The ShutterCliq Guide: Starting a Photography Business Part 3
Whew...Parts 1 and 2 left us pretty tired. Apologies for the delay in getting Part 3 up for you. In Part 3 we will be covering some strategies for finding and retaining clients for your business. If you have yet to read Parts 1 and 2, we strongly recommend doing so here (for Part 1) and here (for Part 2). To Begin, we're making a few assumptions in this part....
We assume that you have a legal business set up, and that you have your cost of doing business figured out. We're also assuming that you have gear that allows for a certain level of proficiency, know how to use it, and are ready to get serious about building a serious base of new and returning clients.
This won't be in 10 steps like the other two parts of the guide. Instead we'll be covering some marketing and business basics that you can begin to implement today to attract clients to your business and make them repeat customers.
So let's dig in to this and get you some information you can use.
Finding Clients and having Clients find you:
Finding clients is important. Cashflow is the lifeblood of every business. But the questions you need to be asking yourself are:
Can your prospects find you?
How visible are you online and in your local community?
Are you using Facebook alone?
Do you also have a Website/Blog?
When was the last time you Googled photography websites in your Market?
How did you rank?
There seems to be a common line of thinking out there that a Facebook Page is enough marketing to find and attract clients. This isn't so. Visibility is everything. The more you are online, but EVEN more importantly the more you are visible in your local market, the more clients you attract.
So how do you increase your online visibility?
1) If you don't have a good Website/Blog, INVEST in one. Here's a link to a handy resource on which site might be right for you. Remember, a well designed website with a blog is great for your Google juice and will make you more visible.
2) Just having a well designed site isn't enough. You need that site to pop up at the top of any Google search in your local market. How you ask? SEO (Search Engine Optimization) needs to be your best friend. Luckily we also have some SEO Strategies in this article for you.It doesn't happen overnight, but it's well worth your time and effort.
So, having the above started, you probably need to move onto some more traditional forms of local marketing. One of the most important forms of marketing is a kickass business card. Yep! That little 2x3 piece of paper! You want the best business card you can buy. You want people to say "WOW!" when you hand them your card. If they don't, you need new cards.
In Person Interactions with Potential Clients:
Another completely undervalued yet vitally important marketing tool is your first impression. No joke. When people ask you what you do, PLEASE don't just say "I'm a photographer." Spend hours, DAYS even, practicing your commercial, so it doesn't sound forced.
Here's the difference:
Q: "So what do you do?"
A: "I'm a photographer."
A: "I'm a local business owner. I run ________ Photography. We specialize in _______ and _______. When you have a chance, I invite you to go to our website www._______.com and see what it is that we do. Tell you what, let me give you my card and if we can be of service in the future, you will be able to contact us easily."
Yup. That was your commercial. It was THAT simple. There was no need to be crazily selling yourself. You just actually made an impression and guaranteed will be far more memorable than you would have been had you just said, "I'm a photographer." And you made plenty of eye contact and had a firm handshake right?
You always have to remember that almost every interaction could involve a prospect for your business. Being ready and rehearsed with your commercial is crucial.
Turning Prospects into Clients:
Are you going to do what hundreds if not thousands of other photographers do, and email the prospect a copy of your price list and hope they get back in touch. If that's what you're doing now, please stop. Today.
If you want the gig, set yourself apart. First off, make a telephone number a MANDATORY component of your contact form on your site. When the inquiry comes in, pick up the phone. Talk to your prospect and find out what they're really after. By asking great questions, you get great answers. If you are the ONLY photographer to pick up the phone and spend some time talking to the prospect, you will probably be the only one who turns that prospect into a client.
But there is critical component to this whole process. And it is so easy to actually say, but SO HARD for many to say. And that's to ASK FOR THE BOOKING!
In sales, the "assumptive close" is one of the most powerful tools at the salespersons disposal. Asking for the booking is the photographers assumptive close.
Don't worry if they say they're not ready to book yet. This is an opportunity to ask the BEST question you could ask.
"How can I earn your business?"
This is the best way to get to the reasons why your prospect isn't ready to become a client. And gives you the opportunity to find out what the objections are. Once you know them, you can overcome them.
Hooray! They Booked with You!
Now your prospect has turned into a client! Congrats! This is progress, but there are still a ton of things that need to happen to RETAIN this client for future business.
First thing's first.
Do you want a client for life? The best way to build a relationship with your client is face time. Talking to your clients about what to expect in their session BEFORE the session is one way to set yourself apart from the legions of "show up, spray and pray, then burn a disc and see ya" type photographers that have exploded in the industry in recent times.
Face it, when your clients know what to expect during the session, they perform better in front of your lens, which makes your job behind the lens, WAY easier. You're charging enough to justify your time to do this consultation process anyways. So it won't be a problem.
The Session itself:
One of the best ways to retain a client for future business, is to be memorable for all the right reasons. While you're shooting, have fun...a ton of it! This is your dream job, so act like it. When things go wrong, laugh it off. When things are going right, SHARE it with your client. You want them to walk away from the session thinking, "THAT was fun!" When a customer has a bad experience they'll tell lots of people, but when they have an absolutely AMAZING experience, that surpasses all their expectations and previous experiences, they'll tell more people! And they'll tell them about you!
This applies to all genres of photography. From weddings, to families, to headshots, heck even commercial work. Yes your clients want professionalism, efficiency and a great result. But they also hired you for you. Bring yourself to the session. Bring your quirks and your energy. I've had many commercial clients tell me that they really enjoy working with me, even when I am shooting the most BORING subject matter. (Chrome shelving anyone?)
Now is the time that you set the expectation for what happens next. If you're going to deliver the images in 2 weeks, tell your client 4 weeks. Under-promise and Over-deliver every time. You can only impress by over delivering, and increase the reputation of both yourself and your business.
Get the images home, on your hard drive and backed up. Then it's time to dive into the post processing and making what your captured ready to deliver. I always wait at least 48 hours before even looking at the session. Simply put, it allows a level of objectivity that I would otherwise would not have had with the buzz of the shoot.
There's varying school of thought on how to sell images to your clients. But I guarantee you that if you use Melissa's article to get you organized for your sales session, you're off to a pretty darned good start.
AFTER THAT, for part 5, we're really going to dig into the psychology of sales. Learning to sell is VITAL to your success as a photographer. We'll provide some techniques to approaching the sale, strategies for overcoming the inevitable objections that pop up in every sales session, and what to do when asked for a discount and more....
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