Lessons from the Scene: Tips for Finding and Keeping Clients

by Stanley Leary


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Before building a business, one needs to finding and build clients.  Start building a database of names that would determine your niche. Targeting a specific audience of interest will make your research and set-up time more productive.

Software programs such as Microsoft Outlook (PC) or Entourage (Mac) are helpful in organizing your material. Also, these programs are integrated with Microsoft Word and facilitate emailing.

What To Do With Collected Contacts

Set-up files in a database for the name of the company, the personal contact's name, their address and phone numbers, email and website address. Assign each contact to a category.

I specialize in photographing people, but setting up a category for companies who hire photographers that photograph people is too broad. By assigning a contact to a category such as “Education” I can send a promotional piece to only those contacts in the education field. Assigning multiple categories to individual contacts further refines target marketing.

Contact management software has space for making notes. Keep this up-to-date as new information about your client comes to light. Use this field for their Facebook page and other information that don't fit in any other field.

Time To Party
Parties (some parties) are a good way to build your database. Attend the “after-hours” events many civic and trade organizations sponsor that are designed to promote getting to know people and businesses in the area. Usually held monthly these events are great ways to meet a lot of folks and have fun doing so. It beats sitting at home with a computer.

Work The Room
Be sure you know your two-minute “elevator talk” about your business. Find someone you know. Get them to introduce you to the person to whom they are talking. Exchange business card and ask if you can follow up at another time for coffee or lunch. Be sure to give that person your full attention while you are with them, but move on after about five minutes. Remember, almost everyone in the room is there for the same reason you are, to meet people and find clients.

Be Relevant/Current
Read industry magazines. Photo District News helps keep photographers informed on happenings in the world of photography. It is filled with the latest trends and techniques, business and legal news and new product reviews.

Contact information for magazines that might be interested in your work can usually be found in the masthead. Many magazines are online today. Read some back issues before contacting them. Offer a story idea to the editor. If you did your homework your idea should reflect the trends that are going on in the industry or plug into the style of that magazine.

Investigate - Dig Deep
Put on your investigative reporter hat and dig around for your niche. Use Google and type in your categories. Combine them with the word “organizations” and you will find many of the trade associations. When you find their websites click on the “About Us” section. It often will help you know the image the company is trying to convey. This is invaluable if you contact them and land an appointment.

Dale Carnegie said it best; “You can close more business in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get people interested in you.”

Qualify Your Lead
I know of a photographer who contacted a designer for a couple years. The photographer sent out beautiful newsletters and promotional material. One day the photographer dropped off a portfolio and met the designer. He asked if he was the person that hired the photographers. He said no, that his boss picked the photographers; he just designed the pieces.

Connecting With A Client
If you find common interests with a prospect, you can establish a business relationship. In a prospect's office look at: pictures and plaques on the wall; the books on the shelf; anything that shows their interest. Commenting on that interest is a good way to start a conversation. People love to talk about their interest. Try to find common ground for a friendship. People are more likely to buy from a friend than a salesman.

Sales consultant Jeffrey Gitomer says, “If you establish common ground with the other person, they will like you, believe you, begin to trust you, and connect with you on a deeper level; a 'things-in-common' level. The best way to win the connection is to first win the person.”

Finding clients is hard work. Keeping them is all-important.