Business Trends
Marketing Resolutions For 2005
Make Building Your Business A Part Of Your Plans

The best source for new business is still the last client you worked with. It can be 5-10 times more expensive to be constantly looking for new clients as it is to keep the ones you already have. It is more expensive because you will have increased marketing costs (and spending overhead) when it takes 10 clients to bill 10 jobs and you are constantly marketing for jobs instead of going after clients. When your goal is to go after clients who keep coming back with jobs, you will make more profit when it takes fewer clients to bill 10 jobs. This means that when you have any contact with a client, think in terms of the relationship as well as the assignment at hand.

Though you can't keep every client, here are some ideas for 2005 to try and keep them coming back for more!

Improving Non-Selling Communications
Keep in touch with your clients by contacting them outside your regular sales calls. For example, send them articles you'd think they would find interesting. Suggest going to industry conferences or association meetings together. Send them special e-mails that are clearly personalized for them and specialized to their needs with links back to pages on your website. (See this column last year for "e-mail marketing techniques.") Invite them to your favorite charity benefit and offer to go together--you will build a better relationship with your clients and do a good deed at the same time! Spending non-selling time with your clients builds the relationship that builds repeat business.

Immerse Yourself In Their Industry
If you are a commercial photographer, gain a competitive edge by studying your clients' industry trade shows and conferences. Trade shows generate a lot of photography assignments and you can use this information to query prospective and current clients for jobs. Ask what their photo needs are for an upcoming trade show to get (and keep) your foot in the door! Also, by going to your clients' trade shows, you can learn a lot about them and their competitors. You can even subscribe to their industry publications. The more you know about the business your clients are in the more successful you will be together.

Start Making "Project Follow-Up" Calls
Consumer or commercial photographer, you are not done when the photos are delivered; you are done when the client says, "That worked out great for us!" Make the project follow-up call after the work you have delivered has been in use for some time. Ask the question, "How is that ad photo working?" or "What was the response on those family portraits?" Make this about meeting the client's needs; what you are really asking is, "How did it work for you?"

Three things come from this kind of call that will help your business grow:
1) Any unanticipated problems with the photography that needs to be resolved.
2) The possibility and timing of the next job together or another print order.
3) The assurance and relationship building that comes from both you and the client understanding that your job isn't done until the client gets what they need done.

Get Your Client To Invest In Your Success Together
Make your client your business partner "in spirit" so they will see you as part of their team or as part of their life. Commercial or consumer photographer, you can research and plan to enter creative contests and award shows with clients. You can also write project press releases together, even do promotional pieces in cooperation with them. You can ask them to give testimonials for your website, ads, or promo pieces. By becoming a creative partnership, you are creating an investment for your client to build on with more work together.

Track The Work You Do For Clients
On a regular basis, call your clients before they need to call you to remind them it's time to reorder! Use your invoice database for this information if you do not have a current client database for the search/sort of these names. Not only will this increase your value to clients, but also you create jobs for yourself and work with your clients on a regular basis. For example:
1) Promotional material for their upcoming industry trade shows.
2) Updating their product catalog or direct mail.
3) New products added to their website.
4) For the consumer client: birthdays, anniversaries, holidays.

Expand Your Client Base
Whether you are doing commercial or consumer work, you can start seriously exploring expansion into additional profit centers such as selling your own stock photos, paper products publishing (calendars, posters, and greeting cards), and corporate fine art. Though not any one may be a full-time business, the sum of several could add nicely to your bottom line. Images created on assignment (when properly modeled and property released) or from self-assignments can be resold in these markets to expand your client base.

Build Name Recognition With Publicity
You probably already have been doing a lot of the self-promotion we have talked about in this column last year such as ads, websites, direct mailings, e-mail marketing, and personal selling. Time to take it to the next level! Publicity is still the most under-utilized marketing tool for photographers. This is probably due to a reluctance to "toot your horn" but you can't overlook the competitive edge you can gain with publicity. Getting your name and your work published can give you:
1) Name recognition when your clients get your other self-promotional pieces.
2) A "third-party endorsement" that gives credibility for the work you do.
3) Reprints of publicity to make excellent promo pieces.
4) Publicity to build your
word-of-mouth referrals.

Update Your Website
What more is there to say? Just do it. It is a lot of work to maintain a current website and most photographers do not bother. That's too bad because it pulls down your entire marketing plan when clients can't see you "growing" your site. I would recommend scheduling a "website update" in your personal planner or calendar for a monthly update, at least. If you can manage something new every couple of weeks, it is even better. Look at updating images, information, and any editorial content. Also look at updating or adding links, making your site more informative and relevant, easier to navigate, and easier to respond to you.

Get Yourself On A Schedule
Perhaps scheduling your self-promotional and business tasks sounds as though it would be restricting, but it has the opposite net effect. Your professional success depends on your ability to make it in the business world. You can better balance your photography and business chores by using your calendar to "plan the work and work the plan." It takes more than technical ability and creativity to be successful. This scheduling of tasks--particularly marketing tasks--will help you find the time to get everything done. No more "when I get around to it" marketing or business! You need to find your balance to set and get your 2005 goals, and using your calendar will help you do that.