Having a strong digital presence is crucial for any business looking to succeed in today’s world. But it can be difficult to know how to stand out online among the noise of the internet. That’s why we’ve invited Steph Hennessy to share tips on how to stand out online!
In this post, Steph will be sharing advice on how to make your brand stand out from the rest and touch on the power of doing so. You’ll learn actionable steps towards success in building a brand online that stands out!
Meet Steph Hennessy
I’m Steph. I am a Colorado-based wedding and elopement photographer, and I specialize in nerdy and offbeat non-traditional weddings for my couples at Hennessy Photo Co.
Standing Out Online: Why is it important?
It’s so important. So really, the reality behind this is when we’re a service-based business, I think a lot of folks really focus on the fact that you know they are a service, and this is what they offer, but that doesn’t really make you any different than the next person, and if you think about it from a bare-bones level, every wedding photographer is doing exactly what I’m doing to some extent, and that goes for a web designer or anyone else who is in a service-based business.
So standing out and really making sure that your brand is something that’s very unique to you is really the best way to get beyond that and then connect with your dream ideal clients.
What has helped you stand out online and find your dream clients?
I think when I first started, like I think most people do, they look around and go okay, you know what’s missing from the market, and you know where do I fit in and maybe how can I make a great experience for my clients. It starts really at a bare-bones level.
You know, you start to decide exactly what you’re going to offer and how you’re going to do it. Maybe just trying to really blend in at first, just to try to make your mark on the industry.
My first year in business like most people, before they transitioned to maybe into a full-time freelancing scenario, I was working in my career. Still, I was trying to build a business on the side. Overall it makes it really hard to really niche down your brand until you really decide who you want to serve and how you want to do that.
For me, I think, when I decided what my ideal client was, it really kind of started from my own limitations and then trying to turn those into strengths. Because as I got into elopements, you know, I kind of looked around and went, okay, well, everyone’s an adventure elopement photographer, and they do backpacking elopements, and they hike for like 12 miles at a time, and I’m just not that person.
I’m a person who stays home with my husband, and we play video games, and I read a lot, and you know, I was kind of thinking when I planned my own wedding, I also felt really intimidated by the options that I had, because a lot of the photographers that were available to me didn’t really feel like they understood me or, you know, I didn’t really feel like I’d be friends with them outside of me hiring them for my event.
It felt a little awkward because we had our friends and family, who were also kind of nerdy and also, maybe not the kind of people who would do some kind of big luxury event.
So then, when I decided what my ideal client was going to be, I just kind of looked at, these are really strengths, these are things about me that make me feel super comfortable when I work with the kind of people that I’m working with now.
So now I have clients that are really offbeat. They’re doing like really fun decor things, themed weddings, things that are very pop culture related. They are people who are just a little bit more, anxious. They understand that they’re going through maybe some trauma related to their wedding and how to kind of navigate that.
I’ve been able to kind of meet them on all those marks, and that’s where I’ve really like pushed my branding to kind of really speak to those people because otherwise what you do, if it’s a little bit too generic, is just really offer anyone in and they’re not going to really feel as comfortable with you as someone else might.
Think about the why behind what you do
Yeah, I think you know when you look at, like I said, the why behind what you do. It’s very different from what a lot of people focus on.
You know, I’m a photographer, and I deliver this kind of service, and I want this experience for my clients. But the reasons why you do that and how are so much more important, and the why really comes down to who you are.
You know, the why you got into doing the business the way you do, why maybe you decided to make art the way you do, and even why you decided to work with this specific group of people.
That’s really important, and I think a lot of people skip that step. They want to say I have a service, and here I am, I’m selling it to you, and here’s how I can help you. But it’s not really the connection that a lot of your clients are looking for, and really being authentic to yourself also opens the door for those people and for you to find the actual dream clients you’re looking for.
I think there’s a missed connection in a lot of social media and a lot of the ways that we try to show up in our marketing, because I think, especially as artists and especially as service-based businesses. There are so many avenues of where we can drop in for marketing, and where we should spend our time and all of our energy.
But what people are really looking for is connection because, again, that’s really how you’re standing out in your market – is by being authentically you showing up for the people that you really want to serve, and they will connect with you by seeing the fact that you are really who you are.
The importance of connection
It can feel really uncomfortable. You know, especially myself, who has a little bit more of an introverted clientele. Having a wedding to begin with is something that’s really anxious and a very anxious experience for a lot of people.
A lot of that has to do with maybe family concerns or family dynamics, but most of it’s really just the fact that you have so many eyes on you. You’re taking all this time to make sure that you plan something for the experience of other people as well, and just to not have the kind of comfort and stability when it comes to your wedding photographer is really a huge dynamic, because the entire day you’re stressed out and just to have somebody who really understands you, relates to you and can make you feel comfortable will take such a big stress factor off that entire day.
What’s your best advice for standing out in a saturated market?
I would start with identifying where you feel like your strengths are because when you look at what you can offer and maybe what’s missing from your market, identifying your strengths first will allow you to really like lean into yourself. So that would be my best suggestion.
When I gave examples from my standpoint, where I didn’t want to do adventure elopements, or maybe I wanted to cater to couples that were a little more introverted, that is something specific to the fact that I know what that experience is like. I know that I can offer a different experience in that area, and I’ve translated that into the experience that I offer for my couples.
What works for me doesn’t necessarily work for someone else, and that’s really important. When you examine your market and look from a marketing standpoint and say you know what’s missing from this market and maybe where are my strengths and how can I offer something that you know maybe fills this gap but also really plays on the strengths and the experience that I know I can offer, different from anyone else.
So identifying those weaknesses and strengths for yourself will translate into maybe how you want to show up for your clients and who you want to serve. Once you identify that, my best advice is really to narrow in and hone down who exactly you’re working for, why you want to do it, and how you can show up best for them.
Because, like I said, at the beginning, we talked about how, overall, there is a lack in marketing that a lot of folks will focus on.
You know, maybe what they do and what they offer, but the how and the why is so important.
And so when you finally get to the point where you’ve identified those strengths, you’ve identified your weaknesses, and you’ve really curated an experience for your ideal client or your ideal market or who you’re trying to speak to, then you really need to show up for them in every possible way, and I think that’s the last step that a lot of people don’t tend to make.
That push is to just talk directly to them, make content and offer additional support in all the areas that they’re looking for support in because no one else will know that market better than you. You’ve chosen to work with those people for a specific reason because maybe they speak to your heart, and they are allowing you to make art in the best way and in a way that feels truly like the best way, truly like light firing for you, and that’s kind of where your entire market is going to be up to you to show up for and make the most of in order to give them the best experience possible.
Finding your place in the market to stand out online
Otherwise, it really does become that transactional scenario. I think when you know you see certain businesses, you can tell which ones have said, oh well, I can invent something to fix that problem, and we’ll just sell it for a profit, and which businesses truly show up and say this is something we’re really passionate about.
This is a group of people we really care about. We’ve spent all of this time and effort to curate this product for these people in order to solve this problem, and people can see that from so far away that, you know, I think it gets missed.
When you finally start a business, and you say, okay, this is what I’m going to offer, that next part of your marketing, that next part of all of your effort strategy really needs to be the people and the people you serve. Otherwise, yeah, I mean that that transactional experience is just such a less-than experience that someone, especially in wedding photography, would want to give a client.
Fun question time: what’s the best video game you’ve played recently?
Oh, recently, gosh, I was like, not ready for what’s your favorite ever, gosh? You know, I will say Breath of the Wild is really up there on the list, and super excited about the new game.
I’ve also been playing a lot of the new Hogwarts game, so that’s been really fun, and I think I always just kind of fall back on Stardew Valley because it’s just a comfort game for me. So even though it’s old, I will play it all the time.
Final Thoughts: Standing Out Online
Hopefully, this episode/post has helped you find out how to stand out online.
To stay in touch with Steph, visit these links:
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KP (she/her) is the founder and designer behind Inkpot Creative, which was founded back in 2020. She specializes in Showit website design, blogging, and SEO. Over the years, she’s built custom websites for more than 50 photographers and has helped grow client’s monthly website traffic to increase their inquiries. When not designing, she can normally be found hiking in the mountains, working on her travel blog Volumes & Voyages, or trying to find the best iced chai in her city.