For companies in the building trades, Houzz and social media have been a boon for showcasing work and being found. Eye-catching images are at the heart of this, and so those with top notch photos are seeing results.
When someone refers a friend or colleague, your company is searched and vetted. It’s good news, right? Well, as long as you have decent photos of your best projects that attract the right client, I suppose. But most aren’t so lucky. Most of the clients I work with have been in business long enough to have a solid portfolio of work, but most have never considered their photos from a strategic perspective. Right now I am working with two who are working hard to populate online profiles, their website and marketing materials with photos of the projects and services that demonstrate what they do best so they can attract the right client.
For the purpose of this post, I consider a photo strategy to encompass a plan that takes into account your ideal client and what makes you different, as well as the more obvious budget, types, subjects and quality of photos, organization and storage, and how you’re going to use them across marketing materials, your website and social media. The photos you use in marketing should be chosen for specific purposes and support your marketing strategy. Here are 5 reasons you need a photo strategy.
1) Prospective clients can see that your photos are lacking – Let’s face it, you wish had the quality images you feel you need to show the quality work you do. I don’t think I’ve ever come across any company in the trades that feels they’ve got all the images they should. And it’s natural and on a certain level, healthy to consider what images your competition is using to attract clients. But do remember that you have to start somewhere and cannot ignore that you need to step it up with your images.
2) You’re not sure what you’ve really got – Another problem I see with my clients is that technology and computer systems have changed multiple times in the recent past. As a result, photos are stored in many different locations and are for the most part not making much sense. My advice is to take the time to build a spreadsheet and log the photos. You don’t need to rename images, but you do need to know what photos you have. Most contractors will organize photos by project. Be sure to capture relevant information about a project such as the quality of the photos, quantity, subjects, who owns rights as well as keywords or tags so that you can search on a topic such as “built-in cabinet” or “hillside landscaping”. Then organize photos in one location, such as a secure network drive that is backed up. The photos are a very valuable asset that you can’t stand to lose because someone hits “delete”.
3) These social times demand great photos – The proliferation of digital SLRs and sites such as Houzz and Pinterest have changed the way people consume images and raised the bar. Point and shoot photos are not good enough to post for more than a passing social media update. They won’t stand up in a portfolio or “look book” and actually make a company look bad. Dana Hinton at Houzz told me that they won’t even post photos of a company’s projects if the photos don’t look professional enough. And I agree.
4) Great photos are costly – but worth it – Any contractor or architect will tell you that they can’t afford to have all their projects photographed by a professional. An average photo shoot for a project can set you back $1000 – $3000 for a handful of images. And there’s a reason for that, to get the money shots you have to consider the subject (which was not designed for easy photographing), lighting, time of day, season, staging, equipment, settings and so much more. But they’re worth it. To make the most of your budget, consider partnering with others who worked on the project to share the cost of the photographer. Just ask anyone who has had a “Best of Houzz” image and you’ll see the pay-off. (Just ask Ann Lowengart, whose nascent interior design business soared after some of their photos became popular.)
5) Systems thinking – Why reinvent the wheel each time you have a project. Instead, you’ve got to think about the whole picture, which is really a collage of the images that best represent your company. You need to know when you start a project what you’re going to do for photography. What shots do you need? What aspects of the project should you show? Can you build a story around some images? How are you going to attract your ideal client? Unless you have a system in place you’re probably not going to be any further in feeling good about your photos a year from now. Plan ahead and build your bank of photos strategically over time.
Extra bonus – put yourself in your prospective client’s shoes when considering photos. Your favorite project or photo doesn’t belong on the home page if it doesn’t attract your ideal client. Think about what your prospective client is looking for when making a decision to go with you. You’ll choose more wisely.
Even if you haven’t considered a marketing strategy yet, you can still take some easy steps to get your photos in order.