This is a seriously great Branding idea I had a few weeks ago. I haven’t been shooting much for the past few months due to all my random projects but after yesterday’s shoot it reminded me to share it now.

I spend a good chunk of the Photography Business Crash Course DVD talking about Marketing which is critically important and the most often misunderstood concept for beginning business owners (photographers or not). I also spend a chapter or two about Branding, which I personally believe is a little over-hyped these days. I am hearing some photographers say “Branding is the most important thing you can do for your business” which is something I strongly disagree with. When I hear them describe what Branding means to them, many of them start to describe Marketing. There are even a few very excellent books on Branding, that largely describe Marketing. I hate to get caught up in semantics like this, but because this is largely a Branding idea, I thought I would differentiate between the two. (BTW- that DVD set is the most important investment you will make, even more than your camera, website or lenses if you are serious about starting a Photography Business. I take all of my knowledge about photography business combine it with my MBA training and then apply my teaching skills to cram it all into a 7 hour course. Very proud of it and it is AWESOME! Been getting great reviews from viewers).

Marketing is much like fishing.

Branding is creating and communicating an identity that your customers relate with. It is not an easy thing to do, and even if executed correctly, it can be very expensive and still not work.

I would take a good marketing plan over an outstanding branding plan any day. So, assuming you have your marketing plan in play and are looking to strengthen your company’s brand this tip is for you. Don’t go out and do this if you are unfamiliar with Marketing, who your customers are, where they are etc. Focus on that first.

On the Photography Business Crash Course, I also discuss who should and who should not be giving their digital negatives to their clients. I have heard every single argument in the book about not giving your clients the negatives, and for the most part, this is a losing strategy for obvious reasons. The only exception to this is the niche photographer who has such a unique and / or original style that no one else can copy- they should keep their negatives and sell the prints. There are lots of other little details I describe, but this is a good rule of thumb for those of you who haven’t seen the DVD or attended my workshop.

For those 75-85% of photographers that should be delivering digital negatives, what I would recommend is to give your clients their images on a Custom Printed USB Thumb Drive. (Note: This image is from who can custom screenprint them for you- they are fantastic to work with- though I would recommend looking around a little for the design, print, size and cost that fits you best – Disk Makers Custom USB Thumbdrives)

For years I did the CDs/DVDs, and even digital delivery through I am now convinced, that the Custom Printed USB thumb drive is king for one really great reason: It is insanely “sticky”. What I mean by this is that the customer will use it repeatedly and get many, many “views”.

– CDs and DVDs are good, but the customer is unlikely to re-use them and they will sit on a shelf or in a desk somewhere unseen.
– While digital delivery is quick and clean, but it misses a great branding opportunity.

There has been a lot of research done on how important the number of views are to brand recognition. The more views, the better. This is why we see the same commercials on TV over and over. Advertisers want to get a little real estate inside your brain so when you see their logo, you can identify with it.

The USB drive is also very subtle. You have to deliver the images to them, hence the reason you are giving them the drive. If you present it as an unexpected gift, even better. They can also comfortably take that drive with them if they decide to print them up on their own (they will).

USB drives are not cheap, I have seen them range from $5-$20 a piece, however, if you buy in bulk, say 100-300 drives, the price really comes down. There are a TON of companies out there making them, and there are so many different types of drives out there it is crazy. I prefer the basic keychain version myself. Have a few hundred made with BOTH your logo and website address (very important to have both). I would also recommend getting the largest size drives you can because the bigger the drive, the more your customer will end up using it, the more views your brand gets.

When it is time for that family shoot, senior portrait, wedding, special event or if their is ever a need for a photographer, guess who they will call? The one who owns the most real estate in their brains. It is a very precise, focused and powerful way to increase your chances of repeat business, assuming you are technically competent and they had a good experience with you last time.

Google “Custom Printed USB Drives Cheap” and you will find a bazillion manufacturers ready to take your order. I am guessing an initial $600-$1000 investment would be plenty and pay for itself in just 2-4 return customers.

This is a good roll of the dice.