Where Did All My Clients Go? with Sal Cincotta
Are you sitting there wondering why your business is struggling? Why your phone is not ringing? Why your email leads are nonexistent? Are you convinced that it’s not your fault? That it’s somehow the Russians? Or even worse, all those dastardly shoot-and-burners?
Well, I have some bad news for you: It’s you, not them. You are the problem, no one else. You have no one else to blame.
In this article, I show you some ways to change your “luck” and take control of your destiny. The sooner you realize there is plenty of business out there for all of us, the sooner you will start taking a healthy and realistic look at your business—because then and only then will you accept that you control your business. This includes the good and the bad. There is no one else to blame.
As an entrepreneur, I love the pressure of knowing my success or failure falls on my shoulders. It’s the fuel I need to push me to be better each and every day. So, where do we start?
Are you a standout?
This is something I talk about a lot, yet I find that while many of you nod yes, there is very little you are doing to stand out. Standing out has little to do with photography. Standing out requires you to step back and assess your business and what you offer. Are you offering something that is unique or are you offering something that is a commodity? Being a photographer itself is a commodity, or service, that you offer.
We need to look at trends in the market both in and out of photography. What do our clients want? What is new in the marketplace and how can we incorporate that into our business offering to grab some attention? These are all very important things that make you stand out. We want people talking about us, talking about our services, and we want to make an impact so they remember us in a good way.
Remember the slow-motion booths that were popular in the wedding industry a year or two ago? Where are they now? Sure, they are cool and they got people’s attention, but now it’s over and there is something new. Our photography is a staple for the business, but we have to continually look for ways to make the brand stand out.
Salvatore Cincotta Photography uses service as a way to stand out. When a new client signs up, we send them a bottle of wine as a thank you. After their wedding, images are ready in two weeks or less. This is how you can stand out too.
Do you suck?
Yep. I put it out there. Some of you will get all worked up about this, but welcome to reality. People like to do business with people they like. If I am going to spend thousands of dollars on something, I am going to do it with someone I like.
If you suck as a person—no personality, abrasive, obnoxious, passive-aggressive, no sense of humor, or just an overall negative person—it can directly impact your business. You have a choice to make. No matter how talented you are, if people can’t stand being around you or have to make excuses to friends and family for you, you have a serious problem. You can either fix your personality, which we all know is no easy task, or hire a person who is customer facing with a much more bubbly and positive personality.
It sucks to suck. You have to fix this and not dismiss it. You are not going to make everyone happy all the time. I know this better than anyone, but we need to realize the importance our personality has to the success of our business.
Have you ever called customer support and had a bad experience? Of course you have. And how does that make you feel about working with that company? Would you spend thousands with them if you had another choice? No way. Take that to the world of photography, where everyone and their sister is a photographer, and you will find people turned off by a bad encounter who took their money and business elsewhere.
Are you marketing?
Wait, I have to market? Um, yeah. You always have to market. This is one of my favorite conversations to have with photographers. It shows how ill-equipped most people are to be entrepreneurs and own a business. I laugh when I hear photographers shout while thumping their chests, “I don’t have to market, my business is all referral.” Good luck with that. Translation: “When business slows down, I have no flipping clue what to do.”
Get your head out of your ass. I don’t care how successful you think you are. You will always have to market. So, you are more successful than Nike? More successful than Mercedes? Really? So they need to market, but you don’t? Are you seriously that delusional to how the world of business works, how consumer behavior works? Consumers all have choices. And while they have choices, you will need to use marketing to ensure your potential customers know who you are and why your services are better than the rest. To what extent you market is open for debate, but at the end of the day, none of my businesses would be where they are today without a disciplined commitment to marketing tactics.
Here are some of the ways we get the word out about our business.
Direct mail. Why does it work? Because no one is doing it. Once the digital revolution was here, we all started spending time and resources on blogs, SEO and social media in hopes of generating new business. But guess what? Now consumers are numb to all this. Do you see your inbox every day? If you want to make an impact, start looking at direct mail again. Take over the real mailbox. This is powerful for seniors, families and commercial work.
Email marketing. Build your list. Email is cheap and easy. Balance information with sales. If every email you send is just another sales email, you will be a spammer and people will unsubscribe in droves. Give value to your clients with topics that are relevant to them. People will be more likely to open your emails and take action when you have a special running.
Shows. Bridal shows and the like offer a very powerful way to be right in front of your target client. So many people are dismissive of events like this, and I am constantly dumbfounded by the logic. So, all your clients are in one place and you don’t think it’s worth being in the one place where all your clients are so they can see you and learn about your business face to face? Really? Then the excuses start to come. “Sal, you don’t understand, I am not booking business from it.” If you are in a room of potential clients and can’t book business, you are doing something wrong. Fix the problem.
Vendor relationships. Build your networking relationships. You like referrals, right? Give them a reason to refer you. For my vendors, I offer free family sessions and free onsite photography to build my portfolio and their advertising images.
Facebook. Welcome to the digital age. It works, and you can use it to target potential clients with pinpoint accuracy. Any time you think there are no people in your market, open up your Facebook Advertising Account (the one you still haven’t created) and start building a target audience based on location, gender, marital status, etc., and you will quickly realize this is a goldmine for marketing and connecting with clients. How you connect, your message and your call to action are the subject of marketing education and best practices the world over. You need to figure it out.
Video. Welcome to 2018, everyone. Video is everywhere. It’s watched more than any email will be read or any web page surfed. Want your clients to know what you are all about? Create a video showing them your product or service in action. This same video can be used on multiple platforms and will make a huge difference. This can be a self-made behind-the-scenes video or a full professional production. Both will go a long way in showcasing your business.
These are just a few of the ways you can start marketing. It’s not the most creative list or an exhaustive one, but my point is a valid one. If you are not marketing, you are killing your business slowly day by day. Marketing is something every business must engage in. To think your business is above that is a sign that you are in over your head. If that’s the case, ask for help and bring in someone who knows what they are doing. It will make all the difference to your bottom line.