How a Marketing Tweak Re-launched JenniMarie’s Business

From quitting to becoming a successful wedding photographer, JenniMarie’s story will encourage you to keep going after your dreams, even if it seems like it will never work out. Today’s case study is how a marketing tweak re-launched JenniMarie’s business.

JenniMarie Case Study

Photos courtesy of JenniMarie Photography

Meet Jennifer

A recent-ish transplant to the Fraser Valley (British Columbia, Canada, where I live), Jennifer was stumped on how to find clients in her new city/country/life. For the better part of a decade she had worked as a successful wedding photographer and yet none of the client-finding tactics she had always used worked in this new land. What was going on?

Five months passed without booking a wedding. This was five months longer than she had ever gone between bookings. “I kept getting overlooked, I was feeling like a failure,” she said.

Feeling frustrated, insecure, and defeated, Jennifer began announcing to friends and family that she was quitting photography.

So how did we get here?

I asked Jennifer why she didn’t end up quitting. She said she realized she was at rock bottom and then thought…what can I do? It was here she began wondering about getting back on the horse; giving her business one last hail Mary.

Because she had this idea. It was an idea for a wedding-planning magazine. She hadn’t thought about it in any depth but it was something she had toyed with in her mind for a while. What if she put the remaining money in her business account towards the magazine? If it worked, wonderful! If not, then she would quit.

When Jennifer approached me about reframing her business I didn’t know any of her struggle

On the surface, Jennifer exuded confidence and direction. In fact, I was surprised she was asking for help as I never saw her as someone who needed anything. With my curiosity engaged (and my ego flattered beyond comprehension), we set up a coffee meeting and I gave her homework.

At our meeting I wanted to discuss these six points.

  1. Target audience/customer
  2. Budget (what do you need to make?)
  3. MVP—paid offer
  4. Content calendar (blog/email)
  5. Sales funnel
  6. Email blitz (freebie? Lead magnet? Coupon?)

Before our meeting she sent me a five-page brain dump. It. Was. Amazing. Sure, her ideas were scattered and pointing in 10 different directions, but I could see a thread and was excited to follow it and see where it led.

Over the next month or two we worked on building a marketing strategy. She had all the pieces for her business to thrive but it looked like what was missing was for all the pieces to point back at her as the Fraser Valley Wedding Photographer. In order to reframe her business for her new context we took a few pieces of her existing strategy and pointed them all in the same direction.

fraser-river-lodge-wedding-3

Mental Shift

I challenged Jennifer to make some important, yet difficult, changes.

  • First, I wanted her to not only brand herself as a wedding photographer (rather than a general photographer) but I wanted her to stop all non-wedding related posting, including on her website, blog, and public social channels
  • Second, I wanted her to create cornerstone content—this was a departure from her usual approach, which was more in the moment. These posts were meant to represent the core of who she is and what her business is about. Not easy!
  • Third, I wanted her to rewrite her about page. She wasn’t doing anything wrong, in fact her about page matched all the other photographer about pages I read while doing my market research. However, I noticed all these sites focused on the photographer rather than the client. What if, I challenged, we reverse the focus and see what happens?

Jennifer said these suggestions were a huge mental shift—the cornerstone content idea caused a light bulb moment for her. She found posting only about weddings was the hardest adjustment as she did so many other wonderful and interesting things, but once she began down the path she saw so much good come out of it she knew she had to keep going.

Other adjustments? She went back and stripped down her Instagram portfolio to wedding-only photos and tried to stop fixating on vanity metrics. “Instead, I focused on having the right followers and the right content,” she said.

This was a smart move because focusing on what you can control is the best way to move forward. Concentrating on how many followers you have or how many shares your content receives isn’t something you can control so it doesn’t help anything to focus on it.

Reworking the About Page

Like I said before, there was nothing “wrong” with Jennifer’s about page. But she let me rework it anyway. After I knew her ideal bride I took Jennifer’s brain dump, interviewed recently engaged women in my area, and gathered up a bunch of keywords to use. I love what we came up with.

Jennifer said she realized the things she’s proud of may not be what potential clients care about.

She saw results of this tweak right away. One of the main comments she gets from potential brides is how she knew Jennifer was the right photographer for her because she described her so perfectly on her about page.

Wow!

airbnb-wedding-1

What About the Magazine?

“It revolutionized my business.”

The big idea behind the magazine was creative collaborations. Jennifer wanted to work with local vendors and venues and produce beautiful wedding scenes brides could see themselves in.

Over the course of a few months she worked at shooting all the images for her magazine. It helped her in three main ways:

  1. Provided updated portfolio with Fraser Valley weddings on display
  2. Helped her create cornerstone content for her website (it also went in the magazine and her onboarding email series)
  3. Connected her with the wedding scene in the Fraser Valley

With the magazine now acting as an opt-in for potential clients, she is seeing the fruit of her labours. She also learned some important lessons along the way about weddings in the Fraser Valley and ways she can improve her magazine the next time around.

So What Happened?

Jennifer launched her magazine in December…to crickets. But she persevered. She kept working her launch and marketing strategy and kept her self-talk positive. January and February came and she experienced positive feedback to her magazine and inquiries coming in at record pace.

But no bookings.

Still, she kept working the plan.

March came, and summer bookings started. April came, and she started booking for 2018 weddings. June arrived now Jennifer actually believes she could go full time on wedding photography.

“I did the math and see that it’s possible,” she said.

Now that’s a transformation!

Most important takeaways

Jennifer said the biggest thing she’s learned is that everyone needs help along the way. She had wanted to do everything on her own, but was at rock bottom and so reached out to people she could trust.

She also had to embrace strategies that she figured she didn’t need, such as planning ahead, hashtag strategies, and content marketing.

Watching Jennifer’s business explode I’m overjoyed to have had the opportunity to help in this small way. I love when marketing theory becomes reality and you can see the power of a well-crafted idea take on a life of its own. I’m also thrilled to see such a talent be discovered by so many people who will benefit from working with her.

All the best Jennifer!

From quitting to becoming a successful wedding photographer. JenniMarie's story will encourage you to keep going after your dreams, even if it seems like it will never work out. Today's case study is how a marketing tweak re-launched JenniMarie's business.

Questions about your marketing strategy? Looking for a custom marketing plan? Fill in the form and let’s get a conversation started!

How to Build an Instagram Strategy

Today I’ll show you the basic outline for building an Instagram strategy. At least enough to get you started. If you want a custom strategy built for you, let’s talk. It’s one of my favourite client services right now.

Instagram Strategy

Everyone’s saying you need to build an Instagram strategy but it seem like no one is saying how, right?

I get it. The thing is, it’s hard as well as personal. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all photo-creating money-making Instagram strategy you can copy and paste into your marketing plan. I mean, people may tell you that and may even try and sell you that but I’m telling you, it’s something you have to build and customize to your specific brand.

BTW marketing plans, social media strategies, and branding are whole other discussions I hope we’ll talk about one day

But first things first, WHY should you use Instagram?

At this moment one third of Internet users have an Instagram account so there’s an excellent chance your target audience is here. This is an opportunity to showcase and promote your services and brand to people who may not yet know about you and all you have to offer.

Instagram is an ideal tool to build a visual identity, telling your brand story through beautiful images, intriguing captions, and appropriate hashtags. When executed well, Instagram can help you develop a deeper connection with your audience.

General Posting Strategy

As a brand (and yes, if you sell something, you’re a brand), it’s important to follow a posting strategy to help your audience know how to think about you. Why should they follow you? How will you engage, inspire, or motivate them? What are some ways you can deepen your relationship with your audience through the images you post?

Think about these questions and jot down some answers.

The best way to create a strategy is by focusing on one area of your brand; choosing a niche. When choosing a niche ask these types of questions: What can you do better than your competitors? What will your audience find interesting, inspiring, or motivational? What is important for your audience to know? Find these answers and you’ll have your niche.

Once you’ve brainstormed a few ideas try writing a paragraph about your brand.

Here’s my (current) write up as an example: For years, I’ve made a living off professional writing—marketing, blogging, tourism, journalism, and now helping others share their story. How did I do this? By becoming an expert at taking a pile of unorganized ideas and shifting and shaping them into powerful communication tools.

I recommend thinking this through before asking a social media marketing strategist to help you create an Instagram strategy. You know your brand and goals best and by getting clear on your goals and who you serve ahead of time, your chances of creating a laser-focused strategy are that much more likely.

Once you have your paragraph, think about what your Instagram posts should feature to showcase who you are and what you do. In my example, I aim to promote things I’m working on (freelance or personal), things I love (new discoveries, funny stories, interesting ideas, books I’m reading), and exclusive tips (for the freelance writer).

When thinking about what types of photos you’ll post keep in mind every post should drive people to your business and that your Instagram content is a reflection of your brand and core beliefs—your feed tells a larger story of who you are and what you stand for.

Jot down a few photo ideas before moving on. Don’t worry, these are still brainstorms for now.

Still stuck? Here are a few questions to help you.

  • What drives your business?
  • What are your biggest takeaways?
  • How will what you share enrich your followers’ lives?

HOW should your posts look, sound, and feel?

At all times your Instagram posts should speak to your audience, appealing to their interests. Your posts should engage them using thoughtful language intended to interest, inspire, or motivate them to take the next step with you. If you are promoting an event or contest take care to craft your caption in a way your audience will respond best—focus on the benefits instead of the promotion.

WHERE should you focus?

Your Instagram posts should focus on what your users will find interesting, inspiring, and motivational. What makes you or your business/services special and unique? What is there to discover? What would your audience be interested in seeing?

WHEN should you post?

Posting consistency is more important than how often you post. However, Monday and Thursday are higher use days for Instagram in general so these are good days to aim for. Once you have your strategy in place use a free tool like Iconosquare or Websta to analyze your followers and learn what days and times they’re more likely to use Instagram and adjust your posting schedule as necessary.

WHAT should your posts consist of?

All posts should contain a photo, a caption, and hashtags.

  • Your photos must be high quality, with good framing, and interesting content. Photos should be planned and edited with third-party apps
  • Captions should tell your audience a story. At every step, take the opportunity to draw your audience in and point back to your strategy.
  • A good practice is to create a list of 10-20 hashtag relating to your business, brand, and products and reference several from the list each time you post

Using hashtags is a critical part of your posting strategy. By finding and using the most relevant hashtags for your updates, your posts will be exposed to users in your target audience who don’t yet follow you. You should mix brand-specific hashtags with more general hashtags. Instagram uses hashtags to organize and categorize content so by not using or misusing hashtags your posts could go unnoticed.

Follower Strategy

The best way to gain followers on Instagram is by having a great profile. Here are the elements.

  1. Description. Your profile description should reflect your niche and give the user enough information to be motivated to follow you
  2. Portfolio. When a new user visits your Instagram account s/he will often view your photo portfolio before choosing to follow you. You want to make sure your portfolio is not only filled with beautiful images but reflect your niche. If the user visits your portfolio and your portfolio is off topic or contains weak/poor images, it could prevent new followers
  3. Photos. Your photos should reflect your brand’s online voice and emotion related to it

Before taking a photo ask the question, “what do I do better than anyone else?” Find or take photos supporting your answer.

Before posting a photo ask the following questions:

  • Does this photo showcase my talent?
  • Is this photo interesting?
  • Is this photo on-brand?
  • Is this photo beautiful?

If the answer is yes, post away! If you’re not sure, don’t post the photo.

Posting quality images is more important than posting often. Beautiful images increase your brand value in the user’s eye while weak/poor images decrease your brand’s value in the user’s eye.

Follower Tactics

Once you’re clear on your target audience, and have your profile description, portfolio, and photos in line then you can begin following other users.

Follow

Search Instagram and find as many people in your target audience using keywords. Aim to follow 100 or 200 people to begin. Many will follow back out of courtesy but even if users don’t follow back you have gathered a pool of users to draw photo ideas from. Try to find new people to follow every time you log on to Instagram.

Like and Comment

Another way to gain followers is by liking and commenting on photos. A good strategy is to like and/or comment on three to five photos every time you log on to Instagram. Try to be encouraging, positive, and upbeat.

Also remember to respond to your followers comments on your photos. A quick “thanks” goes a long way. Remember to @ tag the follower you’re posting to.

Repost

Reposting other users’ images is a great way to showcase your brand without having to come up with all your own content (or your own social media manager!). Not only do you highlight and support Instagrammers but you add beautiful images to your portfolio extending your brand.

You can use repost apps, take screenshots and repost yourself, or save the image on your computer and manually add it to your mobile device before posting. Just be sure to give credit to the user you’re reposting (@ tagging) and add relevant hashtags.

Hashtags

Adding popular hashtags to every post will expand your reach and expose your images and profile to new users.

Adding brand-specific hashtags to every post and encouraging followers to use it in their posts helps you create community and cultivate loyalty. When your followers use your hashtag it exposes your brand to their audience, with the added bonus of the user’s advocacy.

Cross Posting

Cross promoting your Instagram posts on your other social media profiles like Facebook or Twitter exposes your followers there to your Instagram feed. You can also use your Instagram feed to encourage users to find you on your other profiles, provided you are using beautiful images with an interesting caption to relay the message.

Conclusion

There is a learning curve to Instagram, but by following a posting and follower strategy will get you a long way. As well, learning a few basics about photography, utilizing third-party apps and filters, and reposting will help you create an engaging portfolio as long as you stick to your niche and showcase the best of your brand.

Everyone’s saying you need to build an Instagram strategy but it seem like no one is saying how, right?  I get it. The thing is, it’s hard as well as personal. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all photo-creating money-making Instagram strategy you can copy and paste into your marketing plan. I mean, people may tell you that and may even try and sell you that but I’m telling you, it’s something you have to build and customize to your specific brand.

Questions about building your Instagram strategy? Looking for a custom Instagram strategy? Fill in the form and let’s get a conversation started!

How to Find the Perfect Sunglasses without Breaking the Bank

Ready to find the perfect sunglasses? Save 50% on your next pair of spectacles or prescription sunglasses from GlassesShop.com using the code GSHOT50.

Glassesshopdotcom

On our last vacation, my husband and I spent, oh, 34 hours in different US cities on layovers. Sometimes we left the airport, thank goodness. But sometimes the airport’s proximity to things and the hours between flights didn’t line up and we explored indoors instead.

It’s funny what you get up to when you’re stuck at an airport. Here’s what we did.

  • Shopped hard for the perfect neck pillow
  • Judged restaurants by their seating chart
  • Attempted to sneak onto an airline-crew-only airport shuttle
  • Counted Starbucks
  • Counted steps between Starbucks
  • Tried on every pair of sunglasses at every kiosk in every airport

I read somewhere sunglasses are the one accessory that never goes out of style. I mean, yeah. Sunglasses are fashionable always.

And the kiosks prove this—there are no end to options. In an overwhelming kind of way. Styles, sizes, UV protection levels, lens options…and that’s all before talking about your prescription and pupillary distance!

But if you’re anything like me, sunglasses are a practical necessity for sunny days. They protect your eyes from bright light, they help prevent wrinkles because they keep you from squinting, and they help you see when driving into sunrise/sunset.

But I don’t need to convince you on the merits of eye wear.

If you live somewhere with available outdoors activities, there will be bright light and you will want sunglasses.

But how do you choose the perfect sunglasses?

Trying on eyeglasses is important because not all glasses frames are the same. And neither are faces. Some shapes look amazing on one person and horrific on another. And if they look terrible you’re not going to wear them. You’re throwing away money.

I love how websites help you buy glasses online by letting you virtually try them on. It takes the risk out of online shopping and gives you some cheap entertainment! I mean, I had a lot of fun choosing my new sunglasses.
Try it on

(See what I mean about choosing the wrong glasses?)

When you can shop online, try them on ahead of time, and save a bundle, I don’t know why we’re not all stocking up on sunglasses. I mean, unless you have time to try on every pair of sunglasses at every single kiosk in four airports. Then I suppose you aren’t looking for ways to speed up your shopping experience.

Or, you’re like me and choose the worst possible flight itinerary to save $400.


Readers of this blog! Use the code GSHOT50 and save 50% on your next pair of eyeglasses and/or sunglasses from GlassesShop.com. This includes your lenses but sale frames are excluded.

Freelance Writing Update: June 2017

Freelance Update June 2017

Freelance writing update: June 2017

I thought I’d share a few things I’m working on unrelated to this site or my social feeds. Sometimes I share links but I don’t speak much about the details of freelance life. This is in part because all the details happen before the post goes live and by the time I share it I’ve moved on to new projects.

However. At a recent event, I was reminded about how mysterious freelance writing is when you’re just getting started. So mysterious! Like, how does this writing-for-money-thing even happen?

While I can’t unlock all the secrets today, I will let you know a few things I’m doing and connect how I think they’re helping me move the bar along.

Social Media Panel: Golden Ears Writers

GEW-lobby-night

In May I had an amazing opportunity to speak at a writer’s group on a panel with fellow Professional Writers Association of Canada (PWAC) members about social media marketing. This is my ideal topic, in front of my ideal people, in my ideal situation. I was thrilled to participate. I’ve spoken about blogging and social media before, but never about marketing. One of my goals for this year was to do more speaking so I’m happy this happened.

Yeah but, how did this happen?

Yes! Let’s talk about it! This happened because of pre-existing relationships. Like I mentioned before, this panel comprised fellow PWAC members. I’m a professional-level member of this organization and am active in our local chapter (alright, alright, I’m the current president too). What does this mean?

  • I network with professional writers in my area in person
  • I follow my colleagues on social media and support them with comments, likes, and reposts
  • I communicate with these colleagues by email, phone calls, texts, etc. to offer encouragement, ask advice, and connect
  • I help create opportunities for gaining experience, finding leads, and passing along opportunities

Yeah, but how did this happen?

Right. Well, one of my colleagues helps run Golden Ears Writers, an informal Maple Ridge BC-based writers group. I follow them on Facebook and I’ve attended gatherings in the past. I noticed the topics they cover and when an opportunity to collaborate arose (note: a gap in the schedule) I pitched the idea. We were a few months out so had time to gather participants, work out the subject matter, and promote the event. This was an unpaid opportunity, by the way, but we were encouraged to promote our businesses and sell our products at the event.

The evening was well attended and there were loads of on-point questions. It, like I said before, reminded me that freelance writing can seem mysterious and integrating a social media strategy can be plain overwhelming. I had a lot of takeaways from this experience and am looking forward to more speaking opportunities like this.

Blog Post: Tourism Abbotsford

Hikes-Walks-Screenshot

Here’s a blog post I wrote for Tourism Abbotsford about different hikes and walks you can do in Abbotsford. This type of article is called a roundup because it takes a bunch of different things and presents them together. A roundup of local hikes and walks is a great post for this site because someone looking for a hike or walk is probably Googling “best hikes in Abbotsford” or “Abbotsford walks” or “things to do in Abbotsford when it’s sunny.” If this post comes up then it not only summarizes a few great ideas, but gives the gist of what to expect so they can either do more research or cross things off the list.

A roundup post seems simple but usually is a lot of work to put together because you have a lot more options than goes into the post and you have to decide which ones make the cut. Also, you have to give each option an equal shake and highlight the same type of information in each point. Roundups are great for learning how to write tight (aka get rid of all the extra words; aka get to the point) and prioritizing information.

Yeah, but how did this happen?

Yes! This happened because I have pre-existing relationship with Tourism Abbotsford. I’ve written for them for a few years and so all this took was an assignment email and a deadline. Once relationships are rolling getting work is quite simple.

One further thought. This post performed well on social media and while I don’t know if there’s any correlation to me getting more paid work I don’t think it hurts. If nothing else it gets my name out there. Whenever I publish something I try and promote it on my channels and help it along.

Blog Post: Faith Strong Today

Passion-Happiness-Screenshot

This post was written a couple months ago and I wasn’t sure when it would be published. When it went live Faith Strong Today tagged me on Twitter, which is how I knew it happened. I have a casual relationship with this website and I can send them articles at my own pace (although I think they’d like monthly). It’s primarily a podcast network so although my articles help round out the site and strengthen their SEO, they’re not a priority.

OK, nice, but how did this happen?

You’re not going to believe it, but it was a pre-existing relationship.

Ugh! Again!?

I know, right!?

Before the website launched I was contacted about writing for them. We worked out what I’d write, an initial schedule, and a rate on a per-article basis. I won’t get into rates and contracts today but I will mention since we worked out a yearlong plan, I was happy to work on a per-article basis. I know some freelance writer’s wouldn’t work this way but in this instance, I was good with it.

This media company is based in Toronto (aka far away from me) but I’ve worked in a professional capacity (not freelance) with the company for years. I didn’t see this opportunity coming but if I did I would’ve pursued it as what they’re doing is up my alley plus is a neat opportunity to do lifestyle writing with a Christian worldview.

Magazine Article: Insight for Living Canada

Wisdom-Speak-Up-Screenshot

This isn’t a freelance article but I wanted to include it to add context. Because this magazine is related to my day job but it gets me freelance work.

Working on this magazine is something I’ve done for a few years and often I’ll publish an article in it. For the last year I’ve published one each month.

Right. So how did this happen?

I started at this organization working on their blog, unrelated to the magazine. Over time I was able to publish the odd article, but I did have to pitch a lot of ideas and even some of my accepted ideas never got published. It’s easy to assume if you work for a media organization they’ll just take all your ideas but that isn’t the case. Sure, you have a seat at the table and you have a better chance of publishing than a freelancer does, but it’s not a given.

In fact, working for the publication is maybe harder than being a freelancer because if the magazine isn’t well received you get all the blame. You get to read all the feedback. You get to respond to all the criticism. As a freelancer, I never know if an article is hated by the readers (unless they tag me on Twitter) and sometimes ignorance is bliss.

That’s nice. So how does writing for this organization lead to freelance work?

I said I write every month right? OK, so every month my name is in print and sent to thousands of people. The same article is also published online and promoted on social media. I don’t know how many eyes are on the page but it adds up.

What does it mean? Well, not a ton at first, but then one day a media company decides to launch a podcast network and they think, “Oh, doesn’t Robyn write? I think the stuff she writes would work on our site, let’s call her.” And another organization decides to publish a book and they say, “This topic Robyn wrote about is one of the chapters we want in our book… let’s see if she’ll help us out.” And then a writer fresh out of school reads my article and thinks, “I’m looking for work like this… I’ll write Robyn and see if I can hire her to help me get started.”

And if I’m smart and looking for opportunities, I’ll say yes.

Hope this freelance writing update, aka a peek behind the curtain, casts some light onto the mysterious world of freelance writing! Now get your name out there!

Enter to Win The Resurrection of Gavin Stone Blu-Ray + DVD + Digital HD!

Enter to Win The Resurrection of Gavin Stone on Blu-Ray + DVD + Digital HD!

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The Resurrection of Gavin Stone

The Resurrection of Gavin Stone Review

If you’ve seen inspirational movies before, you’ve seen this plot: Bad boy gets in trouble. Bad boy gets community service. Bad boy meets good girl. Good girl inspires bad boy. Bad boy has transformation. Everybody’s happy.

While The Resurrection of Gavin Stone follows this basic plot line, it manages to take viewers on a journey of surprise, delight, and entertainment along the way.

The film was both funny and cute, although I’m partial to lead Brett Dalton (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D) so I don’t take much convincing.

Dalton plays Gavin Stone, an actor whose destructive lifestyle has forced him into community service in his hometown, a place he’d rather leave in the dust.

Tasked with janitorial duty, Stone negotiates his involvement with the Easter play—starring as Jesus—as a way to complete his community service instead. There’s just one hitch. Stone must be a professing Christian to take part.

How to be a Christian

From Googling “How to be a Christian,” Stone learns two tips: 1) Go to church and 2) Wear the costume. Watching Stone muddle his way through fitting into the classic Christian stereotype is hilarious, if not a bit revealing. Though at first he treats playing a Christian like any other role, the relationships Stone develops through the church teach him a lot about love, truth, and forgiveness. In the end he experiences a transformation where his old life stops making sense and he begins to understand what the Christian message really means. Stone is even able to face his past and reconcile with his father.

The Resurrection of Gavin Stone is a heartfelt look at the power of the Gospel to transform even the most unlikely person. It’s a study in contrast, temptation, and hope.

The Resurrection of Gavin Stone is now available on Blu-Ray, DVD, and Digital HD!

The Resurrection of Gavin Stone synopsis

The Resurrection of Gavin Stone is an inspirational comedy rated PG about faith and forgiveness. Gavin Stone, a washed-up former child star is forced to do community service at a local mega-church and pretends to be Christian so he can land the part of Jesus in their annual Passion Play only to discover that the most important role of his life is far from Hollywood.


Enter to win The Resurrection of Gavin Stone on Blu-Ray + DVD + Digital HD!

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Review originally published January 2017