Instagram. Facebook. SnapChat. Direct mail. Twitter. Local Media and Press. The number of traffic sources available to photographers is ever growing. It can also be paralysing.
So how do you decide which one is right for your photography business? What happens when a hot new channel comes along, and everyone piles on? Should you go where the masses are, copy what everyone else is doing?
The number of traffic sources available today is nothing short of overwhelming. The old adage of “you need to be where the people are” simply doesn’t work in a world where “the people” move from one platform to the next at the drop of a hat.
What you need is a way to know which is the best traffic source for you and your business.
Sadly, there are no real publicly available methods for prioritizing or choosing the right traffic source for your business. So I have systemised this for you.
The key to determining the best source is based partially on an understanding of your audience, and partially on your own service and product offerings. You do this by creating a Traffic Plan.
What is a Traffic Plan?
In it’s simplest form, a Traffic Plan is a prioritized list of sources which are then assigned values such as:
- A target ad spend budget.
- An approximated implementation timeline.
- Criteria for abandoning, expanding and optimising, stabilising and moving on.
Your first step is make a list of the traffic sources you’re considering (Facebook ads, Facebook Organic, YouTube, Instagram, direct mail, etc.). Think of as many as you can, as some will eventually drop off the list when you prioritize. Keep in mind that every traffic source has proven buyers for some businesses – the question is, which ones are right for your business?
When you have your list, the next step is to answer a series of key questions for each source. These answers will help you narrow down and prioritize your choices more easily. Let’s look at each question briefly.
1. Do you consider yourself extroverted?
Some of us are natural socializers, thriving in an environment where interaction is the norm. Others find the entire process of socializing exhausting and even slightly unpleasant. Natural socializers would fair better with joint ventures, wholesale banners and publicity, while introverts are better suited to Pay Per Click (PPC) and direct mail, methods that tend require a tremendous amount of solitary time.
2. Are you comfortable and willing to negotiate a good deal?
If you dislike negotiation and / or tend to get taken advantage of in those scenarios, you’d best steer clear of wholesale banners, magazine and journal advertising, radio and TV and possibly even wholesale ads as these sources do require a fair amount of negotiation. That said, you do have options: Google and Bing ads, Facebook, Cost Per View (CPV,) YouTube and LinkedIn are all great choices for the negotiation-averse.
3. Are you willing to spend time on the phone to acquire traffic?
Some traffic sources require more phone time to make them work, including joint ventures and affiliates, publicity (to talk to reporters) and possibly LinkedIn.
4. Can you afford to go into “the red” on traffic before you break even?
Any traffic solution takes time to work, and if you can’t afford to go into the red before things turn around, you’re better off avoiding sources like PPC, direct mail and radio and tv as these can get quite expensive. More cost effective alternatives include joint ventures, blogging, organic social media, YouTube and LinkedIn.
5. Are you willing and able to wait at least six months to see a return on your investment?
If you are impatient to see results, then you’ll want to stick with sources such as solo ads, AdWords, Bing and Facebook PPC, while avoiding much slower media such as YouTube, social media, publicity, magazines and journals.
6. Are you willing and able to spend at least 5 hours per week managing your traffic sources (or do you have someone to do so for you)?
All traffic sources require maintenance of some kind (especially at the beginning), but if you are particularly squeezed for time, it’s best to avoid high maintenance platforms such as AdWords, Bing, Facebook PPC, joint ventures and affiliates, blogging and guest posting, YouTube and social media. You should instead focus on solo ads, magazines, journals and direct mail.
7. Are you a business to business marketer?
B2B campaigns are often, but not always, most effective with offline sources such as trade journals, magazines and direct mail. Online, LinkedIn is particularly effective for B2B campaigns. While not quite as effective, search platforms like AdWords and Bing can also provide value.
8. Is your market strictly confined to a local area?
For small, local businesses, AdWords, Bing, radio and Facebook Ads are good choices, along with direct mail and even publicity.
9. Are you willing, able and 100% committed to tracking your results?
Paid advertising sources MUST be tracked for them to be effective. Markets and users can shift and ads can become less effective over time. Tracking allows you to see what’s working and what isn’t, giving you the chance to make the necessary adjustments to keep your ads as focused and cost-effective as possible.
Once you have the answers to these questions, insert them into a spreadsheet next to each traffic source you listed earlier and use the answers to rank them. You may find that some sources drop off entirely – that’s fine, it’s part of the process. What you’ll be left with is a prioritized list of traffic sources that will help you focus your time, energy and of course money in the most effective ways.
If you skip this step, you’ll spend most of your time jumping from source to source, never achieving the full impact you desire and therefore limiting the growth potential of your business. You worked hard to get to this point. Don’t squander your resources and your hard work playing traffic bingo.