OPTIMIZING YOUR WEBSITE TO ATTRACT BRIDES

A few weeks ago, I was interviewed by Vanessa Joy of Vanessa Joy Photography for Shutter Magazine. What an honor for my very first interview (I was soo nervous!) because it’s one of the largest on-line photography magazines, geared at raising the bar in the photography industry by providing how-to tips and training for FREE.

 

In the article, Vanessa outlines four easy steps to help a photographer attract the sudden influx of brides during the engagement season. On the last tip, there is a five minute video where we talk through a couple tips on how a photographer can make their website work for them.

 

It was an amazing opportunity to share my insight and I thought I would expand a little more on each point.

 

 

The first topic was what are some things to avoid on the home page to not deter brides away from their website.

 

I briefly discussed not having music or auto-playing a video. The reason being that brides do a majority of their wedding planning while at work. If your site has music or a video playing, it’s a dead give-away. To quickly cover this up, they immediately jump to close the browser. At that point, you’ve lost them and they will probably never return to look through your site. Some other things to keep in mind:

 

1     Not having a clear message (How long does it take to know what your site and/or business is all about?) Is your style (fine art, documentary, fashion-forward, bold, edgy) clearly defined?

 
2     A navigation that doesn’t makes sense – location or naming convention (This should be intuitive. Regardless of how many times you see it, this is the first time a bride is getting married, you can guarantee her finding your most important information by sticking to a convention she will recognize. For instance, she may not know that ‘journal’ means your blog.)

 

3     Visual overload – competing colors, multiple fonts/sizes, etc. (bam!)

 
4     No visual cues (hierchy of information, color cues, or a gallery with no arrows or a scroll bar to name a few) or a call to action (‘click’ here to see more, contact me, find me on..). You want to keep it interactive and lead your bride to the information.

 
5     A disconnect between your imagery and your visual brand message (This will create an immediate distrust with your potential bride that elicits the fight-or-flight response. She wont know exactly what it is but something will feel off and she’ll move on to the next photographer’s website.)

 

6     A slow loading page (‘nough said!)

 

7     Not including your location (Nothing is more disappointing to a bride, who falls in love with your photography, to find out you are six states away.)

 

8     Not showcasing your personality (Your photography is not a commodity so don’t allow it to come down to price alone. Separate yourself from your competition by creating an experience based around your personality – there is only one you and the experience only you can provide can never be replicated.)

 

9     Not creating a hierarchy of information (not everything needs to be up-front and center or big and bold)

 

 

The second topic we discussed are tips to make sure that a photographer’s website is easy to navigate?

 

Here we talked about having a navigation that is intuitive. For one, separating your navigating system. You don’t want to put your FACEBOOK link right next to the ABOUT ME page, that wouldn’t make sense to the bride. Instead, separate it by location in the design. Some other tips to help create a user friendly navigation are:

 

1     Naming convention (Again, use labels that are easy to recognize: About Me.. Meet Jessica.. etc)

 

2     Having your most important information one click deep (You don’t want your brides to have to dig to find the information that is the most important to them.)

 

3     No hidden links (Take the guess work out of what is click-able by using color overlays or changing the font from regular to italic.)

 

 

 

The next thing Vanessa and I discussed was how male photographers, who don’t wish to come off feminine in their websites, can achieve that?

 

I believe that men don’t need to be feminine to appeal to women, some women like a slightly masculine look or an edgy style – think Jerry Ghionis or Sal Cincotta. By deciding who your ideal client is, you can then effectively design for that market – your ideal bride may not want pastels but is attracted to darker, richer colors. If your not sure, your best bet is to keep your site design clean and minimalistic, balance dark colors with softer ones and pick gender neutral patterns and textures. Other effective ways to achieve this:

 

1    Talk to her on her level and what she is surrounding herself with currently (Basically, name drop. Show her you know who Vera Wang or Jimmy Choo are.)

 

2     Provide a video that shows you in action (Perhaps of you posing the bride, using your most feminine poses. This will make it fun, approachable and instill confidence that you can relate to women.)

 

3     Highlight the experience (Every women likes to be spoiled and given pretty things – tell her about the one-of-a-kind experience she’ll get by hiring you or highlight the beautiful packaging she will receive with her album – show her that you can cater to her feminine side.)

 

 

 

The last thing we talked about is choosing the photographs that are displayed on photographers websites?

 

I talked about starting with 3-5 adjectives that describe or define your brand’s style – that can be editorial, fun, fresh, etc. Then pick only the images that exemplify these key words. Another thing to think about when choosing images is that these images are in-line with your visual brand message. For instance, if your brand is vintage the post processing technique needs to supports that message. You don’t want pops of color or highly contrasting black and whites in your portfolio. Some final thoughts on this topic are:

 

1     You don’t want less than 5 or more than 20 images (Too few images wont give a potential bride enough of a variety to get a sense of your style. On the flip side, too many will overwhelm her and her decision making process.)

 

2     Only put out there what you want to attract (You want to highlight images that will attract the brides you want to work with. If you want couples that are fun, showcase images that have couples smiling and interacting.)

 

 

 

Hope this helps give you a more, in-depth look on how you can optimize your website to attract brides during engagement season. To read the full article, sign up for a FREE membership to Behind the Shutter here. Vanessa’s article begins on page 120 and you can see our interview on page 126.

 

Have you found other ways to attract brides during engagement season? I would love to hear about them in the comments below!

GIVING BACK – 2013 THIRST RELIEF MENTOR AUCTION

 

I’m so excited to be a mentor this year for Thirst Relief’s Mentor Auction starting January 31st at 11PM EST.

 

Not familiar with Thirst Relief? They are a non-profit who provides clean water to those in need around the world.

Through their Mentor Auction, Thirst Relief will enable you to bid on eBay for a 90-minute instructional session with some of the best photographers in the business! That means you have the chance to spend 90 minutes with me, learning the ins and outs of branding your photography. This is an opportunity to review of all of your visual brand items, to include, but not limited to, your portfolio, website, blog, paper goods, etc. to help you develop and create a consistent visual message. Plus, you will have the opportunity to work with me to create a completely new, custom identity.

 

100% of the proceeds directly benefit Thirst Relief, meaning all that money goes towards saving the lives of those in need! Last time, the Mentor Auction gave over 8,000 people clean water – just WOW!!

 

There’s just one thing I need you to do before the auction starts:

 

Tell all your friends!!

 

Please help me spread the word by sharing this on Facebook, Tweet about it, post it on Instagram, Pin it – anything to get it out there!

 

You can get more info about the auction here:

http://thirstrelief.org/site/auction

 

and, be sure to check the auction out starting January 31st at 11PM EST here:

http://cgi3.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewUserPage&userid=thirstreliefinternational

 

See you there!

BABY SHOWER

On Saturday I celebrated my baby shower, an amazing collaboration between my mom and I that I’m so very proud of! (I talked about the inspiration here, here and here)

 

The dishes and silver-wear were from Costco, a budget friendly solution that looked like the real thing!

 

After scouring the web, I found that buying milk bottles was going to be out of my budget, so I followed a trail of breadcrumbs on Pinterest and discovered re-purposed Starbucks Frappuccino bottles (I gained about 9 pounds drinking all those yummy drinks! Super high in calories.. be warned.. haha!). To dress them up a bit, I wrapped them in cream colored paper – left over from my invitation making days – and tied them with hemp twine found in the jewelry section at Michaels (a finishing touch also found on Pinterest).

 

The jars and cans were also re-purposed – black beans, grape jelly and salsa made the cut. The gold paint was from Krylon, purchased at Michaels. Inspiration for the gold jars can be found here on Style Me Pretty (I also had the wood, but I didn’t store it properly and it got moldy.. what a bummer!).

 

My mom was in charge of all the food preparation and did a fabulous job at displaying it!

 

I always find that showers are on the boring side.. haha.. so I wanted to have fun things for my guests to do.

 

I found many ideas for decorating one-sies while building my baby shower board and ran with it! (Pulled from On To Baby – posts can be found here and here.)

 

I wanted a keep-sake, but not a ‘traditional’ guest book, something that can be collected for my son to read when he got older. I originally saw this idea when Emily Ley did something similar for her son’s first birthday party. She got her inspiration from Joni over at Lay Baby Lay and the design she did for her daughter’s birthday invitations — I love following the trail of breadcrumbs!! haha! To go along with their hope or prayer, I had a Fujifilm Instax Mini (my mother’s day gift) handy so they can include their image too.

 

After they played, I got to have the fun.. opening gifts!! haha!

 

I couldn’t have pulled my dream baby shower off without this amazing lady, my mom!! Love her!!

 

The end of the shower group photo. (some people had to leave early and are missing)

THE MAKE UP OF A BRAND, PART 3

Today I am finishing up my series on the make up of a brand. If you’ve missed the first two posts, catch up on them here:

Part 1: Brand Elements
Part 2: Brand Identity

For part 3, I’ll be talking about the Brand Experience.

Specifically, a brand experience is a brand’s action perceived by a person and is determined by a number of brand experiences over a period of time including one or more touch-points.

A touch-point can be anything from a sensation, feeling or a behavioral response to any brand-related stimuli – identity, packaging, communications and environments. So, the next time you purchase something from iTunes, talk to customer service at your local bank or walk into an Apple store, each experience will solidify an already growing perception, wither conscious or unconscious, of it’s perceived value.

We build our knowledge through interaction. This helps us to form an opinion that will help us to understand our experience with it. Everything about how a company does business constantly reinforces this perceived value. The smallest details and most subtle points can have incredible effects on the overall experience.

Creating a long-standing connection to your business’s brand experience is crucial and can be defined by the solutions you offer, who they are best suited for, and what your brand will feel like in the lives of your client’s. Getting off on the wrong foot can steer the remainder of a client’s experience the wrong way, forcing you to spend the rest of the time doing damage control.

Determine your value, declare a solution, then build the experience you want your business to be, not represent. Begin with why – what prompted you to open up shop. Then look at what experience you want your customers to come away with – what does your business look like, feel like, smell like, taste like? – these are your touch-points.

Clarity should be the focus of our approach. You have the ability to make powerful strides towards a better brand experience with

// A defined aesthetic
Is it consistent around one single idea or message?

// Thoughtful attention to detail
Is your workflow organized?

// Knowledge of your strengths and weaknesses
Are you a micro-manager or can you delegate tasks to people who may be better at them then you?

// Managing client expectations
Do you under promise yet over deliver?

// Marketing to your ideal client and creating advocates out of them
Do your client’s respect your time and talents?

// Delivering quality services and goods
Do your products/ services warrant the prices you charge?

JLM is currently booking branding projects for 2012. Get started TODAY!


THE MAKE UP OF A BRAND, PART 2

Last week I started The Make Up Of A Brand Series, deconstructing the Wikipedia definition for a brand: any feature that identifies one seller’s goods or services different from those of other sellers.

All to often, the word brand or branding is used in the wrong manner (more on what a brand is, coming soon!), and confused with a brand identity. In the second part of this series, we will talk about brand identity.

The brand identity is any visual aspect that forms a part of the overall brand. It can be:

  1. A Logo (the symbol or icon that represents the entire identity and brand)
  2. A Color Palette or Scheme (the color palette contains all of the colors used in a project.. the color scheme is the intention for which the colors will be used)
  3. Any Graphics or Patterns (used to create style and appeal)
  4. Stationery (business cards, letterhead, personal note cards, envelopes, etc.)
  5. Marketing Materials (newsletters, website, blog, product look book, etc)
  6. Products & Packaging (products that you sell and the packaging in which you deliver it in)
  7. Apparel Design (t-shirts, uniforms, etc)
  8. A Slogan or Saying (a messages that is conveyed through direct (t-shirt) or indirect (commercial) modes of communication)
  9. A Character (a company mascot – ie.. the Geico gecko)
  10. Images (any image that represents a company brand – ie.. fashion adds or a photographer’s post processing style)

Three of my favorite brand identities that need no naming!


all images found on Pinterest

When sitting down with your designer to develop your brand identity, here are some things to think about:

// Does it reflect the personality and values of your business?

// Does it create value for your work?

// Does it speak to multiple audiences – including current customers, potential customers and those naysayer’s?

// Do the graphics or patterns chosen support the impression you wish to give of your potential client?

// Is it consistent around one single idea or message?

Hope this helps you when you sit down to define the brand identity of your business!

xo

Jessica