Let’s agree, despite what our friends, moms and society think, running a photography business is real, hard work. You’re a one man (or woman) show! You’re the owner, the accountant, the office manager, the art director, the secretary, the sales & marketing manager, the technician, and so on. The list of responsibilities and skills required to run a successful business is ridiculously long and overwhelming.
So our team here at Flothemes thought we’d help you out with some marketing ideas & tips, so you can keep your marketing & promotion campaigns relevant in 2019 and consequently increase your revenues and brand exposure.
1. Offline promotion
This can make a huge difference for your business and it’s easy to implement. Print a stack of business cards with your details right before a wedding. Include on those business cards a direct URL to the gallery where you’ll be uploading all the photographs from the event. Share those business cards with the guest and let them know that they can view the photos on that link in a couple of weeks/months.
Now, guests can easily find all the photos, order prints, albums or holiday cards from you directly + they have your details in case their own event is approaching.
Even better, add an email sign up to view the photos, and you can market directly to those individuals, especially great around anniversaries and birthdays.
2. Online promotion
Tools like Pic-Time offer you an easy & beautiful way to up-sell to your clients, their family & friends. It can be anything from holiday cards, large prints, albums, etc, all with a sweet promo code for extra motivation. Here’s how.
3. Create a Client Guide
A Client Guide can not only save you time on answering the same frequently asked questions over and over again via emails and social media – but can also help you attract new, qualified leads with potential to be converted into clients. All you have to do is create a pdf guide with useful information, tips, vendor recommendations, planning insights (it all depends on your target client and what’s important for them in relation to your photography service). Then offer that pdf for free on your website in exchange for a user’s email.
- This allows you to grow your mailing list
- You know there are potential clients for your type of photography service, all you need to do is nurture those leads into happy & excited clients, through a series of relevant [automated or manual] emails.
4. Collaborating with other vendors
There are a few things you can do, when it comes to partnerships with various wedding vendors:
- Include them in your Client Guide & ask them to feature you in their recommended photographers list
- Tag them in blog posts & on social media, as most will return the favor and gladly share your work with a credit coming back your way. Guess what, your target audiences are the same – so you get free advertising within a relevant community.
- If you’ve been shooting often in the same venue, you probably have tons of great images of their location and decor. Select the best ones, print a beautiful sample album with those images and gift it to the venue. Include your name, website url and contact details in that album, so a couple can always find you once they see your work. And they will!
- An alternative to printing a sample album would be emailing most vendors after a wedding and offering them a selection of images with their products. Most of them usually lack great quality photos and will happily post yours on their social media and website, with a credit mention and link to your website as a thank you. Remember, this is not just a friendly exchange, it’s building backlinks for your website, which is a serious bonus for SEO.
- Write Google reviews for vendors and venues that you’ve worked with.
A. Most likely they’ll return the favor, which aids your SEO
B. You create relationships, hence they are more likely to recommend you to a couple who has hired them and is looking for a photographer. You may even get added to their “recommended vendors” page on their site simply because you’ve been kind in the first place!
5. Collaborate with other photographers
If you’re ignoring active Facebook groups where photographers from all around the world share inspiration, ideas, questions, tips & important news – you are missing out on a HUGE ton of networking & potential partnerships.
Apart from getting help & advice (business, marketing, sales, client communication) quite often posts about a job opening appear there, as the photographer is booked, or needs a second shooter, various fun opportunities are shared, which you can apply for. Do quick search for local and global photographer communities and join now!
6. Impactful teasers before delivering photos
Your couples are probably dying of curiosity and excitement to get their wedding photos asap. Actually, scratch out “probably”, your couples ARE dying of curiosity and excitement to get their wedding photos ASAP. Given the overwhelming joy & hecticness of a wedding day, the newly married couple is left with a blur of memories, and only your images can help build the whole puzzle back.
Use this exhilarating anticipation to your own advantage – share a preview with a selection of 30-40 photos (normally on a Sunday evening) before delivering the full gallery a few weeks after. We prefer slideshows accompanied by music for a stronger impact. Here’s why.
7. “Packaging” when delivering photos
How do you share images with your clients? If you’re sending them a selection of prints & a USB flash drive with the entire gallery consider getting some nicely branded packaging for it, like Wooden Banana for example. Those beautifully designed wooden boxes won’t leave anyone indifferent, rather inspire a strong desire to share it online with their social media friends, as well as offline with anyone who comes visiting their house.
If you don’t yet, also consider offering printed albums to your clients. Software by Pixellu, Pic-time and Fundy for example, offer amazing design layouts, smooth client communication channels for agreeing on the page structure & images used, as well as great deals on printing from leading print labs.
Encourage your clients to film their “unboxing” process – their happy reactions, the fun comments & tears of joy. What better marketing content can you get? Nothing beats real, raw, happy emotions!
8. Set up a Google My Business account
This is especially important for local photographers, but can benefit even destination photographers. Register an account with Google My Business (GMB), or if you have one already, make sure to update & strengthen it. Ask a few recent happy clients to share a testimonial there about you, upload some beautiful images of you and your work. Your Google My Business listing gives you more chances to get organic traffic from your local area. If you optimize both your site and your GMB listing for local search, you’ll get more traffic which hopefully results in more sales.
9. Monitor Mentions
Wondering what clients/users speak of you on the wide world web? Well, there’s a way to see those messages even if you don’t get tagged. Register for Google Alerts, it’s absolutely free. Or try a paid service, such as Mention (they do offer a free trial). Get daily/weekly notifications when somebody talks about you or your business on any platforms – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Reddit, even their own website. Following your mentions online helps discover good reviews that you can later share or bad reviews that you can help resolve, depending on the user’s problem.
10. Video Testimonials
If you have testimonials featured on your website, Facebook page & Google My Business account – that’s great as you offer solid social proof for your potential buyers. Take it up a notch. Approach your happiest & most charismatic couples and ask them for a video testimonial – ideally they’d need to post it on their social media account (Facebook & Ig Stories), so their friends and followers see it. You can easily share it, or ask them to send you a copy of the file too. As a thank you, offer them a small gift – such as a free print, a mini session or a discount for your family portrait session. But honestly, most clients who are super happy are willing to do it for free. Because they’re awesome!
11. Blog like a PRO
There are 2 ways you can bring potential clients to your website, to make them aware of your existence. ONE is to work hard on your SEO (see more in section below) and rank high for relevant keywords, such as “Best Wedding Photographer in XYZ location.” But the competition can be crazy for keywords. Imagine how many other photographers are working their butt off to get found by the same keywords. A LOT!
So the SECOND method, which we highly recommend, is investing some time into writing useful articles for your future clients. First bring them to your blog with information that they are desperate to find, and then WOW them with your insights, advice & photography. These articles can be anything from “Best wedding venues in XYZ region” to “Checklist for Brides for their wedding day” or “10 Reasons why Eloping is better than having a Huge Wedding”. It’s really up to you, your expertise and research skills.
Use tools like BuzzSumo to identify what content are future brides & grooms looking for, then create an article that would satisfy their needs and answer their questions. Add relevant, catchy titles and start monitoring the traffic brought by those blog posts. Tools like Google Analytics will help you track conversions brought through those specific articles, and then you’ll know for sure – if this method is working for you or not.
The writing shouldn’t be anything extravagant, NY Times type. It just needs to be clear, concise and based on your own experience. Don’t underestimate your expertise in the wedding planning area. Struggling? You can always hire someone to do the writing for you, and then improve it with your own style
Most likely you’re already doing at least some basic SEO for your website. You’re probably choosing keywords more accurately for various sections on your homepage and website, you’re using the Yoast SEO plugin (if your website is with Flothemes or just WordPress). SEO is a long term, continuous process. It’s not this thing you do once and then forget about it for the next 10 years.
If you want to increase your chances of being found by clients on Google (and other search engines), there’s a whole list of steps you need to take & implement on your site. We’re describing most of them in this article on Everything a Photographer Needs to know about SEO. You can also join groups like Fuel your photos, The SEO for photographers group and FloSEO to find out about new trends and changes to Google’s Algorithms, get tips, recommendations and help from SEO experts within the photography industry. Don’t get overwhelmed. It’s one solid step at a time.
If you’d like to dive a bit deeper into this topic – there are a few important things you need to take care of to be sure that your site meets minimum requirements for SEO. Here are some of the optimizations you might want to address, to get better results in organic searches:
- Make sure your website is secure with an SSL certificate – this is an important ranking factor and is good for your customers’ experience
- Make sure your site looks good and works well on all devices – this is an easy task with Flothemes, as all our templates are fully responsive and look great on different screen resolutions.
- Improve your site speed – it’s essential for your UX and conversion rate, especially on mobile devices. If your site takes too long to load, nobody’s going to wait. They’ll exist your site – potential client lost. Learn here how to speed up your website by yourself.
- Make sure your site is crawl-able by search engines – Google and other search engines still heavily rely on textual content and keywords. Your text and images should be visible and descriptive. Also, make sure you don’t hide relevant content on mobile devices, as this isn’t good for mobile first indexing.
- Avoid duplicate content – it’s bad for your SEO and dilutes the quality of your website. Identify pages that look similar and make sure you redirect them or point them to your main ones.
- Take care of your on page SEO – structure your pages well and include relevant textual content, headings, internal/external links, images with alt tags, SEO friendly URLs and structured data.
- Build more backlinks – the more high quality websites link to your site, the higher are chances to rank on the 1st page in Google. Don’t forget that quality beats quantity.
13. Paid Advertising
There are many platforms that you can try paid advertising on. Social media channels, which are more kind to your budget, or Google Ads, which require larger spendings & a certified specialist.
To decide which platform to pick, start with analyzing your website traffic in Google Analytics. Where do most of your users come from? Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest? or perhaps organic and direct search? This will give you a hint on which channel needs to be nourished and exploited more. With Facebook for example, you can narrow down your target audience to people who got recently engaged, or like certain Bridal Magazine pages. It’s also directly connected to your Instagram, so you get to kill two rabbits with one shot.
If you’re curious to learn more about Facebook Advertising, building campaigns, writing texts that make users click, and funnels that convert a lead into a client – check out our Facebook Ads course for Photographers.
14. Automate your social media
When it comes to social media, consistency (not just visual, but also posting every day at the same time) is key. At the same time, getting distracted, pausing all your tasks to go and post on Facebook or Instagram can harm your overall workflow and its not very time efficient.
Try automation tools. Latergram , Iconosquare or Planoly are great ones for Instagram. Though none of them offer IG Story auto scheduling, there are plenty of insights, metrics and reports that can help you analyze your current performance and improve it.
For Facebook you can use its native built in scheduling options. Take half of the day if you need to and plan out all your posts, image + copy. Schedule them all, and voila, your day is freed for more complex tasks that require concentration. You don’t have to waste daily time anymore on deciding what to post and what caption to write.
15. Embrace going LIVE
Going LIVE on Instagram or Facebook is an amazing way to connect with your fans and followers. The first few sessions may seem awkward in the beginning, but once you get used to it and fans start interacting more with you and asking questions – you’ll have material to talk about for hours. LIVEs allow you to show off your fun, knowledgeable, sarcastic or weird (in a good way) personality.
People buy products from people. And since most photographers only post their work on social media, it’s really hard to connect and figure out their personality. Going Live, once every few weeks, can help your fans get to know you better and have an idea of what’s it like to work with you and be around you. They’ll be a lot more inclined to inquire you for their special day, once they know you.
16. Too shy for LIVEs?
If you’re too nervous and shy to go LIVE, start with Instagram Stories and pre-recorded sessions. It can be a Youtube Vlog or a Podcast. Tackle topics that are important for your future brides and/or for your photography peers. The first one may bring new clients. The second one could bring fun projects and speaking gigs at workshops & conferences. Both equal in more exposure & new traffic to your website.
If speaking in front of the camera is just not something you’re comfortable with, there’s still ways of getting short videos of you and sharing them on social media or your website.
Have you been to a wedding where there was a videographer hired as well? Why not getting in touch with him or her and ask for very short 15- 30 seconds unedited snippets of some behind the scenes footage? There’s really big chances you’ve been in his shots and those frames would most likely go the the bin otherwise. You can offer to pay or to recommend on your Vendors list. If you’ve been friendly, you’d most likely get it for free. That way, you have videos you can share without having to sweat and find something to talk about in front of the camera.
17. Email Marketing Done Right
Too uncomfortable to record yourself in videos or audios (podcast)? That’s ok. Focus on email marketing. If you already have a newsletter, who are your subscribers? How often do you message them? Do they have potential to convert into clients? If you don’t have clear answers to these questions, or the answers are not satisfactory, here’s what you need to do in 2019 – it’s called lead magnets.
A lead magnet is basically anything that can help you attract relevant leads for your newsletter. The easiest way to offer it is through a pop-up or Sign Up block on your website. Some examples of lead magnets for a wedding photographer’s audience would be a downloadable pdf with “5 Things Every Bride needs to know about before starting to plan a wedding”, a checklist for the wedding day, a guide on how to pick the right wedding photographer, top 5 venue recommendations or wedding planners you’ve enjoyed working with and why, even your client guide can be a lead magnet, since it’s basically A to Z instructions on getting married.
Think about it, you have tons of experience, you’ve shot in various locations, worked with and experienced multiple wedding vendors’ service – you’re a walking encyclopedia for brides & grooms. Share that wisdom with your potential clients.
We know, it’s seems to be another hat you need to wear as a photographer. BUT, the good news is that there are awesome graphic designers who can jump in and help with creating incredible PDFs for you, so you can focus on doing the things you love and not feel overwhelmed!
Once they subscribe with their email to get the lead magnet you offer via your website – get them into an automated email campaign. Create a workflow with up to 7-10 emails, that will be sent once every 5-7 days (if you do it too often, you risk spamming and annoying them). In those first 4-6 emails offer more insights, recommendations and valuable tips. And only after those first nourishing messages, you can try and pitch them with an irresistible one-time-only offer or an early bird deal on your next year’s bookings.
If you decide to create a few different lead magnets, which increases your chances to get more leads and grow your list – make sure the tool you use for newsletters allows tagging or list segregation, to separate users based on interests (especially if you offer other services apart from wedding photography, like family sessions, portraits, new born, etc). Target each segment with a different campaign tailored to their area of interest. Recommended tools for email marketing: Mailchimp, Drip, ConvertKit, etc
We know what you’re thinking now “this sounds like too much work”. But actually it will only take a few days to create and setup, afterwards it’s all automated and works for you while you sleep.
Bonus Tip: Once you put the whole workflow into place and notice positive results, consider building separate landing pages for each lead magnet, with strong keywords for SEO, to get even more traffic and interested users, who sign up for your email list. If you really want to get more emails try paid advertising, Facebook is a great platform for cheap conversions with this method.
18. Track & trust numbers
Set some numeric goals and KPIs for yourself, short and long term ones. They need to be realistic, and be measurable. This will help you analyze your marketing efforts, the success of various campaigns as well as ROI on new software or tools. Make it a habit, every month or quarter go back and look at the numbers, identify growth patterns to enforce certain actions and strategies or cut loose ends if something did not work.
Examples of numeric goals could be: Growing your Instagram following or newsletter list, Increasing revenues or traffic from a certain social media platform, Optimizing time spent on specific tasks, Getting a certain amount of backlinks from popular wedding blogs, etc. Make sure to go back and reevaluate these goals every 6-12 months.
19. Grow your Instagram Organically
First of all check your Google Analytics. Notice how often we recommend you to do this? If you don’t use GA for your website yet – DO IT NOW. Create an account, it’s free and an absolute game changer. Business, sales and marketing decisions should always be based on data. You can also check our Google Analytics course for Photographers if you want to maximize the potential and value this tool can bring to your photography brand.
Now, back to Instagram. If according to your website stats most of your website traffic, inquiries and revenue comes from Instagram – invest more time and energy into building a stronger presence and brand recognition on IG. Here are some tips on how to grow your Instagram following and engagement organically.
We also recommend using relevant hashtags and geotags (such as location, venue, wedding types, etc) to make it easy for brides & grooms to find you while looking for inspiration and doing research for their own event. Also track the ones that your potential clients would use, such as #engaged #newlyengaged #isaidyes #shesaidyes #futurebride #proposal #heproposed etc. Luckily, Instagram has a function that allows you to follow a hashtag, hence see all relevant posts that you may be on the hunt for, without deliberately stalking people.
If you’re sometimes stuck with ideas on which hashtags to use, there’s a great tool called Display purposes , to save the day! It’s a hashtag generator to help you find combinations you wouldn’t even think of but your target audience uses daily!
20. Run a Giveaway or Contest
Giveaways (especially those on Instagram) are a wonderful way to get more followers, exposure and potential clients. At least you get on their radar. The prize needs to be relevant, for example: a free engagement session or free styled portraits for a bride to be. In the rules, ask participants to tag a future bride, their friend who’s getting married soon, etc with a simple task such as “comment what you like about my work”.
Why? This implies that every participant will actually take some time to check out your work before commenting – hence get interested in your style and services. An alternative way to count contest entries would be asking participants to share about your giveaway via their Instagram Stories, mention in a short video what they like about your work and why they want to win + tag you, so you can see it. This will not only offer positive free promotion for your work, but also have a great impact on your Instagram metrics & discoverability.
21. A Killer About Page
Your about page is the second or third most visited pages on your website, after your Home & Portfolio pages. If a user lands on your website, connects with your work, naturally he/she wants to find out more about who you are, where you’re from, what lights you up. Hence, a compelling, honest & fun About page can make or break the deal.
If you can, create a short video to present yourself and show off your awesome personality. The way you talk, your voice, facial expression, smile or laughter can say so much – it can create an instant bond between you and your future client. So don’t be shy, show your charismatic, sarcastic, fun, weird or conservative personality. Your ideal client will surely appreciate that small insight before excitedly sending you an inquiry.
22. Guest Posts
Love writing? Have great experience & stories to share? Reach out to a few of your favorite blogs or sites that your potential clients are actively following. Ask to do a guest post or interview with them. If you’ve done your homework, researched some topics and know what type of content their readers consume – most likely they’ll say YES, and you’ll get exposure within a new, relevant community of users.
23. Educate Yourself
Never stop learning. Luckily there are tons of photography workshops, online courses, mentorship sessions, free and paid educational material that can help you grow, improve your business and marketing skills. Don’t limit yourself only to photography related topics, take courses in copywriting, sales communication, client management, advertising, etc. There are so many dimensions you can explore and develop, all ultimately having a positive impact on the way you run your business, promote it and create your work.
Some of our favorite photography workshops & conferences are:
- Mystic Seminars
- Let’s Go Workshop
- Grain Festival
- Way Up North
- Cosmos Gathering
- Snap Photo Festival
- The Wolves Workshop
- The Rural Workshop
As per educational courses & mentoring sessions, see offerings by:
- India Earl
- Katch Silva
- Nicole Ashley
- Ben Sasso
- Julia & Gil
There are tens and hundreds more. Most likely your favorite photographer, who has been inspiring you with their work, also offer mentorship, workshops or useful articles with tips. Snoop around their site to find out.
While these may not bring $$ back your way, exposure, networking and getting your name out there is guaranteed. Get involved in things other than wedding photography. Agree to photograph social events, charity meetings, dogs & cats in shelters, community gatherings, etc. Try to stay recent when delivering the photos. Post teasers a few days after the event, while the memory of those involved is still fresh.
Apart from the amazing feeling of contributing to a good cause, you may also get a few new inquiries for weddings, portraits or a couple shoot.
25. Styled Projects
Never organized a styled shoot before? Give it a try! It’s such a satisfaction to be able to control every detail and moment for a change. Plus it allows you to add to your portfolio some dream type of galleries, to attract a new auditory of clients that your current work doesn’t quite resonate with.
26. Tag clients on social media
It sounds obvious, but not many photographers do this on a constant basis. When ever you post an image on Facebook or Instagram, tag your clients, make sure their friends see it, as guess what – newly weds have friends who are similar age and will probably also get married soon. No better time to get on their mind and radar.
27. Pinterest for exposure
Rather than doing free gigs for exposure, which don’t even guarantee anything, make it a habit in 2019 to constantly post your images on Pinterest. It is still a truly marvellous platform that has not been fully exploited by so many brands, including yours.
Since Pinterest is the #1 platform when it comes to finding inspiration and building mood-boards. Where do you think most brides go when they start to plan (or just think about) their wedding? Bingo! Don’t underestimate the amount of traffic and exposure Pinterest could bring to your site & work.
Remember that if you’re a business, you might want to curate what you show on your Pinterest boards. Boards like Food and DIY tips when you’re a wedding photographer would be better off in a secret board. Instead, focus on creating very specific boards, not only broad names like “Wedding Photography” or “Wedding Inspiration”. Think of the keywords your potential bride is looking for and use those to create your boards and to describe them. Try to be as specific as possible and see how you start attracting your ideal client. For example, you could use “Bohemian Wedding Flowers” or “Destination Weddings Amalfi Coast” for board names.
Don’t have time? Get a tool that allows you to automate your Pinterest posts every week. Spend 20-30 minutes on Monday adding descriptions and keywords to each image, schedule them, and you’re done! Don’t forget to monitor your website traffic that comes from Pinterest via your Google Analytics account, to know for sure if your new habit brings positive results.
Pinning about 5-10 images a day is an ideal way of getting Pinterest working for you and showing them to as many people as possible, rather than doing it chaotically.
Bonus tip: If you want to approach this task seriously and dedicate your full attention to Pinterest this year, check out this great course on Pinterest for Wedding Photographers by Photobug.
28. Friendly Discounts
Wedding photography is a seasonal job for most, therefore you’re probably also offering portrait sessions, family or couple shoots, etc. Try offering an exclusive discount for those who bring a friend along to the session, such as “Have your friend book me on the same day for portraits and get both 20% off.” Even better, if you prefer not to discount your services – add a bonus perk to their session. Hence, they still pay the full price but get for free 10 extra edited images, each, or something similar.
29. Get featured on Wedding & Bridal blogs
Having your wedding featured by one of those popular blogs, such as Style Me Pretty, Junebug Weddings, Rock My Wedding, etc – may require working your butt off, but it’s worth it. If not their blog, at least register to get listed in their directory of wedding photographers. Some are free, some require a fee. Focus first on the local blogs, then branch out to regional or international directories if you do destination work.
Many of these blogs run various contests for wedding photographers. Submit your work. Get selected and enjoy the prestigious award and tons of new incoming traffic to your website (at least right after the results are announced). And while most of our clients don’t really care about all these awards, being listed on blogs with a strong domain authority does offer bonus SEO points that can help you rank better on Google. And now we’re talking!
This has been one of the best ways for many photographers who started off, to get seen quickly and to attract their ideal client! Also, some wedding blogs don’t require exclusivity. If you shot a wedding or did a styled shoot which you believe is really worth getting published in several places, read their terms and conditions and you might be able to do just that!
Like our friends from Green Antlers Photography did, after shooting a wedding few years back. The wedding got published on three different wedding blogs on the span of two years and also in print. That’s great exposure both for the photographers, as well as the vendors involved, so everyone is happy!
We know it seems like a whole lot of work! But, to be honest, it only meant writing e-mails and being kind. The result? Great exposure, free marketing and lots of vendors you’ve built a good relationship with.
30. Take good care of your clients
Always go the extra mile to make your clients feel cared for and happy. Word of mouth goes a loooong way. As our friend, Marko Marinkovic always recommends – be quick with replies to inquiries & emails. There’s a huge comfort for your client to see the amount of responsibility and dedication you approach them with, before even getting hired. It builds trust and confidence in your service & professionalism.
Be polite, be caring, be helpful, empathetic and available when ever they need you. One really happy client will brag and praise you all over the internet for weeks, months and maybe years after. So will an unhappy client. You decide what type of PR will help your business grow and flourish.
31. Get a Website that knows how to Flirt
It would be ironic if we wouldn’t mention anything about websites in this article, as that’s what we our speciality. Your website can be one of your most powerful & important marketing & sales tools, if used correctly. It’s the only thing that works for you 24/7.
Make sure it’s updated, has clear copy, is attractive, works smooth on all devices, offers a smooth user flow for your site visitors and can actually convert leads into clients. How? Through accessible & recurring call to actions that encourage them to check out your work, then contact you for a quote.
Our article on How design affects your business growth explains which things you need to take into account when designing a highly converting website. It also rationalizes the idea of why increasing pricing just once per year may slow down your success.
And of course, for those of you who want to jump on the bandwagon and get a truly impressive, irresistible & functional website, here are our hottest deals on website themes and installation services. Revamp before things get too busy & hectic!
Running a business solo is hard work. Don’t be too hard on yourself, it takes time to learn new skills and polish out your existing ones. If your budget allows, outsource the tasks that take too much time, effort and mental protest. We hope this list with 31 Marketing & Promotional Ideas for Wedding Photographers will motivate you to try new things and get out of your comfort zone for the sake of experimenting and growing as a creative and business, but if you were to take just 1 item from this list, which one would it be and why?