In early April, I explained the importance of using Google to market your business, including getting a search engine listing complete with testimonials from your clients.
While Google is one of the most important tools you can use for getting your business known, there’s also a much more “traditional” approach that involves local organizations.
Network with Community Leaders
I try to regularly sit down with community leaders. I’ve gotten to know some of them over the years, and offer to buy them a coffee. It allows me to do one of two things.
First, I ask if there’s anything I can do for them. Most of these community leaders run businesses or are highly involved in them. Marketing and photography might not be the first thing on their minds, and they might have people handle that work for them.
Secondly, I’ll ask if they know of anyone who needs photography help. This is the most important step. While these leaders are fully engaged in their own businesses, they’re also heavily engaged in the rest of the community. They regularly sit down with other business leaders.
Even if there isn’t something immediate that comes to mind, reaching out to them will help them keep you in mind for the future.
There are two things to remember when you network with other people. First, take a ton of business cards, and give them a stack of them to pass out as they see fit. Secondly, take your camera. If you see something photo-worthy to shoot, or if the person asks you about your photography, it’ll show you’re serious about your job.
Get Listed in Directories
Most tourism and community organizations have business directories. For me, after I reached out to the president of Experience Grand Rapids (my local tourism association), I was introduced to a few people on their team. One of them offered to list me in their directory for photographers, which is something I hadn’t even thought of.
Since then, I’ve gotten at least a few gigs because of that directory listing.
When corporate groups reach out to local tourism organizations, they often ask for vendor recommendations. And when that happens, vendor directories are often passed along, which furthers your reach without you doing much extra work.
What About Networking Groups?
You probably know of several networking groups in your community that you may or may not be a part of. I’ve found some to be valuable in growing my business, while others are more networking for the social benefits.
Some of the most valuable groups for me have been with other creatives — designers, videographers and other photographers. If your city has a local AIGA group, CreativeMornings group or something similar, I suggest joining them.
Say a designer is working on a new website for a client. They might need new photography to replace their 1990s-era stock photos. When you make that connection through networking, the options grow from using stock photos to unique, local photography that will be one-of-a-kind.
With photography groups, you get the chance to not only make new photographer friends, but also become referrals for people who are asked to shoot something they either aren’t available to take on, or don’t handle. For instance, I don’t photograph weddings, but I’m asked to pretty regularly. So, I reach out to people in my local photowalk group to see if they’re interested. And they return the favor by referring me to corporate events that they don’t photograph.
Even if you don’t immediately get any photo gigs from networking, it’ll be worth it in the long run. It helps get your name out there, and you’re practicing your selling skills.
And if nothing else, at least you get to enjoy your favorite cup of coffee.
For more on Photography Marketing, see our weekly column.