) scores are poor (less than 2%), it means that the SEO title and meta-description are not attractive enough for people to click on your site.
- Don’t have any meaningful stats in there yet? Your site still needs more traffic first.
Define your own photography business funnel
1. Start by figuring out your niche and your target audience.
Sticking with our “funnel” metaphor, good positioning makes sure that you’re pouring the right water into the funnel. Otherwise, if you attract the right crown (or too broad of a crowd), you’ll get very poor results.
2. Keep caring about the quality of your images (and services)
I’ve made this second in the list, because if very important.
But this process never really ends. Striving for quality is a life-long process.
Because showcasing mediocre work on your site is like having debris stuck inside the funnel, obstructing the water flow.
3. Fix your funnel if it’s leaky.
And it always is somewhat leaky. You can never convert 100% perfect of your traffic. But you can try to keep those numbers as high as possible (through the ways I mentioned above), to avoid losing water through the sides of the funnel.
In other words, make sure you have your priorities straight: Hierarchy of website priorities: Do you have an unreasonable obsession with SEO?
4. Add more people at the top of the funnel
Once you know you’re in the right niche, you’re proud of your work, and you’ve done your best to create a solid online presence and work process for your business, then you can start pouring as much water as you can at the top of the funnel.
You can try to slowly invoke the rain (through SEO, which is quite slow), or you can go to the store to buy water (ads, which are fast but expensive).
Don’t forget that, sometimes, the easiest source of income is from referrals and past-clients (by offering them new services). They convert much better than “strangers”, because they already know and trust you.
Doing things in this order will help you build a sustainable photography business.
Sure, there’s always overlap between these stages:
- you might decide to pivot to other photography niches
- working on better-and-better images never stops
- websites need maintenance, on-site SEO, fresh content, etc.
- new marketing opportunities arise as the industry changes
So you always have to adapt and grow.
But at least, don’t do what most photographers do: ignore #1, rush through #2, do a mediocre job with #3, and then constantly obsess about #4.
Growing your website traffic should happen after building a solid foundation (aka fixing the “leaky funnel”). Otherwise, the extra traffic never converts, wasting all that marketing effort, time, and money.