What’s Your USP?

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These days it seems that branding is the hot topic within the wedding industry, especially for photographers. We certainly discuss it quite a lot at Photography Farm and we are very lucky to have photographer’s brand expert Melissa Love join us to share her expertise. When I first started shooting weddings, brand simply wasn’t an issue. It was enough to take good photographs and make sure that you were found in the right places. However there has never been more wedding photographers competing against each other for potential business, so of course branding can be one of the elements that can help us to stand out.

But what about a USP? Before working on your brand, have you given any thought to it? I don’t hear people using this term any more, it’s kind of fallen out of fashion along with shoulder pads and pagers. Yet if we all defined our USPs before looking at branding, it would be much more likely that we’d each end up with much more unique brands and websites. These days it seems like there are way to many companies with very similar website designs.

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Business Bites: Perfect Hotels, Blogger Mansions and Snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef!

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So usually I open these Business Bites posts with some kind of work-related lesson that I’ve uncovered over the past seven days… but when you’re having so much fun exploring the Queensland coast there’s no time for nonsense like that!

After our surf lesson at Surfer’s Paradise we checked into our hotel for the night, QT Gold Coast. I’ll be doing a much longer post on this hotel chain at a later date because it was so damn amazing and you all need to know way more about it than I could fit into this short intro. After a blissful night’s sleep we hopped on a plane to Cairns and took the hour drive to our epic ‘blogger mansion’ (as we’ve dubbed it!) and from my Instagrams alone I’m sure you can tell that it’s pretty damn ridiculous.

And then it was time for pièce de résistance – snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef! Gala and Shauna have been feeling a little poorly this week so they stayed back at the house, but our photographer Janneke and I weren’t gonna let that stop us. Finally, yesterday we went jungle surfing in the rainforest where we were zip-lined through the trees and we all even went upside-down!

PHEW! This week has been nothing short of incredible and I can’t thank Tourism Queensland enough for spoiling us much more than we’d ever deserve!

Our first Blogcademy class is taking place in Brisbane this weekend so it’s back to the daily grind… although when you’re in Australia talking about your favourite subject it’s really not that much of a drag at all…

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Seven Tips for Advertising Overachievers

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This might be a topic that I’ve written about a few times before, but it’s still one of the things I get asked about most. When small business owners are looking to get exposure on wedding blogs, they always want to know how to maximise their chances of a successful campaign. So, today I’ve pulled together seven new little tricks that I’ve seen work for many of my advertisers recently. Enjoy!

1. Show your products, not your customers

Your advert needs to be eye catching, but more than that, it needs to be crystal clear what it is that you’re offering. Look at some of the current adverts on my site. If there was no text on them, would you still be able to tell what each advertiser was offering?

Typically, a photographer might show a bride or a couple, but does that convey ‘photographer’ to the viewer? Or do they see the dress and think “Oh I wonder where she got that?” or see the cool car they’re standing next to and think “I wonder where I can hire one like that?”. Don’t advertise your customers, instead showcase your tools or products. For example, if you’re a photographer you might show a camera, a make up artist might show someone applying make up, a transport company might show a double decker red bus. This is easier if you offer a product (such a shoes, dresses, rings or stationery) rather than a service (photography, videography, wedding planning).

I saw an advert for a wedding photographer recently that was a beautiful image but it was a close up of a bride applying mascara. To a casual observer this looks like an ad for a make up artist. Think of it this way, if Virgin Atlantic were advertising their brand new planes would they have an image of people enjoying a holiday or one of the actual plane?

Yes it feels a little cheesy, especially for photographers to have a photo of themselves with a camera, and I wasn’t actually convinced of this until Gareth proved it to me with some cold hard stats! We reached out to one of our advertising partners, Lisa Devlin, and worked with her to create a completely new graphic putting into action many of the topics covered in this post. And here’s the result:

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Business Bites: Three Ways to Prepare for Time Away From Your Business

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I used to make so many excuses for not travelling. “Oh I like being at home”, “I’ve just got too much work to do” and “I hate airports” were my favourite justifications. And then The Blogcademy came crashing into my life avoiding travelling just was not an option!

Now, I literally can’t get enough. I love love love experiencing new places and meeting new people. I’m even starting to weirdly enjoy airports.

But let’s not forget that when you run your own business it’s much harder to take off and leave it all behind. If there is no-one else that can do what you do, or can hold the fort while you’re away just how do you physically tear yourself back from your desk without worrying that your livelihood is going to come crashing down in your absence?

Well, in preparation for this latest jaunt I’ve learnt three very valuable lessons.

1) There’s no way around it, you need to work your butt off to get as much done before you go as possible. For me that’s meant long days and even longer nights writing and scheduling blog content and letting people know that I’m going to be harder to get in touch with for a few weeks.

2) You have to realise – and be OK with the fact – that when you run your own business you really can’t ever take a proper and complete break. I’ve bought myself a new laptop and I fully intend to keep up to date with as much work as possible while I’m down under (coming back to 1000 emails sucks balls. Believe me, I’ve done it).

3) Ask for help. I’ve enlisted some amazing guest contributors to send me a couple of articles for the blog which have massively taken the pressure off having to produce so much advance content myself.

If you haven’t travelled for a while I can’t encourage you enough to just do it. It’s now one of my favourite things to do and I can’t believe I put it off for so long! As long as you’re willing to put the effort into to being prepared in advance, it really doesn’t have to be that stressful.

LET’S ALL GO AND EXPLORE THE WORLD!

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“The biggest branding mistake companies and organizations make is using an acronym or abbreviation for their company name. Acronyms can be convenient for internal use in your office, but they should never be used in public communications, including social media.”

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I Don’t Care About Blog Comments… and You Shouldn’t Either

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OK so that’s not strictly true. I love to get feedback from my readers and it’s awesome to see so many encouraging words after I’ve published something. However, recently there’s been a massive shift in how people interact with and read blogs, and for the most part, these factors mean that across the board blog comments are going down. If you think of your comments as some kind of indicator to the success of an article, then this diminishing validation can be incredibly discouraging.

When I started writing online, leaving a comment on a blog was pretty much the only way to communicate with the blogger. Twitter hadn’t reached the mainstream, Facebook didn’t yet have business pages and Instagram was nothing but a twinkle in Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger’s eyes. A lot of bloggers didn’t even publish their email addresses for fear of spam or Internet weirdos.

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However, these days blog readers have so many ways to contact or leave comments for their favourite bloggers. Conversely, many of these options are a lot easier than having to log in and leave a message on the website. If you’re on Facebook and you see something you like, it only takes a second to click ‘like’ or to leave a little note of approval. Clicking through to the post, logging in or registering, leaving a comment and maybe even having to pass an intelligence test on the actual site is a lot more effort.

Of course it’s nice to get that external validation when you’ve done a good job and I’m yet to meet someone who doesn’t get a little bit excited when they see someone writing something nice about them on the internet. But, forgive me because this may rub you up the wrong way, blog comments (and how many you get) are nothing but vanity. There are so many other ways to judge whether something you’ve published has been popular or resonated with your readers.

If someone comments on your site it stays right there, locked in the comments section under the post. In my opinion, any SEO ‘help’ from comments is marginal. Yes, they create more content, which search engines love, but they can’t be controlled. If the comments start to go off on an irrelevant tangent this can actually hinder that post’s searchability for the terms you actually want. However, if someone retweets, links via their own blog, leaves a Facebook comment, likes or shares it, the content is going to reach many more people than it might under it’s own merit. It’s free viral marketing.

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Business Bites: Ideas are Pointless

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Can I let you in on a secret? Ideas are pointless. How many people do you know that have ‘brilliant new ideas’ all the time but never actually do anything with them? How many people have you heard say “Well, if I did that, I’d do it sooo much better”? How many Pinterest boards do we see full of amazing recipe ideas people will never cook or home décor ideas they’ll never implement?

If you’ve been sitting on an idea for a while, today I’d like to encourage you to actually do something about it. Maybe you just need to start some research, or send a few emails. Remember the first few steps are often the hardest. If you don’t, well that’s fine, but maybe it wasn’t such a brilliant idea after all.

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“Expressing negative sentiments in tweets is the second most harmful factor to growing a Twitter audience. This might be because Twitter is a medium dominated by very weak social ties, and negative sentiment from strangers may be unpleasant or uncomfortable for a potential new follower to see.” – Researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology

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