Navigating the New Normal – Marketing Your Products: Part II

As we adjust to the constantly evolving new normal and do our best to embrace the changes of the past few months, CPiF has started a new blog series to help our community navigate the challenges ahead

So far we have covered the topics of pricing your work for profit, taking great photos of your designs using your smartphone or a DSLR camera, and addressing anxiety about making money in this difficult time, Over the coming weeks, we are shifting our focus to the ever-important topics of social media and marketing. Since there’s a lot of ground to cover, we reached out to two extremely knowledgeable experts to help us navigate the finer points of effective social media use and how to present our brand in a way to get noticed.

This week in Part II of Marketing Your Products, we are so excited to have photographer and marketing pro Tracy Russo dig into the details of efficient and effective marketing strategies and how to curate the right image for your online presence. If you missed Part I in with social media influencer Georgette Jupe Pradier, be sure to click over there when you’re done.

Let’s jump in! Here’s what Tracy has to say:

MARKETING 101: SET A GOAL

Marketing is huge topic. You can easily spend a lot of time (and money!) doing things that feel good, even look good, but don’t pay off for your business. My #1 tip is to identify your business goals and work backwards from there. Make sure your goals are SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-Bound) — this really gives you structure and helps you break your big goals into smaller milestones. After you identify your specific business objectives, the next most important thing to determine is who your customer is so you can tailor your marketing to reach that person. 

DEFINE YOUR MARKETING STRATEGY

A marketing strategy outlines how you spend your time promoting your work or your brand, and your specific goals. Marketing yourself without a strategy, for example by doing what the next coolest kid on Instagram is doing, is really easy, but it may not be very effective. Just because it works for someone else, doesn’t mean it is the right thing for you. I always suggest that first you measure against yourself, especially when you are starting out. Make sure you are outperforming your own past efforts rather than outperforming someone else.

Then, measure yourself against your “friendly competitors” or “frenemies” in your space. Competition is always a good motivator. When you look to your competition ask yourself which brands or creators you are comparable to. Which brands or creators do you aspire to be like? Then dig in. What is it about their success that is appealing? What did they do that made you take notice? How can those things be applied to your own work?

The type of marketing strategy you need (or whether you need one) depends on how you get your business. If you are fortunate enough to rely on word-of-mouth and referrals, you may not need to focus on marketing as much, but most people need some kind of marketing for their business to be successful over time. 

PAID ADVERTISING ON SOCIAL MEDIA

This topic could be its own post–its own book even! Paid ads can be really great and effective, or they can be a complete waste of your money. The most important thing to identify when you are doing these ads is what your return on investment is and what your goal is. If you are trying to grow your page, but you grow a following of the wrong type of customer, that isn’t very helpful. But if you are using the ads to build an email list or track customers who came to your website, who are physically close to you, or fans of similar companies who would likely love your work too, then you are headed in the right direction. 

Whatever you do, you should get familiar with the Facebook Ad guidelines and know the specifics for ads sizes and specs. You should also have a really good grasp of who your audience is and who your customer is before investing in ads.

MARKETING YOURSELF WITH YOUR BRAND

People often ask how important it is to feature themselves along with their products in their online platforms. While this really depends on your audience and on the platform you are using, consider that people use social media to connect with people. On Instagram and Facebook, for example, when you are selling something, you are also selling yourself — as an expert, as an educator, as a creator, as an inspiration, and, of course, as a person that someone wants to buy from. If you are focusing on Etsy or Pinterest, your strategy may be more product-based. 

However, you don’t always need to hop in front of the camera to make a personal connection. You can do that by showing your behind-the-scenes work. You can do time-lapse videos of your work. You can show work in progress or your creative space. You can talk about your favorite tools for creating, the kind of things that are inspiring you that day, your daily routine, your cute pet. You don’t necessarily have to be on camera, but find ways to let your audience to connect with you. 

Authenticity is what is important. If being on camera is going to feel fake and forced, you should avoid it until you can get comfortable. Start small! Do voice overs where you are off camera, or take photos from far away or where you are only partially in them. Maybe you show your hands or your back while you are working at your table or on a canvas. Find a similarly camera shy friend and work together to help each other get comfortable.

As a photographer, I can guarantee you that almost every person I photograph objects to having their photo taken–even the most stunningly gorgeous people I know! But you can learn to be more comfortable in front of the camera by practicing and by figuring out what works for you and what you like to see. 

CURATE YOUR IMAGE: GET COMFORTABLE IN FRONT OF THE CAMERA

Portrait photography is about light, angles, and emotion. So let’s break those three things down. 

There is a reason why photography is called painting with light. Light changes everything. The best, most universally flattering light is soft, even light. Think of those white umbrellas that soften a flash in a professional set up. They take bright light and then disperse it around you softly and evening so no shadows are doing weird things to your face or highlighting your flaws. When you don’t have access to professional lighting working outdoors early in the morning or late in the afternoon can give you this look. Cloudy days can also offer great natural filters. If you are inside, standing in front of a window or opposite a white wall can also help reflect light evenly. I try to avoid overhead, fluorescent lighting at all costs when I am inside. You can experiment by moving around your apartment or studio to find places where you can get the best look and work from there. If you want to invest in some cheap lights, a basic ring light (even the mobile phone version) can do wonders. Remember, once you take a photo, you have the power to edit it to improve and enhance your lighting too! 

Once you have a great spot for a photo, you need to figure out the look in front of the camera that works best for you. One way to do this is to look at past photos of yourself that you liked, and see what worked in those. Another way is to just practice in front of a mirror. As a starting point I direct nearly everyone to do these few things: 

  • Push your forehead forward, as if you are pressing against a window with your forehead. This extends your jawline, erasing double chins and giving your face more definition. You want to make sure you are pressing out and slightly down, and not jutting your chin up (which can be perceived as arrogant). Again, this WILL NOT FEEL NATURAL, but it will look good.
  • Try to tilt your head down slightly and look up at the camera. This can be extremely coquettish if you are a woman, so you must approach it with caution when you are using your photos professionally. When you do this, you move the focus from your nose to your eyes. Try it and see for yourself! Men can also use this tip, but again, with caution as to avoid looking meek or sly. 
  • Posture is important. You may be going for creative posing, but if you are taking a standard portrait make sure you stand up straight. Roll your shoulders back, down and together. 
  • Standing at a 45 degree angle to the camera can be more flattering than standing straight on. I like to have people start with their toes pointing diagonally away from the camera and then have them slightly twist towards the camera with their weight on one leg. (Think of our most famous resident, The David, contrapposto works for a reason, even when you have your clothes on!) 

Finally, save photos that you like of other people posing in different ways that might work for you and try and recreate those or use them as inspiration. There are thousands and thousands of videos on posing and how to take better photos on YouTube too that offer lots of examples you can learn from as well.

Finally, emotion! When you hate having your picture taken, it shows! I know all of the best tips, but if I am in a bad mood when someone is taking my picture, I can’t get a good shot. You need to have fun, be silly, and think of the emotion you want to convey. 

A few ways I get my subjects comfortable: 

  • Jump up and down and “shake it out” — literally shake your hands, your feet, your booty. Whatever, just relax! It’s a picture! It’s almost certainly digital! There is nothing you can’t retake or delete! 
  • If you are somewhere private, play music to set the mood. 
  • If you are outside and you are shy, find someplace as private as possible so you aren’t worried about being caught in the act. But we’ve all crossed Ponte Santa Trinita at sunset. There really is no reason to feel embarrassed for wanting to do it for the ‘gram! Get your shot! Sometimes it takes a while, but do what you need to do. 
  • Check the camera to see if what you are trying to accomplish is happening. If it isn’t what you want, change things up and try again. Often with children I show them the pictures I am taking. Once they see how fun it is and that they look good, they are eager to do more! I do the same thing for anxious adults. 
  • Thoughts matter! When people are thinking they hate having their photo taken, it shows. Think of things that make you happy: your love interest, a prank you got away with as a kid, your favorite child being adorable…whatever makes you happy. It will shine through.

Tracy Russo works primarily as a communications and digital strategist for progressive organizations and socially responsible companies. She is also a photographer, with a focus on portraits and political events. Learn more about her work at RussoStrategies.com or DolceVidaPhotography.com or follow her on Instagram and Twitter.

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