Sunday, 30 December 2012

Networking Ideas For Photographers


I have just had a run of posts on my blog about social media and the internet… but in reality, its only one small piece of the puzzle to grow your business… Most photographers, even with a decent strategy online are still going to struggle to get clients as they are growing their business. While there’s a manual for using your gear, classes on lighting, composition and we all have a Facebook account that we use to keep in touch with our friends and family. We all struggle getting actual paying clients while we are in a growth phase of our photography businesses?

Sure, you’ll find the usual suspects. You might sign up for monthly online advertising packages that give you a banner ad, link to your website… or even an adwords campaign. Perhaps you put in huge effort towards building a business page on Facebook, only to get 300 or 400 fans (and half of them are related to you, or went to school with you, and the other half photographers just like you that will not buy anything from you).

So what’s the magic bullet to getting more clients? The secret is, there is no magic bullet. But there is one thing behind the success of many well-known photographers, and that’s networking.

Networking is all about expanding your contacts and meeting people who might want to do business with you, or send you referrals because of the relationship you fostered with them. However, it requires some finesse and hard work in order to get the results you are looking for. You have to get out and do what I call, “Press the flesh”, that’s shaking hands for all you dirty thinkers out there! ;-)

It’s a very effective technique for photographers when done right. As a professional photographer, networking is the foundation of my business. I network with other photographers, clients, friends, people that work in camera stores. More than 60% of my TOTAL business comes from networking and follow up, and I’ve put together some tips for you so you can experience the same kind of results. It doesn’t matter what type of photography you do; all photographers need good contacts in order to thrive, especially in these hard economic times…

Advance Planning

Advance planning is one of the little known secrets to successful networking. Do you know how many people go to networking events without a single business card? Restock your business cards and brochures (don’t you hate it when you meet someone awesome and you reach for a business card and it’s one of those dog-eared cards that’s been in your wallet forever?)

If you can review the RSVP list, or see who’s attending a function that you are going to, prepare how to approach them. For example, if you’ve wanted to get into writing articles or taking images for magazines, see if anyone in the media industry (writer, publisher, sales person) is attending.

Finally, have a few interesting stories picked out that you can share. Remember, most people think of photography as a glamorous career and would like to hear a few highlights or funny stories. And you have to have a few stored up there in the memory banks… if you listen to my Shutter Tripping podcast you know Tom Baker has a few I am sure you could steal… :)~
 

Goals

Why are you going to this event and what do you want to accomplish? If you are a wedding photographer, you might set a goal of meeting two new event planners. Or you set a goal of walking up to three strangers and starting a conversation. The goal should be reasonable; you are not trying to sign new clients, just meeting people. Talking to strangers and making friends.
 



Walk Up to Strangers

This is crucial. Networking is about making contacts and creating business relationships. To make this happen, you do have to walk up to strangers and introduce yourself. One trick I use is to pick someone who looks nervous and go talk to them. You know the type-a lone soul hugging a wall and nervously looking around. If I can get out of my own fear for a moment and think about helping someone else, it’s a lot easier to walk over to them and introduce myself. Typically they are grateful to be rescued and eager to talk to someone. Once I’ve done that, I’m usually a bit more warmed up and ready to meet more people.

Be a Good Listener

Networking is an interesting mix of business and social. You don’t want to come off as all business because that’s kind of boring and no one wants to be sold to. Yet you don’t want to over share about personal details. Not everyone wants to hear about your personal details… Think of it as making business friends. To make a great connection with someone, be a good listener. People love to talk about themselves. So just ask questions and genuinely try to get to know people.

Follow Up

After the event, take the time to make some notes to remember who you met and what you talked about. Choose a few people from the event to follow up with. This is where the magic bullet starts to be forged.

At the beginning you want to get to know them better, so don’t send over a business proposal or suggest how they can help you. Instead, try a Facebook friend request, follow them on Twitter, or just send them a note letting them know you enjoyed meeting them. If you talked about a product or service, you could send a link to more info, but keep it casual. If the connection is strong, invite them out for drinks to continue the conversation. Do not sell yet… you need to earn their trust first.


Think of your images as a type of calling card or goodwill.
 
Most businesses are looking for good images. Look at your local coffee shop, what kind of images are on their walls? Take some local images, frame them and offer it to them as wall art.

Or go to local charities, tell them you are a professional photographer and offer printed canvas photos as items they can use to generate money for their charity. Or, go to companies that you know… offer something as a golf prize for the companies next tournament. The avenues are abundant, you just have to get out there, press the flesh and meet new people.

One final thought on networking and getting new clients… as I said earlier, foster the relationships… but when the time comes, ask for the business, if you do not ask, you will not get.

So... following my own advice... here goes my "Ask"... If you want to learn more about growing your photography business, check out my new mentor program. I have one designed for photographers that want to learn how to grow their business… http://www.photographers-lounge.com/mentor-program  You do not have to live local to me, we can do this via the internet and over the phone. I will work with you to create a solid foundation and teach you how to maximize all the avenues at your disposal to grow your business in 2013.