Face-to-Face Marketing for Photographers with Michael Anthony
Whenever I get an opportunity to talk about business to photographers, I always ask the same question: What are the challenges that you are currently experience in your business? The answer is always the same: How can I find clients who are willing to pay my prices?
If you are reading this article, you are likely in one of two camps—either you have been doing this for a while and you are now looking to expand your business, or you are just starting out and need some advice finding your first clients.
There is one truth to marketing above all others: No marketing that you do in your business will be a silver bullet. To have a consistent flow of clients coming into your business, you will definitely need to put work in. I want to get that out of the way, because if you read this article expecting a simple solution for finding new clients, then you may end up being disappointed. Instead, I am going to show you a few long-term strategies that helped us specifically when we were initially ramping our business in 2014-2016, and strategies that we continue to employ today.
There are three different avenues in today’s marketing environment. One is online marketing, such as Facebook, Google, e-mail campaigns, etc. Then there is print advertising, like local vendor books, magazine ads, billboards, and direct mail. But today, I want to focus on the most effective type of marketing for those of you who have a limited budget. I call it Face-to-Face Marketing.
To many, the thought of putting yourselves out there can be daunting, especially if you are by nature an introvert. Face-to-Face Marketing often will require you to shed that dynamic if it is part of your personality. But being a good networker does not mean that you have to be a salesperson. In fact, I recommend just the opposite—if you want to be good at marketing, you simply have to be likable.
Identify Your Opportunities
Networking with sources of potential business is not hard, but before you can even get started you need to know where to look. As a wedding photographer, my efforts have always been focused on identifying sources that were ahead of us in the booking process. We developed relationships with local gown shops, catering managers and event coordinators. Network marketing actually takes a bit of time, so you want to make sure that the relationships that you begin to cultivate will pay off for you long-term. Identify venues or planners that share a similar business philosophy to yours and do enough volume of business to be able to send you multiple referrals throughout a year.
Learn the Rule of Reciprocity
All networking can be successful, but before you begin forming relationships, understand that in order to see results, you will need to give much more than you expect to ever receive. People like working with others who help solve problems for them, and by identifying those pain points, you can develop a strategy to help your partners overcome them.
Let’s use a pretty common example—almost every single vendor that I work with tells me that they have a hard time getting images back from their vendors. Last November, when speaking at Wedding MBA to a room of over 1,000 venue owners, they told me that many photographers would never send them images in a timely manner. In today’s world, the one that is fastest will always win the business.
So with that knowledge, offer better service than your competitors by getting images to your venues and planners IMMEDIATELY after an event.
But let’s take this a step further. What else do small business owners need? Headshots, promotional video, marketing materials, and images for their walls. As a photographer, you are able to provide all of these things to them. Give, give, give, and eventually, human nature dictates that they will give back to you.
Develop a Repeatable Workflow
In business, organization is key to your success, and you probably often talk about things that you “should” be doing in business, but are not, and the reason for that is often because you are not organized in your workflow.
When you work an event with other vendors, you should be using your clients to gather information about their vendor team so that you are able to use it to network. Our clients fill out a questionnaire that gives us everything from their vendor’s web URL to their Instagram username. That allows us to communicate, tag, reach out, and network with them. If there is a vendor that we continuously work with, then I often will reach out to them to set up a meeting to deliver photos, and during that meeting, I begin finding out about their pain points, as mentioned above. Having the common ground of working together on a job should be the only information that you need to get your foot in the door. Once you do, make sure that you are working to provide them with everything they need.
Most of all, be consistent. You should be reaching out in some form or fashion to every vendor that could potentially give you business after working an event with them in order to, at the very least, establish a working relationship.
Utilizing services such as 17Hats, or project management software like Asana, you can stay organized and on top of different tasks in your business. I can’t stress how important organization is, especially when getting into a groove during the introduction of a new workflow.
This is F2F Marketing 101—if you want your local community to notice you, then you have to be everywhere in your local community. Let’s just say you are a corporate photographer, and your business relies on headshots. In that case, I would make sure that I was attending every single networking event in my local community, and even consider donating time to charity events and offering heavily discounted coverage for non-profits.
By working in your community and being at all of the places where your potential clients or referral sources are located, you send the message that you care about your business and that you will take care of your clients. Furthermore, as the Rule of 7 goes, you give others more opportunities to see your business and brand, trying to get to that magic number of seven, which helps them to realize that you are an expert in your field.
We started our brand SoCal Headshots back in 2016, and our goal was to grow it once our wedding business had scaled to a point where we were happy. This year we decided to allocate resources to it, and the largest resource would be personnel, because starting a new photography line would require us to put significant time into its growth. However, being that there is huge opportunity there, it’s well worth the effort.
So the first thing Jen did was join our local chamber of commerce, BNI, rotary, and industry associations. The second thing she did was buy tickets to 30 events over the first month we were home from Shutterfest. This included dinners, lunch-ins, charity events and fundraisers. We also purchased booth space at business expos throughout the Santa Clarita Valley, where our studio is located.
We know that if we want to compete with the local photographer who currently shoots all of the business headshots in our area, we are going to have to work harder than them. That’s fine, because it’s what we love to do. But make no mistake, if you are afraid to put yourself out there, business will never magically come to you, and if you can’t get out of your shell, you have two options: Hire an amazing salesperson, or go work for one.
Build Relationships That Will Last
One of the things that I firmly believe in is that if you walk into any relationship expecting them to owe you something like referrals, that relationship will never last long-term. You have to be authentic and focus on helping colleagues solve problems in order to get long-term results from your relationships with them.
Once you do develop a relationship, and those relationships turn into business opportunities, then please remember to be thankful for them. We always send a handwritten thank you card and a gift to vendors that are nice enough to refer us, and that mentality has helped us to secure exclusivity deals with some of the most popular venues in our area. If you are delivering good service, and you are showing vendors that you are thankful for the business they give you, then you will likely create more opportunities for your business to grow in the future.
The Mindset of a Marketer
As a business owner, there really isn’t a more important task than marketing. You never know where your next paycheck will come from, so it’s up to you to be the person selling yourself. The more relationships that you form, the better chance you will have of building new business, so keeping that in mind, shift your mindset to that of a marketer in order to recognize opportunities when they come about. Once you recognize an opportunity, it will be much easier to capitalize on it.