How’s everyone been? Last month was my first column for Inside Maidstone. There have been a lot of positive comments and I appreciate them all. I promised that this month I would discuss branding for small businesses, which as one myself, I know a little bit about.
Small business owners by their very nature are busy folk. We don’t tend to have our own marketing guys, accountants, copywriters or photographers. Sometimes we contract these out but most of the time we try and do it all ourselves. However, sometimes it’s wise to admit that there are things we are good at and things we are not so good at.
As you know, I’m a photographer, that’s what I’m good at and how my brain is wired but I’m terrible with numbers, so instead of doing my own accounting, I work with one that specialises in dealing with small businesses. So, not only do they understand the specific challenges involved but they also have fees that are appropriate. In fact, this year, my accountant has made me more money than I have spent by simply knowing the system better than I ever could. All legal and above board, of course. On top of that, the time I would have spent running my accounts is now better served in doing the things that I actually want to do, like making photographs.
I’ve noticed that a lot of small businesses do not use professional photography in their branding. I go to a lot of networking events and I get to ask why this is and the same things crop up time and time again. Usually, it comes down to cost and a fear that their natural personality will not be allowed to show through because professionally taken photographs equal a white background with a stern, unfriendly expression. I understand the fear. As small business owners, we are our brand.
How we look, how we behave, what clothes we wear, all add up to how we are perceived and it’s vital that we get it right. Although a plain background is essential to allow the focus to be on you, the subject, the expression is key. Even more importantly, is an understanding that everyone is unique and wants to be perceived differently. A bank manager is not the same as a fashion blogger or an author. Allowing this personality to come to the forefront helps to promote your brand, and your business, in the best possible light but it needs to be in a professional studio setting. If it’s in the kitchen with the family dog in the background, then it’s not telling the right story.
Potential clients will assume that if you don’t take your business seriously then you won’t take theirs seriously either and they will simply move on to someone who does. Statistics show that promotional material with professional imagery increases engagement by approximately 50%. Think about that for a second. What would 50% more enquiries mean to you? Therefore the question should not be “can I afford to do this?” but “can I afford not to?”
What do you think? Comment below or use the Twitter hashtag #maidstonephoto to carry on the conversation. I track the tweets personally.
You can see a selection of my work at richardtorblephotography.com or you can follow me on Twitter @rtorblephoto