A few years ago, I met someone from my church who ran a graphic design agency. While our meeting wasn’t work-related, it was good to pick his brain a bit and hear some of his stories.
He told me that, years ago, he had put all his eggs in one basket. He had one main client and hired 10 people just to work on that client. It was a major chain in the midwest, and it covered 90% of his company’s overall income for the year.
Then that company changed leadership and went with a different agency. He had to lay off almost all his staff because he had didn’t have any other work for them to do. He had to close down his office and move to a smaller office. In a sense, it was the worst thing that could’ve happened.
But he learned one thing through that experience — never be satisfied, and most certainly never settle.
As photographers, videographers and other creatives, we can take that experience and apply it to our work. We might have a consistent base of clients who call us on a monthly basis. We count on their income when we plan out each year and look at how we do each quarter. While this chunk of clients helps to define us as creatives, it’s not the end all/be all either.
This is precisely why it’s important to keep marketing and to reach out to new potential clients. Things like networking and being involved in the community help to achieve this, in that you can get your services in front of others who might be interested.
As long as we keep producing a good, consistent base of work, we can combine this with marketing and deliver a consistent experience to existing and new clients. That will ultimately lead to more work coming from word-of-mouth.
Ideas to pursue if you’re stagnant
It’s easy to get in a lull, especially when it comes to the business side of things. We are creatives. We’d much rather be out shooting amazing photographs than spending our time on things like e-mail campaigns and blogging. Here are some quick, easy ideas to look at when you’re struggling to get your marketing moving in the right direction.
Start an Instagram campaign
I’m not talking about ads — I’m talking about consistently posting on Instagram. This not only applies to the amount you’re posting but the subject, too. Last week I ran a small campaign where I posted five abstract architecture images, spaced out throughout the week. I gained eight new followers with this, including a few small businesses in my area. Sure, eight followers might not seem like a lot, but if one of those leads to a lucrative job? I’d say the 15 minutes I spent at the start of the week scheduling out my Instagram campaign is definitely worth it.
Network with community leaders
I work to network with leaders in my area at least every quarter. I reach out to 3-4 of them and ask them out for a coffee. When we touch base on our personal lives, our work-life always comes up too. Usually at least one person has a lead they pass my way, or they end up calling me a week later to hire me to photograph an event. Even if you’re not getting a new client, reaching out to existing contacts refreshes your relationship with them, which can lead to more opportunities.
Update your Google listing
In my very first marketing column, I talked about why Google was the new yellow pages. If you haven’t taken a look at your business’ Google listing lately, now might be the time to update it. Add new photos, and put some behind-the-scenes images up so potential clients can see what the experience is like working with you. And if you haven’t gotten any new reviews on Google lately, reach out to some of your clients that you think could add a great perspective.
Start a referral program
While any photographer can benefit from a referral program, family and wedding photographers might be able to take advantage of this the most. When you photograph a wedding, emphasize your referral program to your brides during the consult. Explain to them that when they refer you for a wedding or family session, they get a discounted family session in return. When you photograph weddings, you’re more than likely going to be hearing from the bride and groom a year or two later, whether it’s to document anniversary photos, maternity photos or the start of their growing family. You would be amazed at how many wedding photographers fail to follow up with their brides nine months after the wedding. There is a very good chance that the new family is growing.
You might have some of the best clients in the world, with steady work providing you with a stable income. But that doesn’t mean you should stop marketing. Situations will change. You will have a slow month. It’s best to stay ahead of the game by implementing a marketing plan you can easily achieve before you need it rather than get blindsided when a client goes in a new direction that doesn’t include your services.
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