How To Get Your Foot In The Right Door

This post is Day 22 of 30 Ways In 30 Days To Redesign Your Life With Photography. This series seeks to provide you with practical steps to get you from wherever you are today, to exactly where you want to be – this year! If your goal has always been to take your photography to a whole new level, hang on and start enjoying a new lifestyle you’ve always dreamed of.

If your goal is to bring in portrait or wedding clients, you quickly understand that you must advertise to the right people, and bring them in one by one. But what if you are looking for bigger jobs? What if you are looking for a few large clients on more of a corporate level in order to fill your studio for the year?

If you are just starting out, that can be a daunting task. I heard from several of you facing this type of situation.

“What is the best way to approach a company to try to get them as a client when you already have photos that are applicable to them? … How should I go about contacting the companies? Do I just call up and ask to speak to the head honcho and request a meeting? Or do I send them some stuff? Hard copies, or email low-res images and hope for the best?” ~Anne

“My biggest obstacle is trying to get my foot in the right door and my information in front of the right people, so naturally my first question would be how can I accomplish this. I need to get me and/or my information past the receptionist and the Administrative Assistant and into the hands of the person/people who make the decisions.” ~Rod

Become A Salesperson

In both of these cases, the key is not to think like a photographer, but to think like a sales person. Before you can ever hope to sell to the key person you are going after, you have to find a way to interest them in what you have to offer.

Where most photographers fail is with the sales process. No matter what type of small business you run, you have to be a sales person first, and do what you love second. When you get really good at it and your reputation is built, then you can dedicate more time to what you love. But as a small business owner, first and foremost you will always be in sales.

The first step is finding the person in charge. That might be the president of the company. It might be the director of HR. It might be a management director. In any case, you have to do a little research, especially if the company is large in size. Start by making an educated guess. Then get on the phone and give them a call. If you reach an admin assistant, be friendly and ask a few questions.

“I’m stuck and I have a quick question. Do you have a minute to point me in the right direction?”

A simple question like this takes the guard down, and turns a person into a helpful resource.

Then stick to a sentence or two to describe what you need. Remember, you are looking for the right person to begin campaigning. You aren’t there to lay out your entire business and history to someone that simply doesn’t have the time to listen.

“Who makes the decisions on what artwork to purchase for your restaurants?”

That’s a simple sentence that provides the assistant with just enough information to give you a resource. It doesn’t take away much time from her busy day, and it’s a simple answer for her.

If you don’t have an address, ask for a physical mailing address. They may be more leery of releasing a direct phone number or email address, but take what you can get.

Then start the sales process.

Sales is really about being creative, flexible, innovate, react, and do it all again. If you want to separate yourself from your competition, you have to do more than have a standardized sales pitch. You have to be more creative, innovate with what you have to offer, be flexible enough to make changes along the way, react so that you keep your customers happy – and then do it all again.

Think Creative

People in key positions here the same thing day in and day out. People constantly are bombarding their offices with “I just need a minute of your time.” From employees to management to sales vendors, they are already putting in long hours, and they will do whatever it takes to shorten up the process if they can.

So instead of bombarding them with the same old message, find a creative way to construe your message.

Instead of sending them a letter with the message, “I’ll only need a minute of your time”, try a creative package instead. Send a small one minute hourglass along with a note that takes less than a minute of their time to read. “I realize how important a minute of your time is.” That takes a standard idea to the next level.

While you are in photography, you don’t want to bombard them with your photography upfront. Instead, you want to provide them with benefits of what you can provide.

Start by writing a list of benefits.

Then incorporate one of the benefits into a campaign. The hourglass example above is an idea, yet with a little thought process, you can come up with a slew of ideas.

I’ve seen people mail just about anything. Look for clear plastic mailing tubes, boxes, customized postcards and more. Head to a party store, or search online for mailing options.

Don’t Give Up

People are busy. They may be planning to head out on vacation next week. They may be facing surgery in a few days. Their mothers or fathers may be sick and in the hospital. Or maybe they are on their way out the door to pick up a sick child from school, and bring them to the doctor’s office.

The point is you have no idea what their mindsets are when your package reaches their desks. If they are focused on something else, your package may not even register. It may get shoved aside, barely being opened or looked at.

Yet if something similar arrives a month later, their attention is back at 100 percent, and they are looking for ideas. It arrives at the perfect time.

If you give up after the first contact, you may miss a huge opportunity.

Just like marketing sometimes takes 8, 10, even 15 or more contacts to be noticed by someone, your contact may also take time.

While you never want to become a pest, a simple campaign periodically for a set time period is perfectly acceptable. Instead of planning one mailing, plan 5. Or 10.

Then rinse and repeat. You’ll learn so much from the first try. Use that to move on to another company. Research, modify and continue on. You’ll quickly build the photography business of your dreams.

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